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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA, //) is an executive branch agency of the United States government, responsible for the nation's civilian space program and aeronautics and aerospace research. Since February 2006, NASA's self-described mission statement is to "pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research." On September 14, 2011, NASA announced that it had selected the design of a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency's astronauts farther into space than ever before and provide the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.
NASA was established by the National Aeronautics and Space Act on July 29, 1958, replacing its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The agency became operational on October 1, 1958. U.S. space exploration efforts have since been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is developing the manned Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches.
NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate's Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.
Main article: Space Race
After the Soviet space program's launch of the world's first artificial satellite (Sputnik 1) on October 4, 1957, the attention of the United States turned toward its own fledgling space efforts. The U.S. Congress, alarmed by the perceived threat to national security and technological leadership (known as the "Sputnik crisis"), urged immediate and swift action; President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his advisers counseled more deliberate measures. Several months of debate produced an agreement that a new federal agency was needed to conduct all non-military activity in space. The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was also created at this time to develop space technology for military application.
The NACA XS-1 (Bell X-1)From late 1957 to early 1958, the already existing National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) began studying what a new non-military space agency would entail, as well as what its role might be, and assigned several committees to review the concept. On January 12, 1958, NACA organized a "Special Committee on Space Technology", headed by Guyford Stever. Stever's committee included consultation from the Army Ballistic Missile Agency's large booster program, referred to as the Working Group on Vehicular Program, headed by Wernher von Braun, a German scientist who became a naturalized US citizen after World War II.
|“||It is of great urgency and importance to our country both from consideration of our prestige as a nation as well as military necessity that this challenge [Sputnik] be met by an energetic program of research and development for the conquest of space... It is accordingly proposed that the scientific research be the responsibility of a national civilian agency... NACA is capable, by rapid extension and expansion of its effort, of providing leadership in space technology.||”|
 Explorer 1 installed in 1958Launched on January 31, 1958, Explorer 1, officially Satellite 1958 Alpha, became the U.S.'s first earth satellite. The Explorer 1 payload consisted of the Iowa Cosmic Ray Instrument without a tape data recorder which was not modified in time to make it onto the satellite.
On March 5, President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) Chairman James Killian wrote a memorandum to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, entitled "Organization for Civil Space Programs", encouraging the creation of a civil space program based upon a "strengthened and redesignated" NACA which could expand its research program "with a minimum of delay." In late March, a NACA report entitled "Suggestions for a Space Program" included recommendations for subsequently developing a hydrogen fluorine fueled rocket of 4,450,000 newtons (1,000,000 lbf) thrust designed with second and third stages.
In April 1958, Eisenhower delivered to the U.S. Congress an executive address favoring a national civilian space agency and submitted a bill to create a "National Aeronautical and Space Agency." NACA's former role of research alone would change to include large-scale development, management, and operations. The U.S. Congress passed the bill, somewhat reworded, as the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, on July 16. Only two days later von Braun's Working Group submitted a preliminary report severely criticizing the duplication of efforts and lack of coordination among various organizations assigned to the United States' space programs. Stever's Committee on Space Technology concurred with the criticisms of the von Braun Group (a final draft was published several months later, in October).
NACA becomes NASAEdit
PresidentKennedy , Vice President Johnson and other officials at the Launch Operations Center's LC-34 blockhouse during a 1962 tourOn July 29, 1958, Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, establishing NASA. When it began operations on October 1, 1958, NASA absorbed the 46-year-old NACA intact; its 8,000 employees, an annual budget of US$100 million, three major research laboratories (Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, and Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory) and two small test facilities.
Elements of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency, of which von Braun's team was a part, and the Naval Research Laboratory were incorporated into NASA. A significant contributor to NASA's entry into the Space Race with the Soviet Union was the technology from the German rocket program (led by von Braun) which in turn incorporated the technology of Robert Goddard's earlier works. Earlier research efforts within the U.S. Air Force and many of ARPA's early space programs were also transferred to NASA. In December 1958, NASA gained control of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a contractor facility operated by the California Institute of Technology.
