[ nas-uh ]
/ ˈnæs ə /
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National Aeronautics and Space Administration: the federal agency that institutes and administers the civilian programs of the U.S. government that deal with aeronautical research and the development of launch vehicles and spacecraft.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is NASA?

NASA is short for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, a civilian agency of the United States government that specializes in space exploration and research about flight and aircraft.

Aeronautics is the science of flight. Although NASA is most known for space travel and research, it also researches things like supersonic flight, energy-efficient aircraft, and drones.

Over the years, NASA has advanced space exploration and made many contributions to science. Its notable programs and missions have included astronaut moon landings, Mars rovers, satellites around planets, and interstellar telescopes.

One of NASA’s earliest and most famous programs was the Apollo program, which put the first person on the moon on July 20, 1969.

NASA runs numerous missions and programs at its facilities across the United States.

Why is NASA important?

NASA was created when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law on  July 29, 1958. The U.S. Congress had started exploring the idea of NASA in 1957, after the Soviet Union launched the world’s first space satellite, Sputnik I, that year. That began what became known as the “space race,” involving the Cold War rivals racing to become the first to send a human mission to the moon. NASA was created to help the United States win that race.

Some of NASA’s notable projects include:

  • The Curiosity Mars rover program. A robotic rover explored Mars to try to determine if the planet could support life.
  • The Hubble telescope. The telescope orbits around Earth and is used to observe and study our solar system and distant stars.
  • The International Space Station. NASA works with space programs from more than a dozen other nations on space research and technology installation at the station.


NASA’s work has helped companies create some of the products we now use every day. NASA developed cameras small enough to be used in spacecraft. This led to private companies creating cameras that could fit inside helmets and smartphones. Other common items that benefitted from NASA research include CAT scanners, athletic shoes, wireless headsets, and freeze-dried food.

Major tragedies in NASA’s history include the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger during its launch in 1986 and the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia when it was returning in 2003. Both crews were killed.

Did you know ... ?

Two very popular NASA-related quotes are often misquoted.

According to NASA, when astronaut Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon in 1969, he said, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” not “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The second popular misquote comes from the Apollo 13 mission in 1970.

Astronaut John L. “Jack” Swigert told Mission Control, “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” not “Houston, we have a problem.” (Mission Control was located in Houston, Texas, and astronauts often referred to it as simply “Houston.”)

What are real-life examples of NASA?

NASA is known for its space program. It’s popularly known as a place where a lot of very smart people work.





Quiz yourself!

NASA is likely to research which of the following subjects?

A. our solar system
B. space travel
C. distant galaxies
D. all of the above

How to use NASA in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for NASA

/ (ˈnæsə) /

n acronym for (in the US)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012