NASA is the US space agency which is accountable for all the projects on space exploration undertaken by the US government. It was founded by the US Congress during the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was signed by President Eisenhower on July 29,1958.
Some of the most important facts about NASA are as follows:
- NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
- It is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
- When it started its operations formally on October 1, 1958, it had four laboratories and around 80 employees.
- Presently, it has several bases for Research Center, Test Facilities, Construction and Launch Facilities and Deep Space Network stations.
- Space shuttles are developed and launched from the Kennedy Space Center located in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
- The shuttle mission control as well as International Space Station operators of the space agency are situated at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
- The robotic missions of NASA to any comet or to any of the planets in the solar system like Mars are created at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
- During 1961-1975, it undertook the Apollo program to carry out the mission of landing humans on the surface of the Moon. Apollo spaceflights successfully completed six lunar landings.
- It named its first space station Skylab. It was the only one-of-its-kind station that the agency launched all by itself. This space station was present in the Earth's orbit for almost 6 years from 1973-1979. As many as three crews visited the space station in 1973 and 1974.
- The space shuttle era began in NASA in the late 1970s. Space shuttle or Space Transportation System (STS) is a spaceship that can be used repeatedly.
- Columbia was the first successfully built space shuttle by NASA. The first mission of Columbia was in April, 1981. Columbia met a tragic end on its 28th mission on February 1, 2003. The space shuttle disintegrated into pieces over Texas while it was trying a re-entry, killing the seven crew members on board.
- NASA's twin robots Spirit and Opportunity have successfully reached the surface of Mars in 2004. These two are carrying out extensive analysis of rocks on the red planet.
- Another successful mission on Mars was the landing of Phoenix, a robotic spacecraft on May 25, 2008. Phoenix was sent to search for the possibility of the presence of water on the planet.
- One of the key scientific missions of NASA is repairing the Hubble Space Telescope. This program has literally revolutionized astronomy.
- Apart from the space programs, it has also undertaken programs related to civilian and military aerospace research.
- NASA has plans to launch the IBEX or Interstellar Boundary Explorer on October 19, 2009. It will venture into all those areas which have not been explored so far. The primary task of IBEX will be to map the edge of our solar system.
- Its future space project includes landing humans on Mars by 2037.
- The mission statement of NASA has been changed, since its inception in 1958, to include the mission for searching extraterrestrial life. Its mission statement in its present form is - "To explore the Universe and search for life; To inspire the next generation of explorers, as only NASA can".
- The head of NASA is the administrator, who is also the senior advisor to the President of United States. Michael D. Griffin served the post of NASA administrator from April 2005 to January 2009. At present, the post is vacant.
The projects undertaken by NASA are highly expensive ones. So, every year, the organization receives a whopping amount of $17 billion for its missions and research work. It is believed that its space exploration program is allotted the highest budget in the world.