NASA at 60

Cel­e­brat­ing the many mile­stones of the Amer­i­can space agency

How It Works - - CONTENTS - Words by Jonathan O’callaghan

When NASA first opened its doors on 1 Oc­to­ber 1958, hu­mans had never been to space. We had no idea what most of the other plan­ets re­ally looked like, we’d never even seen a comet or as­ter­oid up close, and set­ting foot on an­other world was the stuff of dreams. Fast for­ward to to­day and our knowl­edge of space – thanks to NASA – is un­like any­thing we had thought pos­si­ble. The agency was born out of a bat­tle to de­cide whether the Amer­i­can space agency should serve the mil­i­tary or civil­ians. Fac­ing a grow­ing threat from the Soviet Union, the US saw space as an op­por­tu­nity to flex its con­sid­er­able mus­cle and show off its en­vi­ous tech­no­log­i­cal prow­ess. How­ever, nu­mer­ous sci­en­tists ar­gued in favour of NASA be­ing used for strictly peace­ful pur­poses, high­light­ing some of the grand ques­tions about our uni­verse that it could po­ten­tially an­swer and some of the fan­tas­tic lo­cales that could be ex­plored. Thank­fully, they won out – NASA was set up with sci­ence at its core, and we’re all the bet­ter for it. NASA’S pri­mary goals were to ex­pand hu­man knowl­edge about space and de­velop ve­hi­cles that could take us to the stars. They tack­led these chal­lenges with aplomb, and to­day we’ve been treated to an end­less cav­al­cade of sci­ence, from Moon land­ings to images of strange alien worlds. The agency isn’t go­ing any­where yet, and the fu­ture prom­ises even more ground­break­ing mile­stones. NASA’S achieve­ments of the past 60 years are in­cred­i­ble, but the best might be yet to come.

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