World’s top space agencies
Outer space has always fascinated humans, with a thirst to know about what is beyond the earth’s atmosphere, what is unfathomable to us. Almost every nation has its space agency and research centres, but only a few of them do intense research and maintain high standards. Let us look at the major space agencies in the world.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
NASA is an autonomous agency of the United States federal government. According to its official website, NASA is responsible for civilian space programmes, aeronautics and aerospace research in the United States. Its space exploration efforts include the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and the Space Shuttle.
According to NASA’s official website, the agency is now supporting the International Space Station and oversees the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the Space Launch System and Commercial Crew vehicles. NASA has also undertaken the Launch Services Program (LSP), which deals with the countdown management and launch operations for unmanned NASA launches.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was set up in 1969 with the vision of making India self-sufficient in space exploration. According to the ISRO’s official website, Aryabhata, the first satellite of ISRO, was launched by the Soviet Union in 1975. In 1980, Rohini became the first satellite to be placed in orbit by an Indian-made launch vehicle. The launch vehicle was called Satellite Launch Vehicle 3 (SLV-3).
The ISRO launches various space missions for different purposes. The Indian National Satellite System (INSAT) is meant for telecommunication, television broadcasting, disaster warning, meteorology, etc. The Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites are used for monitoring and management of resources.
China National Space Administration
The China National Space Administration is China’s national agency that coordinates its space activities. According to Britannica, it was founded in 1993. China’s space programme evolved largely in secret under the joint control of the Chinese military and the Commission on Science, Technology, and Industry for the National Defence.
European Space Agency
The European Space Agency (ESA) was founded in 1975 through the merger of the European Launcher Development Organisation and the European Space Research Organisation, both established in 1964.
The ESA’s space programmes are designed to attain more information about the Earth and its space environment, the solar system, and the Universe. The European Space Agency’s objectives include developing satellite-based technologies and services and promoting European industries. It has also collaborated with space missions of different space agencies.
Russian Federal Space Agency
The Russian Federal Space Agency, known as Roscosmos, was formed on September 30, 1992. Its major objectives are to carry out the space-policy guidelines of the Russian government. According to Britannica, the agency coordinates and governs the implementation of the federal space programme and manages the property of the state in the space infrastructure.
Roscosmos was authorised to manage the development of the aviation industry in 1999. However, in 2004, the reform of federal bodies by President Vladimir Putin cancelled this responsibility.
Roscosmos is one of the major collaborators in the International Space Station (ISS). There is always the presence of at least one Russian cosmonaut on the ISS.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is in charge of space exploration research and aviation research. It is headquartered in Tokyo. JAXA was established in October 2003 by merging the National Space Development Agency, the Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science, and the National Aeronautics Laboratory. JAXA functions as the space agency of Japan, to implement a range of activities covering basic research, development and utilisation.
German Aerospace Centre
The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) is responsible for research in aeronautics and space in Germany. It is headquartered in Cologne and has multiple locations throughout Germany. The DLR carries out various research and development projects with national and international partnerships. It is responsible for organising and executing the German space programme. The DLR collaborates in the technical and organisational implementation of projects funded by German federal ministries. The agency collaborates with around 55 research institutes.
The Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) is an American aerospace company set up in 2002. It was a new beginning in commercial spaceflight. SpaceX, headquartered in Hawthorne, California, according to Britannica, is the first private company to have launched and successfully returned a spacecraft from the Earth’s orbit. It was also the first company to launch a crewed spacecraft and dock it with the International Space Station (ISS).
SpaceX according to Britannica, was founded by Elon Musk, whose vision is to revolutionise the aerospace industry and create affordable spaceflight.
Space agencies have an important role to play in this modern world. Space explorations led by different agencies have expanded our knowledge of the universe using various technologies. Space technologies help us in improving weather forecasts, communications and in making life better on earth.
Now put on your thinking hats and think about the following questions for a couple of minutes.
How would you describe the term “space agency” to your students?
Can you think of how space agencies helped in expanding our knowledge about the mysteries of the Universe?
Write down your thoughts and discuss them with your students, children, and your colleagues. Listen to their views and compare them with your own. As you listen to others, note how similar or different your views are to others’.
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