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We are Not Alone

NASA History

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Since its inception in 1958, NASA has accomplished many great scientific and technological feats in air and space. NASA technology also has been adapted for many nonaerospace uses by the private sector. NASA remains a leading force in scientific research and in stimulating public interest in aerospace exploration, as well as science and technology in general. Perhaps more importantly, our exploration of space has taught us to view Earth, ourselves, and the universe in a new way. While the tremendous technical and scientific accomplishments of NASA demonstrate vividly that humans can achieve previously inconceivable feats, we also are humbled by the realization that Earth is just a tiny "blue marble" in the cosmos. Check out our "Thinking About NASA History" folder online as an introduction to how history can help you.

NASA’s journeys into air and space have deepened humankind’s understanding of the universe, advanced technology breakthroughs, enhanced air travel safety and security, and expanded the frontiers of scientific research. These accomplishments share a common genesis: education. As the United States begins the second century of flight, the Nation must maintain its commitment to excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education to ensure that the next generation of Americans can accept the full measure of their roles and responsibilities in shaping the future. NASA will continue the Agency’s tradition of investing in the Nation’s education programs and supporting the country’s educators who play a key role in preparing, inspiring, exciting, encouraging, and nurturing the young minds of today who will be the workforce of tomorrow.

In 2006 and beyond, NASA will continue to pursue three major education goals:
-- Strengthening NASA and the Nation's future workforce
-- Attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, disciplines
-- Engaging Americans in NASA's mission

Apollo 40th Anniversary web site celebrates each of the Apollo Missions (1968-1972)
with a photo gallery, video, and interactive comics and the many accomplishments of the
Apollo Program.


American Historical Association
History of Science Society (HSS) Fellowship in the History of Space Science
NASA Fellowship in the History of Space Technology

Download our latest (Fourth Quarter 2009/First Quarter 2010) newsletter or click here for previous newsletters.

For our Year in Review annual report, click here

What Does NASA Do?
 NASA's mission is to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.
To do that, thousands of people have been working around the world -- and off of it -- for 50 years, trying to answer some basic questions. What's out there in space? How do we get there? What will we find? What can we learn there, or learn just by trying to get there, that will make life better here on Earth?

A Little History

President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1958, partially in response to the Soviet Union's launch of the first artificial satellite the previous year. NASA grew out of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics
(NACA), which had been researching flight technology for more than 40 years.President John F. Kennedy focused NASA and the nation on sending astronauts to the moon by the end of the 1960s. Through the Mercury and Gemini projects, NASA developed the technology and skills it needed for the journey. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first of 12 men to walk on the moon, meeting Kennedy's challenge.Meanwhile, NASA was continuing the aeronautics research pioneered by NACA. It also conducted purely scientific research and worked on developing applications for space technology, combining both pursuits in developing the first weather and communications satellites.

After Apollo, NASA focused on creating a reusable ship to provide regular access to space: the
space shuttle. First launched in 1981, the space shuttle has had 120 successful flights. In 2000, the United States and Russia established permanent human presence in space aboard the International Space Station, a multinational project representing the work of 16 nations.

NASA also has continued its scientific research. In 1997,
Mars Pathfinder became the first in a fleet of spacecraft that will explore Mars in the next decade, as we try to determine if life ever existed there. The Terra and Aqua satellites are flagships of a different fleet, this one in Earth orbit, designed to help us understand how our home world is changing. NASA's aeronautics teams are focused on improved aircraft travel that is safer and cleaner.Throughout its history, NASA has conducted or funded research that has led to numerous improvements to life here on Earth.


NASA Headquarters, in Washington, provides overall guidance and direction to the agency, under the leadership of the
Administrator. Ten field centers and a variety of installations conduct the day-to-day work, in laboratories, on air fields, in wind tunnels and in control rooms.

NASA Today

NASA conducts its work in four principal organizations, called mission directorates:

  • Aeronautics: pioneers and proves new flight technologies that improve our ability to explore and which have practical applications on Earth.
  • Exploration Systems: creates capabilities for sustainable human and robotic exploration.
  • Science: explores the Earth, solar system and universe beyond; charts the best route of discovery; and reaps the benefits of Earth and space exploration for society.
  • Space Operations: provides critical enabling technologies for much of the rest of NASA through the space shuttle, the International Space Station and flight support. 
The Future

NASA is making significant and sustained investments in:
  • Transformative technology development and demonstrations to pursue new approaches to space exploration, including heavy-lift technologies;
  • Robotic precursor missions to multiple destinations in the solar system;
  • U.S. commercial spaceflight capabilities;
  • Extensions and increased utilization of the International Space Station;
  • Cross-cutting technology development in a new Space Technology Program;
  • Climate change research and observations;
  • NextGen and green aviation; and
  • Education, including focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).


