By Marc W. Polite
2023 marks the 65th anniversary of NASA’s foundation. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was founded on July 29, 1958. The agency’s creation was a response to the space race that characterized the late 1950’s- with the Cold War as a backdrop. The launch of the world’s first satellite by the Soviet Union- Sputnik-1 in 1957 was the impetus for creating this space agency. Signed by President Dwight Eisenhower, the National Aeronautics and Space Act would result in the United States developing a viable space program. One which would culminate in a landing on the moon 11 years later in July of 1969.
In between the moon missions, the prominence of America’s space program has waned. It has been over five decades since NASA carried out a mission that made the American public sit up and take notice. However, this may change sooner than we expect.
With the discoveries of the James Webb Space Telescope, there is a bit more attention on what is happening in space. With fascinating discoveries of new exoplanets and galaxies, interest in NASA and the popular consciousness around the space program in general is noticeably higher. With a year of discoveries, JWST is reshaping what we know about the universe. The forthcoming Netflix documentary Cosmic Time Machine will show this journey to interested space enthusiasts. Furthermore, with the Artemis missions, NASA is planning to return a crewed mission to the moon. They are currently training a group of astronauts for this venture in 2025.
This, along with other ventures has the potential to yield good results beyond a successful mission. It could be the push needed to get more youth interested in STEM majors,(Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and raise awareness of the need for science communicators. In the long term, it could even bolster the case for adequately funding NASA so that it may continue its necessary research and development.
Much like the world has witnessed with the developments of the James Webb Space Telescope, scientific developments often take decades, not years. Shortcuts, while tempting will not produce the desired results. Given that NASA has been in existence for 65 years, it is important to reflect on this reality.