Forty-six years ago, NASA began its unprecedented journey of exploration and discovery.

As NASA celebrates its “birthday,” reflecting on the past and focusing on the future, we are proud to introduce “Why We Explore,” a series of online essays offering historical perspectives on fulfilling the Vision for Space Exploration.

As NASA plans bold new journeys to the moon, Mars and beyond, NASA Chief Historian Steven J. Dick examines humanity’s age-old need to seek out new worlds. In the first essay, Dick argues, “the question ‘Should we explore?’ must be seen in deep historical context, not in the context of present-day politics or whims.”

Dick looks back at how past cultures answered that question, and looks forward as well. “Some day historians will be writing about whether or not WE chose wisely, not only to make a proposal to explore, but also to fund it,” Dick said.

A future essay will address the broad consequences of exploration and how it changes cultures as well as individuals. Another will discuss “knowns and unknowns” against the backdrop of the Apollo program. “Why We Explore,” other news and multimedia features about the Vision for Space Exploration are available on the Web at:


A multimedia feature about NASA’s history, produced in 2003 to honor the agency’s 45th anniversary, is available at:


For more about NASA’s history on the Web, visit the History Office at: