NASA may be the best known of the world's space agencies –
it isn't the only player in town. Here is a quick look at
the top seven agencys.
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Formed on October 1, 1958 as a result of the Sputnik crisis
of confidence, NASA inherited the earlier National Advisory
Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and other government organizations,
and almost immediately began working on options for human
space flight. NASA’s first high profile program was
Project Mercury, an effort to learn if humans could survive
in space, followed by Project Gemini, which built upon Mercury’s
successes and used spacecraft built for two astronauts. NASA’s
human space flight efforts then extended to the Moon with
Project Apollo, culminating in 1969 when the Apollo 11 mission
first put humans on the lunar surface. After the Skylab and
Apollo-Soyuz Test Projects of the early and mid-1970s, NASA’s
human space flight efforts again resumed in 1981, with the
Space Shuttle program that continues today to help build the
International Space Station.
Space Agency (ESA)
Headquartered in Paris, the European Space Agency is Europe’s
gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development
of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment
in space continues to deliver benefits to the people of Europe.
ESA has 15 Member States: Austria, Belgium,
Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands,
Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United
Kingdom. Canada has special status and participates in some
projects under a cooperation agreement.
Space Agency (CSA)
Established in 1989 and headquartered in Quebec, the CSA contributes
to the development of the Canadian civil space industry by
procuring business opportunities to local companies, namely
contracts from foreign agencies such as the ESA and NASA.
Although the Canadians entered the space race
with the launch of Alouette-1 in 1962, they are probably best
known for their robotic arms Canadarm (onboard the Shuttle)
and Canadarm2 (part of the ISS.)
Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation (RSC Energia)
Established in 1946 and based in Moscow, RSC Energia is a
leader in the Russian rocket and space industry. With Energia's
launch of the Sputnik satellite on October 4, 1957, the Soviet
Union stunned the world, started the Space Age, and ignited
the "space race" with the United States. Almost
all the early space "firsts" were made by the Soviets,
including the first intercontinental missile, first satellite,
first robotic spacecraft to the Moon, first man in space,
first woman in space, and the first spacewalk. Their automated
lunar spacecraft even returned Moon samples to Earth.
Energia was the prime contractor for the long
lived MIR space station launched in 1986. Mir circled the
Earth for more than 15 years before the 140 ton spacecraft
was finally abandoned and "de-orbited" in 2001.
Today, Energia continues its work in space with critical support
to the ISS.
für Luft - und Raumfahrt (DLR)
As Germany's space agency, DLR manages the country's space
activities including Germany's independent projects and their
partnership with the ESA.
National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES)
Founded in 1961, the CNES was formed to enable France to autonomously
develop an independent means of access to space. This challenge
became the driving force behind construction of the French
Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA)
Established in 1969 and headquartered in Tsukuba Science City,
NASDA leads the Japanese space program. NASDA's current projects
include an astronaut program, ISS support (such as the KIBO
laboratory) and a robust commercial satellite launch program.