The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was formed on July 29, 1958 by U.S. government. It's responsible for the nation's space program and for aeronautics.
The first successful unmanned orbit of Earth was by the Sputnik 1 satellite on October 4, 1957. Today satellites are used to communicate across the world and even one is used as a telescope (Hubble Space Telescope).
Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space on April 12, 1962. He orbited the Earth after launching on the rocket Vostok 1. Less than a month later, Alan Shepard became the first U.S. astronaut in space on the Mercury-Redstone 3 rocket. John Glenn was the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth on the Mercury-Atlas 6 rocket. The Moon was first orbited by astronauts on the Apollo 8 mission in 1968. Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins were the first astronauts to land on the moon in the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969. 32 men completed manned-missions to the moon until 1972. Neil Armstrong died on August 25, 2012 at 82.
First Orbit - the movie
Now available in 30 languages on BluRay and DVD from www.firstorbit.org - this real time recreation of Yuri Gagarin's pioneering first orbit, was shot entirely in space from on board the International Space Station. The film combines this new footage with Gagarin's original mission audio and a new musical score by composer Philip Sheppard. For more information visit http://www.firstorbit.org/
Space Probes and Landers
Mercury has been visited by the Mariner 10 and MESSENGER space probes. Venus has been visited by Mariner 2 and various landers. The Moon has been visited by various landers and space probes. Mars has been visited by various space probes, landers, and the Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers. Jupiter has been orbited by the Galileo space probe, and has been flown by various other space probes. Saturn has been flown by various space probes. Uranus and Neptune have only been flown by Voyager 2. Pluto will be flown by New Horizons in 2015. Asteroids and comets have been visited by various space probes and landers.
Rockets were a good launch system, but they couldn't be reused. So NASA developed the Space Shuttle. The Space Shuttle's launch system included a large fuel tank and two boosters that broke off several minutes after launch. The Space Shuttle program, officially known as the Space Transportation System (STS), ran from 1981 to 2011. Its missions included launching and repairing satellites and probes, and conducting experiments. The Shuttle also built and supplied the International Space Station (ISS), and launching and repairing the Hubble Space Telescope. The Space Shuttles have been sent to various museums across the U.S.A.
The first space stations were part of the Soviet Union's Salyut program. NASA's first space station was Skylab in 1973. These space stations were one piece. The first modular space station was Mir in 1986. It came down in 1998 and was replaced by the International Space Station, or ISS. It is shared by the U.S. and Russia. China also now has a space station called Tiangong that started construction in 2011.
NASA is developing the Space Launch System (SLS) to carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. It will replace the Space Shuttle in manned space flight. It will be tested on a Delta-IV rocket in early 2014. Its first mission, an unmanned lunar orbit, willl take place in 2017.