NASA’s Space Program: Engaging & Educating the public through Buttons
Since its formation on July 29, 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, better known as NASA, has worked to advance the world’s understanding of space exploration and aeronautics research. Serving as a government agency of the United States, NASA works to understand not just the Earth but also the entirety of the universe around us. To serve its mission, NASA has worked tirelessly to both engage with and educate the general public on the work that they do. Throughout their history, NASA has used numerous types of resources to allow their work to spread. Examples include televising the 1969 Apollo 11 moon flight live, publishing a vast array of academic papers, and also putting their likeness on items such as clothing and buttons. In the case of buttons, NASA has issued buttons for many of their space flights. These buttons often featured the many missions that NASA conducted as well as the brave men and women who worked to see these missions through. Through promoting their accomplishments on buttons, NASA has brought their work to a larger audience, thus keeping with their mission of educating the general public
John Glenn became the first person to orbit the earth
Glenn climbs into the Friendship 7 capsule
On February 20th 1962, as part of Project Mercury, John Glenn became the first person to orbit the Earth and the third American in space. Glenn was born in Cambridge, Ohio and had previously been a pilot in the navy and air force. His spacecraft was nicknamed the “Friendship 7” and his mission lasted 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds. After orbiting the Earth several times, Glenn reentered the Earth’s atmosphere and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda, where a United States Navy destroyer called the Noa recovered him and his spacecraft. Glenn became a national hero upon his return and numerous schools and streets were named after him. Col. Glenn’s likeness was spotlighted on a variety of different buttons in his honor. These buttons capitalized on both Project Mercury Glenn and Col. Glenn’s hard work. Upon completing his mission, John Glenn later became a United States Senator representing Ohio.
Scott Carpenter became the second American to orbit the Earth
Soon after Glenn’s historic flight, Scott Carpenter became the second American to orbit the Earth. On May 24, 1962 Carpenter was launched into space aboard the Aurora 7 space capsule. He was the first person to eat solid food in outer space. Upon reentering Earth’s orbit, his spacecraft went off course and he ended up being picked up by a U.S. naval vessel aboard a life raft 40 minutes after his vessel landed in the Atlantic. As was the case with Colonel Glenn, Scott Carpenter was hailed as a hero upon returning to Earth, and was featured on a variety of clothing items and buttons. Carpenter later became an aquanaut (or person who lives, swims, and works underwater) for the United States Navy SEALAB program.
“Lift-off was unmistakable,” said Scott Carpenter who
was boosted to space atop an Atlas rocket for his three
orbits of the Earth. Credits: NASA
Gemini 2 became the first Gemini mission to feature a manned spaceflight
Gemini III Credits: NASA
After two unmanned flights known as Gemini 1 and 2, Gemini 2 became the first Gemini mission to feature a manned spaceflight. Gemini 3 was nicknamed "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" or just plain "Molly Brown", after a popular Broadway show of the time period. The nickname was coined by the mission's pilot, Gus Grissom, who was accompanied on the flight by John Young. On March 23, 1965 the Molly Brown was launched from Cape Canaveral, went into orbit, and became the first spacecraft to change its orbit. The crew performed radiation and cell growth experiments while in orbit. Later that day, the vessel landed in the Atlantic Ocean and was recovered by the USS Intrepid.
June 3, 1965 America's First Spacewalk Credits: NASA
Apollo 8 became the first Apollo spacecraft piloted by humans
The famous 'Earthrise' photo from Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon. The crew entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts held a live broadcast, showing pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft. Credits: NASA
On Oct 11-22, 1968 Apollo 8 became the first Apollo spacecraft piloted by humans. Apollo 8 was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on December 21, 1968. The participants in the mission were: Frank Borman who was the mission commander, James Lovell who was the pilot of the command module, and William Anders who pilot of the lunar module. Apollo 8 helped prepare NASA for the Apollo 11 mission by testing the flight trajectories and various operations necessary for getting astronauts to the moon and back. The crew was also able to photograph the moon’s surface in order to pave the way for an eventual lunar landing. Their spacecraft orbited the Moon 8 times before beginning it descent back to Earth. The mission featured the first live TV coverage of the lunar surface, the first use of a Saturn V rocket, as well as the first pictures taken of Earth from deep space by humans. The spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on December 27, 1968 where the U.S. Navy recovered it.
Apollo 11 became the first manned mission to land on the Moon
Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong working at an equipment storage area on the lunar module. This is one of the
few photos that show Armstrong during the moonwalk. Credits: NASA
Space Shuttle Program
Voyager II Credits: NASA
On Jan. 5 1972, NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher announced plans for a space shuttle program. The space shuttle program ushered NASA into a new era of utilizing reusable spacecraft. In 1977 NASA launched Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, two unmanned spacecraft that combined have explored all of the outer planets, their moons, and beyond. Voyager 2 was launched on August 20, 1977. The vessel contains a golden phonographic record that contains greetings in 55 languages, sounds, and images meant to portray life on earth if it were to meet extraterrestrial life forms. The spacecraft's primary mission was to transmit data related to Jupiter and Saturn. Later on the mission was extended to provide data on Uranus and Neptune and eventually extended to provide data on the edge of the solar system and beyond. Voyager 2 reached Jupiter in 1979 and Saturn in 1981. By 1986 Voyager 2 had reached Uranus, while in 1989 it had reached Neptune. The spacecraft is currently in the outer reaches of the solar system.
The Space Shuttle Challenger, atop a mobile launch platform, slowly moves through the Florida fog to Launch Pad 39A in preparation for its first liftoff on the STS-6 mission. The fully assembled Shuttle, weighting 12,000 pounds less than predecessor Columbia, completed the trip to the pad in just over six hours on Nov. 30, 1982. Credits: NASA
How buttons keep NASA’s mission alive
To see all of the Button Museum's space buttons: http://buttonmuseum.org/button-tags/space
Launius, R. D. (1999) NASA History and the Challenge of Keeping the Contemporary Past. The Public Historian. Vol. 21 (3), Pgs. 63-81. Retrieved from http://tph.ucpress.edu/content/21/3/63
NASA History. NASA. Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/topics/history/index.html
Research and text by Adam Prestigiacomo & Jacob Spitz