Year
1958

President Eisenhower authorizes creation of NASA

On this day in 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs an act that creates the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He called the signing an [sic] historic step, further equipping the United States for leadership in the space age.

Since the end of World War II, the United States had worked to make breakthroughs in rocket science. This particular legislation expanded the original National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) into NASA. NASA research, which was generously funded by Eisenhower’s successors, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, was responsible for successful and groundbreaking American achievements such as the Apollo 11 lunar landing in 1969 and the development of the space shuttle, first launched in 1981. More recently, NASA has sent robotic exploratory missions to Mars and launched a spacecraft to view Pluto. NASA’s research has also contributed to advances in consumer-oriented goods such as telecommunications satellites and computer technology.

Although NASA currently engages in cooperative projects with other nations, Eisenhower at the time had to add a cautionary note when signing the legislation that created the new agency. He warned that NASA’s research into peaceful projects could be shared only when international treaties outlining such projects were authorized first by the president and the U.S. Senate. Ike, the former Army general who oversaw the Allied invasion of Normandy in World War II, wanted to ensure that NASA would not share information that was vital to national security.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Tipperary Revolt ends in failure

At the height of the Potato Famine in Ireland, an abortive nationalist revolt against English rule is crushed by a government police detachment in Tipperary. In a brief skirmish in a cabbage patch, Irish nationalists under William Smith O’Brien were overcome and arrested. The ...read more

Spanish Armada defeated

Off the coast of Gravelines, France, Spain’s so-called “Invincible Armada” is defeated by an English naval force under the command of Lord Charles Howard and Sir Francis Drake. After eight hours of furious fighting, a change in wind direction prompted the Spanish to break off ...read more

Prince Charles marries Lady Diana

Nearly one billion television viewers in 74 countries tune in to witness the marriage of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, to Lady Diana Spencer, a young English schoolteacher. Married in a grand ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the presence of 2,650 guests, the ...read more

General Motors buys Cadillac

On July 29, 1909, the newly formed General Motors Corporation (GM) acquires the country’s leading luxury automaker, the Cadillac Automobile Company, for $4.5 million. Cadillac was founded out of the ruins of automotive pioneer Henry Ford’s second failed company (his third effort, ...read more

NASA created

On this day in 1958, the U.S. Congress passes legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a civilian agency responsible for coordinating America’s activities in space. NASA has since sponsored space expeditions, both human and mechanical, ...read more

Fire ravages U.S. carrier off Vietnam

Fire sweeps the U.S. aircraft carrier Forrestal off the coast of North Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin. It was the worst U.S. naval disaster in a combat zone since World War II. The accident took the lives of 134 crewmen and injured 62 more. Of the carrier’s 80 planes, 21 were ...read more

Escalante and Dominguez begin expedition

Silvestre de Escalante and Francisco Dominguez, two Spanish Franciscan priests, leave Santa Fe for an epic journey through the Southwest.Escalante and Dominguez hoped to blaze a trail from New Mexico to Monterey, California, but their main goal was to visit with the native ...read more

Chang-Rae Lee’s birthday

Award-winning writer Chang-Rae Lee is born on this day in Seoul, South Korea.Lee’s father, a doctor, moved to the United States to finish his training and brought his family over when Chang-Rae was three. The family lived first in Pittsburgh, then in suburban New York. Lee’s ...read more

Hollywood golden couple weds

On this day in 2000, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, one of Hollywood’s highest-profile couples, marry at the Malibu, California, estate of the producer Marcy Carsey (The Cosby Show). The two actors reportedly met on a blind date in 1998 and quickly became favorites of the ...read more

Rocket causes deadly fire on aircraft carrier

A fire on a United States Navy carrier stationed off the coast of Vietnam kills 134 service members on this day in 1967. The deadly fire on the USS Forrestal began with the accidental launch of a rocket. During the Vietnam War, the USS Forrestal was often stationed off the coast ...read more

Son of Sam terrorizes New York

The so-called “Son of Sam” pulls a gun from a paper bag and fires five shots at Donna Lauria and Jody Valenti of the Bronx while they are sitting in a car, talking. Lauria died and Valenti was seriously wounded in the first in a series of shootings by the serial killer, who ...read more