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NASA has done many amazing things. From putting the second man in space to putting the first and second man on the moon. NASA truly has a great history. Project Mercury was the first American human spaceflight program. It’s goal was putting a human into orbit around the Earth. And they wanted to do it before the Soviet Union. Though they were not able to do that before the Soviet Union, they still put a human into orbit. Alan Shepard became the first American astronaut aboard Freedom 7. Project Mercury was the start of many great things. Project Gemini’s objective was to develop space travel skills. This would help in the Apollo missions with the goal of landing a man on the moon. Gemini missions would be able to carry two men. Gemini 3 was the first manned mission in the Gemini program. Nicknamed Molly Brown, Gemini 3 completed the 7th manned spaceflight in the United States and the 17th manned spaceflight overall.
The main goal of this mission was to test the new, maneuverable Gemini spacecraft. While in space, the crew fired the thrusters to change the shape of their orbit, slightly shift their orbital plane slightly, and drop to a lower altitude. Some firsts achieved by this mission were: two people flew on an American spacecraft together, and this was the first manned reentry where the spacecraft produced enough lift to change its touchdown point. Gemini 4 was the second manned spaceflight in Project Gemini. Gemini 4 circled the earth 66 times in four days which made it the first American flight to approach the 5-day flight of the Soviet Vostok 5. Although that was great, the greatest accomplishment of this mission was when White made the first spacewalk by an American. White floated free outside the spacecraft for about 20 minutes. Both of these accomplishments helped America overcome the Soviet Union’s early lead in the Space Race. Gemini 5 was also an important mission.
This was the mission where the US beat the Soviet Union’s record of 5 days for the longest amount of time spent in space on August 26, 1965. L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. and Charles Conrad, Jr. spent almost 8 days in space beating the record by over 2 days. Gemini 7 included Jim Lovell and Frank Borman On December 4, 1965 Gemini 7 blasts off for space. While they are in space, Gemini 6 is waiting by the launch pad while Gemini 7 waits in space. Some problems occur with Gemini 6 but are resolved in less than 3 days. Gemini 6 launches into space on December 15.
Gemini 6 and 7 are planning to fly just inches apart from each other in formation. They fly in formation for 270 minutes, 3 orbits around the earth. After this, Gemini 6 returns home. Gemini 7 must complete their 2 week mission and then they returned home. This was NASA’s longest mission in space at the time. On June 3rd, 1966 Gemini 9 launched into space. Gene Cernan had to test out a new jetpack but by the time he got it on he was too exhausted to fly with it. Buzz Aldrin was the next to attempt a space walk. Aldrin succeeded and spent more that 5 hours walking in space.
Because of Apollo 1, America lost some good men. Ed White, Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee were all killed during a simulation. There was fire due to a spark in the wire which caused oxygen to catch on fire. They were not able to get the door open fast enough and these three men were all killed. Apollo 7 then takes their mission with a redesigned and much safer capsule. Apollo 11 has to be one of the most important missions of all time. Apollo 11 included Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Colinn. Their goal was to walk on the moon and they succeeded. Neil Armstrong took the first step on the moon. 15 minutes later Buzz Aldrin became the second man on the moon. The two men spend just over two hours on the moon.
With the huge goal of walking on the moon completed, NASA now needs to learn more about the moon. Apollo 12 spent about 8 hour just collecting moon rocks. They ended up collecting 75 pounds of moon rocks.
NASA is testing a new shuttle. On february 18, 1977 the space shuttle takes off and lands successfully. There were 31,000 thermal tiles on the shuttle when it took off to protect it. But when it landed they discovered many tiles had fallen off. NASA must develop efficient models before they can actually use the shuttle for missions. After 4 years of testing, the shuttle is finally ready. The first shuttle mission took with it John Young and Bob Crippen. Something that everyone was worried about was that once the rocket boosters were lit, the shuttle was committed to flight. But everything was fine. On April 12, 1981 it took off, orbited the Earth 36 times and landed safely.
Crista McCaliff was a social studies teacher and was going into space. On January 28, 1986 the Challenger took off for space, but it never made it. The Challenger blew up only 73 seconds after lift-off at 67,000 feet in the air. This was the first time NASA lost astronauts in a mission. No spacecraft flew until two years later. Hubble is a super powered telescope that was put into space. Only when it got into space did they realize that it had a big problem with the mirror. Also, there were problems with the solar panels. Without those, Hubble wouldn’t work. After these problems, they sent a repair crew into space. They fixed the problems and Hubble was open for business.
Next up, the International Space Station. Russia carried up the first part of the space station in November, 1998. In December the first part that NASA built goes up. The two parts connect in space. The estimated cost for the International Space Station was $170,000,000,000.
On January 16, 2003 Columbia is scheduled for lift-off. They make it into space fine but what nobody knows it that something hit the craft during take-off and made a hole in the craft. This wasn’t a big problem until re-entry when the hole caused the craft to explode taking the astronaut’s lives with it.
NASA has done many amazing things over the years and they will continue to do many more. These events were some of the most important things to happen in the history of spaceflight and exploration.