The NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2009 and looked to another successful 50 years with new projects of scientific importance. The United State’s Navy opened the facility in 1959 to aid with the new priority of manned space flight. It was ultimately named the Goddard Space Flight Center after the father of modern rocketry, Dr. Robert H. Goddard.
Over the course of time, Goddard has been essential to the exploration of space and the Earth by developing a series of satellites and new technologies. The center has become a focal point for NASA’s programs and its ongoing missions.
Above: Goddard Space Flight Center. (Supplied by NASA; Public Domain; https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/12/Goddard_aerial.gif)
Beginning in 1960, Goddard began to launch a variety of satellites into orbit. Among these were the Television Infrared Observation Satellite, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and the Cosmic Background Explorer.
During Project Mercury, Goddard built a world-wide network of ground stations to provide computer and radar support. This network is called the Spacecraft Tracking and Data acquisition Network.
The 1970s, saw the concept of modular spacecraft design pioneered by the Goddard Space Flight Center. This made it possible to repair satellites while in orbit. One of the greatest examples of this was the Solar Max satellite, launched in 1980. In 1984, the Space Shuttle Challenger was able to repair the satellite.
Above right: Solar Max. (Supplied by NASA; Public Domain; https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/23/Smm.jpg)
Current and Future Programs
One of the most successful programs for NASA is the Landsat series of satellites. The present version, Landsat-7, is paramount in acquiring images of Earth. It also operates the Earth Observing System, which studies the earth, oceans and atmosphere. The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite provides constant environmental data and weather forecasting.
The most famous project from Goddard is the Hubble Space Telescope, recently refurbished in orbit and ready for a few more years of remarkable observations. The center worked with the European Space Agency, which supplied staff and solar cells, and the Marshall Space Flight Center, which designed and built the satellite, to make the project come to fruition. Goddard’s main responsibility was to control the scientific instruments and offer ground control. The Hubble was carried into orbit in April 1990 and despite a series of repairs, has successfully sent over 140,000 images of celestial objects and phenomena back to the Earth.
Launched on June 18, 2009, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is the first mission to the moon in ten years. The orbiter is designed to make a 3D map of the moon’s surface as well as perform preliminary work on searching for a site for a new manned mission.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory was launched in February 2010. Its five-year mission will address the need for greater scientific understanding of the Sun-Earth system.
Planned for a launch in 2013, the James Webb Space Telescope is planned to be the successor to the Hubble. It will be an infrared space observatory designed to explore the history of the universe by observing distant objects beyond the reach of present technology.
Above left: Hubble Space Telescope. (Supplied by NASA; Public Domain; https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3f/HST-SM4.jpeg)
Above right: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Supplied by NASA; Public Domain; https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/06/LRO_2006.jpg)
Above: Goddard 50th Anniversary. (Supplied by NASA; Public Domain; https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/78/Goddard-50.PNG)
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (https://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/home/index.html)