Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
NASA logo.svg
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Aerial view 2010 facing south.jpg
Aerial view of Goddard Space Flight Center (2010)
Agency overview
FormedMarch 1, 1959
Preceding agency
  • Beltsville Space Center
JurisdictionFederal government of the United States
HeadquartersGreenbelt, Maryland, U.S.
Employees10,000 civil service and contractor
Agency executives
Parent agencyNASA
Child agencies
Websitewww.nasa.gov/goddard
Map
Gsfc-campus.png
Goddard map

The Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) is a major NASA space research laboratory located approximately 6.5 miles (10.5 km) northeast of Washington, D.C. in unincorporated Prince George's County, Maryland, United States. Established on May 1, 1959 as NASA's first space flight center, GSFC employs approximately 10,000 civil servants and contractors. It is one of ten major NASA field centers, named in recognition of American rocket propulsion pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard. GSFC is partially within the former Goddard census-designated place; it has a Greenbelt mailing address.[1][2]

GSFC is the largest combined organization of scientists and engineers in the United States dedicated to increasing knowledge of the Earth, the Solar System, and the Universe via observations from space. GSFC is a major US laboratory for developing and operating unmanned scientific spacecraft. GSFC conducts scientific investigation, development and operation of space systems, and development of related technologies. Goddard scientists can develop and support a mission, and Goddard engineers and technicians can design and build the spacecraft for that mission. Goddard scientist John C. Mather shared the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on COBE.

GSFC also operates two spaceflight tracking and data acquisition networks (the Space Network and the Near Earth Network), develops and maintains advanced space and Earth science data information systems, and develops satellite systems for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

GSFC manages operations for many NASA and international missions including the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the Explorers Program, the Discovery Program, the Earth Observing System (EOS), INTEGRAL, MAVEN, OSIRIS-REx, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), and Swift. Past missions managed by GSFC include the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE), Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, SMM, COBE, IUE, and ROSAT. Typically, unmanned earth observation missions and observatories in Earth orbit are managed by GSFC,[citation needed] while unmanned planetary missions are managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.[citation needed]

History

Goddard 50th anniversary logo

Goddard is NASA's first, and oldest, space center. Its original charter was to perform five major functions on behalf of NASA: technology development and fabrication, planning, scientific research, technical operations, and project management. The center is organized into several directorates, each charged with one of these key functions.

Until May 1, 1959, NASA's presence in Greenbelt, Maryland was known as the Beltsville Space Center. It was then renamed the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), after Dr. Robert H. Goddard. Its first 157 employees transferred from the United States Navy's Project Vanguard missile program, but continued their work at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., while the center was under construction.

Goddard Space Flight Center contributed to Project Mercury, America's first manned space flight program. The Center assumed a lead role for the project in its early days and managed the first 250 employees involved in the effort, who were stationed at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. However, the size and scope of Project Mercury soon prompted NASA to build a new Manned Spacecraft Center, now the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas. Project Mercury's personnel and activities were transferred there in 1961.

The Goddard network (STDN) tracked many early manned and unmanned spacecraft.

Goddard Space Flight Center remained involved in the manned space flight program, providing computer support and radar tracking of flights through a worldwide network of ground stations called the Spacecraft Tracking and Data Acquisition Network (STDN). However, the Center focused primarily on designing unmanned satellites and spacecraft for scientific research missions. Goddard pioneered several fields of spacecraft development, including modular spacecraft design, which reduced costs and made it possible to repair satellites in orbit. Goddard's Solar Max satellite, launched in 1980, was repaired by astronauts on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984. The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990, remains in service and continues to grow in capability thanks to its modular design and multiple servicing missions by the Space Shuttle.

Today, the center remains involved in each of NASA's key programs. Goddard has developed more instruments for planetary exploration than any other organization, among them scientific instruments sent to every planet in the Solar System.[3] The Center's contribution to the Earth Science Enterprise includes several spacecraft in the Earth Observing System fleet as well as EOSDIS, a science data collection, processing, and distribution system. For the manned space flight program, Goddard develops tools for use by astronauts during extra-vehicular activity, and operates the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft designed to study the Moon in preparation for future manned exploration.

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