Happy 60th Birthday, NASA!

Astronaut Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr., lunar module pilot of the first lunar landing mission, is beside the U.S. flag during an Apollo 11 moon walk. The Lunar Module (LM) is on the left, and the footprints of the astronauts are clearly visible in the soil of the moon. Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander, took this picture with a 70mm Hasselblad lunar surface camera. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Today, NASA turns 60 years young. Far from its golden years, the national space agency stands as a testament to scientific tenacity and creativity. Tales of astronauts and discoveries of new galaxies continue to grip the public’s imagination, tapping into our desire to be a part of something more.

From walks on the moon to hunts for new planets, The University of Texas at Austin is proud to have partnered with NASA over the years. 

Guiding Planet Exploration

Prepping for Space

From left, Victor Glover, Anne McClain, Nicole Aunapu Mann and Nick Hague, with Mark Helper, get maps oriented at the La Junta overlook, where the Rio Grande joins the Red River. Credit: NASA/JSC

Since the final Apollo missions of the early 1970s, what’s now called the Jackson School of Geosciences has been training astronauts in the West Texas desert. UT geologists have been giving them a crash course in geology, teaching them how to see rocks with the eyes of a scientist. Read More.

[[Related Read: Big Rocks, Big Science]]

Educating Future Astronauts

Karen Nyberg

NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, a 2014 Texas Exes Distinguished Alumna honoree, sent us this picture thank-you tweet last year when she was selected for the honor.

The University of Texas at Austin sent its first astronaut into space in 1969, when Alan Bean became the fourth person to walk on the moon. Since then, 12 UT graduates have become astronauts, spending a total of more than 533 days in space. Read More.

Searching for Extraterrestrial Life

Europa’s icy surface

Scientists think an ocean of liquid water that could potentially support life exists under Europa’s icy surface. Europa is nearly the same size as Earth’s moon, but it might have twice as much water as Earth has. Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute PIA19048.

Ice-penetrating radar technology developed by The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) was selected by NASA to scour Europa for life-supporting environments. Read More.

Photographing Galaxies Far, Far Away

galaxy z8_GND_5296

An artist's rendering of the newly discovered most distant galaxy z8_GND_5296. Image credit: V. Tilvi, S.L. Finkelstein, C. Papovich, and the Hubble Heritage Team.

The University of Texas at Austin has been a big player in humanity's vision of the cosmos. From developing an instrument that allows astronomers to point precisely at cosmic targets to discovering the farthest known galaxy, here are 10 discoveries by UT researchers related to the Hubble Space Telescope. Read More. 

Discovering New Planets

Kepler 90 vs. the solar system

The Kepler-90 planets have a similar configuration to our solar system with small planets found orbiting close to their star, and the larger planets found farther away. In our solar system, this pattern is often seen as evidence that the outer planets formed in a cooler part of the solar system, where water ice can stay solid and clump together to make bigger and bigger planets. The pattern we see around Kepler-90 could be evidence of that same process happening in this system. NASA/Ames Research Center/Wendy Stenzel

Using artificial intelligence and data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, UT astronomer Andrew Vanderburg and Google’s Christopher Shallue discovered an eighth planet circling the distant star Kepler-90. This discovery of a new planet reveals a distant solar system to rival our own. Read More.

Happy Birthday, NASA! Cheers to many more years of discovery to come.