On July 29, 1958, President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
NASA absorbed the earlier National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) which was a U.S. federal agency founded on March 3, 1915 for aeronautical research. On October 1, 1958, the agency was dissolved, and its assets and personnel formed the core of the newly created National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Photo courtesy of NASA: President Eisenhower presents NASA Commissions to Dr. T Keith Glennan, right, as the first administrator for NASA, and Dr. Hugh L. Dryden as deputy administrator.
Apollo 11 - This Week in History
Tomorrow is the 44th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon.
Soon after their historic steps, they received a phone call from President Nixon in the Oval Office. To celebrate the occasion, we’re teaming up with the NASA History Office to tweet out the lunar call between the President and astronauts.
Photo: Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin, Jr. standing on the moon next to the U.S. flag, 7/20/1969.
"We sometimes joked, ‘You don’t climb into the Mercury spacecraft, you put it on.’ You squeeze past all the gear that is mounted inside, like a man sliding under a bed."
-John Glenn, 1962
Here’s John Glenn being inserted into the Friendship 7 spacecraft on the day of his launch as the first U.S. astronaut to orbit earth. February 20, 1962.
Described as a claustrophobic’s nightmare, the Mercury capsule had just barely enough room for its pilot. The capsule’s escape tower had a solid rocket motor. In case of an explosion during the launch, that rocket would fire, lifting the capsule (with the astronaut) away from the explosion. The capsule would then parachute into the ocean.
The base of the capsule was covered with a heat shield to protect it from the 3000-degree (Fahrenheit) heat of reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. The capsule sat on top of the Atlas 6 rocket (95 feet tall, and 10 feet in diameter) which boosted the Friendship 7 into space.
Happy 92nd Birthday John Glenn!
"IN EVENT OF MOON DISASTER"
For the Apollo 11 space flight, President Nixon’s speechwriter William Safire composed this statement on July 18, 1969. It was to be used in the event the astronauts were stranded on the Moon and could not return to Earth.
Neil Armstrong later said, “The unknowns were rampant” and “there were just a thousand things to worry about.”
Fortunately, the speech as was never used, and this Saturday will be the 44th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. After astronauts Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, President Nixon phoned them for “an interplanetary conversation.”
On July 20, The Presidential Libraries and NASA’s History Office are celebrating the Apollo 11 anniversary by tweeting out the lunar phone call between the President and astronauts. We’ll be tweeting from @OurPresidents and @NASAHistory.
Join us Saturday at noon by following #LunarCall on Twitter!
Handshake in Orbit
After many months of preparation for U.S. Astronauts and Soviet Cosmonauts, The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project docked two space crafts together in orbit.
Here, U.S. commander Thomas P. Stafford and Soviet commander Aleksey A. Leonov shake hands upon meeting each other in space.
Apollo-Soyuz: Cold War Collaboration
On July 17, 1975, the Apollo and Soyuz spacecrafts docked together in space during the first joint U.S.-Soviet space mission. Cosmonauts Aleksey Leonov and Valeri Kubasov and astronauts Thomas Stafford, Vance Brand, and Donald Slayton conducted joint scientific experiments, exchanged gifts, and spoke in each other’s languages.
This mission was seen as an opportunity not only to cooperate in space but also to strengthen U.S.-Soviet cooperation in general.
President Ford and Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev both called to congratulate the crews after the docking.
Model of the Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft depicts their linkage in outer space. The commemorative pins attached to the base were worn by the cosmonauts when they presented the model to President Ford on September 7, 1974.
Photo and caption courtesy of NASA: In perhaps the most iconic image from the flight, astronaut Deke Slayton and cosmonaut Aleksey Leonov are seen together in the Soyuz spacecraft.
Apollo-Soyuz Astronauts and Cosmonauts Launch
Gerald R. Ford became President during a time of great unease. The war in Vietnam divided Americans and the Cold War was two decades old and counting. In spite of tension, both the United States and the Soviet Union expressed interest in joint space exploration.
In 1972, the two countries signed an Agreement of Cooperation regarding possible joint initiatives. The idea for a mission during which a U.S. and a Soviet spacecraft would dock emerged from this agreement.
On July 15, 1975 the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was ready. U.S. astronauts—Brigadier General Thomas P. Stafford, Vance D. Brand, and Donald K. Slayton— and Soviet cosmonauts—Aleksey A. Leonov, the first cosmonaut to walk in space, and Valery N. Kubasov—were launched into Earth orbit.
This unique mission, combining both diplomacy and science, demonstrated that U.S./Soviet cooperation was possible and laid the foundation for the current International Space Station.
Apollo-Soyuz emblems via NASA.gov
Of circular design, the emblem has the words Apollo in English and Soyuz in Russian around a center disc which depicts the two spacecraft docked together in Earth orbit. The Russian word “soyuz” means “union” in English.
June 17, 1965. Astronauts Edward White (right) and James McDivitt (left) and their families arrive at the White House. After a ceremony that evening at the State Department, the President makes a surprise announcement that he is sending the astronauts and their wives to Paris for the Air Show—and that they’ll leave at 4am on the Presidential plane.
“After about a half an hour we gathered up Governor Dewey [of New York] and went back to the White House, still without dinner, and here began the funniest part of this crescendo of a day. When the astronauts’ wives came in, I took them back to my office-dressing room and opened up the closet where my evening dresses hang, because what does any woman think about when she hears she’s going to Paris—clothes!”
After a “fashion show” to select the evening gowns they’ll borrow and bring to Paris, Lady Bird also arranges for laundry, noting that their visitors been traveling for several days, and asks the kitchen to prepare dinner for a “starving, bewildered Governor Dewey.”
LBJ Library image A684-17A, public domain. Lady Bird quote from A White House Diary, New York: Dell Books, 1971, pg 317-318.
Join us today at noon as we host special guests from NASA and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum!
A panel of space experts will discuss the American space program as it developed under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, including the Apollo missions to the Moon, the decision to develop the Space Shuttle, and the 1975 Apollo–Soyuz test project.
The event is free at the National Archives in Washington, D.C
Thursday, June 13, at noon
William G. McGowan Theater
You can also watch this event live on our Ustream channel [www.ustream.tv/usnationalarchives].
Presented in partnership with NASA, The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and the Presidential Libraries of the National Archives.
While you are at the National Archives don’t miss the special display on The Space Program and President Nixon. You can see a set of moon tongs used by Apollo astronauts and much more!
Photo courtesy of NASA: Astronaut Charles M. Duke Jr., Lunar Module pilot of the Apollo 16 mission, is photographed collecting lunar samples at Station no. 1 during the first Apollo 16 extravehicular activity at the Descartes landing site. Duke is standing at the rim of Plum crater, which is 40 meters in diameter and 10 meters deep. The parked Lunar Roving Vehicle can be seen in the left background.
Meanwhile, in the Soviet Union… Apollo-Soyuz Cosmonauts on Launch Day
Photo courtesy of nasa.gov and the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences: Cosmonauts [Alexey A.] Leonov (left) and [Valery N.] Kubasov prepare to board their Soyuz spacecraft at the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstanfor liftoff on July 15, 1975.
Watch it live on our UStream channel: