S103 - The U.S. Space Program

International Space Station The U.S. space program was bootstrapped quickly in the 1950s because of a Soviet satellite called Sputnik. It was widespread fear of the Soviet Union dominating space that made Congress fund the space program with as many dollars as necessary. Soviet Premier Khrushchev announced at the United Nations that he'd “bury us”, so the fear was well-founded. That near-unlimited funding continued into the 1960s as President John F. Kennedy said we'd go to the Moon.

We did go to the moon several times and we launched numerous space probes to explore the planets in our Solar System. Two of those space probes (Voyager 1 and 2) have recently left the Solar System and are now in interstellar space - still communicating with us over 40 years later.

It's the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that runs our space program. The U.S. position as the top dog in space is being challenged because funding is far from unlimited these days. When we launched the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, there was inadequate funding for it, so the European Space Agency (ESA) became our partner. NASA partners with other countries, companies, and organizations frequently.

These materials cover the events, the hardware, the people, and the technology of space but we never stray far from the funding issues.

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