Special Report

The Most Important Events in NASA's History

Source: nasacommons / Flickr

6. Shepard is first American in space
> Date: May 5, 1961

Alan B. Shepard Jr. became the first American to fly into space aboard the Freedom 7 Mercury spacecraft. His voyage demonstrated that people can control a vehicle during weightlessness and high G stresses. He reached a top speed of 5,100 miles per hour, and his flight lasted 14.8 minutes.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

7. Kennedy vows to go to moon
> Date: May 25, 1961

In a speech before Congress, newly elected President John F. Kennedy committed the United States to landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade and returning him safely to Earth.

Source: NASA

8. NASA tests Saturn rocket
> Date: Oct. 27, 1961

NASA successfully tested the Saturn 1 rocket — the test vehicle that paved the way for the development of the Saturn V that carried American astronauts to the moon.

Source: nasacommons / Flickr

9. John Glenn orbits Earth
> Date: Feb. 20, 1962

John Glenn became a national hero as the first American to circle the Earth, orbiting the planet three times aboard the Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft. In 1998, Glenn would become the oldest person to go into space at age 77.

Source: NASA

10. NASA decides on moon strategy
> Date: June 7, 1962

NASA leaders settled on the method of going to the moon, with advocates for lunar-orbit rendezvous winning out over those favoring Earth-orbit rendezvous. The decision cleared the way for developing the hardware needed to accomplish the president’s goal by his timetable.

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