Today In Science History – October 1 – NASA Began Operations 1

NASA Meatball

NASA’s “Meatball” logo was designed by a NASA employee in 1958. Credit: NASA

On October 1, 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration began operations. NASA had been created by President Eisenhower on July 29, 1958, to lead the United States efforts in the Space Race with the Soviet Union.

NASA’s began operations almost one year after the Soviet Union launched their Sputnik satellite. They started with 8,000 employees and an annual budget of $100 million. Their motto was “For the Benefit of All”. One of their early priorities was the investigation as to whether or not a human could survive in space and how to get there. Project Mercury greatly accelerated scientific and engineering efforts to this end. They accomplished this task on May 5, 1961, when astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space.

By NASA’s 11th birthday, they had successfully matched the Soviet Union by putting satellites into orbit and men into space and back again. They surpassed the Soviet Union when they landed the first men to walk on the surface of the Moon and return them safely.

Over the next twenty years, NASA would join the Soviets in space in joint missions aboard the space station Mir. They would build their own scientific research station, Skylab. They also launched a fleet of reusable spaceships that could provide regular access to low Earth orbit. They landed probes on Mars and introduced us to a larger neighborhood. Voyager 1 and 2 was beginning to send us images of the gas giant planets of our Solar System.

By 2000, NASA joined Russia and 15 other nations to build a permanent space laboratory, the International Space Station (ISS). The Pathfinder missions were exploring Mars, on the ground and in orbit.

Today, one of the Voyager probes has left our Solar System. One even visited the planets Uranus and Neptune. NASA operates the Earth Observing System of satellites designed to watch our own home from above and monitor the changes it is undergoing. There are missions currently investigating the Sun, Mars, asteroids, and comets. There are several space-bound telescope systems looking outward to expand our knowledge.

NASA is constantly striving to enhance our lives in aeronautic research and human explorations. Their science mission is charting the future of our exploration with new technology being constantly innovated.

Notable Science Events for October 1

1958 – NASA begins operations.

1953 – Edwin Joseph Cohn died.

Cohn was an American biochemist who is known for his work using the process of blood fractionation to separate whole blood into its components. He worked out the technique to isolate serum albumin fraction blood plasma. Transfusions of purified serum albumin are used to treat shock in emergency situations and saved thousands of lives during World War II.

1947 – Aaron Ciechanover was born.

Ciechanover is an Israeli biologist who shares a third of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for finding the role ubiquitin plays when cells degrade and recycle proteins. Ubiquitin is a protein found in eukaryotic cells, but no one really knew what it did. Aaron Ciechanover, Avram Hershko, and Irwin Rose tracked the protein as it interacted with other proteins. They found ubiquitin would attach itself to a target protein and regulate the function or stability of the target protein.

1922 – Chen-Ning Yang was born.

Chen-Ning Yang

Chen-Ning Yang (1922 – )

Yang is a Chinese physicist who shares one-half of the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics with Tsung-dao Lee for their research into the nonconservation of parity in nuclear weak interactions. They found that some particles appeared to violate the law of parity conservation in quantum mechanics. Further study showed the weak interaction in nuclear decay did indeed violate this law.

Yang is also known from the Yang–Mills theory which forms the mathematical basis of the Standard Model of particle physics. This theory seeks to explain how the universe puts matter and energy together.

1904 – Otto Robert Frisch was born.

Otto Frisch ID badge

Otto Frisch (1904 – 1979) Los Alamos Manhattan Project ID photo

Frisch was an Austrian physicist who first described the process where uranium atom nuclei split into smaller pieces when bombarded with neutrons and named the process ‘fission’. He took the name from the biological process where cells split into two parts. He was also the first, with Rudolph Peirerls, to discover a possible violent chain reaction of Uranium-235 would take a much smaller mass than the common Uranium-238. This made the atomic bomb a practical possibility.

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