Space Exploration Day 2020: History, Significance and NASA’s role in fulfilling John F. Kennedy’s goal

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Updated: Jul 20, 2020 2:42 PM

The Science Exploration Day sometimes also called Moon Day was declared a holiday in 1984 by the then President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.

The Armstrong- Aldrin duo spent 21.5 hours on the surface of the moon (Image: NASA)

Space Exploration Day: July 20 holds a special place in the world of space and science as it is commemorated as the Space Exploration Day. Back in 1969 on the same date, Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin became the first humans to land on the Moon’s surface. Neil Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the moon’s surface in 1969 and he had called the event “one giant leap for mankind”. The Armstrong- Aldrin duo spent 21.5 hours on the surface of the moon out of which they spent 2.5 hours outside of their capsules.

The history of the manned mission to the moon goes back to the early 1960s when the then US President John F. Kennedy had set a national goal of ‘landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth within a decade.’ The exploration mission to the moon did not stop with Armstong’s giant leap for mankind as the United States launched six Apollo missions to explore the moon spanning from 1969 and 1972.

The Science Exploration Day sometimes also called Moon Day was declared a holiday in 1984 by the then President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.

NASA’s role in Space Exploration missions

After the setting of goals by President Kennedy, NASA launched the Project Gemini where the technologies needed for a flight to the Moon were examined by astronauts. They also tested their abilities and endurance to survive a long period of time on spaceflight required for a return mission to the Moon.

Following the Project Gemini, NASA launched Project Apollo, under which astronauts were taken into orbit around the moon and to the lunar surface between 1968 and 1972. The mission to the Moon successfully completed by Neil Armstrong Edwin Aldrin in 1969 was carried out under the Project Apollo. Between the 1960s and 1970s, NASA astronauts collected samples of rocks and lunar dust that are still relevant for space scientists to study the complexities of the Moon.

Apart from the focussed mission to the Moon, NASA also launched multiple other space probes to study Venus, Mars, and Mercury in the same time period between the 1960s and 1970s.

After carrying out Moon missions successfully, NASA launched the Skylab program and carried out three human missions where astronauts had to stay aboard a small workshop orbiting the Earth. In NASA’s words, the Skylab program paved the way for long-duration human spaceflight.

NASA teamed up with the Soviet Union to launch the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the first international human spaceflight in 1975.

NASA launched the first space shuttle, Columbia, on 12 April 1981. Eventually, NASA added four more ships–Atlantis, Challenger, Discovery, and Endeavor to the space shuttle fleet.

NASA lost two spaceships- Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003 but that did not stop NASA’s journey in space shuttle programs as the premier space agency had sent as many as 300 astronauts into space and through 135 space missions by the time of the completion of the program in 2011.

Space Exploration Programmes have come a long way since it began in the early 1960s and now NASA is teaming up with commercial space agencies such as SpaceX to ramp up space missions and take humans into space for commercial purposes.

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