NASA
  • It's been 60 years since President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act on July 29, 1958, giving birth to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. space program. With this anniversary we look back at the launching of the agency and the exploration of our moon, Mars and beyond. <br><br>Seen here, a massive black hole hidden at the center of nearby galaxy, Centaurus A, feeds on a smaller galaxy in a spectacular collision.
    NASA
  • The Explorer 1 was the first satellite to be launched into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida, Jan. 31, 1958. Carrying science instruments, the satellite orbited the Earth once every 114 minutes for 12 years, transmitting information on the radiation environment in Earth's orbit. The final transmission was sent May 23, 1958, but stayed in orbit until March 31, 1970, when it burned up in orbit.
    NASA
  • The Mercury program helped launch our first astronauts into space. The objective of the mission, which made six manned space flights, were simple: orbit the earth, investigate the ability for man to function in space and recover both man and spacecraft successfully. <br><br>At left, Alan Shepard, who is known as the first American to be launched into space and helped pave the way for future missions and space travel, sits aboard Freedom 7 Mercury prior to launch. <br><br>At right, John Glenn, who was the first person to orbit the Earth, prepares for launch aboard Friendship 7.
    NASA
  • Jerrie Cobb poses next to a Mercury space capsule. Having never flown in space, Cobb was one of several women who were part of the Lovelaces' Women in Space Program, which tested women pilots for astronaut fitness. These women, known as FLAT's (First Lady Astronaut Trainees) were all skilled pilots and passed the same physical tests as their male counterparts, yet never made it into space. Cobb fought the agency for years to follow to allow women the chance to be launched into space.
    NASA
  • On June 3, 1965, Gemini 4 Astronaut Ed White became the first American to successfully conduct a spacewalk. Starting over the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, the spacewalk lasted 23 minutes ending over the Gulf of Mexico. White used a hand-held maneuvering oxygen-jet gun to push himself out of the capsule and into zero gravity. Seen here, Ed White pulls on the tether and twists his body to return to the Gemini capsule after fuel had run out.
    NASA
  • At the start of the 1960's the Space Race had begun and the U.S. and the Soviet Union were locked in a heat to see who could be the first to land a person on the moon. In an address to joint sessions of Congress, President John F. Kennedy, seen here on May 25, 1961, announced a new federal spending program that would achieve the goal of getting a man to the moon and back before 1970.
    Getty Images
  • Launched on May 30, 1966, Surveyor 1, the first in a series of robotic spacecraft, was sent to the moon with the sole mission to gather data of the celestial body. During the 30-day observance of the moon, the craft transmitted more than 11,000 images of the surface and recorded data on the temperature.
    NASA
  • After President Kennedy announced federal funding for space exploration, the Apollo program was started. The first mission was set to launch on February 21, 1967; however, during a practice session on January 27 of that year, a command module fire broke out, killing all crew members on board. </br></br>Apollo 1's crew consisted of three members: Virgil "Gus" Grissom, seen here at left; Ed White Jr.; and Roger Chaffee.
    NASA
  • The Apollo 7 Saturn IB was launched on October 11, 1968, from Cape Kennedy and accomplished what it set out to do -- pave the way for lunar orbit and subsequent Apollo missions.
    NASA
  • Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to the moon. The crew entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve in 1968 and held a live broadcast that evening. They showed images of the Earth and moon from the spacecraft for those back home before ending the broadcast with readings from the book of Genesis.
    NASA
  • On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 and its crew were launched into space with the mission to land on the moon and return safely home. With over 500 million people watching, Commander Neil Armstrong and Pilot Buzz Aldrin donned their spacesuits and stepped out of the lunar module onto the moon’s surface, taking "…one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
    NASA
  • Astronaut Charles Conrad Jr., commander of the Apollo 12 lunar landing mission, is photographed during an extravehicular activity on the surface of the moon, Nov. 14, 1969. Apollo 12 was the second successful mission to the moon.
    NASA
  • On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13 was launched; however, two days into the mission a fault in the electrical system of one of the service module's oxygen tanks caused an explosion and subsequent loss of electrical power. The crew was forced to use the lunar module as a "lifeboat" for the return trip to Earth. Even with the loss of power and potable water, the mission was deemed a "successful failure" and would later be turned into a Hollywood production starring Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon.
