On July 20, 1969, everyone watched as the first American astronaut, Neil Armstrong, walked on the moon. It was an incredible scientific event, but before man could walk on the moon, the United States needed an official administration to work on space missions. On July 29, 1958, the U.S. Congress passed legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA]. From there, NASA worked hard to be the first ones to send man to the moon.

Soviet Union in the lead

In the 1950s and ‘60s, the United States was in a race to the moon against the Soviet Union. For a while, the Soviets were ahead in the race. After the October 4, 1957 launch of its first satellite, Sputnik I, everyone knew the Soviets could easily beat the Americans to the moon. At the time, the United States prided itself on being at the forefront of technology. Engineers were embarrassed they were failing.

Trial and error

The Soviets continued to dominate the space race. On November 3, 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik II, which carried a dog, named Laika. Americans couldn’t believe the news, so they attempted to launch their own satellites, but they exploded shortly after takeoff. On January 31, 1958, the U.S. launched its first successful satellite, Explorer I, which orbited the earth.

To gain more government funding, Congress passed the legislation on July 29, 1958, to officially establish NASA from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Other government agencies joined the association and everyone was committed to winning the space race. That includes one influential figure in U.S. history.

‘We choose to go to the moon’

In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy famously declared, “We choose to go to the moon.” America will put man on the moon by the end of the decade. Once Kennedy made this announcement, the moon landing became America’s dream and engineers at NASA worked as hard as ever to beat the Russians in the space race.

Finally, on July 20, 1969, NASA’s Apollo 11 mission made history. Neil Armstrong declared, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” This was only the beginning of NASA’s many scientific advancements in space exploration, including the first moonwalk and the construction of the International Space Station. Currently, NASA engineers are ready to send astronauts to their next destination—Mars. That’s another giant leap for mankind.