Main article: List of NASA missions
May 5, 1961 launch of Redstone rocket and Freedom 7 with Alan Shepard on first US manned sub-orbital spaceflight Main article: Project Mercury Conducted under the pressure of the competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that existed during the Cold War, Project Mercury was initiated in 1958 and started NASA down the path of human space exploration with missions designed to discover if man could survive in space. Representatives from the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force were selected to provide assistance to NASA. Pilot selections were facilitated through coordination with U.S. defense research, contracting, and military test pilot programs. On May 5, 1961, astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space when he piloted Freedom 7 on a 15-minute suborbital flight. John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962 during the flight of Friendship 7. Three more orbital flights followed.  Piloted Mercury launches=====edit Project Gemini===== Main article: Project GeminiProject Gemini focused on conducting experiments and developing and practicing techniques required for lunar missions. The first Gemini flight with astronauts on board, Gemini 3, was flown by Gus Grissom and John Young on March 23, 1965. Nine missions followed, showing that long-duration human space flight and rendezvous and docking with another vehicle in space were possible, and gathering medical data on the effects of weightlessness on humans. Gemini missions included the first American spacewalks, and new orbital maneuvers including rendezvous and docking.  All Gemini Launches from GT-1 through GT-12.=====edit Apollo program===== Main article: Apollo program Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin salutes US flagThe Apollo program landed the first humans on Earth's Moon. Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 20, 1969 with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, while Michael Collins orbited above. Five subsequent Apollo missions also landed astronauts on the Moon, the last in December 1972. In these six Apollo spaceflights twelve men walked on the Moon. These missions returned a wealth of scientific data and 381.7 kilograms (842 lb) of lunar samples. Experiments included soil mechanics, meteoroids, seismic, heat flow, lunar ranging, magnetic fields, and solar wind experiments.
Apollo set major milestones in human spaceflight. It stands alone in sending manned missions beyond low Earth orbit, and landing humans on another celestial body. Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to orbit another celestial body, while Apollo 17 marked the last moonwalk and the last manned mission beyond low Earth orbit. The program spurred advances in many areas of technology peripheral to rocketry and manned spaceflight, including avionics, telecommunications, and computers. Apollo sparked interest in many fields of engineering and left many physical facilities and machines developed for the program as landmarks. Many objects and artifacts from the program are on display at various locations throughout the world, notably at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museums.  All Saturn IB launches from AS-201 through ASTP  A montage of all Saturn V launches, 1967–1973.=====edit Skylab=====  NASA's Skylab space stationMain article: Skylab Skylab was the only space station launched into orbit solely by the United States. The 100 short tons (91 t) station was in Earth orbit from 1973 to 1979, and was visited by crews three times, in 1973 and 1974. It included a laboratory for studying the effects of microgravity, and a solar observatory. A Space Shuttle was planned to dock with and elevate Skylab to a higher safe altitude, but Skylab reentered the atmosphere and was destroyed in 1979, before the first shuttle could be launched.
Main article: Apollo-Soyuz Test Project The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) was the first joint flight of the U.S. and Soviet space programs. The mission took place in July 1975. For the United States, it was the last Apollo flight, as well as the last manned space launch until the flight of the first Space Shuttle in April 1981. Manned Skylab and ASTP missions used the smaller Saturn IB with Apollo CSM, not the Saturn V.
 The first space shuttle launch, April 12, 1981 for STS-1 NASA "wurm" logo used 1975–1992Main article: Space Shuttle program The Space Shuttle became the major focus of NASA in the late 1970s and the 1980s. Planned as a frequently launchable and mostly reusable vehicle, four space shuttle orbiters were built by 1985. The first to launch, Columbia, did so on April 12, 1981. In 1995 Russian-American interaction resumed with the Shuttle-Mir missions. Once more an American vehicle docked with a Russian craft, this time a full-fledged space station. This cooperation has continued to 2011, with Russia and the United States the two biggest partners in the largest space station ever built: the International Space Station (ISS). The strength of their cooperation on this project was even more evident when NASA began relying on Russian launch vehicles to service the ISS during the two-year grounding of the shuttle fleet following the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
The shuttle fleet lost two orbiters and 14 astronauts in two disasters: Challenger in 1986, and Columbia in 2003. While the 1986 loss was mitigated by building the Space Shuttle Endeavour from replacement parts, NASA did not build another orbiter to replace the second loss. NASA's Space Shuttle program had 135 successful missions when the program ended with the successful landing of the Space Shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center on July 21, 2011. The program spanned 30 years with over 300 astronauts sent into space.  Shuttle launch profiles. From left to right: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. (135 orbital missions between them)=====edit International Space Station=====  The International Space Station in 2009Main article: International Space Station program The International Space Station (ISS) is an internationally developed research facility currently being assembled in Low Earth Orbit. On-orbit construction of the station began in 1998 and is scheduled to be completed by 2011, with operations continuing until at least 2015. The station can be seen from the Earth with the naked eye, and, as of 2009[update], is the largest artificial satellite in Earth orbit, with a mass larger than that of any previous space station.
The ISS is operated as a joint project among NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, and the European Space Agency (ESA). Ownership and utilization of the space station is set out via several intergovernmental treaties and agreements, with the Russian Federation retaining full ownership of its own modules, and the rest of the station being allocated among the other international partners. Many of the ISS's modules were delivered by the Space Shuttle. Russian ISS modules launch and dock robotically, with the exception of Rassvet. All other modules were installed by ISS and shuttle crew using the SSRMS and EVAs.
