Worldwide Space Programs

In October, 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was created by the United States Government. It was described as “an Act to provide for research into the problems of flight within and outside the Earth's atmosphere, and for other purposes.”

The formation of NASA was the direct result of the fact that the Soviets had launched Sputnik 1 in October, 1957. This was the world's first artificial satellite. Americans were astounded and believed that the United States was way behind in space technology. Therefore, the United States launched its first Earth satellite in January, 1958.

NASA's first attempt to place humans in space was Project Mercury. This was a trial to see if men could endure a flight into space. On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard, Jr., became the first man in space. On February 20, 1962, John Glenn orbited the Earth in a space capsule. Project Mercury sent up 4 more flights. They could send up and safely bring humans back from space.

Project Gemini allowed 2 men to ride together in a space capsule. In this project, NASA learned about weightlessness in space and worked on reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. In June, 1965, Edward White became the first man to conduct a space walk outside of the space craft.

NASA's greatest achievement after that was Project Apollo, designed for space exploration of the moon. In July, 1969, Apollo 11 carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon. They landed and returned safely. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon first.

In 1975, Russia and the United States each sent up a spacecraft. These docked together in space. They conducted experiments on the spacecraft for two days. In 1981, the first space shuttle was launched. In 1998, an international space station was set up. It was a joint effort of Russia, The United States, Canada and others. Astronauts spend a year or more up on the space station, conducting experiments and making repairs.

NASA plans to use the Orion crew vehicle to send men on an exploration into deep space in the 2020's.