National Aeronautics and Space Administration: Wikis


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Coordinates: 38°52′59″N 77°0′59″W / 38.88306°N 77.01639°W / 38.88306; -77.01639

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NASA seal
NASA logo.svg
NASA insignia
Motto: For the Benefit of All[1]
Agency overview
Formed July 29, 1958 (1958-07-29) (51 years ago)
Preceding agency NACA
Jurisdiction United States government
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
38°52′59″N 77°0′59″W / 38.88306°N 77.01639°W / 38.88306; -77.01639
Employees 17,900[2]
Annual budget US$17.6 billion (FY 2009)[3]
See also NASA Budget
Agency executives Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., Administrator
Lori Beth Garver, Deputy Administrator

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA, pronounced /ˈnæsə/) is an agency of the United States government, responsible for the nation's civilian space program. 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.[4][5] NASA has led U.S. efforts for space exploration ever since, resulting in the Apollo missions to the Moon, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently NASA is supporting the International Space Station and developing new Ares I and V launch vehicles.

In addition to the space program, it is also responsible for long-term civilian and military aerospace research. NASA Science is focused on better understanding Earth itself through the Earth Observing System,[6] advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate's Heliophysics Research Program,[7] exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons,[8] and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories and associated programs.[9] Since February 2006 NASA's self-described mission statement is to "pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research."[10]

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.


Mission statement

To improve life here, To extend life to there, To find life beyond.[11]

—NASA Mission Statement

NASA's mission is to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.[12]

—NASA 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.[11]

—NASA Vision



Space race

After the Soviet space program's launch of the world's first human-made 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 U.S. 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.


Official seal for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics

From late 1957 to early 1958, the 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.[5] On January 12, 1958, NACA organized a "Special Committee on Space Technology", headed by Guyford Stever.[5] Stever's committee included consultation from the ABMA's large booster program, referred to as the "Working Group on Vehicular Program," headed by Wernher von Braun,[5] who became a naturalized citizen of the United States after World War II.

On January 14, 1958, NACA Director Hugh Dryden published "A National Research Program for Space Technology" stating:[13]

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.[13]
Image of the Explorer 1 satellite.

Launched at 10:48 pm EST on January 31, 1958, Explorer 1, officially Satellite 1958 Alpha, became the U.S.'s first artificial satellite of Earth.[14] 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, PSAC Chairman James Killian wrote a memorandum to President 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."[13] 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.[5]

In April 1958, President Eisenhower delivered to the U.S. Congress a formal executive address favoring the notion of a national civilian space agency and submitted an Administrative bill to create a "National Aeronautical and Space Agency."[5] NACA's former role of research alone would change to include large-scale development, management, and operations.[5] The U.S. Congress passed the bill, somewhat reworded, as the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, on July 16.[5] 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.[5] 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).[5]


President Kennedy, Vice President Johnson and other officials at the Launch Operations Center's LC-34 blockhouse during a 1962 tour

On July 29, 1958, President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 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.[15]

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.[16] Earlier research efforts within the U.S. Air Force[15] and many of ARPA's early space programs were also transferred to NASA.[17] In December 1958, NASA gained control of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a contractor facility operated by the California Institute of Technology.[15]

May 5, 1961 launch of Redstone rocket and NASA's Mercury Freedom 7 with Alan Shepard on the United States' first manned sub-orbital spaceflight.

List of NASA programs

Manned programs

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 simply if man could survive in space. Representatives from the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force were selected to provide assistance to NASA. Selections were facilitated through coordination with existing 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.[18] John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962 during the five and a quarter-hour flight of Friendship 7.[19]

Project Gemini
Launch of Gemini 1

Project Gemini was launched to conduct experiments and work out issues relating to a possible moon mission. The first Gemini flight with astronauts on board, Gemini 3, was flown by Gus Grissom and John Young on March 23, 1965.[20] Nine other missions followed, showing that long-duration human space flight was possible, proving that rendezvous and docking with another vehicle in space was possible, and gathering medical data on the effects of weightlessness on human beings.[21][22] Gemini missions included the first American spacewalks, and new orbital maneuvers including rendezvous and docking.