Main articles: Robotic spacecraft, Unmanned spacecraft, and Space probe=====edit Explorer program=====
Main articles: Explorer program and Small Explorer programExplorer 6 on a Thor-Able III launches in August 1959The Explorer program continued and over more than five decades has launched 90+ missions into Space. It has matured into one of NASA's lower-cost mission programs, relative to its other programs.
Explorer 1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · 6 (S-2) · 7 (S-1a) · 8 · 9 (S-56A) · 10 · 11 (S-15) · 14 (EPE-B) · 17 (AE-A) · 30 (Solrad 8) · 32 (AE-B) · 33 (IMP-D) · 35 (IMP-E) · 37 (Solrad 9) · 42 (Uhuru) · 44 (Solrad 10) · 48 (SAS B) · 49 (RAE-B) · 52 (Hawkeye 1) · 53 (SAS C) · 57 (IUE) · 58 (HCMM) · 59 (ICE) · 62 (DE-1) · 63 (DE-2) · 64 (SME) · 66 (COBE) · 67 (EUVE) · 68 (SAMPEX) · 69 (RXTE) · 70 (FAST) · 71 (ACE) · 72 (SNOE) · 73 (TRACE) · 74 (SWAS) · 75 (WIRE) · 77 (FUSE) · 78 (IMAGE) · 79 (HETE-2) · 80 (WMAP) · 81 (RHESSI) · 82 (CHIPSat) · 83 (GALEX) · 84 (Swift) · 85 thru 89 (THEMIS) · 90 (AIM) · 91 (IBEX) · 92 (WISE)
 Picture of Mariner 6Main article: Mariner program The Mariner program conducted by NASA launched a series of robotic interplanetary probes designed to investigate Mars, Venus and Mercury. The program included a number of firsts, including the first planetary flyby, the first pictures from another planet, the first planetary orbiter, and the first gravity assist maneuver.
Of the ten vehicles in the Mariner series, seven were successful and three were lost. The planned Mariner 11 and Mariner 12 vehicles evolved into Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 of the Voyager program, while the Viking 1 and Viking 2 Mars orbiters were enlarged versions of the Mariner 9 spacecraft. Other Mariner-based spacecraft, launched since Voyager, included the Magellan probe to Venus, and the Galileo probe to Jupiter. A second-generation Mariner spacecraft, called the Mariner Mark II series, eventually evolved into the Cassini–Huygens probe, now in orbit around Saturn.
All Mariner spacecraft were based on a hexagonal or octagonal "bus", which housed all of the electronics, and to which all components were attached, such as antennae, cameras, propulsion, and power sources. All probes except Mariner 1, Mariner 2 and Mariner 5 had TV cameras. The first five Mariners were launched on Atlas-Agena rockets, while the last five used the Atlas-Centaur. All Mariner-based probes after Mariner 10 used the Titan III E, Titan IV unmanned rockets or the Space Shuttle with a solid-fueled Inertial Upper Stage and multiple planetary flybys.
 Artist's conception of the Pioneer Venus Orbiter Main article: Pioneer program The Pioneer program is a series of NASA unmanned space missions that was designed for planetary exploration. There were a number of such missions in the program, but the most notable were Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, which explored the outer planets and left the solar system. Both carry a golden plaque, depicting a man and a woman and information about the origin and the creators of the probes, should any extraterrestrials find them someday.
Additionally, the Pioneer mission to Venus consisted of two components, launched separately. Pioneer Venus 1 or Pioneer Venus Orbiter was launched in 1978 and studied the planet for more than a decade after orbital insertion in 1978. Pioneer Venus 2 or Pioneer Venus Multiprobe sent four small probes into the Venusian atmosphere.
Voyager 1 launch, September 5, 1977Main article: Voyager program The Voyager program is a series of NASA unmanned space missions that consists of a pair of unmanned scientific probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. They were launched in 1977 to take advantage of a favorable planetary alignment of the late 1970s. Although they were officially designated to study just Jupiter and Saturn, the two probes were able to continue their mission into the outer solar system. Both probes have achieved escape velocity from the solar system and will never return. Both missions have gathered large amounts of data about the gas giants of the solar system, of which little was previously known.
As of November 12, 2010 (2010 -11-12)[update], Voyager 1 was at a distance of 115.251 AU (17.242 billion km, or 10.712 billion miles), traveling away from both the Earth and the Sun at a speed of 17 kilometres (11 mi)/s, which corresponds to a greater specific orbital energy than any other probe.
Main article: Viking program The Viking program consisted of a pair of space probes sent to Mars—Viking 1 and Viking 2. Each vehicle was composed of two main parts, an orbiter designed to photograph the surface of Mars from orbit, and a lander designed to study the planet from the surface. The orbiters also served as communication relays for the landers once they touched down. Viking 1 was launched on August 20, 1975, and the second craft, Viking 2, was launched on September 9, 1975, both riding atop Titan III-E rockets with Centaur upper stages. By discovering many geological forms that are typically formed from large amounts of water, the Viking program caused a revolution in scientific ideas about water on Mars.
The primary objectives of the Viking orbiters were to transport the landers to Mars, perform reconnaissance to locate and certify landing sites, act as a communications relays for the landers, and to perform their own scientific investigations. The orbiter, based on the earlier Mariner 9 spacecraft, was an octagon approximately 2.5 m across. The total launch mass was 2,328 kilograms (5,130 lb), of which 1,445 kilograms (3,190 lb) were propellant and attitude control gas.
Main article: Helios probes The Helios I and Helios II space probes, also known as Helios-A and Helios-B, were a pair of probes launched into heliocentric orbit for the purpose of studying solar processes. A joint venture of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and NASA, the probes were launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on Dec. 10, 1974, and Jan. 15, 1976, respectively. The probes are notable for setting a maximum speed record among spacecraft at 252,792 kilometres (157,078 mi)/h (157,078 mi/h or 43.63 mi/s or 70.22 kilometres (43.63 mi)/s or 0.000234c). The Helios space probes completed their primary missions by the early 1980s, but they continued to send data up to 1985. The probes are no longer functional but still remain in their elliptical orbit around the Sun.
 The Hubble Space Telescope Main article: Hubble Space Telescope The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a space telescope that was carried into orbit by a Space Shuttle in April 1990. It is named after American astronomer Edwin Hubble. Although not the first space telescope, Hubble is one of the largest and most versatile, and is well known as both a vital research tool and a public relations boon for astronomy. The HST is a collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency, and is one of NASA's Great Observatories, along with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope. The HST's success has paved the way for greater collaboration between the agencies.
The HST was created with a relatively small budget of $2 billion and has continued operation since 1990, delighting both scientists and the public. Some of its images, such as the groundbreaking Hubble Deep Field, have become famous.
 The Magellan Probe prepared for launchMain article: Magellan probe The Magellan spacecraft was a space probe sent to the planet Venus, the first unmanned interplanetary spacecraft to be launched by NASA since its successful Pioneer Orbiter, also to Venus, in 1978. It was also the first of three deep-space probes to be launched on the Space Shuttle, and the first spacecraft to employ aerobraking techniques to lower its orbit.
Magellan created the first (and currently the best) high resolution mapping of the planet's surface features. Prior Venus missions had created low resolution radar globes of general, continent-sized formations. Magellan, performed detailed imaging and analysis of craters, hills, ridges, and other geologic formations, to a degree comparable to the visible-light photographic mapping of other planets.
 The Galileo probe Main article: Galileo probeGalileo was an unmanned spacecraft sent by NASA to study the planet Jupiter and its moons. It was launched on October 18, 1989 by the Space Shuttle Atlantis on the STS-34 mission. It arrived at Jupiter on December 7, 1995, a little more than six years later, via gravitational assist flybys of Venus and Earth.
Despite antenna problems, Galileo conducted the first asteroid flyby, discovered the first asteroid moon, was the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, and launched the first probe into Jupiter's atmosphere. Galileo's prime mission was a two-year study of the Jovian system. The spacecraft traveled around Jupiter in elongated ellipses, each orbit lasting about two months. The differing distances from Jupiter afforded by these orbits allowed Galileo to sample different parts of the planet's extensive magnetosphere. The orbits were designed for close up flybys of Jupiter's largest moons. Once Galileo's prime mission was concluded, an extended mission followed starting on December 7, 1997; the spacecraft made a number of daring close flybys of Jupiter's moons Europa and Io. The closest approach was 180 kilometres (110 mi) (112 mi) on October 15, 2001.
On September 21, 2003, after 14 years in space and eight years of service in the Jovian system, Galileo′s mission was terminated by sending the orbiter into Jupiter's atmosphere at a speed of nearly 50 kilometers per second to avoid any chance of it contaminating local moons with bacteria from Earth. Of particular interest was the ice-crusted moon Europa, which, thanks to Galileo, scientists now suspect harbors a salt water ocean beneath its surface.  Artist's conception of the Mars Global Surveyor=====edit Mars Global Surveyor===== Main article: Mars Global Surveyor The Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and launched November 1996. It began the United States' return to Mars after a 10-year absence. It completed its primary mission in January 2001 and was in its third extended mission phase when, on November 2, 2006, the spacecraft failed to respond to commands. In January 2007 NASA officially ended the mission.
