One of the Apollo 17 crew photographed this view during lunar surface extravehicular activities at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. The Lunar Rover Vehicle , which was used extensively by astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt, is visible in the background.
Sixty Years of Exploration, Innovation, and Discovery!
Exactly sixty years ago today, we opened our doors for the first time. And since then, we have opened up a universe of discovery and innovation.
There are so many achievements to celebrate from the past six decades, there’s no way we can go through all of them. If you want to dive deeper into our history of exploration, check out NASA: 60 Years and Counting.
In the meantime, take a moonwalk down memory lane with us while we remember a few of our most important accomplishments from the past sixty years!
In 1958, President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, which effectively created our agency. We officially opened for business on October 1.
To learn more about the start of our space program, watch our video: How It All Began.
Alongside the U.S. Air Force, we implemented the X-15 hypersonic aircraft during the 1950s and 1960s to improve aircraft and spacecraft.
The X-15 is capable of speeds exceeding Mach 6 (4,500 mph) at altitudes of 67 miles, reaching the very edge of space.
Dubbed the “finest and most productive research aircraft ever seen,” the X-15 was officially retired on October 24, 1968. The information collected by the X-15 contributed to the development of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle programs.
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. The crew of Apollo 11 had the distinction of completing the first return of soil and rock samples from beyond Earth.
Astronaut Gene Cernan, during Apollo 17, was the last person to have walked on the surface of the moon. (For now!)
The Lunar Roving Vehicle was a battery-powered rover that the astronauts used during the last three Apollo missions.
To learn more about other types of technology that we have either invented or improved, watch our video: Trailblazing Technology.
Our long-term Earth-observing satellite program began on July 23, 1972 with the launch of Landsat 1, the first in a long series (Landsat 9 is expected to launch in 2020!) We work directly with the U.S. Geological Survey to use Landsat to monitor and manage resources such as food, water, and forests.
Landsat data is one of many tools that help us observe in immense detail how our planet is changing. From algae blooms to melting glaciers to hurricane flooding, Landsat is there to help us understand our own planet better.
Off the Earth, for the Earth.
To learn more about how we contribute to the Earth sciences, watch our video: Home, Sweet Home.
Space Transportation System-1, or STS-1, was the first orbital spaceflight of our Space Shuttle program.
The first orbiter, Columbia, launched on April 12, 1981. Over the next thirty years, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour would be added to the space shuttle fleet.
Together, they flew 135 missions and carried 355 people into space using the first reusable spacecraft.
On January 16, 1978, we selected a class of 35 new astronauts–including the first women and African-American astronauts.
And on June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to enter space on board Challenger for STS-7.
Everybody loves Hubble! The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit on April 24, 1990, and has been blowing our minds ever since.
Hubble has not only captured stunning views of our distant stars and galaxies, but has also been there for once-in-a-lifetime cosmic events. For example, on January 6, 2010, Hubble captured what appeared to be a head-on collision between two asteroids–something no one has ever seen before.
In this image, Hubble captures the Carina Nebula illuminating a three-light-year tall pillar of gas and dust.
To learn more about how we have contributed to our understanding of the solar system and beyond, watch our video: What’s Out There?
Cooperation to build the International Space Station began in 1993 between the United States, Russia, Japan, and Canada.
The dream was fully realized on November 2, 2000, when Expedition 1 crew members boarded the station, signifying humanity’s permanent presence in space!
Although the orbiting lab was only a couple of modules then, it has grown tremendously since then!
This photograph of the moon was taken after trans-Earth insertion when the Apollo 10 spacecraft was high above the lunar equator near 27 degrees east longitude. North is about 20 degrees left of the top of the photograph. Apollo Landing Site 3 is on the lighted side of the terminator in a dark area just north of the equator. Apollo Landing Site 2 is near the lower left margin of the Sea of Tranquility (Mare Tranquillitatis), which is the large, dark area near the center of the photograph.
“Bob, this is Gene, and I’m on the surface and as I take man’s last steps from the surface, back home, for some time to come, but we believe not too long into the future. I’d like to just let, what I believe history will record, that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”
(14 Dec. 1972) — An excellent view of the Apollo 17 Command and Service Modules (CSM) photographed from the Lunar Module (LM) “Challenger” during rendezvous and docking maneuvers in lunar orbit. The LM ascent stage, with astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt aboard, had just returned from the Taurus-Littrow landing site on the lunar surface. Astronaut Ronald E. Evans remained with the CSM in lunar orbit. Note the exposed Scientific Instrument Module (SIM) Bay in Sector 1 of the Service Module (SM). Three experiments are carried in the SIM bay: S-209 lunar sounder, S-171 infrared scanning spectrometer, and the S-169 far-ultraviolet spectrometer. Also mounted in the SIM bay are the panoramic camera, mapping camera and laser altimeter used in service module photographic tasks. A portion of the LM is on the right.
Roving about the moon. Gene Cernan, last man on the 🌔, stands by the lunar rover during Apollo 17, Dec 1972. Following this mission, all Apollo hardware would be used on the Skylab & Apollo-Soyuz missions.