The Purple Pinup Guru Platform

When purple things are pulsating on your mind, I'm the one whose clock you want to clean. Aiding is Sparky, the Astral Plane Zen Pup Dog from his mountain stronghold on the Northernmost Island of the Happy Ninja Island chain, this blog will also act as a journal to my wacky antics at an entertainment company and the progress of my self published comic book, The Deposit Man which only appears when I damn well feel like it. Real Soon Now.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Help celebrate Sparky's and NASA's 47th birthdays!

In 1958 - on this day - The U.S. Congress formally creates the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Maybe we'll have some space elevators by the 50th? As much as I love rockets - there are more elegant ways to get to space for people; Any decent mass driver would work for cargo that can handle higher Gee stress.

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which was established in 1958, is the agency responsible for the public space program of the United States of America. It is also responsible for long-term civilian and military aerospace research.

Vision and mission

NASA's vision is "to improve life here, extend life to there, and to find life beyond." Its mission is "to understand and protect our home planet; to explore the Universe and search for life; and to inspire the next generation of explorers."


Space race

For additional background, please see the Space Race article

May 5, 1961 launch of Redstone rocket and NASA's Mercury 3 capsule
Freedom 7 with Alan Shepard Jr. on the United States' first human
flight into sub-orbital space. (Atlas rockets were used to launch
Mercury's orbital missions.)

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 swift 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 human 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 B. Shepard Jr. 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 5-hour flight of Friendship 7.

Once Mercury proved that human spaceflight was possible, project Gemini was launched to conduct experiments and work out issues relating to a moon mission. The first Gemini flight with astronauts on board, Gemini III, was flown by Virgil "Gus" Grissom and John W. Young on March 23, 1965. 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 humans.

Apollo program

Following the success of the Mercury and Gemini programs, the Apollo program was launched to try to do interesting work in space and possibly put men around (but not on) the Moon. The direction of the Apollo program was radically altered following President John F. Kennedy's announcement on May 25, 1961 that the United States should commit itself to "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" by 1970. Thus Apollo became a program to land men on the Moon. The Gemini program was started shortly thereafter to provide an interim spacecraft to prove techniques needed for the now much more complicated Apollo missions.

Shuttle era

The space shuttle became the major focus of NASA in the late 1970s and the 1980s. Planned to be 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.

The shuttle was not all good news for NASA – flights were much more expensive than initially projected, and even after the 1986 Challenger 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 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 following the 2003 Columbia disaster, which grounded the shuttle fleet for well over two years.

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. Even now, the ISS cannot accommodate as many scientists as planned.

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 (Discovery Program). That method was criticized and re-evaluated following the twin losses of Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander in 1999.

Mars and beyond

Probably the most publicly-inspiring mission of recent years has been the Mars Pathfinder mission of 1997. Newspapers around the world carried images of the lander dispatching its own rover, Sojourner, to explore the surface of Mars in a way never done before at any extra-terrestrial location. Less publicly acclaimed but performing science from 1997 to date (2004) has been the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter. Since 2001, the orbiting Mars Odyssey has been searching for evidence of past or present water and volcanic activity on the red planet.

On January 14, 2004, ten days after the landing of Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, President George W. Bush announced the Vision for Space Exploration. Humankind will return to the moon by 2020, and set up outposts as a testbed and potential resource for future missions. The space shuttle will be retired in 2010 and the Crew Exploration Vehicle will replace it by 2014, capable of both docking with the 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. The Centennial Challenges, technology prizes for non-government teams, were established in 2004.


Some commentators such as Mark Wade note that NASA has suffered from a 'stop-start' approach to its human spaceflight programs. The Apollo spacecraft and Saturn family of launch vehicles were abandoned in 1970 after billions of dollars had been spent on their development. In 2004 the U.S. Government proposed eventually replacing the Shuttle with a Crew Exploration Vehicle that would allow the agency to again send astronauts to the Moon. Despite the reduction of its budget following project Apollo, NASA has maintained a top-heavy bureaucracy resulting in inflated costs and compromised hardware.

NASA spaceflight missions

Human spaceflight

Robotic space missions

Field installations

In addition to headquarters in Washington, D.C., NASA has field installations at:

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. Current NASA awards are as follows:

Related legislation

  • 1958 – National Aeronautics and Space Administration PL 85-568 (passed on July 29)
  • 1961Apollo mission funding PL 87-98 A
  • 1970 – National Aeronautics and Space Administration Research and Development Act PL 91-119
  • 1984 – National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act PL 98-361
  • 1988 – National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act PL 100-685
  • NASA Budget 1958–2005 in 1996 Constant Year Dollars

Related topics

Other space agencies

External links

Wikimedia Commons has more media related to:

Further research

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This image was created by NASA and taken from a NASA website or publication. All such works are in the public domain, with the exception of the usage-restricted NASA logo, because works of the U.S. federal government cannot be copyrighted. For more information, please refer to the NASA copyright policy page.


  • At 2:42 PM , Blogger Coat said...

    Google News Crawl for NASA
    Nasa chief holding out for another launch
    NASA chief: Another shuttle could launch this year
    Ex-NASA engineer: Waiving safety margins 'crazy: “... DAUGHERTY: I watched when it came off, and it's a pretty good chunk. It looked like a bird as it came off in slow motion. It was that big. And the response is, to ground the space shuttle, that's probably the thing they should do.

    What really bothers me is that I wrote a letter to the president telling him that we shouldn't have a full crew on this thing. We should only fly four people because of situations like this. The Russian space programs also said only fly four people because of the limited capability they have to use the Soyuz to bring the crew back.

    Now we've got seven people up there, and we're going to have to find some way get them back. It could be -- if we get into the situation where the shuttle can't bring them back -- then you've got to the first of next year. And what bothers you is that the oxygen generators have been showing all sorts of problems for the last couple of years. With nine people up there, we could have another major catastrophe. ...”


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