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Originally established on July 29, 1958 by President Eisenhower through the National Aeronautics and Space Act the agency became America’s civilian space program for aeronautics research to encourage development of peaceful applications for space science. Since then the majority of U.S. efforts in space exploration has been lead by NASA, running the gambit from the Apollo moon-landing missions, and the Skylab space station, to the Space Shuttle program. Currently they’re supporting the International Space Station (ISS) and overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles as well as the management of all launches and its operations. However all of its technical know-how aside, the science being researched by NASA is helping expand understanding of the Earth, as well exploring celestial bodies throughout not only our own Solar System but the Universe at large, not to mention its origin.

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While the United States had been experimenting with rocket planes since 1946 it wasn’t until the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957 that the government truly got behind its space program. Alarmed that this Soviet achievement could be a threat to their national security, the American congress agreed that a new expanded and federally mandated agency was required to replace the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) to oversee all non-military activity in space while the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) would be formed to handle military development. Building upon the technologies developed by its predecessor, NASA used innovations to reach a step further and successfully put the first man on the man on the moon. This success however meant a reduction in their activities as the “Space Race” had been won. Seeing a chance through the development of a Space station of a more-or-less permanent nature to bridge the gulf between them and the Russians, not to mention a sharing of what had always been the high costs of space missions, President Richard M. Nixon and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin signed an agreement on May 24, 1972 calling for a joint manned space mission and that all equipment developed then on be compatible with the docking of any international vessel. This relationship would pave the way for the joint NASA-ESA Spacelab program (1983-98), and the Russian-American Shuttle-Mir missions (1995-98), which in turn would allow for the ISS and our future ambition of a manned flight to mars.

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