The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (established 1958) is the government agency responsible for the United States of America's space program and long-term general aerospace research. A civilian organization, it conducts (or oversees) research into both civilian and military aerospace systems.
Following the Soviet space program's launch of the world's first man-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 American security and technological leadership, urged immediate and strong action; President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his advisers counseled more deliberate measures. Several months of debate produced agreement that a new federal agency was needed to conduct all nonmilitary activity in space.
On July 29, 1958, President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). When it began operations on October 1, 1958, NASA consisted mainly of the four laboratories and some 8,000 employees of the government's 46-year-old research agency for aeronautics, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).
NASA's early programs were research into manned spaceflight, and were conducted under the pressure of the competition between the USA and the USSR (the Space Race) that existed during the Cold War. The Mercury program, initiated in 1958, started NASA down the path of human space exploration with missions designed to discover simply if man could survive in space. On May 5, 1961, astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space when he piloted Mercury 3 on a 15-minute suborbital flight. John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962 during the 5-hour Mercury 6 flight.
After eight years of preliminary missions, including NASA's first loss of astronauts with the Apollo 1 launch pad fire, the Apollo program achieved its goals with Apollo 11 which landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon's surface on July 20, 1969 and returned them to Earth safely on July 24. Armstrong's first words upon stepping out of the Eagle lander captured the momentousness of the occasion: "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." Ten more men would set foot on the Moon by the end of the Apollo program in December 1972.
NASA had won the space race, and in some senses this left it without direction, or at the very least without the public attention and interest that was necessary to guarantee large budgets from Congress. The near-disaster of Apollo 13, where an oxygen explosion nearly doomed all three astronauts, helped to recapture attention and concern, but although missions up to Apollo 20 were planned, Apollo 17 was the last mission to fly under the Apollo banner. Budget cuts (in part due to the Vietnam War) brought about the end of the program, as did a desire to develop a reusable space vehicle.
Having lost the space race, the Soviet Union had, along with the USA, changed its approach. On July 17, 1975 an Apollo craft (finding a new use after the cancellation of Apollo 18) was docked to the Soviet Soyuz 19 space craft. Although the Cold War would last many more years, this was a critical point in NASA's history and much of the international co-operation in space exploration that exists today has its genesis here. America's first space station, Skylab, occupied NASA from the end of Apollo until the late 1970s.
The space shuttle became the major focus of NASA in the late 1970s and the 1980s. Planned to be frequently launchable and mostly reusable vehicle, four space shuttles were built by 1985. The first to launch, Columbia did so on April 12, 1981.
The shuttle was not all good news for NASA – flights were much more expensive than initially projected, and even after the 1986Challenger disaster highlighted the risks of space flight, the public again lost interest as missions appeared to become mundane.
Nonetheless, the shuttle has been used to launch milestone projects like the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The HST was created with a relatively small budget of $2 billion but has continued operation since 1990 and has delighted both scientists and the public. Some of the images it has returned have become near-legendary, such as the groundbreaking Hubble Deep Field images. The HST is a joint project between ESA and NASA, and its success has paved the way for greater collaboration between the agencies.
In 1995 Russian-American interaction would again be achieved as the Shuttle-Mir missions began, and once more a Russian craft (this time a full-fledged space station) docked with an American vehicle. This cooperation continues to the present day, with Russian 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 following the 2003Columbia disaster, which grounded the shuttle fleet for well over a year.
Costing over one hundred billion dollars, it has been difficult at times for NASA to justify the ISS. The population at large have historically been hard to impress with details of scientific experiments in space, preferring news of grand projects to exotic locations. No one will argue the status of the ISS as the premier human facility for science off the Earth's surface that has ever been built, but even now it cannot accommodate as many scientists as planned, especially with the space shuttle out of use until March 2005 at the earliest, bringing expansion to a halt and limiting it to a two person crew.
During much of the 1990s, NASA was faced with shrinking annual budgets due to Congressional belt-tightening in Washington, DC. In response, NASA's ninth administrator, Daniel S. Goldin, pioneered the "faster, better, cheaper" approach that enabled NASA to cut costs while still delivering a wide variety of aerospace programs. That method was criticized and re-evaluated following the twin losses of Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander in 1999.
