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Houston, We Have a Birthday!

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Today marks the 54th anniversary of the founding of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. From the U.S. government’s hasty response to the Soviet Sputnik program to the Curiosity rover currently exploring the surface of Mars, NASA’s various programs have pushed the boundaries of space exploration. To commemorate more than a half century of reaching for the stars, Britannica presents a pictorial history of the American space program.

Houston, We Have a Birthday!

Astronaut John Glenn entering Friendship 7 to begin the first American manned mission to orbit Earth, February 1962. Credit: NASA

Houston, We Have a Birthday!

Gemini 12 pilot Buzz Aldrin performing an extravehicular activity on Nov. 12, 1966. Credit: NASA


One of the defining images of the Space Age—Buzz Aldrin's footprint on the Moon. Credit: NASA

Houston, We Have a Birthday!

Crescent view of Jupiter, a composite of three images taken by Voyager 1 on March 24, 1979. Credit: NASA

Houston, We Have a Birthday!

Liftoff of the first U.S. space shuttle, April 12, 1981. Credit: NASA

Houston, We Have a Birthday!

Bruce McCandless floating in space on the first untethered spacewalk, Feb. 7, 1984. Credit: NASA

Houston, We Have a Birthday!

Cepheid variables, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA

Houston, We Have a Birthday!

100,000 stars, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA

Houston, We Have a Birthday!

While the ISS isn't solely a NASA project, one can still express childlike awe over the fact that there are humans actually living in space right now. Credit: NASA

Houston, We Have a Birthday!

Hubble gets all the attention, but Chandra's X-ray images are equally breathtaking. Credit: NASA

Houston, We Have a Birthday!

NASA has been driving around on Mars for almost a decade. Its latest vehicle, Curiosity—a rover that's the size of a Honda Civic—has proven that its name was particularly well-chosen with regard to its ground-breaking investigation of the red planet. Credit: NASA

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