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

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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 ...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

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