In the wake of the Soviet Union launching the first artificial Earth satellite in October 1957, the United States scrambled to develop a national space agency. Less than a year later, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act into law, officially establishing NASA on this day in 1958. The space race was officially on, and after cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth in April 1961, NASA quickly created the ambitious Apollo Program with the goal of landing the first humans on the moon. By July 1969, the space race was over as astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins planted an American flag on the lunar surface.
"I never thought of it as a race — I was always convinced we would overtake the Soviets.” —
T. Keith Glennan, First Administrator of NASA