Astronomy Picture of the Day: Happy 40th Bithday, NASA!

NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC

Oct. 1, 1998


Forty years ago, in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was created with the boldest and most noble of missions: to pioneer the future. We were told to explore new frontiers and enhance life here on Earth. We were asked to instruct; we were expected to inspire. Forty years later, thanks to an American public with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and a relentless sense of adventure, NASA has delivered.

Think about this: Forty years ago, jet passenger service was a novelty. Global communications meant a telephone line laid across the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. When NASA was first getting started, the only way to track hurricanes was to fly planes directly over and into the storms. Our universe -- even the cosmic neighborhood just above our atmosphere -- was a mystery. In 1958, sending humans to the moon was pure science fiction.

But we dared to dream. We imagined what could be possible. And then along with our partners in industry and academia, we went to work.

In 1998, hundreds of millions of people ride American jets each year and new designs for flight go higher, faster and farther than ever before. Global space communications have helped create a global community. Weather satellites can detect the early evolution of an El Ni–o condition months in advance. There are still many mysteries to be solved, but Voyager, Galileo, the Hubble Space Telescope and other planetary and astronomy missions have circled neighboring planets, given us our first direct evidence that black holes exist, and begun to peer back at the very beginning of our universe. A space program that is forty years old has sent astronauts to the moon, robots to Mars, spacecraft to the furthest reaches of our solar system, and soon will help build the International Space Station. And for every step we take out there, we have contributed to a better quality of life right here. That is true whether it be the Òspin-offÓ technology that helps us detect breast cancer earlier, or the child who looks up and knows that no longer is the sky the limit; it is the stars and beyond.

NASA has had a great forty years, but what the American people can be most proud of is this: when it comes to pioneering the future, we are just getting started. What will always define this aeronautics and space program -- and this country -- is our firm belief that there will forever be something to invent, somewhere to discover, someplace to visit.

Rest assured, NASA will do its best in the next forty years to find out just what and where that will be.

NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC

September 30, 1998


"An Act to provide for research into the problems of flight within and outside the Earth's atmosphere, and for other purposes" -- with this simple preamble, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was created on October 1, 1958.

On Thursday, October 1, at 2 pm EDT, Administrator Daniel Goldin will kick off NASA's celebration with an address to all employees from the NASA Headquarters auditorium. He will be joined by Susan Eisenhower, President of Eisenhower Inc. and a visiting fellow at Harvard University, who will provide NASA employees with an historical context within which to consider their many accomplishments. The Headquarters 40th anniversary program will be carried live on NASA Television. (NASA Television is available on GE-2, transponder 9C.)

NASA will continue to celebrate its 40th anniversary throughout the year by looking toward the future with its various missions. On October 25, the Deep Space 1 mission will be launched to demonstrate the first ion propulsion engine to operate in deep space.

On October 29, NASA will nod to the past when Senator John Glenn joins the rest of the STS-95 crew aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. In November and December, the first components of the International Space Station will be launched from Baikonur, Kazahkstan, and Kennedy Space Center, Florida, beginning a new era in long-term human space exploration.

NASA will return to Mars with the launches of the Mars Climate Orbiter in December 1998 and the Mars Polar Lander in January 1999. Also, early in 1999, NASA will continue its commitment to cutting-edge astronomy by launching the Advanced X- ray Astrophysics Facility.

Not content with looking only outward, NASA will turn its vision to our own planet with the launch of the QuikScat satellite on November 24, a "faster, better, cheaper" mission that will study ocean winds and add to our knowledge of El Nino. The EOS- AM-1 satellite, scheduled for launch in the summer of 1999, will be the first of a new constellation of Earth Observing Satellites.

NASA will also continue its ground-breaking aeronautics research by testing new propulsion technology with the Hyper-X program. Looking toward the next 40 years, the X-33 and X-34 programs will begin flight demonstration tests in mid-1999 that will lead to the next generation space launch vehicle.

Since its inception in 1958, NASA has accomplished many great scientific and technological feats. At its 40th anniversary, NASA remains a leading force in scientific research and continues to stimulate public interest in aeronautics and aerospace exploration, science, and technology. Perhaps more importantly, NASA's exploration of space has taught humankind to view the Earth and the universe in a new way.

More information on NASA's future programs can be found on the NASA Homepage.

For further information on NASA's origins and accomplishments, browse through the 40th anniversary page.

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