NASA began in 1958, under the direction of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the attempted matching of the success of the Russians in launching a satellite just the year previous. Given the vision "to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind," the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has only grown from their humble but ambitious beginnings.
It is difficult to argue that the height of NASA's public presence wasn't during the Kennedy presidency. President John F. Kennedy, in a historic effort to catalyze the patriotism just beneath the surface of many Americans, directed their and NASA's attention toward the Moon.
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.During this point, however, NASA was not only working on making their pipe dream a resounding success. It was one of the pioneers of early communications and weather satellites, conducting enormous amounts of research into our own planet while they sought for the stars.
But it was not all about us. Post-Apollo NASA realized that to make space travel more economical a reusable aircraft could cut into the costs greatly, and with that the space shuttle was born, one of the most important innovations for NASA from the beginning, allowing for 130 consecutive successful missions before its retirement in 2011. It was an important part of transportation to the International Space Station along with Russian Soyuz rockets, which are now the sole means of transport to the ISS.