Independent U.S. government agency established in 1958 for research and development of vehicles and activities for aeronautics and space exploration. Its goals include improving human understanding of the universe, the solar system, and Earth and establishing a permanent human presence in space. NASA, previously the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), was created largely in response to the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik in 1957. Its organization was well under way in 1961, when Pres. John F. Kennedy proposed that the U.S. put a man on the Moon by the end of the 1960s (see Apollo). Later unmanned programs (e.g., Viking, Mariner, Voyager, Galileo) explored other planets and interplanetary space, and orbiting observatories (e.g., the Hubble Space Telescope) have studied the cosmos. NASA also developed and launched various satellites with Earth applications, such as Landsat and communications and weather satellites. It planned and developed the space shuttle and led the development and construction of the International Space Station.
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