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NASA: see National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationNational Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA), civilian agency of the U.S. federal government with the mission of conducting research and developing operational programs in the areas of space exploration, artificial satellites (see satellite, artificial), rocketry, and
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NASA (nass -ă) Abbrev. for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The US civilian government agency that is responsible for all nonmilitary aspects of the US space program. It was formed in Oct. 1958, largely in response to the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik 1 in the previous year, and was given the task of researching and developing the equipment and activities involved in space exploration. NASA's headquarters are in Washington, DC, and it operates several field centers and other facilities. Chief among these are the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Ames Research Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, Kennedy Space Center, Johnson Space Center, and the Deep Space Network. Other facilities include the Langley Research Center (Hampton, Virginia), the Marshall Space Flight Center (Huntsville, Alabama), and the John C. Stennis Space Center (near Starkville, Mississippi). NASA's current organizational structure is headed by an Administrator and Deputy Administrator, to whom the agency's other departments are responsible. These departments consist of four Mission Directorates: Aeronautics Research (concerned with the research and development of technologies for safe, reliable, and efficient aviation systems); Exploration Systems (concerned with developing the research and technology needed to enable sustainable and affordable human and robotic exploration of space); Space Operations (which directs all the agency's space launches, spaceflight operations and space communications); and Science (which is responsible for organizing and carrying out the scientific exploration of the Earth, the Solar System and beyond and reaping the rewards of Earth and space exploration for society). NASA's space activities currently fall into a series of long-term programs; for example, its Discovery program seeks to unlock the mysteries of the Solar System by means of low-cost exploration missions, while the Origins program focuses on observations of the earliest stars and galaxies, the search for planets around other stars, and the search for life elsewhere in the universe. NASA collaborates on projects with the European Space Agency (ESA) and with individual countries. One major focus of its international efforts is the International Space Station. NASA funds and maintains the Astrophysics Data System and offers a satellite launcher service to other countries. See also space shuttle.