Amateur Photographer

Shooting for the moon

Thelaunch of the Sputnik 1 satellite by the Soviet Union in October 1957 jolted the US Federal Government into action, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed on 29 July 1958… the ‘Space Race’ had truly begun. NASA absorbed and succeeded the 43-year-old National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and officially began operations on 1 October 1958.

NASA’s remit was clearly set out in the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, which stated, ‘The Congress hereby declares that it is the policy of the United States that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.’ In other words, NASA had no military objectives.

In its initial years of existence, NASA was busy working on two overlapping programs: the X-15 rocket-powered hypersonic research aircraft (which ran from 1959 to 1968) and Project Mercury (1958 to 1963). Mercury was previously the US Air Force’s ‘Man in Space Soonest’ program, which had the original objective of getting a person into Earth orbit as soon as possible. When the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin completed a single Earth orbit on 12 April 1961 it meant the US had, once again, failed to be first to achieve a key space

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