The Apollo 11 Saturn V space vehicle lifts off.
Apollo program

The 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.[23]

Apollo 11 pilot Buzz Aldrin salutes US flag.

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.[24] 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.

NASA's Skylab Space Station

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 of America, 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.[25]


Skylab was the first space station the United States launched into orbit.[26] 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.[26] It included a laboratory for studying the effects of microgravity, and a solar observatory.[26] 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.[27]

Space shuttle
Space Shuttle Columbia, April 12, 1981

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 shuttles were built by 1985. The first to launch, Columbia, did so on April 12, 1981.[28]

The NASA "worm" logo used from 1975 to 1992.

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 continues to today, with Russia and America 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 spacecraft and fourteen astronauts in two disasters: Challenger in 1986, and Columbia in 2003.[29] While the 1986 loss was mitigated by building the Space Shuttle Endeavour from replacement parts, NASA has no plans to build another shuttle to replace the second loss, and instead may be transitioning to a new spacecraft called Orion.[29]

NASA's shuttle program had made 120 successful launches as of September 2009.

International space station

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.[30] The station can be seen from the Earth with the naked eye, and, as of 2009, 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 between the American NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the European Space Agency (ESA). Ownership and utilisation 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 between the other international partners. The International Space Station relies on the Shuttle fleet for all major construction shipments.

The cost of the station project has been estimated by ESA as €100 billion over a course of 30 years, although cost estimates vary between 35 billion dollars and 160 billion dollars, making the ISS the most expensive object ever constructed.

Unmanned programs

Mariner program
Picture of Mariner 6

The Mariner program was a program conducted by NASA that 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 IIIE, 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
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 program
Voyager 1 Launch, September 5, 1977

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.

Voyager 1 is currently the farthest human-made object from Earth at about 110.94 AU (16.596 billion km, or 10.312 billion miles), traveling away from both the Earth and the Sun at a speed of 17 km/s, which corresponds to a greater specific orbital energy than any other probe.[31]

Full-scale model of the Viking Lander
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 2328 kg, of which 1445 kg were propellant and attitude control gas.

Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a space telescope that was carried into orbit by the space shuttle in April 1990. It is named after the 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.[32] 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[33] 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 launch
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.

Galileo probe

Galileo 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 km (112 mi) on October 15, 2001.

On September 21, 2003, after 14 years in space and 8 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 concern 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
Mars Global Surveyor

The Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) was a US spacecraft developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and launched November 1996. It began the United States's 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 2 November 2006, the spacecraft failed to respond to messages and 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 and November 2006.[34] 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 km per pixel). [35]

The Soujourner rover on Mars
Mars Pathfinder

The Mars Pathfinder (MESUR Pathfinder[36]), 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 go on to 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 (JPL), 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 Mars
Mars Exploration Rovers

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission (MER), is an ongoing robotic space mission involving two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, 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.[37]

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.[38] Since the rovers have continued to function far beyond their initial 90 sol primary mission (to date both rovers have been functioning on Mars's surface for nearly 7 years), they have each received multiple mission extensions.

In recognition of the vast amount of scientific information amassed by both rovers, two asteroids have been named in their honor: 37452 Spirit and 39382 Opportunity.

NASA's future

Left to Right: Saturn V, which last carried men to the Moon, the Space Shuttle, the planned Ares I, proposed Ares IV and planned Ares V launch vehicles.

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."[39] NASA's ongoing investigations include in-depth surveys of Mars and Saturn and studies of the Earth and the Sun. Other NASA spacecraft are presently en route to Mercury and Pluto. With missions to Jupiter in planning stages, NASA's itinerary covers over half the solar system.

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.[40] The New Horizons mission to Pluto was launched in 2006 and will fly by Pluto 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.[41]

Orion contractor selected August 31, 2006, at NASA Headquarters.

Vision for space exploration

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.[42] According to this plan, mankind will return to the Moon by 2018, and set up outposts as a testbed and potential resource for future missions. The Space Shuttle will be retired in 2010 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.[43]

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.[44] 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.[45]

Mission statement

NASA's 50th Anniversary Logo

From 2002, NASA’s mission statement, used in budget and planning documents, read: “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers ... as only NASA can.” In early February 2006, the statement was altered, with the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet” deleted.[46] Some outside observers believe the change was intended to preserve the civilian nature of the agency, while others suspected it was related to criticism of government policy on global warming by NASA scientists like James E. Hansen. NASA officials have denied any connection to the latter, pointing to new priorities for space exploration. NASA's motto is "For the benefit of all".[1]

The chair and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs wrote NASA Administrator Griffin on July 31, 2006 expressing concerns about the change.[47] NASA also canceled or delayed a number of earth science missions in 2006.[48]

Moon base

On December 4, 2006, NASA announced it was planning to build a permanent moon base.[49] 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. As of February 1, 2010, however, President Obama has scrapped the possibility of a moon base through his budget. He believes that NASA should be more focused on deep space missions.[50]

Human exploration of Mars

On September 28, 2007 Michael D. Griffin, who was at the time Administrator of NASA, stated that NASA aims to put a man on Mars by 2037.[51]

Alan Stern, NASA's "hard-charging"[52] and "reform-minded"[53] Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, resigned on March 25, 2008,[54] 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".[55] 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",[56][57] says he left to avoid cutting healthy programs and basic research in favor of politically sensitive projects. Griffin favors cutting "less popular parts" of the budget, including basic research, and Stern's refusal to do so led to his resignation.[58]


The 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 Barack Obama announced the nomination of Charles Bolden as NASA Administrator, and Lori Garver as Deputy NASA Administrator.[59] Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 15, 2009 as the twelfth administrator of NASA. Lori Beth Garver was confirmed as NASA's deputy administrator.[60]


NASA headquarters, located in Washington, D.C., provides overall guidance and direction to the agency.[61] NASA's Shared Services center is located on the grounds of the John C. Stennis Space Center, near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.[62] Construction of the Shared Services facility began in August 2006 and it was completed in June 2008.[62] NASA operates a short-line railroad at 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.

Research centers

JPL complex in Pasadena, California

Test facilities

Construction and launch facilities

Deep Space Network

Tourism and museum facilities

Florida, USA, taken from NASA Shuttle Mission STS-95 on October 31, 1998.

Awards and decorations

NASA 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."[63]

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.[63]

NASA science

Ozone depletion

In the middle of the 20th century 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.[64] The first comprehensive worldwide measurements were obtained in 1978 with the Nimbus-7 satellite and NASA scientists at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.[65]

Salt evaporation and energy management

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.[66]

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.[67]

Medicine in space

A variety of large scale medical studies are being conducted in space via the National Space and 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.[68][69][70]

Earth Science Enterprise

Understanding of natural and human-induced changes on the global environment is the main objective of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise. For years it has been cooperating with major environment related agencies and creating united projects to achieve their goal. Past Enterprise’s programs include:[71]

  • 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.[72] 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.[73] 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.[74]

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.[75]

See also


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From Wikiquote

The Congress hereby declares that it is the policy of the United States that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency responsible for the civilian space program of the United States, and for its long-term aerospace research. This page is for quotes about NASA.


  • For the benefit of all.
    • NASA motto.
  • To improve life here. To extend life to there. To find life beyond.
    • The NASA Vision
  • To understand and protect our home planet, To explore the universe and search for life, To inspire the next generation of explorers.
    • NASA Mission
  • Shaping the Future: Launching New Endeavors to Inspire the Next Generation of Explorers.
    • Motto of NASA's Office of Education
  • NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Where else but in Texas would men set up to administer space?
  • There's been a lot of discussion about NASA culture and changing that. I think our culture has always been one of trying to do a very difficult job and do it well.

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