Astronomy for Kids Information on the planets, stars and other space-related topics, plus puzzles, maps and links to more astronomy sites. http://www.dustbunny.com/afk/
The Space Place Demonstrates and explains scientific concepts related to astronomy in a fun, hands-on manner. http://spaceplace.jpl.nasa.gov/spacepl.htm
Astronomy for Kids Basic introduction to astronomy for kids K-6 grade. http://www.frontiernet.net/~kidpower/astronomy.html
StarChild: A Learning Center for Young Astronomers Information and online movies related to the solar system and space exploration. A service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center at NASA. http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/StarChild.html
Space and Astronomy for Kids Information for kids, parents, and teachers ranging from the latest NASA missions and discoveries to backyard astronomy. Bi-weekly feature columns, links, moderated chat room, and bulletin board. http://kidsastronomy.about.com/
Canadian Space Agency - KidSpace Offers educational resources of interest to high schoolers and kids, with information on special projects, space playgrounds, and careers related to the study of space. http://www.space.gc.ca/kidspace/default.asp
Heavenly Details The Old Farmer's Almanac offers the dates and locations of solar and lunar eclipses for the year, as well as the full Moon names and dates for nine years. Check it out here, then go outside and look UP! http://www.almanac.com/cgi-bin/heaven.pl?mooninput=current
NASA Science Education Resource for kids and space enthusiasts who are interested in meeting and learning about NASA people and the national space program. http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/
Space Place Launch Pad Join this site in making some 'spacey' things. Also, view space science in action and discover some facts from gravity to telescope magnification. http://spaceplace.jpl.nasa.gov/
Guide to Arctic Sunrise and Sunset Tables of daily sunrise and sunset times in the Arctic. Learn about the Land of the Midnight Sun, Solstices, and Equinoxes. http://www.athropolis.com/sun-fr.htm
A Journey into the Unknown A collection of web pages which detail the realm outside of our world: outer space. These pages are designed primarily for teaching or as reference resources, but also contain some areas for entertainment. http://library.thinkquest.org/12272/
Common Teasers in Astronomy Contains a few brain teasers such as what keeps a satellite in orbit to why meteors burn up in the atmosphere and space shuttles and rockets don't. http://www.geocities.com/mickey_prasad/astro.html
Space and Astronomy Instructional material on the solar system, including what lies outside the solar system. Also features event logs of a lunar eclipse. http://vathena.arc.nasa.gov/curric/space/index.html
STARS Foundation Color the universe, take a quiz about the solar system, or get homework help. http://www.starsfoundation.org/kids/s_kids.html
Toys in Space In 1993, Space Shuttle Endeavour carried a locker full of toys into space. Find out why and see how they performed in zero-gravity. http://observe.arc.nasa.gov/nasa/exhibits/toys_space/toyframe.html
Henrietta Leavitt Flat Screen Space Theater The site is authored by Carolyn Collins Petersen, an accomplished astronomy writer and part-time Hubble researcher. Carolyn takes viewers to "The Planetarium Show That Never Ends," where various heavenly bodies are displayed and described in non-scientific but informative and inspiring ways. http://www.thespacewriter.com/
Myths about the Sky, Constellations, and Stars Find out about the gods and goddesses of different cultures around the world that focus on the myths that explain astronomy. Three levels of exploration: beginner, intermediate and advanced. http://www.windows.ucar.edu/mythology/stars.html
From Mercury to Pluto Information on planets, the universe at large, and exploration. Offers quizzes and interactive image galleries. http://library.thinkquest.org/18188/english/
Mysteries of Deep Space Explores the secrets of the universe with an interactive timeline, classroom activities, and a trivia challenge. Ask the experts various questions as well. http://www.pbs.org/deepspace/
Home, Sweet Home: Earth from Space Cool images of earth taken from space: our little blue planet as astronautsand satellites see it, detailed pictures of natural wonders, weather phenomena, and even images showing ocean currents, night lights, and water vapor. http://www-istp.gsfc.nasa.gov/istp/outreach/sweethome.html
Astronomy Scape Learn some facts about the planets, solar system, and other astronomy topics. http://www.scapecast.com/onworld/AS/
Beyond Our Skies Discover what lies outside of what is known as Earth, by learning more about the sun, moon, and 'celestial objects'. http://library.thinkquest.org/29033/
Johnson Space Center Just for Kids Includes information ranging from the training of astronauts to space station construction to the search for life on mars. Also offers an album of NASA photos and links to other sites about the earth and heavens. http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/people/justforkids.html
The Midnight Sun Photos from interior Alaska of the Midnight Sun and tundra flowers, with links to more scientific information on the summer solstice. http://www.turtlepuddle.org/bio/summer/solstice.html
Welcome to Astro-Venture! Astro-Venture is an educational, interactive, multimedia Web environment where students in grades 5-8 role-play NASA occupations, as they search for and build a planet with the necessary characteristics for human habitation. http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/projects/astrobiology/astroventure/avhome.html
Space Educators Handbook Don't let the title fool you. It's a great NASA list of space-related sites where you'll have fun. Read Space Comics or find the Hidden Cool Stuff. http://vesuvius.jsc.nasa.gov/er/seh/
Lunar Outpost Space-related education, games, merchandise, NASA content and photos geared toward kids, parents, educators and space enthusiasts worldwide. http://www.lunaroutpost.com
