NASA presents itself for the first time in Europe
Published on 10/24/2016 by
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Space suits and rockets next to cows and tractors: In 1962, the US National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) presented itself for the first time in Europe – on Space Day at the Comptoir Suisse in Lausanne.
A mere five years had gone by since NASA's founding and only four since the USA's first manned space flights; the moon landing of 1969 was still a matter for the distant future. On 18 September 1962, however, the still young fascination for space caught up with the Comptoir Suisse. On Space Day, the Space Agency, NASA, made its first-ever presentation in Europe, displaying futuristic-looking space suits along with pictures of rockets taking off and providing insights into its work and modern means of communication. Using the Telstar satellite passing more than 3000 kilometres above the Atlantic Ocean, the US ambassador to Switzerland; Robert Moody McKinney, phoned Emil Frey, an attaché at the Swiss embassy in Washington.
The NASA pavilion was a big success. The initiative to hold Space Day came from Marcel Golay, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Geneva University and head of the observatory there. Space Day was intended to help convince those in research, industry and government that it was indispensable for Switzerland to be involved in space research. When the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO) was created in 1964, as the predecessor of today’s European Space Agency (ESA), Switzerland was one of the founding members.