This week we celebrate NASA’s 60th anniversary with the first in a series of articles exploring how its charter of “preserving the role of the U.S. as a leader in aeronautical and space science and technology for peaceful and scientific purposes” has met the challenges of the past and the present, and what the future of this amazing organization may look like.
NASA was founded by President Dwight Eisenhower and established by an act of Congress on July 29, 1958, to encourage peaceful applications in space science so that we could “understand and protect the home planet.” For the past 60 years, NASA has pushed the frontiers of the possible, advancing humanity’s understanding of the cosmos and our planet, which moves everybody forward.
NASA’s official 60th Anniversary Logo. (Image courtesy of NASA).
We open the series with a photo essay highlighting the resurgence of Kennedy Space Center (KSC) as a hub for technological advancement. It is named after President John F. Kennedy, who in 1961 issued the Moonshot Challenge to put an American astronaut on the moon before the end of the decade and bring that person safely back to Earth. Since then, every human-manned NASA mission, dozens of space probes, and all the Space Shuttle Missions that were instrumental in taking up the materials to build the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope, launched from here.
Modern times requires close collaboration between government and industry. Together, NASA and Space Florida (the aerospace economic development agency of the State of Florida), have answered the challenge by inviting organizations with a shared vision of science and technology advancement to locate at KSC. Because of the area’s rich history of innovation and legacy of exploration, there is a new critical mass gaining serious momentum along Florida’s Space Coast. We explore three such pioneers that have recently located here: Space X, Blue Origin, and OneWeb.
Space X: Advancing Space Travel
SpaceX is on a mission to “design, manufacture and launch advanced rockets and spacecraft.” The company’s ambitious goal of “enabling people to live on other planets,” fits NASA’s vision of space as the next frontier for humanity. It is the first private company to take people and cargo to the International Space Station following the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle. The company operates the most powerful rockets in the world today including the partially reusable Falcon Heavy, which made its historic debut from Cape Canaveral earlier this year.
SpaceX Falcon 9 Heavy launch at Cape Canaveral on Feb. 6, 2018. (Photo licensed from Shutterstock).
Blue Origin: The Next Era of Human Flight
In an interview with GeekWire a couple of years ago, Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin (and founder and CEO of Amazon) said he became obsessed with space at the age of five when we saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. Bezos has since come full circle; his company is now powering the next generation of rockets from the same Kennedy Space Center launch pad that sent Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 crew to the moon in 1969. The company continues to make history of its own with the first ever vertical landing of a rocket returning from space and reuse of that rocket, the New Shepard.
NASA and Blue Origin test a BE-3 high-performance liquid hydrogen engine. (Image credit: Blue Origin. Courtesy of NASA).
OneWeb: Revolutionizing the Economics of Internet Access
As the world depends more and more on satellites ranging from GPS to communications and imaging, OneWeb (whose investors include SoftBank Group and Richard Branson) is focused on changing their value proposition by making them smaller and cheaper to launch into space to “build a new global knowledge infrastructure accessible to everyone.” The company is finishing development on the world’s first high-volume satellite manufacturing facility at the Kennedy Space Center to make “high-performance satellites more affordable and available.” In partnership with Airbus, OneWeb “intends to build 2,000 satellites that will form a constellation capable of wirelessly connecting every portion of the world to the Internet.” The company plans to launch its first “10 production satellites” in 2018.
OneWeb breaks ground on satellite factory at Kennedy Space Center, March 17, 2017. (Photo courtesy of NASA).
Kennedy Space Center: Home to Game-Changers
Advancing NASA’s charter mission takes a village. From Joi Scientific’s headquarters at the KSC Space Life Sciences Lab, we can see one of the launch pads—the “Mile Zero” marker that has witnessed the departure of spacecraft that travel billions of miles from here to better humanity’s understanding of the universe. Given our proximity to history, we wanted to celebrate NASA’s 60th anniversary and our neighbors who are carrying on the proud tradition of transforming space science in many different ways here at Kennedy Space Center.
Space Life Sciences Lab, Kennedy Space Center. (Photo courtesy of NASA).
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