Countdown 101: Delta IV
A Delta IV rocket lifts off from the pad. The Delta IV is a new model of rocket from Boeing. The vehicle is capable of carrying single or multiple payloads weighing between 9,480 to 28,620 pounds. Once in space, the Delta IV can place spacecraft in polar, sun-synchronous, geosynchronous, geosynchronous transfer and low-Earth orbits. Image to right: A Boeing Delta IV Medium-plus rocket lifts off from its launch pad. Credit: Boeing/Carleton Bailie At the heart of the Delta IV is the first stage Common Booster Core, which features a liquid oxygen- and hydrogen-powered RS-68 engine. The second stage engine is a Pratt & Whitney RL10B-2, also fired with the same propellant combination. The Detla IV can be outfitted in various configurations to lift medium, medium-plus, and heavy satellites and spacecraft: Delta IV Medium: One Common Booster Core first stage topped with a second stage engine. Delta IV Medium-plus: One Common Booster Core with two or four strap-on solid rocket motors and topped with a second stage engine.

Delta IV Heavy: Three Common Booster Cores joined together and topped with a second stage engine.

  Follow the Countdown Live on the Internet

Through the Launch Blog, you can share in the excitement of each new launch with live coverage directly to your computer via the Web. Coverage usually begins two hours prior to liftoff, and you can use the countdown events below to track the prelaunch milestones and learn about the Delta IV countdown process.

Live launch commentary is also provided on NASA TV.

Here are some countdown milestones and key events that take place after the countdown begins. Keep in mind that event times and lengths are approximate and subject to change.

T-315 minutes
  • Launch Countdown Begins
    T-290 minutes
  • Begin cryogenic propellants loading
  • Begin Common Booster Core liquid oxygen (LOX) tank loading
    T-220 minutes
  • Begin Common Booster Core liquid hydrogen (LH2) tank loading
    T-180 minutes
  • Weather briefing
    T-175 minutes
  • Begin second stage LOX tank loading
    T-160 minutes
  • Begin second stage LH2 tank loading

  • A Delta IV heavy rocket rests on its launch pad. T-85 minutes
    Perform telemetry RF link checks ,T-70 minutes  Perform Command Receiver Decoder testing
    Image to right: The mammoth Delta IV Heavy awaits launch from its launch pad. Credit: Boeing

    T-50 minutes
  • Begin RS-68 engine spin start pressurization
  • Perform launch pad gantry swing arm functional test
  • Perform RS-68 engine gimbal steering "slew" check
    T-25 minutes
  • Weather briefing
    T-8 minutes
  • Arm launch pad ordnance
    Image to right: The mammoth Delta IV Heavy awaits launch from its launch pad. Credit: Boeing

    T-5 minutes and holding 
  • Enter 15-minute planned hold
  • Weather update
  • Transfer spacecraft to internal power
  • Launch Conductor Readiness Poll
  • Mission Director Readiness Poll
    T-5 minutes
  • Transfer launch vehicle to internal power
    T-4 minutes
  • Arm safe and armed switches
    T-3 minutes
  • Common Booster Core LOX secure at flight pressure and flight level
  • Common Booster Core LH2 secure at flight pressure and flight level
    T-2 minutes
  • Second stage LOX securing started
  • Vehicle hydraulic pressure verified at 4000 psi
    T-90 seconds 
  • Second stage LOX secure at flight pressure and flight level
  • LOX ground support equipment secure T-80 seconds 
  • Second stage LH2 securing started
  • Range reports go for launch
  • T-50 seconds 
  • Second stage LH2 secure at flight pressure and flight level
    Image to right: A Boeing Delta IV Medium-plus rocket stands inside its mobile service tower. Credit: NASA/George Shelton
  • T-45 seconds 
  • Launch enabled "on"
  • Main power turned "off"
    T-25 seconds 
  • Solid Rocket Motor Thrust Vector Control System Blowdown
    T-15 seconds 
  • Launch vehicle igniters armed
  • Radially Outward Firing Initiators ignition
    T-4.5 Seconds 
  • RS-68 main engine ignition
Liftoff of the Delta IV rocket.




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