NASA turns 50
It is NASA's golden anniversary! The NASA website informs that "The Life @ NASA Mission Guide, commemorating NASA's participation in the conference, will help you chart a course through the exciting world of NASA research, science and technology.Now is your chance to find out about the work that NASA does and its relevance to you." It is referring to the AIAA Space 2008 Conference & Exposition that took place a fortnight back in San Diego, California.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
WASHINGTON: Half a century after NASA was created at the height of the Cold War when the United States sought to prove its superiority by winning the race to the Moon, the space agency faces new challenges ahead.
At its conception NASA sought to assert American dominance over the Soviet Union, but in the new 21st century it finds an emerging rival in the space race: China.
The birth of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on October 1, 1958 was directly related to the launch of Soviet space probe Sputnik a year earlier.
That giant leap spurred America into action, and triggered a fierce competition between the superpowers to demonstrate their technological supremacy and, by extension, the superiority of their political systems.
"The Moon race was more than exploration for its own sake, and a lot more than an exercise in national pride," said NASA administrator Michael Griffin. "It was considered a real-life test of viability of our open society a vindication of the very concept of freedom. "But it was more than just that," Griffin added. "The Soviets had shown that success on the frontier of space could translate into power and influence in the world."
NASA was assured of its pre-eminence when on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong successfully became the first man to land on the Moon, less than a decade after President John Kennedy launched the Apollo program to do just that.
The agency remains a leader in space exploration and is hoping the Constellation program will maintain its dominance by putting Americans back on the Moon by 2020, using it as a base to travel further to Mars and beyond.