Background

Astronauts and other scientists work for NASA, or National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Astronauts could not travel to space without the hard work of other people who work at NASA. These are scientists, engineers, mathematicians, physicists, computer scientists, and more. While there are many astronauts from Oklahoma, many other Oklahomans have worked at NASA and contributed to the efforts to explore space. For example, Charles Hayes from Wellston, Oklahoma, trained astronauts to fly spacecraft. Charles Hobson Dry from Ardmore, Oklahoma, helped test space suits to make sure they were safe and that astronauts could move in them in order to complete their tasks. Carole Ann McLemore from Tulsa, Oklahoma, helped design spare parts for the International Space Station. Jeffrey Morgan Moore, who attended the University of Oklahoma, is a scientist who studies rocks and soil of Mars and Jupiter. Charles R. Thomas, from Ada, Oklahoma, was a computer programmer and worked on the Apollo program. Gary L. Tesch from El Reno, Oklahoma, served as a lawyer for NASA.


Astronauts could not get to space without the help of many of the people like those who worked in this Mission Control Center in Houston (22311.S-64-33119, Jerry Elliott collection, Oklahoma Historical Society Research Division).

Other Oklahomans have made important contributions to getting humans into space. Wiley Post, a famous pilot, worked with General Motors (GM) to develop a suit that allowed him to fly higher into the sky than anyone had before. The suit allowed him to have oxygen to breathe. This suit is what led others to design the suits that astronauts wear.

Space exploration began in the 1950s during a period called the Cold War. During this time, the United States and Russia, known then as the Soviet Union, were enemies. They competed to be the most powerful country in the world by developing stronger weapons. Americans were afraid that the Soviets would attack the United States. The two countries also competed to have better technology, and this included the technology to explore space. This became known as the “space race.” Eventually, the United States and Russia decided it would be easier if they worked together to explore space. This cooperation helped end the Cold War and has led to our increasing knowledge about space.

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