Washington (DC) – On July 29, 1958, with the stroke of a pen, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act into law, creating NASA. Since then, man has set foot on the moon, launched probes throughout our solar system, has found evidence of water on Mars (suggesting it may have supported life) and now our own planet’s satellite communication system allows us to speak with any person literally anywhere on the Earth. All of this in the organization’s first 50 years. Imagine what the next 50 will bring.
NASA will be celebrating its 50th anniversary for the entire year, which will include the 40th anniversary of man first setting foot on the moon. Man will attempt to return to the moon by 2020, which will be just after the 50th anniversary of man’s first time.
Today, the International Space Station (ISS) flies high over head. Weighing some 313 tons, the 25K cubic foot structure is roughly the size equivalent of a five bedroom house. It hosts 19 research facilities (9 of which are sponsored by NASA) and has undergone continuous expansion and maintenance by Space Shuttle and other space agency missions. It can now support six permanent residents. 2008 also marked its 10th anniversary.
NASA is currently working on expanding significantly its space-faring fleet. The Ares I and Ares V rockets are under development, scheduled for completion in 2015 and 2018 respectively. Ares I is a light lift vehicle with a single engine first stage. Ares V is a heavy lift vehicle with 5x the cargo capacity of Ares I, sitting atop a multi-engine first stage.
In 2008, NASA made some significant breakthroughs in research for future missions, such as the successful J2-X rocket test, aforementioned expansion of the ISS, and heavenly body studies which aid in the understanding of our most fundamental physics knowledge, including the search for dark matter and dark energy.
NASA partnered with India to land a probe on the moon and take high resolution 3D topography maps. And NASA’s Mars operations have been operating in tip top shape with no signs of the problems plaguing NASA over the last decade or so. NASA’s Hubble telescope was used to discover another planet orbiting a distant star, as well as new information about our own solar system, galaxy and even the universe.
NASA also endured a mild embarrassment as Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper accidentally let slip a tool bag worth $100,000 while cleaning spilled grease from a carrier – an act her co-spacewalk partner Stephen Bowen said was as much his fault as hers because he was the one who packed the tool bags before leaving on the EVA.
For 2008, here are some of the pictures which exemplify the work carried out by the folks at NASA, visionaries and space pioneers one and all.