Houston Matters

NASA Turns 60: Reflecting on The Space Agency’s Accomplishments And Tragedies

On the 60th anniversary of NASA, we learn how the space agency’s accomplishments resonate today and learn about its predecessor, NACA.

NASA 60th Anniversary Logo

Today marks the 60th anniversary of NASA. It was on Oct. 1, 1958 when the space agency officially began operations after President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation that launched NASA—the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The rest, of course, is history. Just 11 years later, in 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would be the first ever to land on the moon, paving the way for further space exploration.

But the space agency has also had its share of tragedy. In January of 1986, seven were killed aboard the Challenger Space Shuttle after a booster engine failed. Then, in January of 2003, Columbia fell apart over east Texas as it reentered Earth’s atmosphere. All seven crew members were killed in the tragedy.

Dr. John Logsdon served on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in 2003, and is a former member of the NASA Advisory Council. He founded the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University in 1987, and was its director until 2008. He’s also the author of The Penguin Book of Outer Space Exploration.

In the audio above, he tells Houston Matters producer Maggie Martin how the space agency’s accomplishments resonate today in 2018.

And before there was NASA, there was NACA, the space agency’s predecessor. NACA was responsible for a number of innovations in aerospace, and much of that work happened right here in Houston.

Back in 2015, we spoke with NASA’s chief historian, Bill Barry. He told Houston Matters’ Michael Hagerty about NACA’s achievements.

NACA's First Meeting
The first meeting of the NACA in 1915.