National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) boldly goes
where few have gone before (about 560 astronauts and cosmonauts
have been into space). The federal agency's Aeronautics division
conducts research on new flight technologies while its Exploration
Systems works on human and robotic exploration and its Science unit
studies climate, gravitation, and the atmosphere. The Space
Operations division mans and maintains the International Space
Station (ISS) in conjunction with several other nations; it also
ran the Space Shuttle program until that was retired in 2011.
In all, NASA has headed up more than 100 missions exploring
everything from particles of comet dust to the composition of solar
wind to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt at the edge of the solar system.
Some missions investigate Earth's own atmosphere, oceans, and ice
caps. A few missions are carried out with international partners,
including space agencies from Japan, the UK, and Europe. Another
trend is using private companies for much of NASA's propulsion
research and rocket building.
NASA's operations are divided into nine segments and divisions:
Aeronautics, Construction and Environmental Compliance and
Restoration, Cross-Agency Support, Education, Exploration, Office
of Inspector General, Science, Space Operations, and Space
NASA has around 10 centers and facilities located in Alabama,
California, Florida, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Ohio,
Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
In 2014 the agency had an estimated budget of about $20.3
For the past decade, the agency's mission has changed from
returning to the moon to heading for Mars and other parts of the
solar system. NASA hopes to send astronauts to the Red Planet by
the mid-2030s. To complete the mission, it needs to develop
heavy-lift rockets for long-range spacecraft. One of the primary
steps toward this goal is a proposed mission to find, capture, and
redirect a near-Earth asteroid safely into the Earth-Moon system,
and then send astronauts to explore it.
NASA was founded in 1958, partly in response to Russia's launch
of the Sputnik satellite, to research space and flight technology.
It successfully landed two Americans on the moon for the first time