Happy 60th Birthday, NASA

By Samir Shukla

Who hasn't gazed at the sky, day or night, and wondered what is out there? I didn't know a kid when growing up that didn't want to be an astronaut. Some nights when the moon is full, you can almost reach out and touch it. Science fiction has always made me happy and kept me grounded at the same time. Science and technology are daily making much science fiction of the past real.

When we visited NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the 1970s, the old rockets displayed on the grounds took my breath away. I dreamt of sneaking onto the next launch and take off to space, somewhere. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is of course responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower established NASA in 1958 with a distinctly civilian, rather than military, orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA's predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958. Here we are in October 2018, 60 years of space research and exploration and we have just barely explored our solar system.

The Apollo Moon landing missions, the Skylab space station, and the Space Shuttle are all NASA's achievements. Today, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the Space Launch System and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Mars is now in our sites for the next manned exploration.

Private companies are now funding and beginning space exploration. Space tourism is just around the corner. Imaginations can only open doors yet unknown.

Gaze on.

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Samir Shukla is the editor of Saathee magazine. Contact - Samir@saathee.com