With space exploration becoming more and more popular – and more of a competition between nations – the need for a space program was growing. It wasn’t until this day, July 29th, in 1958 that the United States Congress passed the legislation that allowed for the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The program would commonly become known as NASA.
NASA is a civilian agency that’s basic job is to handle the coordination of the United States’ involvement in space exploration. Since their creation in 1958, they’ve made huge advancements in the knowledge of space and our solar system that were made possible due to both human and mechanical expeditions. They are also responsible for the satellites that have been orbiting Earth for as long as I can remember. These satellites are important for predicting the weather, navigating and communicating globally with each other.
Congress saw the need for their own space program when the Soviet Union announced the launch of their first satellite into space, Sputnik I. It was a success that saw a 183-pound small satellite orbit the Earth in just 98 minutes. Standing in the bleachers, the United States began to worry that this advancement for the Soviets could mean something larger could come next. In fear of the Soviets being able to launch nuclear missiles from Europe to the United States, Congress passed a legislation that created NASA.
Feeling like they were a step behind, the United States immediately began building a response to the Soviets. This would be the beginning of a “space race” between the two nations, with the United States feeling like they were “at the forefront of technology.”
One month after the launch of the first Sputnik, the Soviets launched the second version. The United States wouldn’t successfully launch a satellite that orbited Earth until January 31, 1958 with the launch of the Explorer I.
Three years later, U.S. President John F. Kennedy made his famous speech that declared America would put a man on the moon within the decade. It was a bold statement, but something America was ready to strive for. 8 years later, Apollo 11 made that statement true when it landed on the moon. Neil Armstrong, the commander of the expedition, became the first person to take a footstep on the moon’s surface. Before placing an American flag on the moon, he stated the famous saying, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Since then, NASA has continued their exploration of space and have made great advancements in knowing what exactly is out there. In 2004, George Bush challenged that NASA make another attempt at the moon, stating that it was important to build a human presence over there to better figure out what’s up there. This would later serve as a starting point for putting man on Mars – and hopefully more to come. There’s a lot out there, some of it we probably aren’t even prepared to know exists. Only time will tell.