NASA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the government agency responsible for US space programs.

Currently, NASA has facilities in 14 centers throughout Florida, California, Maryland, Texas, Virginia, Ohio, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Costa Rica.

On October 1, 1958 (one year after the launch of Soviet Sputnik) NASA began operating with four laboratories, some 8,000 employees, and with the aim of putting a manned spacecraft into orbit.

sputnnik 1
Artistic representation of Sputnik.  On October 4, 1957 was the first artificial satellite in history. Credit: web “cosmosmagazine.com/space/how-sputnik-1-launched-the-space-age/” Author: Detlev van Ravenswaay / Getty

NASA programs to perform orbital flights

On May 5, 1961, Alan Shephard was the first American astronaut and piloted the Freedom 7 spacecraft in a 15-minute suborbital flight.

Shepard
Alan Shepard on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Lake Champlain after the return of Freedom 7. Credit: JSC/NASA

On May 25, 1961, the Apollo program was created, with the objective that, before the end of the decade, a man would land on the Moon and return safely to Earth.

On February 20, 1962, John Glenn orbited the Earth, during a 5-hour flight with the Friendship 7 spacecraft, which circled Earth 3 times.

John Glenn
John Glenn hero of the Space age. Credit: web “nytimes.com/2016/12/08/us/john-glenn-dies.html”

 

NASA programs to explore the moon

On March 21, 1965, the Gemini Program began, conceived to test the techniques necessary to carry out the Apollo Program.

On June 3, 1965, Edward White made the first spacewalk by an American. The orbital flight of the Gemini 7 spacecraft lasted two weeks.

The Apollo Program achieved its goal with Apollo 11 which landed on the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969, manned by Neil Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin, and returned them to Earth on July 24.

Armstrong
Neil Armstrong was the first human being to walk on the Moon. Credit: Wikipedia

Budget cuts, due in part to the Vietnam War, brought about the end of the Apollo program.

Apolo 11
The wonderful feat that brought Apollo 11 to the Moon. Credit: web “thespacehub.com”

NASA programs to investigate the planets

Mariner 2, in 1962, was the first spacecraft to fly around the planet Venus. Credit: NASA (Artistic representationMariner 2

 

Later, two probes landed on Mars and sent the first images of the planet’s surface to Earth.

Surveyor
Artist’s impression of Mars Global Surveyor. Credit: web “sciencephoto.com”
Viking
The Viking 1 lander touched down on the surface of Mars on July 20, 1976  Credit: web “mars.nasa.gob”

NASA international collaboration

On July 17, 1975, an Apollo spacecraft docked with a USSR Soyuz, on a mission to bring the technology of the two nations together.

This was a critical point in NASA history and the beginning of international collaboration in space exploration.

The space shuttle became NASA’s favorite space program in the late 1970s and 1980s.

The first to be launched was the Columbia, on April 12, 1981

Columbia
The space shuttle Columbia was the first of NASA’s space shuttles to accomplish missions outside of Earth. Credit: web “lanasa.net”

But the shuttle flights were much more expensive than initially projected.

Despite the Challenger disaster in 1986, the shuttle has been used to launch major projects such as the Hubble Space Telescope, a joint project between ESA and NASA.

During the 1990s, NASA was faced with a reduction in annual budgets from Congress.

Mars Global Surveyor was an American robotic space probe developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and launched November 1996.

As part of the larger Mars Exploration Program, Mars Global Surveyor performed monitoring relay for sister orbiters during aerobraking, and it helped Mars rovers and lander missions by identifying potential landing sites and relaying surface telemetry.

In 1997, NASA managed to launch the Mars Pathfinder probe, equipped with the Sojourner robot that was able to move across the surface of Mars and send absolutely new images.

Pathfinder
The Mars Pathfinder was an American spacecraft on a mission to study Mars from the surface, launched by NASA in 1996. Credit: web “xtec.cat”

Since 2001, numerous NASA science missions have used robots to search for evidence of water on the red planet, in two diametrically opposite areas of Mars.

NASA in Spain

In Robledo de Chavela is the only NASA facility in Spain; It is part of the “Deep Space” research network.

Its first antenna was placed in 1961, in support of the Mariner Program. There are currently six antennas at this location, used in tracking Voyager probes beyond Saturn.

Robledo de Chabela
Robledo de Chavela is a town in Spain located in the Sierra Oeste de Madrid, 63 km from the capital. Credit: web “telescopios.org”