What does NASA stand for? From space missions to planet discovery – more about the US organisation

NASA has landed a new robot on Mars in an attempt to study the Red Planet’s deep interior.

Let’s take a closer look at the space agency’s greatest accomplishments.

NASA was established in 1958 under US President Dwight Eisenhower
Getty – Contributor

What does NASA stand for?

NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The independent agency is part of the US Federal Government and is responsible for the civilian space programme.

It is also responsible for aeronautics and aerospace exploration.

The agency’s headquarters are in Washington DC.

The Space Age began in 1957 with the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik.

NASA was established the following year by President Eisenhower and the agency succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).

Since its establishment, most US space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo Moon landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle.

NASA also supports the International Space Station and is oversees the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the Space Launch System and Commercial Crew vehicles.

The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches.

NASA’s main focus is a better understanding of Earth, but also extensively explores other bodies in the Solar System.

Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, Jr. (L-R) were the three astronauts who took part in the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission in 1969
Corbis – Getty

How many people work for NASA and who is in charge?

NASA is controlled by an administrator who is nominated by the president and confirmed by a vote in the Senate.

The very first administrator was T. Keith Glennan, who took office in August 1958 under President Eisenhower.

The current administrator is Major Jim Bridenstine, who took over in April 2018 under President Trump.

The agency employs more than 17,000 people, with many more working with the agency as government contractors.

Astronauts may be the best-known NASA employees, but they only represent a small number of the total workforce.

Many NASA workers are actually scientists and engineers, but there are employees within the agency in a number of other jobs like secretaries, writers, lawyers and teachers.

Tim Peake is Britain’s first official astronaut and spent 186 days at the International Space Station
AFP

What has NASA achieved so far?

When NASA started, it began a program of human spaceflight.

The Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs helped NASA learn about flying in space and resulted in the first human landing on the Moon in 1969.

Currently, NASA has astronauts living and working on the International Space Station.

NASA’s robotic space probes have visited every planet in the solar system and several other celestial bodies.

Telescopes have allowed scientists to look at the far reaches of space.

Satellites have revealed a wealth of data about Earth, resulting in valuable information such as a better understanding of weather patterns.

NASA has helped develop and test a variety of cutting-edge aircraft too, including planes that have set new records.

Among other benefits, these tests have helped engineers improve air transportation and NASA technology has even contributed to many items used in everyday life, from smoke detectors to medical tests.

In 2018, NASA celebrated its 60th anniversary.

On November 26, 2018, NASA’s Insight probe landed on Mars, and sent back a series of selfies from the Red Planet just four minutes after landing.

The International Space Station (ISS) is seen from NASA space shuttle Endeavour as it travels over the Earth
Handout – Getty

Who was the first man on the moon?

On July 16, 1969 Apollo 11 blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center for the first Lunar landing mission.

The massive Saturn V rocket lifted off with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin at 9:32 am Eastern Time.

Four days later, on July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon’s surface while Collins orbited overhead in the Command Module taking pictures and carrying out experiments.

Neil Armstrong went down in history as the first human to step on the moon.

On taking his first steps he said: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

He and Aldrin walked around for three hours, carrying out experiments and picking up bits of moon dirt and rocks as samples.

The pair also put a US flag on the moon along with a sign.

On July 24, 1969, all three astronauts came back to Earth safely.

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