Space Agencies
author Paul Boșcu, May 2017
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent U.S. governmental agency established in 1958 for the research and development of vehicles and activities for the exploration of space within and outside of Earth’s atmosphere. Headquarters of NASA are in Washington, D.C.

The organization is composed of four mission directorates program offices: Aeronautics Research and Space Technology, for the development of equipment to improve America’s air transportation; Exploration Systems, for the exploration of the Moon and Mars; Science, for understanding the origin, structure, and evolution of the universe, the solar system, and Earth; and Space Operations, in charge of manned spaceflight, specifically the space shuttle and the International Space Station.

A number of additional research centres are affiliated, including the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.; the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California; the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas; and the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Agency-level management takes place at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. People at this level interact with national leaders and NASA customers regarding overall agency concerns, such as budget, strategy, policies, and long-term investments. The headquarters is considered the centralized point of accountability and communication between NASA and people outside the agency.

NASA was created largely in response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik in 1957. It was organized around the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which had been created by Congress in 1915. NASA’s organization was well underway by the early years of Pres. John F. Kennedy’s administration, when Kennedy proposed that the United States put a man on the Moon by the end of the 1960s. To that end, the Apollo program was designed. Later missions explored other planets in the Solar system. NASA also launched satellites into Earth orbit and developed the space shuttle program.

Once it became obvious that space exploration was an achievable reality, it became a national priority for rich and powerful countries. Following World War II, there were only two superpowers in the world—the United States and the Soviet Union—and they considered each other enemies. Both superpowers had military, scientific, and political reasons to pursue space travel.

Outer space was a potential battlefield and provided an opportunity to spy on enemies on the other side of the world. Scientists, however, valued space travel for another reason. They wanted to gather data from space to help them unravel the mysteries of the universe. From a political standpoint, a successful space program was a source of national pride and a symbol of national superiority. This motivation above all others drove the earliest decades of space exploration.

NASA was founded following enactment of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958. The stated purpose of the act was ‘‘to provide for research into problems of flight within and outside the earth’s atmosphere, and for other purposes.’’ The act specifically mandated that NASA would be a civilian agency with control over all nonmilitary aeronautical and space activities within the United States. The research and development of weapons and national defense systems remained under the control of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). However, the act called for sharing of information between the two agencies.

The U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man on the Moon. Later unmanned programs—such as Viking, Mariner, Voyager, and Galileo—explored other bodies of the solar system.

NASA was also responsible for the development and launching of a number of satellites with Earth applications, such as Landsat , a series of satellites designed to collect information on natural resources and other Earth features; communications satellites; and weather satellites.

NASA planned and developed the space shuttle, a reusable vehicle capable of carrying out missions that cannot be conducted with conventional spacecraft.

President Eisenhower wrote Soviet premier Nikolai Bulganin and proposed that the two countries ‘‘agree that outer space should be used only for peaceful purposes.’’ Bulganin refused to agree to the proposal unless the United States ceased all nuclear weapons testing and disbanded all its military bases on foreign soil. These conditions were unacceptable to the United States. NASA started to develop technologies like satellites and rockets, which could be used for military purposes.

NASA began with approximately eight thousand employees and an annual budget of $100 million. About half of the agency’s first employees were civilian personnel working on space projects at the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. They included a rocketry team headed by Wernher von Braun. Von Braun was a German rocket scientist who moved to the United States following World War II, and he played a major role in building the U.S. rocket program at NASA.

Keith Glennan served as the agency’s first administrator. Under his direction NASA took control of the DOD’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and parts of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. NASA also took over several satellite and lunar probe programs being operated by the U.S. Air Force and the DOD’s Advanced Research Projects Agency. The military retained control over reconnaissance satellites, ballistic missiles, and a handful of other DOD space projects that were then in the research stage.

