When most people think of NASA, they either think of the space shuttle, or the two Mars rovers. What the majority of people don't know is that NASA is not just one large building in Florida where they build, plan, and research everything on their agenda. NASA is like a tree with many branches. There are many different divisions and branches each specialize in something. Some cohorts research, while others may be construction, test, or administrative facilities.
I will just give you a brief summary of 5 of NASA's 'branches' and then I will direct you to other 'branches:'
Kennedy Space Center - The KSC is home to the three space shuttles. This is where they are stored, maintained, and repaired. The center is also a very popular tourist location to view space launches and tour the location. The KSC is most familiar to people because it is where space shuttles (and other orbital spacecraft) are launched from. As NASA puts it, "Kennedy Space Center is America's Gateway to the Universe."
Jet Propulsion Laboratory - JPL is located in La Cañada, California. JPL is managed by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). JPL is NASA's main source of robotic vehicles sent into space. Some of the unmanned spacecraft by JPL include: Voyager 1, Voyager 2, Mars Rovers (Spirit & Opportunity). Spitzer Space Telescope, Mars Phoenix Lander, and many more.Goddard Space Flight Center - The Goddard Space Flight Center is not as 'technological' as JPL, instead it is more study based. Goddard's missions is to study Earth, the Solar System, and the Universe as a whole to further increase man's knowledge of the Universe. Goddard's main study approach is through observations.
Dryden Flight Research Center - Dryden represents the 'A' (the first one) in NASA. Dryden is where the world's "...newest, fastest, [and]... highest," debut. Dryden is at the forefront in aeronautical research and performance. They have helped to create some of the world's most advanced aircraft and have applied their knowledge to space technologies.
Marshall Space Flight Center - The Marshall Center do a large variety of things. The Marshall Space Flight Center is mainly a propulsion center. They construct propulsion technologies such as rockets, Space Shuttle propulsion, and the external fuel tank. The MSFC also manages various scientific activities aboard the International Space Station. They utilize space research and apply them to life here on Earth for the benefit of people all over the world.
I just offered a small bit of what NASA really is. The underlying purpose of this article is for you to understand that NASA is not a single installation, but instead a group of many facilities all over the U.S that help NASA to do everything that NASA does.
To learn more about the different NASA centers, visit this list. And to visit the sites of NASA's major centers, go here.
Image Credits: Wikimedia & NASA