The Surveyor spacecraft used a series of high-resolution cameras to explore the surface of Mars during its mission, returning more than 240,000 images spanning portions of 4.8 Martian years, from September 1997 to November 2006. The surveyor's cameras utilized 3 instruments: a narrow angle camera that took (black-and-white) high resolution images (usually 1.5 to 12 m per pixel) red and blue wide angle pictures for context (240 m per pixel) and daily global imaging (7.5 kilometres (4.7 mi) per pixel).
Main article: Great Observatories program=====edit Mars Pathfinder=====  The Sojourner rover on MarsMain article: Mars Pathfinder The Mars Pathfinder (MESUR Pathfinder,) later renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station, was launched on December 4, 1996, just a month after the Mars Global Surveyor was launched. Onboard the lander was a small rover called Sojourner that would execute many experiments on the Martian surface. It was the second project from NASA's Discovery Program, which promotes the use of low-cost spacecraft and frequent launches under the motto "cheaper, faster and better" promoted by the then administrator, Daniel Goldin. The mission was directed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, responsible for NASA's Mars Exploration Program.
This mission, besides being the first of a series of missions to Mars that included rovers (robotic exploration vehicles), was the most important since the Vikings landed on the red planet in 1976, and also was the first successful mission to send a rover to a planet. In addition to scientific objectives, the Mars Pathfinder mission was also a "proof-of-concept" for various technologies, such as airbag-mediated touchdown and automated obstacle avoidance, both later exploited by the Mars Exploration Rovers. The Mars Pathfinder was also remarkable for its extremely low price relative to other unmanned space missions to Mars.
 Artist's conception of MER on MarsMain article: Mars Exploration Rovers NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission (MER), is an ongoing robotic space mission involving two rovers exploring the planet Mars. The mission is managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which designed, built and is operating the rovers.
The mission began in 2003 with the sending of the two rovers—MER-A Spirit and MER-B Opportunity—to explore the Martian surface and geology. The mission's scientific objective is to search for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on Mars. The mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program which includes three previous successful landers: the two Viking program landers in 1976 and Mars Pathfinder probe in 1997.
The total cost of building, launching, landing and operating the rovers on the surface for the initial 90-Martian-day (sol) primary mission was US$820 million. Since the rovers continued to function far beyond their initial 90 sol primary mission (six years to failure for Spirit, seven years and counting for Opportunity), they have each received multiple mission extensions.
 Artist's conception of New Horizons orbiting PlutoMain article: New HorizonsNew Horizons is a NASA robotic spacecraft mission currently en route to the dwarf planet Pluto. It is expected to be the first spacecraft to fly by and study Pluto and its moons, Charon, Nix, and Hydra. Once New Horizons leaves the Solar System, NASA may also approve flybys of one or more other Kuiper Belt Objects.
New Horizons was launched on January 19, 2006 directly into an Earth-and-solar-escape trajectory. It had an Earth-relative velocity of about 16.26 kilometres (10.10 mi)/s or 58,536 kilometres (36,373 mi)/h (10.10 mi/s or 36,373 mi/h) after its last engine shut down. Thus, it left Earth at the fastest launch speed ever recorded for a man-made object (although its specific orbital energy is less than that of Voyager 1, and the Helios probes retain the maximum speed record for a spacecraft). New Horizons flew by Jupiter on February 28, 2007 and Saturn's orbit on June 8, 2008. It will arrive at Pluto on July 14, 2015 and then continue into the Kuiper belt.
Launch Services Program (LSP) is responsible for NASA oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Primary launch sites are Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida, and Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California. Other launch locations are NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, in Virginia, the North Pacific’s Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Kodiak Island in Alaska.
- NASA's mission is to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research. —Mission
- To understand and protect our home planet, to explore the Universe and search for life, and to inspire the next generation of explorers... as only NASA can. — NASA Vision
During much of the 1990s, NASA was faced with shrinking annual budgets due to congressional belt-tightening. In response, NASA's ninth administrator, Daniel Goldin, pioneered the "faster, better, cheaper" approach that enabled NASA to cut costs while still delivering a wide variety of aerospace programs (Discovery Program). That method was criticized and re-evaluated following the twin losses of Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander in 1999.
It is the current space policy of the United States that NASA, "execute a sustained and affordable human and robotic program of space exploration and develop, acquire, and use civil space systems to advance fundamental scientific knowledge of our Earth system, solar system, and universe." NASA's ongoing investigations include in-depth surveys of Mars and Saturn and studies of the Earth and the Sun. Some other active spacecraft missions are MESSENGER for Mercury, New Horizons (for Jupiter, Pluto, and beyond), and Dawn for the asteroid belt. NASA continued to support in situ exploration beyond the asteroid belt, including Pioneer and Voyager traverses into the unexplored trans-Pluto region, and Gas Giant orbiters Galileo (1989-2003), Cassini, and Juno (2011-).