Welcome to Cool Cosmos! Have you ever wondered what animals look like in the dark? We've created an infrared zoo on the web. We explain the world of infrared astronomy to students through games and pictures and articles. http://coolcosmos.ipac.caltech.edu/
NASA's Origins Program Seeks to answer fundamental questions about the universe. What is the origin of Earth? Take a look at some articles about the story of the universe and the quest to understand life. http://origins.jpl.nasa.gov/index.html
Planets A collection of student-based reports on various planets, along with Hall-Bopp comet and the constellation of Orion. http://usd508.com/science/planets/
A Practical Guide to Astronomy This electronic encyclopedia is a great resource for the both the beginner and the experienced backyard astronomer. Full of facts and photos. http://www.hotliquidmagma.com/
Astronomy Comprehensive guide, including the current position of the space station, constellation of the month, and information about deep sky objects. http://www.jim-bray.com/Astronomy_Main_Page.htm
Kids Earth and Sky Includes articles, activities, and links for kids. From the producers of the science radio program Earth and Sky. http://www.earthsky.org/kids/
Sky and Telescope - Observing Featured articles about the moon, sun, and planets, along with meteors, asteroids, and comets. http://SkyandTelescope.com/observing/
Virtual Astronaut Interactive instructional materials for grades 5-8 to provide students and educators with a tool that integrates leading-edge technology with recent findings in physical sciences, space sciences, space medicine, biomedical research and living in space. http://virtualastronaut.jsc.nasa.gov/
TOPEX/Poseidon Kids Page Offers an online coloring book, ask a scientist, FAQs, background on El Nino, and other links. http://www.tsgc.utexas.edu/topex/kids/
The Adventures of Amelia the Pigeon The animated adventure engages children in a story-based scenario that emphasizes concepts of remote sensing. Children are taught how NASA scientists use satellite imagery to better understand Earth's environmental changes. http://imagers.gsfc.nasa.gov/pigeon/
Space: An Exploration Discusses facts, mysteries, theories, and activities to learn more about the solar system. http://library.thinkquest.org/C0110484
Federation of Galaxy Explorers Educates and inspires kids to pursue advanced studies in science and engineering. Mission is to prepare the next generation to explore and develop space. http://www.foge.org
Space.Kids.us Offers a look at the universe and the lives of the people who explore it. http://www.space.kids.us/
The Mysteries of Space and Time About the secrets of distant suns, black holes, and stellar anomalies in space and time. http://library.thinkquest.org/12523/?tqskip1=1
Planet Quest Includes online quizzes, planet comparisons, pictures and links to astronomy clubs around the world. http://library.thinkquest.org/27322/
Gene Smith's Brief History of Astronomy Covers the development of this ancient science from days of Stonehenge (3100 BC) to the discovery of Pulsars (1968 AD). Includes related resource links. http://cassfos02.ucsd.edu/public/tutorial/History.html
Astronomia Nova The primary objective for the website is to ensure a foundation so the user can do astronomical / physical measurements and thereby take a step further than just actual knowledge. Our main target group is highschool students. http://library.thinkquest.org/C0116544/
Are We Alone in the Universe Discover some of the most intruging UFO mysteries of this century, and possibly walk the path to becoming an astronaut to discover the vast corners ofour universe. http://library.thinkquest.org/11272/
Online Planetarium Show Teaches fun and interesting lessons in astronomy and related subjects. Includes games, photo gallery, and lots of information on the Hubble Space Telescope. http://www.thinkquest.org/library/site_sum.html?lib_id=143&team_id=3461
Matter and Energy Quicktime and Shockwave movies demonstrate how matter and energy interact. http://www.eoascientific.com/matter_and_energy/index.html
SpaceKids.com Features space and science news stories, interactive games, questions and answers, contests, kids' submissions, and weekly polls. http://www.spaceKids.com/
NASA Kids NASA Kids is best place for kids interested in Space, Science, Rocket, Astronauts and the Solar System. http://kids.msfc.nasa.gov/
DLTK's Space Crafts for Kids Space crafts suitable for preschool, kindergarten and gradeschool kids. http://www.dltk-kids.com/crafts/space/space.html
Imagine The Universe! A glimpse into the mysteries of our universe: what we know about it, how its evolving, and the types of objects in it. http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/
From Stargazers to Starships The motion of Earth in space, Newtonian mechanics, spaceflight and spacecraft, and a math refresher, on a high school level. This site deals with the world of gravity--of massive planets and stars, and the way spaceflight is achieved despite their strong pull. http://www-spof.gsfc.nasa.gov/stargaze/Sintro.htm
SpaceKids Images of the heavens, send your name to Mars on the Exploration Rover-2003 mission , participate in the study of space science, tour the solar system, and get space science news. http://leonid.hq.nasa.gov/
CosmicKids Learn all about the Hubble Space Telescope. http://sm3a.gsfc.nasa.gov/classrm.html
Where's Hubble now? Track Hubble as it zips around its orbit. http://hubble.stsci.edu/fun_.and._games/where.a.s_hubble_now/where_is.html
The Exploration of the Earth's Magnetosphere Looks at the hot gases which fill most of space which are ruled by magnetic and electric forces rather than by gravity. The polar aurora, the radiation belts, the solar wind, magnetic storms, "space weather", cosmic radiation--this is the site which tells you all about them. http://www-spof.gsfc.nasa.gov/Education/Intro.html
Frequently Asked Questions Get some answers to the most asked questions about the phenomena of the sun and moon, time, as well as calendars and historical events information. http://aa.usno.navy.mil/faq/
Windows to the Universe An extensive and graphics intensive astronomical learning system. Learn all about the Earth and Space Sciences. http://www.windows.ucar.edu/