National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was founded in 1958. It was created by legislation for the purpose of creating a government-backed national space program in response to the launch of Sputnik I, the Soviet Union's the first man-made satellite. According to the act, NASA was to conduct research on the problems of flight in and out of the atmosphere with and without human pilots, and to cooperate with other nations in the peaceful exploration of space. The forerunner of NASA was the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which was tasked with aeronautical research. When NASA was established NACA was dissolved as it effectively became NASA.NASA is responsible for many satellites including Landsat, which was a series of satellites for the collection of information on natural resources, communication satellites and weather satellites. The Project Apollo program under NASA led to several landings on the Moon from 1969-1972. It is also the designer and developer of the space shuttle.

Today NASA has four main mission directorates,

  • Aeronautics, the work of developing and proving new flight technologies
  • Exploration Systems, creating new capabilities and spacecraft for affordable, sustainable human and robotic exploration.
  • Science, explores the Earth, and beyond
  • Space Operations, the space shuttle, the International Space Station and flight support.

Unfortunately, NASA has also lately been distracted by anthropogenic global warming theory, due to the political machinations of alarmists such James E. Hansen [1]. George Deutsch, an appointee of President George W. Bush, tried to rein in NASA's turn towards environmental radicalism, but this provoked a reaction from the liberal media [2].

Apollo 11 launch. The small cloud midway up the rocket is due to the Low Pressure in that region as the Rocket Passes through Max Q, the maximum dynamic pressure exerted on the rocket in the launch.


NASA Manned Missions

  • Project Mercury Initiated in 1958 and completed in 1963, Project Mercury was the United States' first man-in-space program. The objectives of the program, which made six manned flights from 1961 to 1963, were specific: orbit a manned spacecraft around Earth, investigate man's ability to function in space and recover both man and spacecraft safely. [1]

  • Project Gemini The Gemini Program was a necessary intermediate step between Project Mercury and the Apollo Program and had four objectives: subject astronauts to long duration flights- a requirement for projected later trips to the moon or deeper space; develop effective methods of rendezvous and docking with other orbiting vehicles, and to maneuver the docked vehicles in space; perfect methods of reentry and landing the spacecraft at a pre-selected land-landing point; gain additional information concerning the effects of weightlessness on crew members and to record the physiological reactions of crew members during long duration flights. [2]

  • Project Apollo On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced the goal of sending a man to the moon before the end of the decade. Coming just three weeks after Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space, Kennedy's bold challenge set the nation on a journey unlike any before in human history.
Eight years of hard work by thousands of Americans came to fruition on July 20, 1969, when the lunar module landed in the Sea of Tranquility and Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon's surface with the words;

That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
Six of the missions -- Apollos 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 -- went on to land on the moon, studying soil mechanics, meteoroids, seismic, heat flow, lunar ranging, magnetic fields and solar wind. Apollos 7 and 9 tested spacecraft in Earth orbit; Apollo 10 orbited the moon as the dress rehearsal for the first landing. An oxygen tank explosion forced Apollo 13 to scrub its landing, but the "can-do" problem solving of the crew and mission control turned the mission into a "successful failure."
The program also drew inspiration from Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, who lost their lives in a fire during a launch pad test in 1967.
Project Apollo concluded with the Apollo/Soyuz mission during July 1975, part of a series of cooperative space flights between the United States and the Soviet Union (Russia) that continues today. The docking in space of the two spacecraft took place at 2:17 p.m. U.S. Central Daylight Time on 17 July. Two days of joint operations followed. After separation, the Soyuz remained in space for almost two days before landing in the USSR on 21 July. The Apollo spacecraft remained in space for another three days before splashing down near Hawaii on 24 July. The mission was a resounding success for both Americans and Soviets. They achieved their goal of obtaining flight experience for rendezvous and docking of human spacecraft. In addition, they also demonstrated in-flight intervehicular crew transfer, as well as accomplished a series of scientific experiments. [3] [4]

  • Skylab was America's first space station and orbital science and engineering laboratory. Skylab was launched into Earth orbit by a Saturn V rocket on May 14, 1973 as part of the Apollo program. Three crews visited the station, with their missions lasting 28, 59 and 84 days. The mission crews performed a plethora of UV astronomy experiments, eight separate solar experiments and detailed X-ray studies of the Sun. [5] The mission crews performed a plethora of UV astronomy experiments, eight separate solar experiments and detailed X-ray studies of the Sun. Skylab served as the greatest solar observatory of its time, a microgravity lab, a medical lab, an Earth-observing facility, and, most importantly, a home away from home for its residents. The program also led to new technologies. Special showers, toilets, sleeping bags, exercise equipment and kitchen facilities were designed to function in microgravity. [6] [7]

  • The Space Shuttle is the world's first reusable spacecraft, and the first spacecraft in history that can carry large satellites both to and from orbit. The Shuttle launches like a rocket, maneuvers in Earth orbit like a spacecraft and lands like an airplane. Each of the three Space Shuttle orbiters now in operation -- Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour -- is designed to fly at least 100 missions. So far, altogether they have flown a combined total of less than one-fourth of that.
Columbia was the first Space Shuttle orbiter to be delivered to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., in March 1979. Columbia and the STS-107 crew were lost Feb. 1, 2003, during re-entry. The Orbiter Challenger was delivered to KSC in July 1982 and was destroyed in an explosion during ascent in January 1986. Discovery was delivered in November 1983. Atlantis was delivered in April 1985. Endeavour was built as a replacement following the Challenger accident and was delivered to Florida in May 1991. An early Space Shuttle Orbiter, the Enterprise, never flew in space but was used for approach and landing tests at the Dryden Flight Research Center and several launch pad studies in the late 1970s.
The Shuttle has the most reliable launch record of any rocket now in operation. Since 1981, it has boosted more than 1.36 million kilograms (3 million pounds) of cargo into orbit. More than than 600 crew members have flown on its missions. Although it has been in operation for almost 20 years, the Shuttle has continually evolved and is significantly different today than when it first was launched. NASA has made literally thousands of major and minor modifications to the original design that have made it safer, more reliable and more capable today than ever before. After 135 missions, the Space Shuttle flew its last flight on July 8, 2011.
In 1992, the U.S. and the new Russian Federation renewed the 1987 space cooperation agreement and issued a "Joint Statement on Cooperation in Space." Subsequent additions to the agreement outline the development of the NASA-Mir program. From February 1994 to June 1998, space shuttles made 11 flights to the Russian space station Mir, and American astronauts spent seven residencies onboard Mir. Space shuttles also conducted crew exchanges and delivered supplies and equipment.[8] [9]
  • The International Space Station is a working laboratory orbiting 240 miles (390 kilometers) above the Earth and is home to an international crew. It is the most complex scientific and technological endeavor ever undertaken, involving five space agencies representing 16 nations. Once completed, this new research outpost in space will include contributions from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Russia, Brazil, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. As a research outpost, the station is a test bed for future technologies and a research laboratory for new, advanced industrial materials, communications technology, medical research and much more. On-orbit assembly began in 1998 with the launch of Zarya, and today the station provides crewmembers with 15,000 cubic feet of habitable volume – more room than a conventional three-bedroom house – and weighs 404,000 pounds.
The station now includes the Russian-built Zarya Module and the Zvezda Service Module, which contain the station’s living quarters and life-support systems; the U.S.-built Unity Connecting Module, providing docking ports for several station components; the U.S.-built Destiny Laboratory, which expands the station’s scientific capabilities with experiment compartments that allow nearly continuous scientific research and provide additional life support and robotic capabilities; the U.S.-built Quest Airlock, a doorway to space that supports station-based spacewalks; the Canadian-built Canadarm2, a new-generation robotic arm that gives the station a movable space crane; the Russian-built Pirs docking compartment, which adds additional spacewalking and docking capabilities to the station; and truss segments, which serve as the framework for additional station segments. Japanese and European research laboratories are ready for delivery to expand the station’s research capabilities even more. [10]
  • NASA had planned to continue human space flight with Project Constellation, which consists of the Orion spacecraft (similar to the Project Apollo Command Module, but larger and with up to date flight systems) and the Ares I, a launch vehicle. The Ares is similar to the solid fuel rocket from the current Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster (SRB), but more powerful, and has a second stage. The first launch was hoped for 2011 and the first human launch in 2014[11]. Due to budget cuts, however, funding was removed for the program in the 2011 federal budget, and the current status of the project is unknown.