An improved and larger planetary rover, Mars Science Laboratory, is under construction and slated to launch in 2011, after a slight delay caused by hardware challenges, which has bumped it back from the October 2009 scheduled launch. The New Horizons mission to Pluto was launched in 2006 and aiming for Pluto flyby in 2015. The probe received a gravity assist from Jupiter in February 2007, examining some of Jupiter's inner moons and testing on-board instruments during the fly-by. On the horizon of NASA's plans is the MAVEN spacecraft as part of the Mars Scout Program to study the atmosphere of Mars.
Main article: Vision for Space Exploration Left to Right: Saturn V, which carried men to the Moon, the Space Shuttle, and the canceled Ares I, Ares IV and Ares V launch vehiclesAres I test flight in October 2009.On January 14, 2004, ten days after the landing of the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, US President George W. Bush announced a new plan for NASA's future, dubbed the Vision for Space Exploration. According to this plan, mankind would return to the Moon by 2018, and set up outposts as a testbed and potential resource for future missions. The Space Shuttle was retired in 2011 and Orion may replace it by 2015, capable of both docking with the International Space Station (ISS) and leaving the Earth's orbit. The future of the ISS is somewhat uncertain—construction will be completed, but beyond that is less clear. Although the plan initially met with skepticism from Congress, in late 2004 Congress agreed to provide start-up funds for the first year's worth of the new space vision.
Hoping to spur innovation from the private sector, NASA established a series of Centennial Challenges, technology prizes for non-government teams, in 2004. The Challenges include tasks that will be useful for implementing the Vision for Space Exploration, such as building more efficient astronaut gloves. In February 2010, NASA announced that it would be awarding $50 million in contracts to commercial spaceflight companies including Blue Origin, Boeing, Paragon Space Development Corporation, Sierra Nevada Corporation and United Launch Alliance to design and develop viable reusable launch vehicles.
On December 4, 2006, NASA announced it was planning a permanent moon base. NASA Associate Administrator Scott Horowitz said the goal was to start building the moonbase by 2020, and by 2024, have a fully functional base that would allow for crew rotations and in-situ resource utilization. Additionally, NASA plans to collaborate and partner with other nations for this project. By 2010, President Barack Obama worked with Congress to halt existing plans, including the Moon base, and directed a generic focus on manned missions to asteroids and Mars, as well as extending support for the International Space Station.
Alan Stern, NASA's "hard-charging" and "reform-minded" associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, resigned on March 25, 2008, effective April 11, 2008, after he allegedly ordered funding cuts to the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) and Mars Odyssey that were overturned by NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin. The cuts were intended to offset cost overruns for the Mars Science Laboratory. Stern has stated that he "did not quit over MER" and that he "wasn’t the person who tried to cut MER". Stern, who served for nearly a year and has been credited with making "significant changes that have helped restore the importance of science in NASA’s mission", says he left to avoid cutting healthy programs and basic research in favor of politically sensitive projects. Griffin favored cutting "less popular parts" of the budget, including basic research, and Stern's refusal to do so led to his resignation.
Main article: Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans CommitteePresident Obama and Senator Bill Nelson arrive at Kennedy Space Center in April 2010.The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) established the Augustine Commission to ensure the nation is on "a vigorous and sustainable path to achieving its boldest aspirations in space" on May 7, 2009. In its October 22, 2009 report, the Commission proposed three basic options for exploration beyond low Earth orbit:
- Mars First, with a Mars landing, perhaps after a brief test of equipment and procedures on the Moon.
- Moon First, with lunar surface exploration focused on developing the capability to explore Mars.
- A Flexible Path to inner solar system locations, such as lunar orbit, Lagrange points, near-Earth objects and the moons of Mars, followed by exploration of the lunar surface and/or Martian surface.
President Barack Obama announced changes to NASA space policy, in his April 15, 2010 space policy speech at Kennedy Space Center, from the Moon-first approach adopted previously under the Vision for Space Exploration and Constellation program to a variety of destinations resembling the flexible path approach.
The new plan calls for NASA to extend the life of the ISS by five years and use launch vehicles designed, manufactured, and operated by private aerospace companies with NASA paying for flights for government astronauts to the ISS and LEO, much like the way private space tourism company Space Adventures bought Soyuz flights from the Russian government for space tourists. Boeing and Lockheed Martin have expressed doubts about the new plan, while other aerospace companies, including SpaceX, have strongly endorsed it.
