Who founded NASA and why

Completely detached from the earth NASA

NASA was born

On July 29, 1958, the then US President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the "National Aeronautics and Space" law and thus founded the space agency NASA. The new company initially had 8,000 employees. The space agency, headquartered in Washington D.C. and a billion dollar budget around 18,000 employees in the USA.

Superpowers compete in space

People jetting through space, satellites orbiting the earth and spaceships flying to the moon: what looked like peaceful space travel was actually a tough battle between the superpowers. In the second half of the 20th century, the "Cold War" takes place not only on earth, but also in space.

The first climax of the competition came with the so-called Sputnik shock: In October 1957, the Soviet Union launched the "Sputnik 1" satellite, whose signal could be received anywhere in the world. That was a shock to the United States, as they previously smiled at the Russians and their technical skills.

And it got "worse" for the Americans: only one month after the first Sputnik shock followed the next: Moscow sent "Sputnik 2" into space and this time even with a passenger on board: the three-year-old dog Laika was the first living being in space.

Around three months after the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellite into space, the Americans followed with the "Explorer 1". And they worked feverishly to send people into space. But the Soviets were faster again here. The Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first person to fly into the cosmos. On April 12, 1961, he orbited the earth once in 108 minutes in the spaceship "Vostok" before landing near the Russian city of Saratov.

First man on the moon

For the Americans it became a matter of honor - and a competition. They no longer wanted to be left behind by the Soviet Union when it came to space technology. And so it actually only took three weeks from Yuri Gagarin's cosmic journey that the USA were able to report their success: On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard was the first American to fly into space.

But that should only be the prelude to something bigger. In his well-known keynote address in May 1961, US President John F. Kennedy declared that the US would "land" a person on the moon and bring them safely back to earth before the end of this decade. Before NASA could keep Kennedy's promise, however, the USSR succeeded in sending the first woman into space and carrying out the first spacecraft mission. The Soviet Union was also proud to announce the first "unmanned" landing on the moon.

That's a small step for a human, but a big leap for humanity.

Neil Armstrong

But in 1969 the USA managed to outclass the Soviet archenemy: the astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped on the moon - and several hundred million people on earth were there live on television. A total of twelve people visited the earth satellite in NASA's Apollo program. NASA had won the "race to the moon" with it.

30 years of space shuttle era

In 1972 the age of moon flights came to an end. NASA had a new goal: to live and research in space. The Americans worked on a reusable space transporter, the "Space Shuttle". Twenty years after the first human set off into space, the time had come: On April 12, 1981, the first space-compatible space shuttle "Columbia" took off for the mission from the Kennedy Space Center in the state of Florida into space.

In the following two decades, NASA built five copies. The space shuttle was not just a showcase project, it was supposed to bring economic success. However, the shuttles also represent the two greatest tragedies in manned space travel. On January 28, 1986, the US space shuttle "Challenger" exploded after only 73 seconds of flight. All seven astronauts died. On February 1, 2003, the "Columbia" hit another fatal catastrophe.

These two disasters hastened the end of NASA's shuttle program. A great era in US space travel came to an end with the launch of the "Atlantis" space shuttle. NASA's space shuttles were in use for 30 years. Balance: The space shuttle has orbited the earth 4,848 times and covered more than 203 million kilometers in the process. 170 astronauts flew with her into space to the International Space Station ISS.

Diverse tasks of NASA

The moon landing was a huge key moment for NASA. In addition to the moon landing, NASA then extensively explored the planetary system including our earth with numerous probes, peered deep into the vastness behind our solar system with space telescopes and, together with other countries, set up the International Space Station ISS, a permanent outpost of humanity in space.

In addition, NASA informs people all over the world about space, whether with museums and in school classes or with an award-winning online strategy. The live broadcast of the finale of the "Cassini" space probe, which plunged into Saturn in a controlled manner in September 2017, was nominated for the US Emmy television award.

Today, manned spaceflight focuses on work on the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits the earth at an altitude of around 350 kilometers. But here the Americans are dependent on their former arch-rival Russia. Because since the end of their space shuttle program, they have no vehicles of their own for manned space travel.

In addition to the established space agencies from the USA, Europe, Japan, Canada and Russia, there are also some emerging nations. These include India and South Korea, among others. China launched its first manned flight in 2003 and is pursuing an ambitious program that also includes a moon landing. There is currently no cooperation on the ISS.

The American space agency NASA is planning the first manned flight to Mars. The European space agency ESA wants to build a village on the moon, the so-called "Moon Village". Only a manned Mars landing could top the historic moon landing. NASA is planning a manned flight to the planet Mars. According to NASA, space fans will have to wait until at least 2035 for this.