Astronomy Now Online
Home Magazine Sky Chart Resources Store


Top Stories


Powerful nearby supernova caught 10 years later

...astronomers have finally identified one of the nearest supernovae of the last 25 years, over a decade after it exploded...

read more

Hibernating magnetar springs to life

...a mysterious celestial object that emitted 40 visible light flashes before disappearing again could be a missing link in the family of neutron stars...

read more

A smart look at the peak of eternal light

...new three-dimensional images taken by SMART-1's AMIE camera show the ‘peak of eternal light’ in new light...

read more



Spaceflight Now +



Subscribe to Spaceflight Now Plus for access to our extensive video collections!
How do I sign up?
Video archive

STS-120 day 2 highlights

Flight Day 2 of Discovery's mission focused on heat shield inspections. This movie shows the day's highlights.

 Play

STS-120 day 1 highlights

The highlights from shuttle Discovery's launch day are packaged into this movie.

 Play

STS-118: Highlights

The STS-118 crew, including Barbara Morgan, narrates its mission highlights film and answers questions in this post-flight presentation.

 Full presentation
 Mission film

STS-120: Rollout to pad

Space shuttle Discovery rolls out of the Vehicle Assembly Building and travels to launch pad 39A for its STS-120 mission.

 Play

Dawn leaves Earth

NASA's Dawn space probe launches aboard a Delta 2-Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral to explore two worlds in the asteroid belt.

 Full coverage

Dawn: Launch preview

These briefings preview the launch and science objectives of NASA's Dawn asteroid orbiter.

 Launch | Science

Become a subscriber
More video



Happy 50th Birthday NASA
BY DR EMILY BALDWIN
ASTRONOMY NOW

Posted: October 01, 2008


On the first of October 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration began operation. Fifty years on and NASA has sent man to the Moon and spacecraft to all the major planets of our Solar System.

NASA's 50th anniversary logo. The agency celebrated its golden anniversary with an early birthday party on 24 Sept, at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, where legendary astronauts Neil Armstrong, John Glenn and Jim Lovell joined NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and other dignitaries in the gala, celebrating the power of innovation and discovery, and recognising the agency's challenges and achievements over the past five decades.

Although the US satellite program began in 1954 to put a satellite into orbit during the International Geophysical Year, which saw the launch of Explorer 1 in February 1958 in response to the launch of the world’s first man-made satellite Sputnik 1 by the Soviets the previous October, NASA was not officially established until 29 July 1958. Operations were opened on 1 October, with Pioneer 1 blasting off from Cape Canaveral just 11 days later.

In the first decade of operations, NASA heavily researched human spaceflight via the Mercury and Gemini projects, which saw the first American, Alan Shepherd, take a 15 minute sub-orbital flight above the Earth. The journey of human spaceflight culminated in the Apollo Program, which saw 12 men walk on the surface of the Moon between 1969 and 1972.

Probably one of the most well-known and loved NASA image, the view of Earth rising above the lunar horizon which greeted Apollo 8 astronauts.

The 1970s saw the focus change to space stations, such as the American built Skylab, and then to the first shuttle launch in 1981. Since NASA’s inception, a whole army of unmanned space explorers have also explored our Solar System, from the Voyager probes that now are at the edge of the Solar System, and every planet in between. None so much explored, mapped and probed is the red planet, which saw Mariner flybys in the 1970s, the Viking Landers in the mid 1970s, the Pathfinder rover and of course the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity that are still in action nearly five years after arriving, as well as the current and highly successful Phoenix lander. Numerous orbiters - Mars Odyssesy, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Express and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to name a few - have changed our view of the red planet forever, and Mars remains in NASA’s vision as a future target for a manned mission.

NASA has also broadened our view of the Universe, from WMAP that produced the first full sky map of the microwave sky, revealing the radiation left over from the big bang 13.7 million years ago, to the Hubble Space Telescope that has continued to produce stunning images of galaxies, stars and planets for the last 18 years.

NASA’s itinerary for the future covers ongoing in depth surveys of the planets including interactions between the Earth and Sun. The Space Shuttle will soon be retired and replaced by the Orion crew exploration vehicles. Even bigger plans are in place for a permanent lunar outpost by the 2020s.
Perhaps a 100 year old NASA will be able to reflect on celebrating the first humans on Mars, after another 50 years of innovation, inspiration and discovery.

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.
 GET YOUR COPY

Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.
 GET YOUR COPY

3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!
 GET YOUR COPY


HOME | NEWS ARCHIVE | MAGAZINE | SOLAR SYSTEM | SKY CHART | RESOURCES | STORE | SPACEFLIGHT NOW

© 2014 Pole Star Publications Ltd.