Oct. 1, 2020, marks the 62nd birthday of the National Aeronautics and Space Agency, or NASA. The agency was founded in 1958, the same year President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act and one year after the Soviets launched Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite. NASA was designed from the start to push the bounds of space exploration with research into aerospace and aeronautics as well as with a civilian space program.
From putting footprints on the moon in 1969, to launching satellites into space in 1972 to take images of the Earth’s surface, to a proposed 2020 mission to gather samples from Mars, NASA continues to expand our understanding of the vastness of space and change the way we perceive our solar system (and all that lays beyond it). NASA has gathered unimaginable footage, created first-hand accounts of space, and fostered cutting-edge research. Through the creation of new technologies and procedures, NASA created a foundation of ideas that were previously only theories.
As the agency unrelentingly forged a path toward astronomical discovery, NASA also invented a number of technologies that we use in our everyday lives. These include artificial limbs, LASIK surgery, improved water filtration, camera phones, freeze-dried foods, memory foam, LED lights, and even the Dust Buster. In fact, it was a NASA scientist who invented the Super Soaker squirt gun. In honor of NASA’s birthday, Stacker has compiled a list of key astronomy and astrophysics terms from a variety of authoritative science communication sources, including Crash Course: Astronomy, How Stuff Works, and International Comet Quarterly. Keep reading to learn the terms that are commonly used in this fascinating field.
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