Throughout its history, NASA has been associated with spectacular feats and horrific disasters in space exploration. It has received great praise for its successes and harsh criticism for its failures. Space travel is an expensive enterprise. As a government agency, NASA is bound by federal budget constraints. This budget rises and falls according to the political climate. U.S. presidents set space goals, but Congress sets NASA’s budget.

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy charged NASA with the monumental task of putting a man on the Moon before the end of the decade. Congress allocated billions of dollars to NASA, and this goal was accomplished. Later presidents also set grand goals for the agency, but none of these were realized. Every major endeavor went over budget and fell behind schedule, the public seemed to lose interest in space travel, and Congress lacked the political motivation to increase NASA’s funding.

In 1965 NASA’s budget comprised nearly 4% of the federal budget. By 1974 this percentage was less than 1%. It has remained near this level for more than thirty years.

NASA presented to Congress a ten-year plan for the nation’s space program. It included an array of scientific satellites; robotic probes to the Moon, Mars, and Venus; development of new and powerful rockets; and manned spaceflights to orbit Earth and the Moon. NASA estimated the program would cost around $12 billion. Congress was politically motivated to support the program. The Soviet Union had already landed a probe on the Moon as part of its Luna Project.

By 1967 NASA scientists and engineers had been studying the details of a Moon landing for more than six years. NASA’s budget at the time was $4.9 billion, with about 90% of that money going to outside contractors and university research programs. In 1967 more than 307,000 people at installations around the country worked in support of the Apollo program. NASA’s employees numbered about 34,100.

NASA had a lot of work to do just to catch up with the Soviets in space. In April 1961 they had put the first human in Earth orbit. Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin circled Earth one time in a flight that lasted 1 hour and 49 minutes. It would be nearly a year before NASA could even come close to this achievement, with the flight of John Glenn in Friendship 7.

When it was first created in 1958, NASA was concerned with finishing ongoing NACA projects. These included a weather satellite, a military spy satellite, and the Pioneer lunar space probes. These probes were intended to go into lunar orbit or impact the Moon’s surface while sending back photographs and scientific data. Pioneer 4 provided NASA with valuable new radiation data needed for the ongoing Mercury project.

NASA scientists realized that they needed an intermediate step before the Apollo flights. They had to be sure that humans could survive and function in space for up to fourteen days. This was the amount of time estimated for a round trip to the Moon. The program that was designed to test human endurance in space was named the Gemini project.

A major goal of the Gemini project was to successfully rendezvous orbiting vehicles into one unit and maneuver that unit with a propulsion system. This was a feat that would be necessary to achieve the Moon landings. The last Gemini goal was to perfect atmospheric reentry of the spacecraft and perform a ground landing, rather than a landing at sea. All the goals except a ground landing were achieved.

Between 1965 and 1966 NASA completed ten Gemini missions with seventeen astronauts, who spent a total of more than forty days in space. The Gemini IV mission featured the first extravehicular activity by an American. The astronaut Edward H. White spent twenty-two minutes outside his spacecraft during a ‘‘space walk.’’ The longest duration Gemini flight (Gemini VII) took place in December 1965, lasting fourteen days.

A series of nine Ranger probes had been launched between 1961 and 1965. They were designed to flight-test lunar spacecraft, take photographs of the Moon, and collect data on radiation, magnetic fields, and solar plasma (charged gases emitted from the Sun). NASA achieved another milestone when the Surveyor 1 spacecraft made a controlled ‘‘soft landing’’ on the Moon in the Ocean of Storms. The ability to do a soft landing was considered crucial to putting a human safely on the Moon.

The first two probes in the series failed to escape Earth orbit. Ranger 3 was supposed to impact the Moon, but missed it. Ranger 4 crashed into the far side of the Moon. It was the first American object to reach another celestial body. However, its central computer had failed during the flight, so no data was transmitted. After two more failed attempts NASA finally achieved success. Ranger 7 crashed into the Moon after transmitting the first close-up photographs of the lunar surface.

Ranger 8 and Ranger 9 took hundreds of vital photographs before their impact. Nearly two hundred photographs taken by Ranger 9 were broadcast live on television as the probe hurtled toward the lunar surface.

