Science

Facts about NASA

29 facts about NASA

For the Benefit of All

The Cold War, although a grim period in world history, brought an intense rivalry in a space race between the U.S., and the Soviet Union. As a result, the most famous space-related organization—NASA—was established, and the dream of conquering the cosmos finally started to come true.
1
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration agency was established on July 29th, 1958 by president Dwight Eisenhower.
It was a response to the launch of a Soviet artificial satellite Sputnik 1 in 1957.
2
NASA officially opened on October 1st, 1958.
3
NASA logo is nicknamed the “meatball.”
It was designed by James Modarelli in 1959.
4
The first NASA crewed Space Program was Project Mercury.
Although it is not well-remembered, it was the foundation for all space missions.
5
The first living organism sent to space from the U.S. was a chimpanzee called Ham.
Ham, aboard the Mercury Redstone rocket, blasted off on January 31, 1961. “Ham the Astrochimp” was brought back to Earth safely, despite minor technical problems, suffering only mild fatigue and dehydration. Ham was luckier than memorable Laika—a stray mongrel that was sent by the Soviets aboard the Sputnik 2 in 1957, with no intention of bringing her back. She died of suffocation or overheating.
6
The most memorable mission of Project Mercury was Freedom 7.
The liftoff took place on May 5th, 1961. It allowed Alan Shepard Jr. to go down in history as the first American in space. He was the second man in the cosmos, however, after Yuri Gagarin, who orbited Earth not a month earlier, on April 12th, 1961.
7
President John F. Kennedy set NASA a goal—to send men to the Moon, and bring them back home safely.
NASA responded to Kennedy’s famous speech, known as “We Choose the Moon,” with the Apollo program (1960-1972).
8
The historical landing was a part of the Apollo 11 mission.
On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the lunar surface as the first human in history. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin joined him 19 minutes later. Armstrong, after putting his left foot on the Moon, said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
9
The Apollo program launched 11 crew missions between 1968 and 1972.
Out of 11, four were test flights, six ended up delivering men to the Moon, and one had failed to accomplish its goal.
10
Apollo 13 launched on April 11th, 1970, and was forced to cancel the landing on the lunar surface (precisely on the Fra Mauro site), because of the explosion of an oxygen tank.
Fortunately, the lunar module served as a lifeboat and returned the crew safely back to Earth.
11
In 1973 NASA launched the Skylab mission.
Its purpose was to set up the first American space station. Skylab successfully operated from May 14th, 1973 to July 11th, 1979, when it disintegrated into the atmosphere.
12
In July 1975, NASA launched a joint mission with the Soviet Union, called the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.
The mission was a symbol of détente during the Cold War. Moreover, it was the last crewed U.S. spaceflight in a space capsule until 2020.
13
The Space Shuttle program launched on April 12th, 1981, was the fourth crewed program in NASA's history.
It launched a total of 135 missions and was the first program to reuse a spacecraft. Its main goal was the transportation of crew and cargo from Earth to orbit. Throughout the span of 30 years, it carried 355 astronauts from 16 countries.
14
In 1998, NASA, in collaboration with Roscosmos (Russia), ESA (Europe), CSA (Canada), and JAXA (Japan), launched the first component of the International Space Station (ISS).
The ISS program evolved from the 1980s Space Station Freedom program. The first long-term residents arrived at the station on November 2nd, 2000. Currently, ISS orbits low Earth orbit and has been continuously occupied for almost 22 years.
15
The first NASA Space Shuttle, Columbia, at the end of its final flight on February 1st, 2003, disintegrated upon reentry, which resulted in the death of all seven members of the crew.
16
After the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, the construction of the ISS was paused until the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on July 26th, 2005.
17
After the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, NASA began the development of the Commercial Crew Program (CCP).
It is a joint program with private corporations—SpaceX, Boeing, and the Sierra Nevada. SpaceX provided the Crew Dragon human-rated orbital transport spacecraft in 2020, which, as of 2022, is the only spacecraft in operation.
18
The first Crew Dragon launch took place on May 30th, 2020.
Crew Dragon Endeavour was launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket, and docked at the ISS carrying Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken. It was the first crewed spaceflight after the final mission of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.
19
The second Crew Dragon mission, SpaceX Crew-2, set the record for the longest spaceflight by the U.S. after spending 200 days in orbit.
20
Since 2017, NASA, in collaboration with ESA, JAXA, and CSA, has been working on the Artemis program.
The program aims to reestablish a human presence on the Moon with the usage of the Space Launch System rocket, developed by NASA. The first two launch attempts of Artemis I, scheduled for August 29th, and September 3rd, 2022, were called off because of malfunctions. The next attempt at the launch was scheduled for September 27th, with a backup date of October 3rd.

On November 3rd, NASA began transporting SLS to the landing pad, with the hope of finally launching the mission on November 14th. The SLS rocket carrying Orion spacecraft launched on November 16th, marking the beginning of the Artemis mission.
21
NASA employs over 17,000 people.
Its HQ—Mary W. Jackson—is located in Washington, D.C.
22
Any astronaut interested in working for NASA has to complete 1 000 hours of flying time.
23
In 1997, NASA, in collaboration with ESA and ASI (Italy), launched the Cassini-Huygens space-research mission.
Commonly referred to as Cassini, its goal was to study Saturn, its rings, and natural satellites. Cassini probe became the first artificial satellite of Saturn in 2004 and disintegrated in its atmosphere on September 15th, 2017. The Huygens lander successfully landed on the Titan—Saturn’s largest moon—on January 14th, 2005, and transmitted data to the Cassini orbiter, which later relayed the data to Earth.
24
On May 12th, 2022, NASA’s Event Horizon Telescope captured the first image of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
25
In the case of finding life on other planets, NASA established an Office of Planetary Protection.
26
The Super Soaker squirt gun, a popular toy, was invented by a NASA scientist.
27
It is estimated that NASA has sent over 2000 animals into space.
Apart from "Ham the Astrochimp," the agency sent insects, rats, pigs, jellyfish, spiders, and rabbits.
28
NASA has been sued for trespassing on Mars.
Three men from Yemen sued NASA in 1997 claiming that the agency trespassed on their property. They based their claim on the fact that Mars was given to them by their ancestors over 3,000 years ago.
29
On September 26th, 2022, the DART mission successfully hit an asteroid.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission launched on November 24th, 2021 with an aim of colliding with Dimorphos - a minor-planet moon of the asteroid Didymos - as the first attempt at planetary defense. The collision successfully shortened Dimorphos' orbital period by approximately 32 minutes.