50 years ago, President Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as a civilian agency in response to the challenge of the Soviet launch of Sputnik nearly a year before.
The Soviet Union had launched the world’s first orbiting satellite in 1957 and the Cold War climate forced the US to react.
NASA’s first task was to build a program to land a man on the Moon. The new program was called “Apollo” which became the greatest technology feats in human history.
The Apollo mission was met with mixed success, three astronauts died in a test flight of Apollo 1, but Apollo 11 landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon in 1969.
Decades later, people who were alive when man first landed on the Moon remember it with a kind of heady nostalgia.
However, for a time it seemed that publicly funded space flight might end in the United States in the early 1970s. Fortunately Richard Nixon, who care less about space exploration than he did about votes and campaign contributions, tasked NASA to a more practical job than lunar voyages.
NASA was ordered to build a reusable space shuttle that handle all of the nation’s space flight needs for commercial and military use. The idea that building a reusable space vehicle would decrease the cost of space travel, making potential space stations, a return to the Moon, and maybe voyages beyond.
The space program would also have roughly half the budget it believed it needed to do it. Thus the second space age was born.
However, the program was under full review following the deaths of seven astronauts in the 2003 Columbia disaster.
Currently, NASA is focusing on Mars for the possibility of life through its Phoenix probe program. The program so far has unveiled ice on the Red Planet.