Surveyor 1 returned a host of high-quality photographs. However, NASA was still running behind the Soviet space program. The Soviet spacecraft Luna 9 had soft-landed in the Ocean of Storms four months before Surveyor 1 got there. Luna 9 also provided the first television transmission from the lunar surface.

In all, NASA sent seven Surveyor spacecraft to the Moon between 1966 and 1968. Two lost control and crashed, whereas the remaining five achieved soft landings. Surveyor 6 was particularly successful. During its mission NASA controllers were able to lift the spacecraft off the ground and set it softly back down again. NASA was ready to put humans aboard a lunar lander.

The United States paid a high price for NASA’s Moon program. It was conducted during one of the most turbulent times in U.S. history. The 1960s were characterized by social unrest, protest, and national tragedies. In 1964 the social scientist Amitai Etzioni published The Moon-Doggle, a book that was extremely critical of NASA. The title was a play on the word boondoggle, which means a wasteful and impractical project. Etzioni criticized the agency for spending too much money on manned space flights when unmanned satellites could achieve more for less money. He also questioned the scientific value of sending astronauts to the Moon.

President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, and Vice President Johnson assumed the presidency. Johnson assured NASA that the Apollo program would continue as planned. Johnson announced that portions of the U.S. Air Force missile testing range on Merritt Island, Florida, would be designated the John F. Kennedy Space Center.

Etzioni was not alone in feeling this way. American society was increasingly concerned with pressing social and national issues, including the escalating war in Vietnam and civil rights.

NASA had achieved something that many people thought could not be done. The agency found itself heaped with praise and congratulations. Putting a man on the Moon was considered an enormous milestone in technological progress. In addition, it had been done before the end of the decade, just as President Kennedy had requested. The achievement fostered a tremendous sense of pride and confidence among NASA personnel. The agency was left with an optimistic conviction that it could do anything, an attitude that came to be known as NASA’s ‘‘can do culture.’’

NASA’s critics believe that the agency’s can-do culture caused it to make many overly optimistic promises during the following decades.

Putting a man on the Moon was conducted mostly for political purposes. Many scientists thought the Apollo program achieved far less in scientific terms than unmanned probes could have accomplished. One reason the program was so expensive was that so many resources had to be devoted to keeping fragile humans alive and safe in the harsh environment of space. Critics said this money could have been invested in robotics research and development to produce a fleet of unmanned probes and sample collectors to explore the Moon and far beyond. The debate over human exploration versus robotic exploration still goes on today.

A committee appointed by President Johnson recommended that the nation establish a well-rounded space program following Apollo with more emphasis on science and less emphasis on human exploration. NASA did conduct unmanned space flights geared toward general space biology. In 1962 the Biosatellite program began with a series of three flights designed to test the rigors of space travel on subhuman beings.Biosatellite III flew with a male pigtailed monkey named Bonnie aboard. The mission had to be ended early when Bonnie became sick. He died soon after returning to Earth.

During the early 1970s NASA wanted to build on its Apollo success with another ambitious manned space program. The agency angered many scientists when it lobbied Congress to allow it to transfer funds designated for the Biosatellite program to the manned program. This type of criticism was to plague NASA for decades to come.

Since the 1980s NASA’s reputation has suffered. Between 1986 and 2003 the agency experienced a string of failures. Four spacecraft sent to Mars were lost. A space telescope was launched into space with a faulty mirror. Worst of all, two catastrophic disasters killed fourteen astronauts. Critics complained that NASA had become overconfident, too bureaucratic, and had lost its technological edge.

NASA continued to set bold goals for the nation’s space program and promise Congress that it could achieve them, just like it had accomplished the Moon landing. The problem was that these goals did not receive nearly as much financial support as the Apollo program received. The Moon landing was possible because NASA was given the necessary resources.

