For hundreds of years the rocket never had a more important task than to signal, use as a weapon, and of course, fireworks. These “fire arrows”, as the Chinese called them, didn’t really get any serious attention until the twentieth century, when scientists started to study the way rockets worked. In 1926, Robert Goddard launched the first successful liquid rocket which he designed and built himself. It flew 184 ft. in 2 and a half seconds. Even though Goddard was successful, he refused to join any groups or organizations, in fear that others might copy his work. Goddard was never able to reach his goal of using rockets to research the upper atmosphere because of lack of funds and publicity. In 1945 the Jet Propulsion Laboratory picked up where Goddard left off and launched a rocket specifically for upper atmospheric research. This rocket, named the WAC-Corporal reached a height of 43 miles. Even though Goddard, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and many other scientists worked hard, they didn’t really have anything to do with the U.S. space program.
The ones actually responsible were a group of German scientists. At the end of WWII, the U.S. took a bunch of German V-2 rockets. And along with the rockets they captured the scientists. These rockets gathered enormous amounts of information about the atmosphere by the time the last one was launched in 1952. This information would prove to be extremely valuable for the coming space age. Scientists now wanted to make smaller rockets that were cheaper and easier to assemble. While the Applied Physics Laboratory worked on the Aerobee rocket, the Naval Research Laboratory was working on a large rocket called the Viking. The Viking was basically a replacement for the V-2. It was the most efficiently designed rocket of its time, but it was way too expensive for a research tool. Scientists wanted to make a cheap rocket that could fly high and carry some heavy cargo. Scientists were trying everything, even launching rockets from balloons that were already 15 miles high. These rockets were called rockoons.
In July 1957, the Rocket and Satellite Research Panel was started. This panel was relied on for information by several government agencies. They were extremely knowledgeable about rocket research. Originally, the panel’s main focus was rockets, but some were suggesting the launching of satellites, and the panel liked the idea. Suggestions were even made that the U.S. government should make a permanent space agency. On October 4, 1957, Russia successfully launched a satellite, called the Sputnik I, into orbit. It was definitely time for The U.S. to get on the ball. The members of the panel asked for the help of many congressmen and officials. With the new space program costing over a billion dollars a year, they needed all the help they could get. All of there hard work led to the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, and on October 1, 1958, NASA, which stands for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, was established.
When it was established, it inherited over 10 years of research from the Rocket and Satellite Research Panel. NASA was already off to a great start. On January 31, 1958, the U.S. launched the Explorer 1, its first successful satellite launch. And then on March 17, 1958, the Vangard 1 was launched, and actually still transmits today. NASA has made many discoveries and voyages, and has made many technological advances in our world, and will hopefully continue to do so in the years to come.