29.07.

1958: Establishment of NASA – American’s Horse in the Space Race

1958: Establishment of NASA – American’s Horse in the Space Race
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/Vehicle Assembly and Launch Control at Kennedy Space Center

Story Highlights

  • Historical event
  • 29 July 1958
  • Americans panicked when the Soviets succeeded to launch the first satellite into Earth's orbit, the famous Sputnik in 1957, before they did. They knew that something must be done urgently if they wanted to keep up with the Soviets. Several space projects that were scattered about, including the missile project of the famous Wernher von Braun (the former Nazi who built the infamous V-2 rocket for Hitler's Germany) were incorporated into NASA.

On this day the American President Dwight David Eisenhower signed the document establishing NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). 

This agency was supposed to take over all of America’s efforts to conquer the universe through the civilian space program (as opposed to military projects). 

The reason for the establishment of NASA was the Space Race between the USA and the USSR, which was just beginning to heat up. Namely, Americans panicked when the Soviets succeeded to launch the first satellite into Earth’s orbit before they did. It was the famous Sputnik, launched in 1957.

Sputnik represented a psychological threat to Americans circling the Earth every 96.2 minutes. 

Although Sputnik had no direct military application, the Americans were certainly aware of the fact that the rocket that launched it was also capable of launching a Soviet nuclear bomb towards any target within the continental United StatesIn fact, Sputnik rocket was developed directly from Soviet intercontinental R-7 Semyorka ballistic missile (the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile), which was able to attack the United States using thermonuclear head of around 4 megatons.

Americans knew that something must be done urgently if they wanted to keep up with the Soviets. 

First, they took care of the military and defensive aspect of the Space Race and formed a new agency named ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency), which was to prevent future surprises to the United States by some of the new Soviet successes like Sputnik. 

ARPA later became world famous because it de facto created the Internet (which was, after all, originally called ARPANET).

On this day the Americans established NASA in order to integrate all the efforts in a civilian space race. 

Several space projects that were scattered about, including the missile project of the famous Wernher von Braun (the former Nazi who built the infamous V-2 rockets fired at Britain for Hitler’s Germany) were incorporated into NASA. 

The Space Race with the Soviets intensified during the 1960s and NASA received huge funds from the American budget. It amounted to almost 4.5% of all budgetary funds during the late 60’s, and today, in comparison, it gets only about 0.5%. 

The biggest success of NASA, which finally enabled it to outrun the Soviet Union, was landing a man on the Moon in 1969.

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