The missions that followed Apollo 11 never captured the public’s imagination the same way that the first Moon landing did. The feeling was that the United States had already achieved its goal of beating the Soviet Union to the Moon, and continued lunar exploration held little appeal for many people. Furthermore, the country was engaged in a costly and demoralizing war in Vietnam.

The Skylab space station was a small scientific laboratory and solar observatory that could hold three crewmembers at a time. Three separate crews visited and lived in Skylab between May 1973 and February 1974.

Development got under way at NASA on a reusable space plane called a shuttle. This program was supposed to produce a finished product within five years, but it eventually took twice that long. The first shuttle did not launch until 1981. NASA relied on a series of space shuttles to conduct most Earth orbit operations. Throughout the early 1980s shuttles carried satellites for government, military, and commercial clients.

Between 1994 and 1998 NASA shuttles played a major role in a cooperative space venture between the United States and Russia. U.S. shuttles docked with the Russian Mir station for joint scientific missions of astronauts and cosmonauts.

In 1998 NASA achieved a public relations boost when Senator John Glenn flew into space aboard the shuttle Discovery. The seventy-seven-year-old Glenn was already a hero for his participation in the Mercury program of the early 1960s. In 1998 his space flight lasted nine days. He became the oldest person ever to travel into space. NASA scientists conducted extensive medical tests before, during, and after his flight to monitor his well-being. They were particularly eager to learn about the effects of weightlessness on an older person.

In 2004 and 2005 NASA received a huge boost in prestige with the success of its robotic missions to Mars and Saturn. This was accompanied by a declaration from President George W. Bush that NASA should set bold new goals to send crewed missions to the Moon and Mars. It remains to be seen whether Congress will fund these enterprises and whether NASA will be able to overcome the many obstacles in its path to space.

NASA made major changes to its organizational structure to streamline the agency. The reorganization was designed to eliminate the so-called stove-pipe effect, in which individual facilities and enterprises within the agency operated too independently and did not communicate well with one another or with NASA headquarters. Many critics had blamed NASA’s management structure for contributing to the Challenger and Columbia disasters. NASA’s organizational structure includes four major divisions called mission directorates: Aeronautics Research, Exploration Systems, Science and Space Operations.

Aeronautics Research is devoted to research and development of new aeronautical technologies and aviation systems. Exploration Systems is responsible for biological research and technological development to support human and robotic exploration. The Science directorate is charged with ensuring that missions are planned to reap scientific benefits, analyzing scientific data, and facilitating cross-transfer between Earth and space science findings. Space Operations is dedicated to directing launches and flight operations and related communications systems.

NASA has 10 main facilities called centers. Even though each center supports multiple projects, it is assigned a particular area of expertise for which it is supposed to build and maintain human resources, facilities, and other capabilities. NASA calls these ‘‘centers of excellence.’’

The Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC) is located at Edwards Air Force Base in Edwards, California. During the late 1940s the NACA conducted military testing of high speed experimental aircraft at the base. In 1959 the high-speed flight station at the base was designated a NASA flight research center. The DFRC is NASA’s primary installation for flight research. It also serves as a backup landing site for the space shuttle.

The Glenn Research Center (GRC) is located in Cleveland, Ohio, at Lewis Field next to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. It began in 1941 as the NACA’s Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory. The GRC researches and develops technologies in aero propulsion, aerospace power, microgravity science, electric propulsion, and communications technologies for aeronautics and space applications. Its facilities include the nearby Plum Brook Station at which large-scale testing is conducted.

The Ames Research Center (ARC) is located in Moffett Field, California. It was founded as an aeronautics research laboratory in 1939 next to a military base later named Moffett Field. The base was closed in 1994 and its facilities and runways were turned over to the ARC. The center conducts research in astrobiology, air traffic management, supercomputing, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and other areas of importance to space exploration. It also performs wind tunnel testing and flight simulations.

The Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) is located in Greenbelt, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. It was founded in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight center. The GSFC is a major laboratory for developing robotic scientific spacecraft. The center also operates the Wallops Flight Facility near Chincoteague, Virginia, and the Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia. Wallops is NASA’s principal installation for managing and implementing suborbital research programs.

The Johnson Space Center (JSC) is located in Houston, Texas. It was established in 1961 to be the focus of the manned space flight program. At that time, it was known simply as the Manned Spacecraft Center. In 1973 the center was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in honor of the late president’s support of NASA space programs. The JSC houses the program offices and mission control centers for the space shuttle and the ISS. JSC facilities are also used for astronaut training and spaceflight simulations for both of these programs.

The Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is located on Merritt Island, Florida, next to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The air force station was the site of the Mercury and Gemini launches of the early 1960s. The KSC was created specifically for the Apollo missions to the Moon. The Langley Research Center (LRC) is located in Hampton, Virginia. In 1917 it was established as the country’s first civilian aeronautics laboratory. The LRC designs and develops military and civilian aircraft, conducts atmospheric flight research, and tests structures and materials in wind tunnels and other testing facilities.

The Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) is located near Huntsville, Alabama, on the Redstone Arsenal Site. During the 1950s a team of rocketry specialists led by von Braun worked at the arsenal site developing rockets for the U.S. military. The center developed the Saturn rockets used throughout the Apollo program. The Stennis Space Center (SSC) is located in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. It was founded in 1961 as the static test facility for launch vehicles to be used in the Apollo program. It is NASA’s primary installation for testing and flight-certifying rocket propulsion systems.

There are many facilities and installations that provide support to the field centers and are either operated by NASA or under contract to NASA. These include the NASA Shared Services Center, Office of the Inspector General, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Deep Space Network and White Sands Test Facility.

Administrative functions, such as payroll, human resources, procurement, and information technology coordination, are performed at the NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC). The NSSC was launched in 2006 and is located at the SSC. It is a public-private venture between the agency, the states of Mississippi and Louisiana, and a private company. As of December 2007 it employed 361 people.

NASA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is actually a collection of offices at various field facilities. The OIG conducts audits and investigations designed to prevent fraud, crime, waste, and mismanagement and to promote efficient use of resources within the agency.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is located in Pasadena, California. This facility is owned by NASA but operated under a contractual agreement by the California Institute of Technology. The JPL began informally during the 1930s as a group of student rocket enthusiasts under the direction of Professor Theodore von Karman, the head of the university’s Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory. In 1958 the JPL was transferred from army jurisdiction to NASA.

The Deep Space Network (DSN) is an international network of antennas that enables NASA mission teams to communicate with distant spacecraft. The DSN communications complexes are situated at three locations around the world: Goldstone, California; Robledo near Madrid, Spain; and Tidbinbilla near Canberra, Australia. This placement allows the JPL operations control center to maintain constant contact with spacecraft as Earth rotates.

The White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) is located in Las Cruces, New Mexico, a remote desert location. The WSTF provides services to military and government clients. It is NASA’s primary facility for testing and evaluating rocket propulsion systems, spacecraft components, and hazardous materials used in space travel.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is a space and space technology research organization founded in 1975 from the merger of the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO) and the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO), both established in 1964. The ESA has also cooperated with NASA on many projects. Headquarters of the agency are in Paris.

Members include Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Canada signed a special cooperative agreement, which enables it to participate in some ESA projects. In addition, the ESA has agreements with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Poland to participate in some projects. Even though the ESA is independent of the European Union, it maintains close ties with the EU and the two organizations share a joint space strategy.

During the 1960s France developed the Diamant, Berenice, and Veronique launch systems. In 1965 a Diamant rocket was used to launch the first French satellite, Asterix, into orbit. By the end of the 1970s France had developed what would become the primary launch vehicle for European spacecraft: the Ariane rocket.

Following World War II, France engaged in rocket research and development with the help of German engineers and scientists who had developed the V series of rockets. This work largely took place in Vernon, France. The French government established a space launch facility at Kourou in the French overseas territory of Guiana in northern South America. Because of its nearness to the equator, Kourou is an ideal location from which to launch satellites into geostationary transfer orbit.