NASA has selected SpaceX and Orbital Sciences for its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The first launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 occurred on December 8, 2010; it was the first unmanned spaceflight of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which orbited the Earth. It was the first demonstration flight for the COTS program. On February 8 the idea for a new rocket to replace the aging space shuttle was presented in the form of the Liberty. Mostly a combination of the already existing Ariane 5 and the canceled Ares I; it is thought that it could be finished by 2013, and ready for launch by 2015 if approved.
NASA's 1,100 full-time employees on the now-ended Space Shuttle program will be transferred to other NASA programs. However, contractor employees are not promised work with NASA. Contractor employment on the Space Shuttle program has dropped drastically from 14,000 to around 5,000 over the last five years.
Public perception of the NASA budget is very different from reality and has been the subject of controversy since the agency's creation. A 1997 poll reported that Americans had an average estimate of 20% for NASA's share of the federal budget. In reality, NASA's budget has been between 0.5% and 1% from the late 1960s on. NASA budget briefly peaked at over 4% of the federal budget in the mid-1960s during the build up to the Apollo program.
Main article: List of NASA Administrators Florida, USA, taken from shuttle mission STS-95 on October 31, 1998The administrator of NASA is the highest-ranking official of that organization and serves as the senior space science adviser to the President of the United States. On May 24, 2009, President Obama announced the nomination of Charles Bolden as NASA administrator, and Lori Garver as deputy administrator. Bolden was confirmed by the US Senate on July 15, 2009 as the twelfth administrator of NASA. Lori Garver was confirmed as NASA's deputy administrator.
Other leadership positions within NASA include:
- Office of the Administrator
- Advisory Groups
- NASA Advisory Council (NAC)
- Chairman: Dr. Kenneth Ford
- Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP)
- Chairman: Vice Admiral Joe Dyer USN, (Ret.)
- NASA Advisory Council (NAC)
- Office of the Inspector General
- Inspector General: Paul K. Martin
NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC provides overall guidance and direction to the agency. NASA's Shared Services center is located on the grounds of the John C. Stennis Space Center, near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Construction of the Shared Services facility began in August 2006 and it was completed in June 2008. NASA operates a short-line railroad at the Kennedy Space Center. Various field and research installations are listed below by application. Some facilities serve more than one application for historic or administrative reasons.
- Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California
- Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York City
- Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
- John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field, Cleveland, Ohio
- Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
- Glenn Research Center, Plum Brook Station, Sandusky, Ohio
- Ames Research Center, Moffett Federal Airfield, Mountain View, California
- Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Los Angeles County, California
- Independent Verification and Validation Facility, Fairmont, West Virginia
- John C. Stennis Space Center, near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
- Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
- John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida
- Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
- Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, Louisiana
- Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia
- White Sands Test Facility, Las Cruces, New Mexico
- Deep Space Network (DSN) stations
- Space Network (SN) Ground Terminals
- Near Earth Network (NEN) Terminals
 A video podcast on the Crab Nebula by NASASee also: Scientific research on the ISS===edit Ozone depletion=== In the middle of the 20th century[clarification needed] NASA augmented its mission of Earth’s observation and redirected it toward environmental quality. The result was the launch of Earth Observing System (EOS) in 1980s, which was able to monitor one of the global environmental problems—ozone depletion. The first comprehensive worldwide measurements were obtained in 1978 with the Nimbus-7 satellite and NASA scientists at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
In one of the nation's largest restoration projects, NASA technology helps state and federal government reclaim 15,100 acres (61 km2) of salt evaporation ponds in South San Francisco Bay. Satellite sensors are used by scientists to study the effect of salt evaporation on local ecology.
NASA has started Energy Efficiency and Water Conservation Program as an agency-wide program directed to prevent pollution and reduce energy and water utilization. It helps to ensure that NASA meets its federal stewardship responsibilities for the environment.
Main article: Space medicine A variety of large scale medical studies are being conducted in space via the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI). Prominent among these is the Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Microgravity Study in which Astronauts (including former ISS Commanders Leroy Chiao and Gennady Padalka) perform ultrasound scans under the guidance of remote experts to diagnose and potentially treat hundreds of medical conditions in space. Usually, there is no physician onboard the International Space Station and diagnosis of medical conditions is challenging. In addition, Astronauts are susceptible to a variety of health risks including decompression sickness, barotrauma, immunodeficiencies, loss of bone and muscle, orthostatic intolerance due to volume loss, sleep disturbances, and radiation injury. Ultrasound offers a unique opportunity to monitor these conditions in space. This study's techniques are now being applied to cover professional and Olympic sports injuries as well as ultrasound performed by non-expert operators in populations such as medical and high school students. It is anticipated that remote guided ultrasound will have application on Earth in emergency and rural care situations, where access to a trained physician is often rare.
