Special Report

The Most Important Events in NASA's History

Source: NASA

1. NASA begins
> Date: Oct.1,1958

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration started operations in 1958. The program had an annual budget of $100 million and about 8,000 employees.

Source: NASA

2. Pioneer I launches
> Date: Oct. 11, 1958

The first mission NASA successfully launched was Pioneer I from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Its mission was to study the ionizing radiation, cosmic rays, magnetic fields, and micrometeorites near Earth and in lunar orbit.

Source: NASA

3. Pioneer 4 flies by moon
> Date: March 3, 1959

Pioneer 4 was the first American spacecraft to leave Earth’s orbit and the first lunar flyby mission.

Source: NASA

4. Mercury astronauts named
> Date: April 9, 1959

The Mercury crew was announced following a two-month selection process. They were: John H. Glenn, Jr.; Walter M. Schirra, Jr.; Alan B. Shepard, Jr.; M. Scott Carpenter; Gordon Cooper; Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom; and Donald K. Slayton. The mission of the Mercury program was to put a man into orbit and return him safely to Earth.

Source: Keystone / Getty Images

5. Monkeys go to space
> Date: May 28, 1959

NASA launched two monkeys, Able and Baker, on a Jupiter rocket on a suborbital flight to test the ability to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Both animals were recovered from the flight, but Able died a short time later.

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