In 2003 the ESA launched the first European mission to the Moon. SMART-1 assumed orbit in November 2004 and began investigating the lunar surface. On September 3, 2006, the spacecraft was purposely crashed into the Moon at the Lake of Excellence. SMART-1 gathered data on the morphology and mineralogical composition of the lunar surface.

In 2003 the ESA began participating in Double Star, the first Sino-European space mission. This joint effort with the China National Space Administration investigated physical processes occurring in Earth’s magnetic environment. It included two satellites, Double Star 1 and Double Star 2, which were launched aboard Chinese Long March 2C rockets in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Originally intended for a six-month mission, the spacecraft were viable for more than three years.

Within four years of the launch of the first U.S. and Soviet satellites—the government of France created a space agency, the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), which became the largest national organization of its kind in Europe. Gradually, other European countries formed government or government-sponsored organizations for space, among them the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the British National Space Centre (BNSC), and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). Still others included space as part of their science or technology ministries.

The ESA is a partner in the ISS program. The agency developed the data management system for the Russian segment launched in 2000. The ESA also constructed the Harmony connecting module. Harmony was delivered to the ISS aboard the U.S. space shuttle in October 2007.

Representatives of ESA’s member nations form the agency’s policy-making council. A science program committee established by convention deals with matters related to the mandatory science program; other such bodies may be formed by the council to assist in decision making. The chief executive and legal representative of the ESA is the director general, assisted by an inspector general and the directors of various departments.

The European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), located in Noordwijk, Netherlands, houses the satellite project teams and testing facilities and is the agency’s main space science and technological research centre. The European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), located in Darmstadt, Germany, is concerned with satellite control, monitoring, and data retrieval. The European Space Research Institute (ESRIN), located in Frascati, Italy, supports the ESA Information Retrieval Service and the Earthnet program, the system by which remote sensing images are retrieved and distributed.

The European Astronaut Centre (EAC), located in Cologne, Germany, is a training centre, and the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC), located in Villafranca del Castillo, Madrid, Spain, which holds scientific operations centres as well as archives. The ESA also operates the Guiana Space Centre (CSG), a launch base in French Guiana.

Each member state funds mandatory ESA activities based on that country’s gross national product (the total value of goods and services produced by a country over a particular period of time).

Mandatory activities include space science programs and the agency’s general budget. In addition, the ESA operates optional projects in which countries may choose to participate and fund.

In contrast to the United States, the Soviet Union had no separate, publicly acknowledged space agency. For 35 years after Sputnik, various design bureaus—state-controlled organizations that actually conceived and developed aircraft and space systems—had great influence within the Soviet system. After 1965, the government’s Ministry of General Machine Building was assigned responsibility for managing all Soviet space and missile programs.

Rivalry between those bureaus and their heads, who were known as chief designers, was a constant reality and posed an obstacle to a coherent Soviet space program. Space policy decisions were made by the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, as well as the Soviet government’s Council of Ministers.

The Ministry of Defense was also quite influential in shaping space efforts. A separate military branch, the Strategic Missile Forces, was in charge of space launchers and strategic missiles. Various institutes of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, particularly the Institute for Space Research (IKI), proposed and managed scientific missions.

Sergei Korolev is considered the founder of the Soviet space program. Korolev was born in Zhitomir, a town in what is now Ukraine. An engineer and aviator who began building rockets in the 1930s, he founded the rocket organization Gruppa Isutcheniya Reaktivnogo Dvizheniya (Group for Investigation of Reactive Motion). Following World War II the government appointed him to develop Soviet missile systems.

Only after the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. did Russia create a civilian organization for space activities. Formed in 1992, the Russian Space Agency acted as a central focus for the country’s space policy and programs. It later was renamed the Russian Federal Space Agency, or Roscosmos.

