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Space Organizations Part 1: NASA - A New Agency Is Born

act national defense aeronautical

NASA was founded on October 1, 1958 following enactment of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (Public Law 85-568). The stated purpose of the Act was "to provide for research into problems of flight within and outside the earth's atmosphere, and for other purposes."

FIGURE 2.1
NASA budget as a percentage of the federal budget, 1959–2001

The Act specifically mandated that NASA would be a civilian agency with control over all nonmilitary aeronautical and space activities within the United States. The research and development of weapons and national defense systems remained under the control of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). However, the Act called for sharing of information between the two agencies. Cooperation by NASA in space ventures with other countries was allowed if the purpose was "peaceful application of the results."

The Act outlined eight objectives for NASA:

  • To expand human knowledge about atmospheric and space phenomena
  • To improve all aspects of aeronautical and space vehicles
  • To develop and operate vehicles capable of carrying supplies, equipment, scientific instruments, and living organisms into space
  • To conduct long-range studies into the potential benefits, opportunities, and problems associated with astronautical and space activities
  • To preserve the role of the United States as a leader in aeronautical and space science and technology and its application
  • To share discoveries of military value with agencies involved in national defense
  • To cooperate with other nations in peaceful ventures
  • To cooperate with other U.S. agencies in utilizing national scientific and engineering resources in the most effective and efficient means possible
Space Organizations Part 1: NASA - Peaceful Versus Military Purposes [next]

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