The origins of NASA can be traced back to the Wright Brothers, but the true story happened in less than a year.
This very short time in the 1
Sixty years ago, on July 29, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aerospace Act (NASA), which allowed the official inauguration of NASA doors a few months later, on October 1. 19659004] The attempt to found an American Civil Space Agency began with the shocking revelation on 4 October 1957 that the Soviet Union had defeated the United States to the limit and launched the first artificial satellite Sputnik aboard an intercontinental ballistic missile. The USSR was quick to praise its success in launching Earth's "second moon".
"Sputnik 1 was a phenomenon: you could see it in your backyard," recalled physicist and engineer Guy Stever, who worked at the faculty of MIT at an oral history workshop in 1992 on the origins of the law.
It was the early phase of the Cold War, and suddenly a demonstration of Soviet technical capabilities competing with the premiere of "Let It to Beaver" for evening viewing. But it was not only the symbolism of the performance of the USSR that heightened the fear of the Americans, but also the military implications.
"I remember one of us said that it was not the satellite we were worried about but what landed overhead," said Gerald Siegel, de facto director of staff of the Special Committee of the Space and Space Council Space travel was 1958. "If you get a missile launch of this magnitude, you can easily launch a thermonuclear bomb," he added in 1992 at the workshop.
This fear only intensified when the much larger and heavier Sputnik II was launched a month later with a dog named Laika.
"Even the first Sputnik weighed nearly nine times more than we had planned, so there was a sense of excitement and crisis," recalled Glen Wilson, who at the time was also a Senate employee's Oral History Project.
Insult was added to the injury when the American attempt to launch its own satellite, Vanguard TV-3, failed with a spectacular explosion that was broadcast live on December 6, 1957, to the world. He had already made his first public statements asking for a Civil Space Agency and the ambitious Democratic Senator Texas, Lyndon Johnson, who was known for his mastery of the legislative process and was to become president himself five years later.
A few weeks after the launch of Sputnik II, the department of advanced research projects at the Ministry of Defense was created to respond swiftly to the success of the Soviet Union. ARPA would then lay the foundation for the Internet and become today's DARPA.
But the need for a civilian space agency had become clear to many in Washington, including Eisenhower.
"How many benefits did space have?" Recalls Eileen Galloway, a senior National Security Advisor to Johnson in 1958, known as the "Great Matriarch of Space Law." "Especially communication, meteorology and navigation, we could not do all these things in the Ministry of Defense, we had to found a civilian authority."
While some were obsessed with the military advantages in space, the scientific value of space exploration became clear on January 31, 1958, when Explorers 1's first successful American satellite launch began. Data collected at this launch led to the discovery of Van-len Radiation Belts of the Earth.
"Space could be used for peaceful purposes," added Galloway in the 2006 interview. "We then saw that instead of the fear of war, we could be motivated by the hope of peace."
Less than a week after the announcement of the Van Allen Belt discovery, Johnson opened a Senate committee that listened to NASA's law:
"Space affects us all and everything we do in ours Privacy, In our business, in our education and in our government, we will have success or failure in terms of our national success in involving the exploration and exploitation of space in all aspects of our society and the enrichment of all phases of our life on this earth.
The first line of the law makes clear that NASA would serve the vision of peaceful space exploration, as Galloway and others conceived it:
"Congress hereby declares that it is the United States policy that activities The room should serve peaceful purposes for the benefit of all people. "
The final version of the law was drafted on July 29 by Eisenhower With the order that the National Advisory Committee on Aviation (NACA, started in 1915 during the First World War) and its facilities in Ohio, Virginia, and California become the foundation of NASA a few months later.
Decades later, NASA remains a beacon of peaceful international cooperation, even among rival nations.
"When we walked on the Moon, who congratulated us first, the Soviet Union congratulated us," said current NASA Administrator Jim Briddentine at an event that celebrated NASA's 60th anniversary on Monday. "Even today … we have ordered American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts in the International Space Station."
The signing of NASA's 1958 Law was just the beginning of a remarkable journey that continues today. This fall, when NASA celebrates its official 60th anniversary on October 1, we look back on much of this story and look forward to NASA's next NASA spaceflight.
Stay tuned and look further into the sky.
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