Although it began as a small organization that dealt with international contacts and the setting of space policies, it quickly took on increasing responsibility for the management of non military space activities and, as an added charge, aviation efforts.

Russia and the United States began a new era of cooperation in space. In 1993 the two countries agreed to work together to build an International Space Station (ISS). Between 1994 and 1998 U.S. shuttles transported astronauts and cosmonauts to the Mir station. In 1998 ISS construction began when the Russians placed the first module (Zarya) into orbit.

Roscosmos controls all the country’s nonmilitary space flights. Military space ventures are controlled by Russia’s Military Space Forces (VKS). The two agencies share control of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City. The Plesetsk Cosmodrome launch facility in northern Russia is under the control of the VKS.

Even though the Soviet space program had an active space science program, budget constraints have severely restricted the scope of Roscosmos’s endeavors in this area. Nevertheless the agency developed a number of different science programs such as solar observatories or Earth observing satellites.

In 1994 the agency cooperated with international partners to launch CORONAS-I, the first of three planned solar observatories. The second component, CORONAS-F, was launched in 2001. The third satellite, CORONAS-Photon, was scheduled for launch in 2009, but was lost.

Roscosmos has also launched several small Earth-observing satellites in recent years, including Monitor-E in 2005 and Resurs-DK1 in 2006. The agency’s Foton program features small satellites carrying recoverable experiment capsules. The payloads are put into Earth orbit for short periods of time (typically less than two weeks) and are recovered for scientific assessment after they return to Earth.

In Japan, the University of Tokyo created an Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) in 1964. In 1981, oversight of ISAS was transferred to the Japanese Ministry of Education. In 1969, the Japanese government founded a National Space Development Agency (NASDA), which subsequently undertook a comprehensive program of space technology and satellite development and built a large launch vehicle—called the H-II—for those satellites. In 2003, ISAS, NASDA, and the National Aerospace Laboratory were merged into a new organization, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

ISAS undertook the development of scientific spacecraft and the vehicles needed to launch them. It launched Japan’s first satellite, Ōsumi, in 1970.

In 2001, both ISAS and NASDA came under the control of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

China’s space program evolved largely in secret, under the joint control of the Chinese military and the Commission on Science, Technology, and Industry for the National Defense. In 1993, the Ministry of Aerospace Industry was split into an independent Chinese Aerospace Corporation to oversee most Chinese space-equipment manufacturers and the China National Space Administration, which is the Chinese space agency.

After the communist takeover of 1949, Qian Xuesen returned to China, where he became the guiding figure in the development of Chinese missiles and launch vehicles—both originally derived from a Soviet ICBM.

China developed a family of Long March boosters, which are used domestically and serve as competitors in the international commercial space launch market. Its space development has concentrated on applications, such as communications satellites and Earth-observation satellites for civilian and military use.

The United Nations General Assembly established a Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in 1959 to discuss scientific, technical, and legal issues related to international space activities. Sixty-one countries were members of the committee by 2001. Other parts of the UN system, most notably the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), are engaged in space-related concerns. At the initiative of the United States, an International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (Intelsat) was founded in 1964 to develop and operate a global system of communications satellites.

The UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space has provided the forum for the development of five treaties and a number of declarations of principles related to space activities. The most important of them is the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

By 1969, Intelsat had established a system of satellites with global coverage. In the late 1980s, it provided services to more than 200 countries and territories. A decision was made in 1999 to change the ownership of the organization from national governments to the private sector.

The International Maritime Satellite Organization (Inmarsat), was established as an intergovernmental organization in 1979 to supply maritime and other mobile communications services via satellite. It also was later transformed into a privately owned entity. In addition, a number of regional organizations have been created to operate communication and meteorological satellites.

The Planetary Society is a private non-profit space advocacy group based in Pasadena, California. It was founded in 1980 by the scientists Carl Sagan, Bruce C. Murray, and Louis Dill Friedman. The society’s stated purpose is: ‘‘The Planetary Society creates ways for the public to have active roles in space exploration. We develop innovative technologies, like the first solar sail spacecraft, we fund astronomers hunting for hazardous asteroids and planets orbiting other stars, we support radio and optical searches for extraterrestrial life, and we influence decision makers, ensuring the future of space exploration.’’

