2008

NASA Celebrates 50 Years

“The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join it or not, and it is one of the greatest adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space. “We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for all people. “We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because the goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”

President John F. Kennedy
Rice University
September 12, 1962

On October 1, 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was created, and the “Space Race” officially began. President Kennedy’s promise to put a man on the Moon within the decade was fulfilled when Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969. That single event became the cornerstone of NASA’s first 50 years. To carry out the mission successfully, NASA had to become primarily an engineering organization, developing from scratch the new technologies that would be needed to recognize that goal.

NASA Tech Briefs has brought the engineering community exclusive information on NASA technology for 32 of NASA’s 50 years, so we are proud to join their anniversary celebration. For those first 50 years, NASA inspired new ideas, new technologies, and even new businesses. We invited you to share your stories on how NASA has helped inspire you in your career or business, and how it has improved your life. On the pages following, we feature some of your most inspiring stories.

This special issue highlights not only the NASA-developed technologies that have impacted our lives over the past 50 years, but those that could impact our planet — and others — well beyond the next five decades. We also focus on the “first A” in NASA — aeronautics — and how many of the technologies that keep you safe in today’s aircraft had their roots with NASA.

You’ll also find a full-color pull-out poster, sponsored by DuPont, highlighting some of the most important technologies developed by NASA that are in use today in our everyday lives.

The first 50 years of NASA are only the beginning. Said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, “A half century ago, a new federal agency was created to accomplish feats of exploration and discovery unparalleled in human history. The men and women of NASA have been responsible for such epic achievements as landing 12 human explorers on the moon, sending robots to scout the solar system from Mercury to Pluto, and making revolutionary discoveries about the nature of our universe. Closer to home, people have reaped enormous benefits from NASA’s communications, weather and Earth monitoring satellites, and the agency’s continued commitment to excellence in aeronautics research. Our quality of life has been improved by thousands of new technologies derived from NASA research.”