Sunday , October 17 2021

NASA is turning 60 years old

60 years ago, stimulated by competition with the Soviet Union, the United States created NASA, the starting point of a space adventure that would take them to the Moon.

Today, the agency is struggling to reinvent itself in a sector in which more and more international space companies and commercial interests are being mixed.

Since its birth, NASA has defied the limits of space exploration and has also suffered resounding failures, such as the explosion of two ferries in 1986 and 2003, with the balance of 14 dead

His ambition to return to deep space will have to face a funding problem, which would prevent him from returning to the Moon in the next decade and to Mars in the 2030s.

NASA has become dependent on the private sector and has contracts with SpaceX and Boeing to send astronauts into space beginning in 2019, as soon as their manned ships are ready.

And that is that the agency ia can not send astronauts on their own to space since 2011, when they closed their space shuttle program after 30 years.

Now they must pay 80 million dollars per seat to Russia to send Americans to the International Space Station (ISS) in a Soyuz capsule

The beginnings

In 1957, the Soviet Union sent its first satellite into space with Sputnik 1, while US attempts, mainly under the auspices of the army, failed miserably

The president for the time, Dwight D. Eisenhower then asked Congress to create a separate civil space agency. On July 29, 1958, he signed the law creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA.

The Soviets won another round in April 1961, when Yuri Gagarin became the first man in the space. A month later, the president of the United States, John F. Kennedy announced plans to send a man to the moon in the late 1960s. Thus the Apollo program was born.

In 1962 Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to place himself in Earth's orbit. And in 1969 Neil Armstrong enters history as the first man to walk on the Moon.

"Apollo was a one-sided demonstration of the power of a nation," recalls John Logsdon Professor Emeritus of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University

"That Kennedy decided to use the space program as a declared instrument of geopolitical competence was what made NASA a national policy instrument, with a very high budget allocation important, "he told AFP.

During the Apollo era, no less than 5% of the national budget went to NASA. Today, this proportion has pbaded less than 0.5% of the federal budget (about 18,000 million dollars a year), and NASA no longer has the same weight in national politics, according to Logsdon.

New era

NASA experienced other moments of glory in the 1980s, such as the birth of the space shuttle program, and then in 1998, with the start of operations of the ISS.

But what happens today? The president Donald Trump has defended the return to the Moon, mentioning a moon gangway that allows a continuous flow of spacecraft and people who visit the satellite, and that would serve as a starting point for an eventual trip to Mars

He also called for the creation of a space force, a sixth branch of the armed forces that would be oriented to defend the interests of the United States.

NASA was long considered a leader in space innovation, although it faces serious competition today. "You have something like 70 countries that in one way or another are involved in space activity," explains Logsdon.

Instead of competing with international space agencies, "the emphasis has been put on cooperation" as a way of reduce costs and advance innovation, says Teasel Muir-Harmony curator of the National Air and Space Museum.

The highest authority of NASA, Jim Bridenstine reiterated the Last week he wants to work together with other countries with interests in space. He mentioned the possibility of strengthening cooperation with China and said that he recently traveled to Israel to meet with groups working on a lunar lander.

His predecessor, Charles Bolden warned about the risks of re-offending. errors of the ferry age, when the United States ended its program without another spacecraft ready to take over.

"We can not tolerate another vacuum like that," Bolden said.

With the goal of manned mission to the moon in just five years, NASA plans to devote about 10 billion dollars to lunar exploration of a budget of almost 20 billion for 2019


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