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NASA at 60: Boldly going through six decades of space travel

Is there life on Mars? NASA wants to find out.
Photos: NASA archives.

From putting the first man on the moon to exploring the possibility of life on Mars, NASA has changed the way we think about the universe for the past 60 years.

The National Aeronautical and Space Administration was founded on July 29, 1958, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act. NASA began operations on Oct. 1, 1958.

Six decades later, NASA has landed rovers on Mars, launched missions to send back first photos of all the planets in our solar system and even grown edible food in space.

Now, NASA wants to send humans to the red planet by 2033.

From 2018 through 2022, NASA is marking numerous important milestones, including the agency’s 60th anniversary, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo missions and more.

The Apollo missions put a dozen people on the moon between 1969 and 1972.

NASA holds dozens of first titles, here are just a few of the agency’s historic moments.

Jan. 31, 1958: Explorer 1 became the first U.S. satellite launched into space.

March 3, 1959: Pioneer 4 achieved the first successful U.S. lunar flyby.

May 5, 1961: Freedom 7 launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., as the first American space flight involving humans, carrying astronaut Alan Shepard Jr.

Feb. 20, 1962: John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth during a mission aboard Friendship 7.

July 28, 1964: The Ranger 7 sends back to Earth 4,300 images of the moon before it impacts the surface.

July 14, 1965: Mariner 4 flies within 6,118 miles of Mars after an 8-month journey, providing the first close-up images of the red planet.

Dec. 24, 1968: Millions around the world watched as Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders became the first to orbit another world. Above the lunar surface, they beamed back images of the moon and of Earth and took turns reading from the book of Genesis.

July 16-24, 1969: Apollo 11 mission. On July 20, Neil Armstrong becomes the first man on the moon. He says upon stepping on the lunar surface, “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

1975: Titan-Centaur launches Viking 1 and 2 spacecraft to Mars.

1977: Launch of Voyager 1 and 2 on missions to explore the outer solar system.

Jan. 28, 1986: The space shuttle Challenger disintegrated upon launch, killing all seven astronauts on board.

April 24, 1990: The Hubble Space Telescope launched into space.

Nov. 26, 2011: Car-size Curiosity rover launched from Cape Canaveral on a mission to explore Gale Crater on Mars.

Aug. 6, 2012: Curiosity lands on Mars in the fourth unmanned surface rover mission to Mars since 1996. The rover broadcast the first live video from the surface of the red planet on Aug. 6. Curiosity has been on Mars for 2,187 sols (2,246 days).

Aug. 12, 2018: Parker Solar Probe launches in the first mission to “touch the Sun” by flying to its corona.

Oct. 1, 2018: NASA celebrates 60 years.

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