Special Report

The Most Important Events in NASA's History

In 2021 NASA landed a new robotic rover Perseverance on Mars, the space agency’s most ambitious and successful effort in decades to directly study whether there ever was life on the red planet that is 126 million miles from Earth.

24/7 Tempo looked back at NASA’s most important events. When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite, on Oct. 4, 1957, it sent shockwaves around the world. The United States, which believed it held technological superiority over its communist rival, was shaken by the Soviet achievement. Sputnik was one of the biggest milestones in the space race — here are some others.

NASA was up to the challenge and would eventually lay claim to some of the greatest achievements in space exploration. To determine the most important events in NASA’s history, 24/7 Tempo reviewed events described on the NASA website, space.com, as well as sources such as Britannica.

Click here to see the most important events in NASA’s history

America officially joined the space race after the launch of Sputnik by creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA. For much of the next decade, the United States would be playing catch-up with the Soviet Union, which put the first man and woman into space, achieved the first spacewalk, and launched pioneering probes to other planets.

After technological glitches in the beginning, NASA began piling up its own achievements in space. Those included sending probes to other planets, Apollo 8’s orbit around the moon, and of course, the history-making moon landing of Apollo 11. These are the 12 people who have walked on the moon.

Since the lunar landing, the space story is more about cooperation. The United States and the Soviet Union teamed up for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975, and many nations have collaborated on the International Space Station. As for the future, President Donald Trump told reporters in September that the “ultimate goal” for the U.S. space program is to go to Mars.

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