This Day in History… July 29, 1958

Birth of NASA and Dawn of the Space Age 

NASA’s 50th Anniversary

America ofically entered the Space Race on July 29, 1958, when Congress established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

America officially entered the Space Race on July 29, 1958 when Congress established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The Space Race had begun a little under a year earlier. In October 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, its first satellite, which orbited Earth in 98 minutes. News of this shocked Americans, who began fearing the Soviets might be able to launch nuclear weapons.

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) immediately set to work exploring what a non-military space agency would involve. Meanwhile, several military organizations began planning out possible launch vehicles. They built and launched Vanguard that December, though it exploded shortly after takeoff. However, in January 1958, the U.S. launched its first successful satellite to orbit the Earth – Explorer I.

That July, out of an urgency to move beyond the accomplishments of the Soviets, President Dwight Eisenhower passed legislation establishing NASA. The new organization began operations in October 1958 and absorbed the employees, budget, labs, and facilities of NACA.

In the 57 years since its founding, NASA has placed men on the Moon, built an International Space Station, and explored the surface of Mars.

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