The society funds projects that support its goals and educate the public about space travel. It also encourages its members and the public to contact government leaders regarding space exploration projects. During the 1980s the society waged a campaign to encourage Congress to restore funding for NASA’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project. In the early 1990s the battle was over NASA’s planned postponement of the Mars Observer mission. In late 2003 and early 2004 Planetary Society members sent thousands of postcards to congressional leaders to protest funding cuts for NASA’s planned mission to Pluto.

In 1999 the society started the SETI @ home project in which private citizens could allow their home computers to be used to analyze data recorded by a giant radio telescope as part of SETI. By the time the SETI @- home project ended in December 2005, more than five million people had participated. The project was turned over to the University of California at Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory, which operates it under the Berkeley Online Infrastructure for Network Computing.

In 2005, the Planetary Society launched its first spacecraft, Cosmos 1, to test a solar sail in orbit around Earth. A solar sail is a novel technology that could power spaceflight in the future. It is composed of giant ultra thin silvery blades that unfurl after launch to reflect sunlight. The electromagnetic radiation of sunlight exerts force on the objects on which it shines. This force is fairly strong in outer space due to the absence of atmospheric friction, and it could potentially push a solar sail in much the same way that the wind pushes sailing ships on Earth’s oceans.

Cosmos 1 was built in Russia with funding and technical support from the Planetary Society. Cosmos 1 was lost soon after launch when its Russian supplied Volna rocket failed to fire properly.

Commercial enterprises have played an important role in space exploration through the decades. Government and military space programs would not have been possible without the contributions of labor and technology from companies in the aerospace business and related fields. Communication corporations were among the first to see the potential of satellites to grow and revolutionize their businesses. Demand for satellite launches from the commercial sector helped fund and drive many advances in rocket science and launch technology. The 1990s also witnessed the first space tourists.

For decades satellites could only be launched at state operated facilities. The 1990s witnessed the birth of commercial satellite launching organizations in several countries. One of the most unusual is the Sea Launch Company. The company formed in 1995 and included U.S., Russian, Ukrainian, and Norwegian companies engaged in the aerospace business. The consortium modified an ocean oil-drilling platform into a rocket launch platform and placed it in the middle of the Pacific Ocean along the equator.

Roscosmos allowed private citizens to visit the space station Mir and the ISS for fees ranging from $15 million to $30 million per tourist. Most of the trips were arranged through the private U.S. company Space Adventures. Formed in 1998 by the aerospace engineer Peter H. Diamandis, the company offers customers opportunities in space tourism and related entertainment areas, such as ‘‘zero gravity’’ experiences. The demand by private citizens for space travel is expected to grow substantially during the twenty first century.

In 2004 a major milestone in space exploration was achieved when the first nongovernmental manned spacecraft traveled to space and back. The spacecraft was called SpaceShipOne, and it was funded by the private investor Paul G. Allen, the cofounder of the Microsoft Corporation. In 2001 Allen contracted the California design firm Scaled Composites to develop a reusable space vehicle capable of carrying at least one passenger to suborbital space.

Aside from re-engaging the public’s interest and passion in space exploration, Allen and SpaceShipOne set out to win the Ansari X Prize. This prize was offered by a group of private investors called the X Prize Foundation, which was created by Peter Diamandis.

On June 21, 2004, the test pilot Mike Melvill of Scaled Composites became the first person to pilot a privately built plane into space when he took SpaceShipOne to an altitude of 62.2 miles during a test flight. On September 29, 2004, he achieved an altitude of 63.9 miles. Only five days later the pilot Brian Binnie took the same plane to an altitude of 69.6 miles to win the Ansari X Prize. The flights were conducted from an airstrip in Mojave, California.