NASA's Origins & the Dawn of the Space Age

 Monographs in Aerospace History # 10

Key Events


May 26

Sergei Korolev submits a proposal to study launching a Soviet satellite.

  October 4 The ruling body of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) calls for science satellite launches during the IGY.

February 14

The Technological Capabilities Panel proposes launching a science satellite to establish the principle of "freedom of space."


March 14

The U.S. IGY Committee declares launching a science satellite during the IGY feasible.


May 27

President Eisenhower approves the U.S. IGY satellite plan.


July 29

White House Press Secretary James Hagerty announces the U.S. IGY satellite plan.


August 2

In Copenhagen, Academician Leonid Sedov announces that the Soviet Union will launch an IGY satellite.


August 3

The Stewart Committee selects Project Vanguard as the U.S. IGY satellite program.


August 30

Korolev receives approval to launch the Object-D satellite.

  September 9 Project Vanguard begins officially.

July 1

The IGY begins.


August 21

The R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) flies successfully for the first time.


October 4

Sputnik I is launched on a modified R-7 ICBM.


November 3

Sputnik II is launched carrying Laika.


November 8

The Department of Defense authorizes the U.S. Army Explorer as a backup to Project Vanguard.


November 13

Eisenhower makes his first public statement calling for a civilian space agency.


November 25

Lyndon Johnson opens hearings in the Senate Preparedness Subcommittee to review U.S. defense and space programs.

  December 6 The Vanguard TV-3 launch fails.

January 31

Explorer I is launched, becoming the first U.S. satellite.


April 2

President Eisenhower addresses Congress to propose the creation of a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), responsible for civilian space and aeronautical research.


May 1

James Van Allen announces the discovery of Earth's radiation belts.


May 15

Sputnik III is launched.


July 29

Eisenhower signs the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (Public Law 85–568), forming NASA, with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) as its nucleus.


August 19

T. Keith Glennan is sworn in as NASA's first administrator; Hugh Dryden is deputy administrator.


October 1

NASA opens for business.


October 7

NASA formally organizes Project Mercury.

  December 31 The IGY concludes.

January 2

Luna 1 (Mechta, meaning "dream") is launched, becoming the first lunar flyby.


April 2

The Mercury 7 astronauts are selected.


September 12

Luna 2 is launched, resulting in the first lunar impact.

  October 4

Luna 3 is launched, producing the first pictures of the Moon's far side.


July 1

The George C. Marshall Space Flight Center is established with transfer of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency from the Army to NASA.


July 29

Project Apollo is announced.

  December 20 President-elect John Kennedy announces that Vice President-elect Lyndon Johnson will chair the National Aeronautics and Space Council.