Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Brief History as NASA Turns 54 Years Old Today!

We, just a few days ago, celebrated the anninversary of Neil Armstrong's historic "one small step for a man..." moment in history, and it just so happens that the United States Space Program recognizes another milestone in its existence.

It was on this day in 1958 that President Dwight Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act thus creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA.

The Texas State Historical Association fills us in, " The national commitment to a broad program of space exploration, including manned space flight, came in response to the Soviet Union's successful space launches, begun in 1957. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy set as a national goal the achievement of a manned landing on the moon by the end of the decade. NASA began to reorganize and increase its space establishments. Central to the agency's new future was the construction of a manned-space-development aggregation, including facilities in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. NASA also elected to build a new space-management, crew-training, and flight-control center on Clear Lake in southeastern Harris County, Texas, thanks to the efforts of Texas Congressman Albert Thomas. The Manned Space Center opened in 1963 and was officially renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center ten years later."

I have been to NASA on several occasions (having lived in Houston) and it is a trip well worth the money. Seeing space suits and artifacts from the earliest days of the US Space Program makes one's chest swell with pride at what the brave men, and now women also, have contributed to this countrys fiber and character. Gazing with astonishment at real live moon rocks left me almost speechless - and that, friend, is not an easy task.

Alan Shepard
Space exploration has come a long way since Alan B. Shepard make his historic sub orbital flight on May 5, 1961. Of course, July 20, 1969 stands as the crowning achievement in the history of space travel, however the Hubble Space Telescope had been a remarkable instrument in detecting extraterrestrial bodies in and out of our own solar system. NASA has sent space craft to Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and miraculously beyond the borders of the solar system into deep space as never before seen by human eyes.

There have been the inevitable tragedies in the Space Program, but the historic accomplishments only serve to reinforce the fact that the risk/reward of space exploration is heavily weighted towards the "reward" side. the men and women who have donned space suits in their quest to conquer space and serve all Mankind are and have been the Columbuses and Magellans of modern times - heroes, one and all.

Big Blue Marble
The unknown grips the human imagination as we seek to further the boundaries of exploration, whether it be the oceans of our planet or the Ocean of Stars above us. Curiosity and the yearning to explore and discover will be a part of history as long as man inhabits this Big Blue Marble called Earth.

Happy Birthday, NASA. You done good.

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