To some, it seems like NASA has been around forever, but believe it or not, it has only been around since October 1st, 1958. Last week, NASA celebrated sixty years of space discovery, and we here at Xyza wanted to commemorate this milestone with six interesting facts about the organization. Ready? Here goes!
1. NASA was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a result of national defense efforts. At the time the agency was created, the United States and the Soviet Union were in a bitter battle over the spread of communism. As a result, the two superpowers raced to explore the next frontier: space.
2. It was President John F. Kennedy who announced that he wanted to send a man safely to the moon before the end of the 1960s. On July 24th, 1969, NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin landed, or stepped rather, safely on the moon. Phew! They did it just in the nick of time!
3. One of NASA’s first projects was called Project Mercury. It was the first “man-in-space” program where seven astronauts were chosen to see if it was possible for humans to travel in space, orbit Earth in a manned spacecraft, and bring the men and the spacecraft back safely. It took approximately five years, but the team, dubbed the Mercury 7, were able to accomplish those goals. Who was the first to make the suborbital flight? Alan Shepard. Pretty cool thing to put on a resume, right?
4. In 1981, NASA launched its Space Shuttle Program, the first time space shuttles would be reused for ongoing space exploration. The five space shuttles were Atlantis, Columbia, Challenger, Endeavor, and Discovery. Unfortunately, the Challenger never made it to space because it exploded seventy-three seconds after it was launched in 1986 and the Columbia disintegrated upon re-entering into Earth’s atmosphere in 2003. These were some of the greatest tragedies in NASA and space exploration history. By the end of 2011, all of the remaining shuttles were retired, and the Space Shuttle Program officially ended.
5. In 1998, the International Space Station was launched, making it one of the most ambitious space collaborations ever. The countries involved in this collaboration? The United States, Russia, Canada, Japan, and eleven member states of the European Space Agency. Now that’s what we call teamwork!
6. In the early 2000s, NASA began partnering with private companies to accelerate its efforts in space discovery, exploration, and technology.