It has been 64 years since NASA started working as the American civil space program and the global leader in space exploration.
Anadolu Agency gathered information about the fantastically long journey of the space agency.
NASA was founded by former US President Dwight David Eisenhower on July 29, 1958, though its knowledge and experience relied on the Natural Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), which was established in 1915.
NACA, which was working on aircraft, continued its journey as NASA for the US to be successful at a time when there was serious competition among countries sending satellites to space.
NASA, which accomplished significant works, has come to the forefront of space-related studies since its foundation.
The agency that is headquartered in Washington, has continued to work with 18,000 employees. It has worked with a large number of partners nationally and internationally while its space-related missions aim to discover information and expand it for the good of humanity.
It carried out works with a budget of $23.2 billion last year and has 20 facilities in the US.
NASA, which is engaged in research, testing and development to move aviation forward, including supersonic flight, is funding those technologies by developing space technologies that will benefit life on Earth.
It has a discovery-based approach from the moon to Mars and makes life better by sharing its findings.
Companies use discoveries and technologies that NASA provides to produce new products.
‘One small step for man’
Manned and unmanned space flights have gained momentum since NASA was founded in 1958.
The agency’s first high-profile program was “The Mercury Project” which aimed at finding out if humans could survive in space.
Following the program, NASA a developed three-seater Apollo spacecraft after its two-seater Gemini spacecraft sent astronauts to space.
The Apollo 8 spacecraft managed to travel to the lunar orbit 10 times in December 1968. Afterward, on July 21, 1969, the Apollo 11 spacecraft carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins landed on the lunar surface.
Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon during the expedition and his words: “One small step for man, one giant step for mankind” went down in history.
By 1972, the US had landed 10 more astronauts on the lunar surface.
The Apollo shuttle and the Russian Soyuz 19 shuttles collided in space in 1975, and the two astronauts from those countries shook hands in space to contribute to the diplomatic effort in a symbolic gesture.
NASA’s manned spaceflight efforts continued with the Space Shuttle Program that began in 1981 and continued for 30 years.
In addition to being a ground-breaking technology, the program was also important for the construction of the International Space Station.
James Webb, most advanced space telescope
After the Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour shuttle programs, respectively, following the Apollo program, NASA ended manned flights conducted with public resources in 2011 and began encouraging private sector initiatives.
In the same year, the “NASA Commercial Crew Development Program” was implemented, taking into account the decision to involve the business community in outer space studies.
Following the decision to work with the private sector to end its dependence on another country and bring manned space flights back to the US, the space agency signed contracts with SpaceX and Boeing — companies prominent in the field.
Having intensively studied all the planets, NASA has completed the exploration of the solar system.
Following the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been used in space exploration since 1990, NASA launched the world’s largest and most advanced space telescope, James Webb, into space Dec. 25, 2021.
The first full-color photo taken by the telescope, which will serve for at least five years with its 6.5-meter (21.3-foot) mirror, was shared July 12, 2022.
The images are of great importance for understanding the formation of the universe and the discovery of possible other habitable planets.
Missions from moon to Mars
There are many missions that NASA maintains. Highlights include the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), developed to test technology that will change the orbits of asteroids at risk of hitting the Earth by the method of deceleration.
DART is expected to hit the 160-meter diameter asteroid (525-foot) Dimorphos in September at a speed of about 24,000 kilometers miles per hour (15,000 miles per hour).
NASA’s Juno exploration vehicle, which was launched in 2011, has also been conducting reconnaissance activities in orbit of the planet since it arrived on Jupiter in July 2016.
Another exploration vehicle, Perseverance, was also built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and landed on Mars on Feb. 18, about seven months after launching on July 30, 2020.
The vehicle, made as part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, made the longest distance walk on Mars at 245.76 meters (806.3 feet) in February 2020.
The Parker Solar Probe, described by NASA as the “Solar Explorer,” which carried out one of the most important missions, was also launched in 2018 and in February 2018, it managed to photograph the surface of Venus in visible light for the first time.
In addition, the agency plans to send male and female astronauts to the Lunar surface by 2025 as part of an exploration mission called Artemis.
The first phase of the program, Artemis 1, is scheduled for Aug. 29.
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket program manager John Honeycutt said the test of the rocket engine to be used for lunar expeditions has been successfully completed at the Stennis Space Center in the US state of Mississippi.
The SLS rocket is expected to be sent to the Kennedy Space Center in the state of Florida and then integrated into the Orion spacecraft.
After the expeditions, which are planned to last until 2028, it is intended to establish a space station in the lunar orbit and organize manned expeditions to Mars using it as a stepping stone.
*Writing by Merve Berker
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