About National Aeronautics and Space Administration
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 Technology.
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 billion.
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 in 1969.
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