From Ground To Space: The History Of The United States Space Program

1315 words - 5 pages

Men and woman alike have always dreamed of exploring the heavens and walking on another world. For this reason, there was need for the birth of a Space Program in the 1950's. The 1950s witnessed the birth of the modern era of space exploration. A milestone in this process was the inauguration of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA on October 1, 1958, as the successor to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (www.NASA.gov). The latter, founded in 1915, had played a key role in the development of the nation's aeronautical industry through research and related activities. The new agency had a similar mandate and was also delegated the task of overseeing the civilian space program. NASA is the key piece of a proud history in space exploration and continues to be the leader in a new generation of space exploration.NASA is the key link in US space exploration. It was born in the midst of a space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Russia had become the first nation to successfully launch an artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, on October 4, 1957, and the United States followed with Explorer 1 in January 1958 (www.NASA.gov). Russia soon reached another plateau in its program and initiated the era of manned space flight on April 12, 1961, when Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space during a one-orbit mission (www.ucdavis.edu/book/history/advanced/program-01.html). The U.S. operated program, at that time, centered about Project Mercury and its seven astronauts. On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space during a fifteen-minute sub orbital flight, and John Glenn made the first orbital flight nine months later (www.NASA.gov). While the six manned Mercury missions provided NASA with invaluable experience, Project Gemini, its successor, was a bridge to the upcoming lunar program. On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy committed the nation to landing an astronaut on the moon before the end of the decade.The manned Gemini missions, who were initiated in March 1965, played an important role in this endeavor. Program highlights included the first U.S. space walks, docking maneuvers in space, and flights of longer duration (www.NASA.gov). Gemini 12, the final mission, was completed in November 1966. The next phase, the Project Apollo moon program, suffered a serious setback on January 27, 1967, when a fire in the Apollo command module killed three astronauts. Manned flights were delayed until October 1968, and on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin of Apollo 11 became the first humans to walk on the moon. They arrived on the lunar surface via Eagle, a module designed for this operation, while their comrade Michael Collins orbited overhead in the command module Columbia (www.ucdavis.edu/book/history/advanced/program-01.html). Armstrong and Aldrin were reunited with Collins in Columbia after a lunar lift-off, and all three returned safely to earth. Other successful missions that...

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