NASA Unmanned Missions

  • Explorer 1 was the first satellite launched by the United States when it was sent into space on January 31, 1958. Following the launch of the Soviet Union's Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency was directed to launch a satellite using its Jupiter C rocket developed under the direction of Dr. Wernher von Braun. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory received the assignment to design, build and operate the artificial satellite that would serve as the rocket's payload. JPL completed this job in less than three months.
The primary science instrument on Explorer 1 was a cosmic ray detector designed to measure the radiation environment in Earth orbit. Once in space this experiment, provided by Dr. James Van Allen of the University of Iowa, revealed a much lower cosmic ray count than expected. The existence of these radiation belts was confirmed by another U.S. satellite launched two months later, and they became known as the Van Allen Belts in honor of their discoverer. [12]

  • The Pioneer Venus Project's main objective was to investigate the solar wind in the Venusian environment, map the planet's surface through a radar imaging system and study the characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere.
Pioneer Venus consisted of two spacecraft: the Orbiter and the Multiprobe. The Orbiter carried an assortment of instruments for investigating plasma in upper Venusian atmosphere, observing reflected sunlight from the cloud layers at a variety of wavelengths, in addition to a surface radar mapper, and was launched on the May 20, 1978. It reached orbit around Venus on Dec. 4, 1978. Although originally intended to operate for one Venusian year, most of the Orbiter's instruments were still operating when the spacecraft entered the atmosphere on Oct. 8, 1992.
The Pioneer Venus Multiprobe, which was launched on Aug. 8, 1978 and reached Venus on Dec. 9, 1978, was made of 5 separate probes: the probe transporter (referred to as the Bus), a large atmospheric entry probe (called Sounder), and three small probes. The Sounder released from the Bus on Nov. 15, 1978. The three smaller probes released on Nov. 19, 1978. The probes sent data to Earth as they descended toward the surface. [13]

  • The Surveyor probes (1966 - 1968) were the first U.S. spacecraft to land safely on the Moon. The main objectives of the Surveyors were to obtain close-up images of the lunar surface and to determine if the terrain was safe for manned landings. Each Surveyor was equipped with a television camera. In addition, Surveyors 3 and 7 each carried a soil mechanics surface sampler scoop which dug trenches and was used for soil mechanics tests and Surveyors 5, 6, and 7 had magnets attached to the footpads and an alpha scattering instrument for chemical analysis of the lunar material. [14]

  • Galileo was launched from the cargo bay of Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1989. The exciting list of discoveries started even before Galileo got a glimpse of Jupiter. As it crossed the asteroid belt in October 1991, Galileo snapped images of Gaspra, returning the first ever close-up image of an asteroid. In 1994 the spacecraft made the only direct observation of a comet impacting a planet-- comet Shoemaker-Levy 9's collision with Jupiter.
Galileo's descent probe made the first in-place studies of the planet's clouds and winds, and it furthered scientists' understanding of how Jupiter evolved. The probe also made composition measurements designed to assess the degree of evolution of Jupiter compared to the Sun.
Galileo extensively investigated the geologic diversity of Jupiter's four largest moons: Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa. Galileo found that Io's extensive volcanic activity is 100 times greater than that found on Earth. The moon Europa, Galileo unveiled, could be hiding a salty ocean up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) deep underneath its frozen surface containing about twice as much water as all the Earth's oceans. Data also showed Ganymede and Callisto may have a liquid-saltwater layer. The biggest discovery surrounding Ganymede was the presence of a magnetic field. No other moon of any planet is known to have one.
The prime mission ended six years ago, after two years of orbiting Jupiter. NASA extended the mission three times to continue taking advantage of Galileo's unique capabilities for accomplishing valuable science. [15]

