NASA is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.
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NASA’s vision is to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1958, partially in response to the Soviet Union’s launch of the first artificial satellite the previous year. NASA grew out of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), which had been researching flight technology for more than 40 years.
President John F. Kennedy focused on NASA and the nation on sending astronauts to the moon by the end of the 1960s. Through the Mercury and Gemini projects, NASA developed the technology and skills it needed for the journey. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first of 12 men to walk on the moon, meeting Kennedy’s challenge.
Meanwhile, NASA was continuing the aeronautics research pioneered by NACA. It also conducted purely scientific research and worked on developing applications for space technology, combining both pursuits in developing the first weather and communications satellites.
After Apollo, NASA focused on creating a reusable ship to provide regular access to space: the space shuttle. First launched in 1981, the space shuttle flew more than 130 successful flights before retiring in 2011. In 2000, the United States and Russia established a permanent human presence in space aboard the International Space Station, a multinational project representing the work of 16 nations.
NASA also has continued its scientific research. In 1997, Mars Pathfinder became the first in a fleet of spacecraft that will explore Mars in the next decade, as we try to determine if life ever existed there. The Terra and Aqua satellites are flagships of a different fleet, this one in Earth orbit, designed to help us understand how our home world is changing. NASA’s aeronautics teams are focused on improved aircraft travel that is safer and cleaner.
Throughout its history, NASA has conducted or funded research that has led to numerous improvements to life here on Earth.