Understanding of natural and human-induced changes on the global environment is the main objective of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise. NASA currently has more than a dozen Earth science spacecraft/instruments in orbit studying all aspects of the Earth system (oceans, land, atmosphere, biosphere, cyrosphere), with several more planned for launch in the next few years.
For years it has been cooperating with major environment related agencies and creating united projects to achieve their goal. Past Enterprise’s programs include:
- Carbon sequestration assessment for Carbon Management (USDA, DOE)
- Early warning systems for air and water quality for Homeland Security (OHS, NIMA, USGS)
- Enhanced weather prediction for Energy Forecasting (DOE, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA))
- Environmental indicators for Coastal Management (NOAA)
- Environmental indicators for Community Growth Management (EPA, USGS, NSGIC)
- Environmental models for Biological Invasive Species (USGS, USDA)
- Regional to national to international atmospheric measurements and predictions for Air Quality Management (United States Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA)
- Water cycle science for Water Management and Conservation (EPA, USDA)
NASA is working in cooperation with National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The goal is to obtain~to produce worldwide solar resource maps with great local detail. NASA was also one of the main participants in the evaluation innovative technologies for the clean up of the sources for dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs). On April 6, 1999, the agency signed The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) along with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, DOE, and USAF authorizing all the above organizations to conduct necessary tests at the John F. Kennedy Space center. The main purpose was to evaluate two innovative in-situ remediation technologies, thermal removal and oxidation destruction of DNAPLs. National Space Agency made a partnership with Military Services and Defense Contract Management Agency named the “Joint Group on Pollution Prevention”. The group is working on reduction or elimination of hazardous materials or processes.
On May 8, 2003, Environmental Protection Agency recognized NASA as the first federal agency to directly use landfill gas to produce energy at one of its facilities—the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.
Main article: NASA awards and decorations To commemorate Hubble Telescope's 20th Birthday, NASA, with ESA and STI, released this Wide Field Camera 3 shot of a portion of Carina Nebula. Oxygen is colorized blue, hydrogen and nitrogen green, and sulfur redNASA presently bestows a number of medals and decorations to astronauts and other NASA personnel. Some awards are authorized for wear on active duty military uniforms. The highest award is the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, which has been awarded to 28 individuals (17 posthumously), and is said to recognize "any astronaut who in the performance of his duties has distinguished himself by exceptionally meritorious efforts and contributions to the welfare of the Nation and mankind."
The second highest NASA award is the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, which may be presented to any member of the federal government, including both military astronauts and civilian employees. It is an annual award, given out at the National Aeronautics Space Foundation plant, located in Orlando, Florida.
In 2009, NASA announced that the agency plans to provide $1.75 million in funding to Jack Bergman of Harvard’s McLean Hospital to conduct an experiment on monkeys to determine the health effects of radiation exposure during travel in deep space. The plan has faced opposition from animal rights groups such as PETA and HSUS, a physicians’ group PCRM, and several federal legislators led by Representative Jim Moran of Virginia who claim that the grant should be cancelled because during the course of the experiment, the primates will likely contract malignant tumors as well as blindness, skin damage, cognitive decline, premature aging and death. PCRM also claims that the proposed use and isolation of primates would violate NASA's stated principles regarding animal ethics. The group has filed a federal complaint alleging that the experiments would also violate the Animal Welfare Act.
Hundreds of NASA's research projects resulted in "spinoffs" or "successes." The economic and human impact of these spinoff technologies is very real but difficult to measure quantitatively. Some feature in NASA's annual Spinoff journal. Many available to the public have proven utility outside the realm of space-related research.
The following is a list of technologies sometimes mistakenly attributed to NASA.
- Barcodes (NASA developed a special type of barcode, but this should not be mistaken for the original one.)
- Cordless power tools (The first cordless power tool was unveiled by Black & Decker in 1961. It was used by NASA and a number of spinoff products came out of that.)
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) (NASA has, however, contributed to its' advances over the years. MRI is best known as a device for body scanning.)
- Quartz clocks (The quartz clock dates back to 1927. However in the late 1960s, NASA partnered with a company to make a quartz clock that was on the market for a few years.)
- Smoke detectors (NASA’s connection to the modern smoke detector is that it made one with adjustable sensitivity as part of the Skylab project.)
- Tang juice powder (Tang was developed by General Foods in 1957, and it has been for sale since 1959. It was used in the first orbit missions, which gave awareness to it.)
- Teflon (Invented for DuPont in 1938 and used on frying pans from the 1950s. It has been applied by NASA to heat shields, space suits, and cargo hold liners.)
- Velcro (A Swiss invention from the 1940s. Velcro was used during the Apollo missions to anchor equipment for astronauts’ convenience in zero gravity situations.)
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- ^ 
- ^ NASA Spinoff
- ^ Internet Archive