On October 1, 1958, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, [NACA], became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, what we know now as NASA.
From its inception in 1958 to the present, NASA sent astronauts and satellites into orbit to explore the unknown beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
Prior to NASA’s founding, on January 31, 1958, NACA launched the first satellite into space, named Explorer 1. The main component of Explorer 1 was a cosmic ray detector. Dr. James Van Allen’s idea of measuring solar radiation beyond Earth’s atmosphere, proved invaluable to NASA in developing protection for astronauts travelling into space.
Because there is no protection from radiation in space, NASA engineers designed spacesuits for astronauts based on the findings of the Explorer 1 satellite. Van Allen’s experiment found that the amount of solar radiation between twenty-four hundred miles beyond the atmosphere of Earth, and then again at ten thousand miles, was stronger. NASA named these areas the Van Allen Belt.
After the formation of NASA, on December 18, 1958, NASA sent the first communications satellite, SCORE, for Signal Communications Orbit Relay Equipment, into space. It was also the first successful use of an Atlas rocket as a launch vehicle. Onboard the satellite was a tape recorder, by which President Eisenhower delivered, by short wave frequency, a Christmas message. President Eisenhower also received a message from Army General Andrew Goodpaster.
NASA’s first passive communications satellite, Echo 1, was an inflatable balloon satellite. Echo 1 worked as a reflector. Once placed in a low Earth orbit, NASA sent a signal to Echo 1 that bounced off the satellite and sent to another point on Earth. On April 24, 1962, Echo 1 sent the first transmission of TV pictures in space to Earth.
On November 22, 1963, the day Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas, TX, NASA’s satellite, Relay 1, was the first satellite to broadcast television signals across the Pacific Ocean.