NASA

How It Works - - SPACE -

1 Oc­to­ber 1958

The Na­tional Aero­nau­tics and Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NASA) opens its doors, be­com­ing a civil­ian and sci­en­tific space agency for the United States. NASA was born from the ashes of the pre­ced­ing Na­tional Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee for Aero­nau­tics (NACA), with some de­bate over whether the Amer­i­can space agency should be run for civil­ian or mil­i­tary pur­poses. Af­ter much con­jec­ture from sci­en­tists and re­searchers, the for­mer ul­ti­mately won out. NASA be­gan with 8,000 em­ploy­ees and an an­nual bud­get of $100 mil­lion. To­day it boasts more than 17,000 and a bud­get of over $19 bil­lion (£14.6 bil­lion). And thanks to the early work of peo­ple fight­ing the corner for a peace­ful space agency, NASA has grown to be­come the lead­ing ad­vo­cate of space sci­ence and ex­plo­ration in the world. It has ex­plored all the ma­jor plan­ets, landed on the Moon, study Earth’s cli­mate, vis­ited Pluto, and even sent space­craft be­yond the So­lar Sys­tem.

11 Oc­to­ber 1958

NASA launches its first space­craft, Pioneer 1, on top of a Thor-able rocket. The space­craft had an am­bi­tious goal of reach­ing the Moon, but a pro­gram­ming er­ror meant the probe fell back to Earth less than two days af­ter launch.

3 March 1959

Pioneer 4 launches, the first US space­craft to pass by the Moon.

28 May 1959

Able and Baker be­come the first mon­keys to sur­vive a space­flight.

5 May 1961

Alan Shep­ard be­comes the first Amer­i­can in space (and the sec­ond hu­man af­ter Soviet Yuri Ga­garin weeks prior) on the Free­dom 7 space­craft. Dur­ing the 15-minute flight he reached an al­ti­tude of 187.5 kilo­me­tres be­fore re­turn­ing to Earth.

Alan Shep­ard pic­tured on­board the Free­dom 7 space­craft

Pioneer was also de­signed to mea­sure cos­mic ra­di­a­tion

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