Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Happy 50th Birthday NASA

Well, NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, celebrates its 50th birtday. On July 29th, 1958 US-President Eisenhower signed the „National Aeronautics and Space Act“ and NASA started to work on October 1st, 1958. Just a few months earlier in autumn 1957, the Soviet Union launched the very first artificial satellite SPUTNIK 1, resulting in the so called "Sputnik shock", paraphrasing that the western world was shocked that the USSR was really able to do this...and by doing so the entire western world (esp. USA) was commited to an atomic thread. We all know the story of the Cold War.... (BTW, for this reason Eisenhower also founded ARPA, the "mother" of the Internet).
The race began and now, 50 years later, Russian and US-american astronauts are working together in the International Space Station ISS.

Although I'm quite younger than NASA, NASA made a big impression on my childhood days. Remember the Apollo program and the first man on the moon. As almost every child I wanted to become an astronaut - or at least a scientist (got it!). Belief it or not, my very first memories of television are pre-launch cuntdowns of the Apollo Program (I really don't know which mission, but obviously one of the later). I remember the countdown was stopped several times and I was very angry, because I had to go to bed and could not watch the lift-off. I dimly remember even the Skylab program (as well as its early "re-entry" in 1979) and of course the first launch of the Space Shuttle in 1981 (and again with delayed countdown..., at Google Video you may watch the lift-off video of STS-1 Columbia).

But, the most interesting thing for me always have been NASA's planetary missions, giving us wonderful pictures of Jupiter or Saturn (Pioneer and Voyager) and the other planets.

NASA has opend up its Picture Archive with tons of pictures for free use. Nicely organized you may find pictures from Hubble, planetary missions, the space program, and many more....(But beware, today their servers have to keep up with an intense workload because of their birthday event).