    NASA
  • The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was a joint venture between the U.S. and the former Soviet Republic, USSR. Both countries sent astronauts to orbit to meet and connect in space from their spacecrafts before returning to Earth. </br></br>Seen here are the crew members for the mission. Back row from left: Thomas Stafford, commander of the American crew, and Aleksey Leonov, commander for the Soviet crew. Front row from left: Donald Slayton, Vance Brand and Soviet crew member Valeriy Kubasov.
    NASA
  • As part of a two-phase mission, the Viking 1 was the first spacecraft to land on Mars and explore the "Red Planet." The unmanned spacecraft landed on Mars on July 20, 1976, and stayed on the planet transmitting data and images for the next six years. </br></br>Seen here is the first image Viking 1 transmitted prior to touching down on the Martian planet.
    NASA
  • The Space Shuttle was the first reusable spacecraft to launch, carry people into orbit, recover and repair satellites, conduct cutting edge research and help build the International Space Station (ISS). Between April 12, 1981, when the first launch was successfully conducted and on July 21, 2011, the Space Shuttle fleet flew 135 missions.
    NASA
  • Sally K. Ride, seen here on June 18, 1983, aboard the shuttle Challenger on mission STS-7, was the first American woman to float in space. Ride was one of five other women selected to join NASA Astronaut Group 8, the first group class to include women, in 1978. Her main job was working the robotic arm of the space shuttle to help launch satellites into space. Ride completed two space flight missions before leaving NASA to teach in 1987. Until her death in 2012, Ride continued to empower students and young girls in the math and science fields.
    NASA
  • The Manned Maneuvering Unit, seen here being operated by astronaut Bruce McCandless Jr., was used by astronauts in space to help repair satellites and crafts while in orbit without the using a tether. McCandless successfully conducted the first field test on the equipment on Feb. 7, 1984, allowing for the rescue of disabled satellites in the years to come.
    NASA
  • The Challenger program came to an abrupt end on January 28, 1986, when 73 seconds after liftoff the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded from a booster failure, killing all seven crew members on board, including educator Sharon Christa McAuliffe, who hoped to be the first teacher in space.
    NASA
  • The Endeavor was NASA's replacement after the devastating Challenger explosion. The shuttle, named through a national competition involving elementary school students who were asked to base the name on an exploratory or research sea vessel, began flight operations on May 7, 1992. </br></br>Seen here in a unique view silhouetted over the Earth's horizon, the Space Shuttle Endeavor is photographed by an Expedition 22 crew member on board the International Space Station as it prepares for docking.
    NASA
  • Astronaut Steve Smith works on repairing the Hubble telescope during mission STS-82, in 1997, the second of a series of servicing missions, using a specially designed tool that can withstand the harsh environment of space.
    NASA
  • Once in orbit, the Hubble Telescope began transmitting awe-inspiring images of galaxies and celestial bodies far passed our own and unable to be viewed by consumer telescopes. <br><br>Seen here is the Antennae Galaxies surround by gas as stars are formed.
    NASA
  • The collection of gases and ultraviolet light help produce this spectacular image of the Monkey Head Nebula taken by the Hubble telescope.
    NASA
  • This nearby planetary nebula, known as NGC 5189, was photographed by the Hubble telescope. The gases being expelled by the dying star and the radiation emitted, produce the glowing clouds of gas that form the structure of the nebula seen here.
    NASA
  • The Mars Pathfinder mission successfully landed the Sojourner rover on the surface of Mars, July 4, 1997, setting the scene for future study of the "Red Planet." Once on the surface, Sojourner spent 83 days exploring the terrain, transmitting data and images, like the one seen here, and taking samples of the Martian environment.
    NASA
  • Debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia is seen at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The shuttle broke apart, February 1, 2003, upon reentry into the Earth's atmosphere after a successful research mission in space. The piece were delivered to the space center for identification and investigation into the accident.
    NASA via Getty Images
  • On July 7, 2003, NASA launched its second Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, aboard a Delta II launch vehicle. Opportunity and its twin rover Spirit landed on Mars in 2004 to begin missions. Spirit's lasted for six years while Opportunity's is still active.
    NASA
  • During the Spirit's collection of images for a 360-degree panorama of the surface, the rover used its navigation camera to capture this view of the terrain toward the southeast of the planet.
    NASA
  • NASA continues to study the stars in the search for a better understanding of our solar system, and the galaxies beyond.<br><br>Seen here is the "Great Red Spot" of Jupiter, the largest of the planets in our solar system.
    NASA
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