America’s dream of space exploration took its first official step 60 years ago Sunday when President Dwight Eisenhower signed a law authorizing the formation of NASA – the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Although humanity had been staring at the stars and wondering since they were living in caves, it took the Cold War to fire man into space.
The world was stunned when the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957, launched Sputnik — the first man-made object to orbit the Earth.
The United States was humiliated at being caught short — not just technologically, but militarily.
Eisenhower ordered government scientists to not only match the Soviets in space, but beat them.
NASA and its various projects — Mercury, Gemini and Apollo — became part of the language.
Just 11 years after Eisenhower authorized NASA, American astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Six year later, an Apollo spacecraft linked with a Soviet Soyuz in orbit, turning rivalry into friendship and cooperation.
NASA followed that triumph with the space shuttle, Mars landers and contributions to the International Space Station. A manned mission to Mars is part of NASA’s future plans.
Last month, President Donald Trump called for the formation of a “space force” to be the sixth U.S. military branch.
NASA officially celebrates its 60th anniversary on October 1 – the day the agency formally opened for business. (VOA)