The History of NASA
Did you know that NASA stands for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration? It was created in 1958, years after World War II when people were gaining more interest in what was going on in that great big sky of ours. NASA has four main purposes:
- Aeronautics research, which is a fancy word for figuring out how to build rockets that could power people to the moon and beyond.
- Science and specifically answering questions about the origins of the universe as well as our solar system and planet Earth.
- Space technology, which is a fun way to say they create the tech that makes space exploration easier and even possible.
- Human exploration and operations, which, in short, means there are people at NASA whose job it is to organize all the astronaut missions to space including the International Space Station!
Thanks to NASA’s innovations and the burning curiosity we had about what else could be out there, Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon by the year 1969!
The Space Race
Speaking of getting a man on the moon, Americans were also fueled to accomplish this task by their desire to beat the Soviet Union to the job! Even though the Soviet Union was a country all the way on the other side of the globe, we still wanted to beat them just as bad as you might want to beat your brother in a race across your backyard.
This competition was called the Space Race, and it grabbed everyone’s attention in the 1960’s. America and the Soviet Union were in a cold war, which was a time of great tension between the Americans and Soviets following World War II. Part of that war hinged on who could develop proper technology for space exploration. Thanks to NASA’s brilliant minds, the U.S. won the prize when Neil Armstrong and his crew explored the moon for the first time!
Some Astronauts Were Hoosiers Too!
The sky really is the limit when you grow up in Indiana, at least that is what happened for some important astronauts to fly with NASA. Here are just a few you may or may not have heard of who also call the Hoosier state home!
Virgil “Gus” Grissom was born in Mitchell, Ind. and later attended Purdue University. He was a member of the Mercury Seven and was the second astronaut to enter space!
Joe Allen was born in Crawfordsville, Ind. and served as the mission specialist on the space shuttle Columbia. His 1982 flight was special because it was the first time Columbia was fully operational in space! He also joined the 1984 crew of Discovery for NASA’s first ever space salvage mission in which they successfully brought wayward satellites back to Earth.
Janice Voss was born in South Bend, Ind. and was selected to be a NASA astronaut in 1990. She flew five different missions and spent a total of 49 days in space! Later in her career, Voss became the Science Director for the Keplar Space Observatory, which looks for evidence of planets outside our solar system.
David Wolf was born in Indianapolis, Ind. and is also a graduate of Purdue University. He has been to space four times and has logged more than 4,040 hours in space. He is also a veteran of seven spacewalks totaling 41hrs 17min in both Russian and American spacesuits.
Silly Questions That are Fun to Ask
We all have silly questions about space. Like, “Are martians green?” “How do astronauts go to the bathroom?” How about, “Is the moon made of cheese?” What do you think the moon is made of?
If you said rock, then you are RIGHT! Well, at least partially right. You see, the moon has a crust, much like the Earth, which is made of the harder material we know as rock. This rock is called regolith and it gets blasted with asteroids and meteorites, so it must be pretty strong!
Underneath the rocky outside are layers and a core, again much like our own planet. Based on the findings of scientists and astronauts at NASA, we have discovered that the super dense core is made of a metals such as iron and nickel. That core is surrounded by a fluid outer core. The moon used to have magma under the surface that led to volcanic activity, but it has since cooled down.
Local Students Chat with the Space Station!
Five students from Brandywine Elementary School had the opportunity to ask a real astronaut at the International Space Stations questions in last fall.
The five students, Eleanor Bowman, 4th grade; Jordyn Foley, 4th grade; Bryson Baker, 4th grade; Ryder Kopernak, 3rd grade; and Braxton Smith, 4th grade, were randomly selected to video tape a question for American astronaut Kjell N. Lindgren while he’s stationed in outer space.
Lindgren then listened to the questions submitted by the students and answered them during a live broadcast from the International Space Station on Aug. 30, 227 miles above earth.
Four of the five students selected to asks a question went to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis to watch Lindgren answer their questions live while the fifth student, Jordyn, stayed at school to join in with the other Brandywine Elementary students, teachers and administrative staff who took part in a “space” themed day of learning. Even Principal Austin Theobald joining the fun, dressing up like Star War’s Darth Vader!