Today marks the 60th birthday of NASA! The Way Out There team thought we’d have a little fun looking at our nation’s space agency through the decades.
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The “Way Out” 1950’s – NASA Started off as NACA And Became NASA in 1958
NASA started 60 years ago today on Oct. 1, 1958, with the purpose of getting Americans Way Out There in outer space. But an earlier version known as NACA—the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics—was started long before then, in 1915. In 1946, the Russians beat us to the punch on space exploration, kicking off the Cold War. So we had to step up our game! The National Aeronautics & Space Act of 1958 led to the absorption of NACA into NASA, with a liftoff of about 8,000 employees and a $100 million budget.
The “Far Out” 1960’s – Astronaut John Glenn Drinks Tang in 1962
In addition to putting a man on the Moon, NASA put Tang in our refrigerators. Sales of Tang, a neon orange powdered fruit-flavored drink, really ‘took off’ when John Glenn drank it on a solo Mercury flight in February 1962. This tasty beverage was actually invented in 1957 by General Foods scientist William Mitchell. That’s the guy who also invented Pop Rocks and Cool Whip. And so began our national obsession with NASA and weird, unnatural-looking pouch food and drinks. Groovy!
The “Outta Sight” 1970’s – Skylab
NASA kicked off this decade with a bang. On April 13, 1970, just days into the Apollo 13 mission to the Moon, an explosion in the service module (oxygen tank) caused NASA to abort the mission. Fortunately, the entire crew returned safely to Earth, which was (warning: bad pun ahead) DY-NO-MITE!
The rest of the decade was pretty tubular. NASA put a tubular-looking space station in orbit called SkyLab. It was a workshop where astronauts could visit and conduct experiments and play with cool toys. More importantly, astronauts could finally take showers in space. Sure, each shower took 2.5 hours. But the solar system became a little more civilized.
The “Totally Awesome” 1980’s – Space Shuttle Launches Become the Norm
This decade was marked by highs like the rise of party buses in space (aka space shuttles), the Galileo mission to Jupiter, and a phenomenon one saw coming: nerds became cool! Unfortunately, this decade also saw a low point with the Challenger disaster in 1986. But Americans were and are resilient. NASA always said there’d be risks and that we should take it all in stride. We grieved. Eventually, we moved forward, with a new mantra from Bobby McFerrin: Don’t Worry, Be Happy.
The “It’s All Good” 1990’s – Hubble Space Telescope
This decade saw something else we never thought we’d see: NASA joining hands with the Russians. The Cold War ended around 1991 and the two greatest spacefaring nations linked up for a series of joint missions. We even kicked around the idea of a joint International space station that eventually became a thing. In the meantime, the Russians hitchhiked aboard our space shuttles and we even docked at their Mir space station. What did our astronauts say when they docked? “Whassup!!!”.
NASA also launched the Hubble Space Telescope to probe the Universe. The pictures that came back from Deep Space were spectacular! We saw galaxies billions of miles away that we never even knew existed. Oh yeah, dudes, the Galileo probe found water on one of Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Bonus!
The “To Infinity And Beyond” 2000’s – Self-portrait by the Mars Curiosity Rover
Okay, we’re cheating here to combine two decades. The millennials won’t notice anyway. They’re too busy staring at their mobile phones! Besides we have only two words to describe these decades: Mars, B*tches!
NASA’s current budget is $20 Billion. Cheers!
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