  • TOPEX/Poseidon, launched in 1992, is a joint venture between CNES and NASA to map ocean surface topography. While a 3-year prime mission was planned, with a 5-year store of expendables, TOPEX/Poseidon has delivered an astonishing 10+ years of data from orbit. It has made the following contributions:
-Measured sea levels with unprecedented accuracy to better than 5 cm
-Continuously observed global ocean topography
-Monitored effects of currents on global climate change and produced the first global views of seasonal changes of currents
-Monitored large-scale ocean features like Rossby and Kelvin waves and studied such phenomena as El Niño, La Niña, and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation
-Mapped basin-wide current variations and provided global data to validate models of ocean circulation
-Mapped year-to-year changes in heat stored in the upper ocean
-Produced the most accurate global maps of tides ever
-Improved our knowledge of Earth's gravity field [16]

  • Magellan Spacecraft
The Magellan spacecraft, named after the sixteenth-century Portuguese explorer whose expedition first circumnavigated the Earth, was launched May 4, 1989, and arrived at Venus on August 10, 1990. Magellan's solid rocket motor placed it into a near-polar elliptical orbit around the planet. During the first 8-month mapping cycle around Venus, Magellan collected radar images of 84 percent of the planet's surface, with resolution 10 times better than that of the earlier Soviet Venera 15 and 16 missions. Altimetry and radiometry data also measured the surface topography and electrical characteristics.
During the extended mission, two further mapping cycles from May 15, 1991 to September 14, 1992 brought mapping coverage to 98% of the planet, with a resolution of approximately 100m.
Precision radio tracking of the spacecraft will measure Venus' gravitational field to show the planet's internal mass distribution and the forces which have created the surface features. Magellan's data will permit the first global geological understanding of Venus, the planet most like Earth in our solar system. [17]

  • Viking Project
NASA's Viking Mission to Mars was composed of two spacecraft, Viking 1 and Viking 2, each consisting of an orbiter and a lander. The primary mission objectives were to obtain high resolution images of the Martian surface, characterize the structure and composition of the atmosphere and surface, and search for evidence of life.
Viking 1 was launched on August 20, 1975 and arrived at Mars on June 19, 1976. The first month of orbit was devoted to imaging the surface to find appropriate landing sites for the Viking Landers. On July 20, 1976 the Viking 1 Lander separated from the Orbiter and touched down at Chryse Planitia. Viking 2 was launched September 9, 1975 and entered Mars orbit on August 7, 1976.
The Viking 2 Lander touched down at Utopia Planitia on September 3, 1976. The Orbiters imaged the entire surface of Mars at a resolution of 150 to 300 meters, and selected areas at 8 meters. The Viking 2 Orbiter was powered down on July 25, 1978 after 706 orbits, and the Viking 1 Orbiter on August 17, 1980, after over 1400 orbits. [18]

National Space Science Data Center

The National Space Science Data Center, located in NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, is NASA's central archive of images and raw data from its various missions. Among other services, the NSSDC assigned an internationally recognized International Designator, a unique identifier for every rocket probe, vehicle, or stage of such vehicle ever launched. The code begins with the year (AD) of launch, followed by a three-digit launch sequence number and a one-to-three-letter "part code" for the launch. (Failed launches receive an arbitrary code.)

NASA Langley Science Directorate

Atmospheric scientists at NASA Langley Research Center conduct research from the land, sea, air and space to understand the atmospheric effects caused by volcanic eruptions, industrial pollution, changes in the planet’s energy balance and other events. They also support application programs, the worldwide distribution of NASA data and educational outreach activities.

Science research at Langley, specifically in atmospheric science, can trace its beginnings to the Center's aeronautical studies. In the 1960s, scientists began exploring how atmospheric dynamics, density and temperature varied with altitude to understand their effects on aircraft performance. Langley scientists expanded this effort in the 1970s to include atmospheric chemistry research and then shifted their research emphasis to environmental concerns. Rich in aeronautical heritage, Langley's atmospheric science research impacts how all of NASA studies the Earth and other planets. [19]


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