Master of Public Administration Online

NASA's History as a Public Administration Agency

  • July 29, 1958: The National Aeronautics and Space Act is signed into law, calling for the creation of NASA. Before NASA, the U.S. military conducted research regarding space exploration. The intention of the act was to ensure that space activity was “devoted to peaceful purposes.”
  • Oct. 11, 1958: NASA launches its first spacecraft, Pioneer I. Pioneer I was the second of three launches of the Thor-Able space probes (the first had been under the auspices of the Air Force). NASA had hoped to steer this probe to the moon but only succeeded in reaching an altitude of 71,100 miles before it returned to Earth.
  • Nov. 7, 1958: Pilot John McKay flies the final model in the X-1 series. The research on this series of planes contributes to solving problems that occur when aircraft travel faster than the speed of sound.
  • Dec. 19, 1958: President Dwight Eisenhower’s Christmas message is the first radio broadcast transmitted from space.
  • Feb. 17, 1959: The United States launches Vanguard II, the first weather satellite. The satellite is used to measure the cloud cover and density of Earth’s atmosphere.
  • March 4, 1959: Pioneer IV makes the first lunar fly-by. The vessel passed within 37,300 miles of the moon and sampled the moon’s radiation.
  • April 9, 1959: NASA introduces the Mercury Astronaut Corps, or the “Mercury 7.” These men were the first official astronauts and the subject of interest and adoration among the American people.
  • May 28, 1959: Two monkeys, Able and Baker, are launched 360 miles into space, where they experience roughly nine minutes of weightlessness.
  • April 1, 1960: The TIROS I weather satellite is launched, leading to a worldwide meteorological satellite information system.
  • April 13, 1960: NASA launches Transit 1B, an experimental orbital navigation system.
  • Aug. 12, 1960: Echo 1, a space balloon, orbits the Earth and is used to bounce radio beams from satellites, leading to the Telstar system.
  • May 5, 1961: Astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. is launched from Cape Canaveral for a 15-minute suborbital flight, becoming the first American to travel in space.
  • May 25, 1961: President John F. Kennedy announces the nation’s commitment to achieving a lunar landing and announces Project Apollo.
  • Feb. 20, 1962: John Glenn becomes the first American to circle Earth in the Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft. Glenn became an American hero after manually piloting his craft in the wake of an autopilot failure that occurred during re-entry.
  • July 10, 1962: NASA launches Telstar 1, the first privately built satellite used to transmit telephone and television signals.
  • Dec. 14, 1962: Mariner 2 collects data on radiation, magnetic fields, and interplanetary dust from Venus’s orbit.
  • July 28, 1964: Ranger 7 transmits close-up images of the moon’s surface.
  • Oct. 30, 1964: Joseph Walker conducts the first flight using the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle. This simulation provides crucial data for landing a spacecraft on the moon.
  • June 6, 1965: Ed White completes the first spacewalk.
  • June 14, 1965: Mariner 4 provides the first close-up images of Mars.
  • Dec. 12, 1965: Astronauts Wally Schirra and Thomas P. Stafford complete the first space rendezvous, between Gemini VI and Gemini VII.
  • March 16, 1966: During the voyage of Gemini VIII, Neil Armstrong and David Scott successfully dock and couple two spacecraft.
  • Nov. 11, 1966: The last Gemini mission is launched, and Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin complete three spacewalks in addition to docking a target vehicle.
  • Nov. 9, 1967: Apollo 4 is launched and proves that a spacecraft and launcher can reach the moon.
  • Oct. 11, 1968: The first piloted Apollo spacecraft makes a safe voyage.
  • Dec. 21-27, 1968: The Apollo 8 mission is a success and transmits images of Earth as seen from space.
  • May 18, 1968: Apollo 10 is launched and makes a test run within 10 miles of the moon’s surface.
  • July 20, 1969: Neil Armstrong is the first human to walk on the surface of the moon and famously declares that the accomplishment is “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
  • Nov. 14-24, 1969: The Apollo 12 mission begins, and Charles Conrad, Richard Gordon, and Alan Bean make the second landing on the moon to complete a 7.5-hour spacewalk.
  • April 17, 1970: The Apollo 13 crew returns home safely after a near disaster including power, electrical, and life support system failures.
  • Aug. 7, 1971: Apollo 14 returns to Earth with 98 pounds of lunar material.
  • July 15-24, 1975: The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project is launched and allows American and Soviet spacecraft to dock for a rendezvous.
  • Jan. 28, 1986: The Challenger spacecraft breaks up 73 seconds into the flight due to a leak in the rocket booster, killing seven crew members.
  • April 24, 1990: The Hubble Space Telescope is launched.
  • July 4, 1997: The Pathfinder probe lands on Mars and sends back 1.2 gigabits of data.
  • Jan. 29, 1998: The International Space Station agreement is signed.
  • May 28, 1998: The Hubble Space Telescope captures the first image of what is likely a planet located outside of our solar system in the region of the constellation Taurus. The object is called TMR-1C.
  • Feb. 1, 2003: Space shuttle Columbia breaks up on re-entry over Texas, claiming the lives of seven crew members.
  • July 15, 2015: The New Horizons spacecraft finishes its historic fly-by of Pluto, capturing the most detailed photos of the dwarf planet ever taken as well as a wealth of scientific data.
  • April 22, 2017: The Cassini spacecraft begins a series of passes between Saturn and its rings, completing a 13-year-long study of the planet.