What does NASA stand for? What you should know about the space agency

What does NASA stand for? What you should know about the space agency

NASA is America’s civilian space agency, an organization so closely connected with the history of space exploration—from the moon landings to the iconic space shuttle missions—and it’s easy to forget that NASA is an acronym.

NASA stands for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which succeeded the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (Naca) as the primary federal agency focused on the development of aeronautical technologies. While Naca developed aeronautical technologies for both civilian and military uses, NASA was established with the specific intent to operate as a civilian agency, to pursue the peaceful use of outer space, even as rocket launches served as a strategic propaganda tool during the Cold War era.

While NASA’s early history focused largely on human spaceflight, the space agency’s mission in 21Street The century includes both human spaceflight and science missions, the International Space Station and the Artemis Moon Program, robotic vehicles on Mars and the James Webb Space Telescope in deep space.

The beginnings of NASA

NASA was founded in 1958, and while it took on some of NACA’s responsibilities, it was born out of two important political realities at the time, according to Mike Neufeld, senior coordinator in the USA’s Department of Space History. Space Museum.

He said, “NASA came out of Sputnik.” independent in an interview. “The Soviet launch of Sputnik in the fall of 1957 and the feeling that America was behind and the need to be more competitive.”

This was one of the motivations for the beginnings of NASA, but also important was the behind-the-scenes rivalry between the US military services.

“There are too many newspapers so we now have that NASA was created to create the space program. There was already a space program and many military space programs,” Dr. Neufeld said. “Everything we did in space in 1957, 1958, was done. By the Army, Navy or Air Force. There was no civilian space agency.”

Before NASA, there were struggles over which branch would end up leading the US spaceflight effort. Meanwhile, President Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t sure the military was the right institution to counter America’s efforts in space, according to NASA historian Brian Odom.

“Eisenhower is someone who really understands the nature of the military,” Dr. Odom said. independent in an interview. Eisenhower estimated “keeping the military separate from the people and research and development”.

Dr. Neufeld said that NASA has been considered a civilian space and human spaceflight agency with the Mercury program, despite Mr. Eisenhower’s concerns about the entire project.

“He was very skeptical that we needed to send any astronauts into space. He thought it was a stunt and wasn’t really interested in the whole idea,” Dr. Neufeld said. “But he was pressured by the space race and the public and military demands to have a manned space program, as It was called at the time.”

Expanding human spaceflight

NASA’s Mercury program was ultimately successful. It led to the first American flight into space, Alan Shepard on May 5, 1961, and the first American to orbit Earth, John Glenn in 1962. But the United States was still behind the Soviets, whose cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin defeated the American astronauts in space. The orbiter made its orbital flight on April 12, 1961.

The sea change occurred when US President John F. Kennedy announced that NASA would send astronauts to the Moon in what would become the Apollo program. From there, the space agency has grown significantly, both in its focus on human spaceflight and in its funding.

“When Kennedy decided that we should go to Earth on the Moon to beat the Soviets, that greatly expanded NASA’s mission,” said Dr. Neufeld. independent. NASA’s budget tripled between 1960 and the mid-1960s. I went from a $1 billion agency to a $5 billion agency because of the race to the moon.”

Even after NASA faced budget cuts in the 1970s, with President Richard Nixon canceling the Apollo program after the 1972 Apollo mission, the space agency continued to pioneer human spaceflight. The space shuttle program and the International Space Station refocused spaceflight into Earth orbit, but the astronauts continued to fly.

NASA as a science agency

Notably, NASA was not the only human spaceflight agency.

“The other side is scientific discovery,” said Dr. Odom. independent. “Balancing Human Spaceflight and Scientific Discovery.”

He noted that astronomer Nancy Grace Roman joined NASA in 1959 to become the first female chief of astronomy at NASA, building the space agency’s astronomy program from scratch and bringing scientists into the NASA fold as well as pilots and engineers.

Roman, who passed away in 2018, was instrumental in the development of the Hubble Space Telescope, and is sometimes known as the “Mother of Hubble.” The James Webb Space Telescope, which will soon celebrate its first anniversary of launch on December 25, 2021, is part of this science legacy at NASA.

It would be wrong to think that the US space agency (NASA), as it exists today, is an organization with purely scientific and space flight programs. Instead, exploration, scientific research, and human adventure exist side by side, according to Dr. Odom. This can be seen in NASA’s Mars program, which includes robotic missions today, but could see human missions sometime in the 1940s.

“Think of the Curiosity rovers and perseverance on Mars today,” he said. “Which bucket do they fall into? These are not human spaceflights, but they are building a platform on which human space exploration will one day build.”

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