Summary: What Has NASA Done To Get This Far

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What Has NASA Done to Get This Far? The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, best known as NASA, was first authorized by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on October 1, 1958. Its first line of operations was to beat the Soviet Union in exploring the solar system.
Shooting for the Moon
Plans to send probes to Venus and Mars commanded most of the scientists’ attention until the Soviets sent unmanned probes to the Moon in 1959. The US responded by initiating the Ranger program, but only received its first success in 1964, with the launch of Ranger 7, which was the first probe to transmit useful data to NASA before its inevitable crash-landing on the lunar surface. The subsequent Ranger missions were equally prosperous, with the last ten
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The Viking mission, which was considered a more modest version of the earlier Voyager project, launched from Cape Canaveral on August 20, 1975. It was joined a few days later by its identical twin, Viking 2. Both crafts were bound for Mars in order to photograph its surface in greater detail than had been previously achieved. After a postponement of landing due to the dangers posed by the rough terrain, the two landers accomplished touchdown on July 20, 1976 and September 3, 1976, respectively. (Snyder)
Disappointed by the lack of even microbial life, NASA refocused on other projects for a time, including a new Voyager that was originally tasked with exploring the outer planets but continues to operate to this day. They reinitiated the Mars program in 1989, launching the Mars Geoscience/Climatology Orbiter. Unfortunately, the mission proved to be a failure after the orbiter lost contact upon entering Martian orbit.
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With this new program, NASA sent two spacecraft to the Red Planet, Pathfinder and the Mars Global Surveyor, both of which reached their destination the following year. (Snyder) Pathfinder returned a wealth of information, including weather data and soil analyses. The Mars Global Surveyor provided details on the planet’s seasons and notorious dust storms. In addition, Spirit and Opportunity, a pair of rovers launched several years later, have been exploring the Martian surface in great detail. Both have baffled scientists with their ability to continue functioning long after their original 90-day operational window. (National Geographic)
Current Plans for Manned Exploration of the Solar System Following the successes of the abovementioned missions, NASA has many additional missions planned for the future, specifically in the prospect of establishing a human settlement on Mars. In fact, National Geographic stated in their article, “Future of Spaceflight: To the Moon and Beyond”, “NASA has an exciting new vision of future spaceflight - the return of humans to the moon by 2020 in preparation for visits to Mars and possibly beyond” (National Geographic). If mankind is slated to return to the moon as soon as is predicted, it can be reasonably inferred that humans will set foot on Mars not long afterwards.
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