NASA is well-known today as one of the biggest names in space exploration, but when was NASA created, and how long has the organization been around? Recent times have been pretty exciting for NASA. Just look at what it achieved in 2021. NASA landed the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, used a solar probe to ‘touch’ the Sun, and finally completed a successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. And the next few years look even more promising! NASA’s Artemis program aims to put humans back on the Moon in 2025. NASA also hopes to land the first humans on Mars at some point in the 2030s.

While recent and future missions for NASA are the most fun to talk about, it’s important to remember that NASA’s been pioneering space exploration for decades. With its Apollo 11 mission in July 1969, NASA landed the first humans on the Moon. It also sent the first American to space as early as May 1961. NASA’s also helped create the Hubble telescope, Chandra X-ray observatory, Curiosity Mars rover, and countless other projects that have been instrumental in understanding the universe.

Related: This NASA Photo Of A Mars ‘Flower’ Is Absolutely Beautiful

It’s no secret that NASA is an old organization, but exactly how long has it existed? NASA was created all the way back on July 29, 1958. That’s the day former President Dwight Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act into law — thus creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (better known as NASA). The first NASA Administrator, T. Keith Glennan, was appointed shortly after on August 19, 1958. NASA’s gone through many changes and administrators in the years since, but its core mission to better understand outer space has never changed.

How NASA Was Created

It’s easy enough to say when NASA was created, but understanding everything leading up to that point is even more fascinating. The main catalyst for NASA’s creation was the Soviet Union’s launch of the Sputnik satellite on October 4, 1957. The Cold War was raging on, tensions between the U.S. and Soviet Union were already high, and Sputnik only escalated things. If the Soviets had already figured out how to send a satellite to space, the U.S. couldn’t sit idly by and not respond.

Following much debate and discussion, February 6, 1958, saw the creation of the Senate Special Committee on Space and Aeronautics. The goal of the committee? To establish a new space agency as part of the United States government. The next big step happened on April 2 when President Eisenhower sent his drafted legislation for NASA to Congress. Congress passed the legislation, and a little under four months later, NASA was born on July 29. While the U.S. is no longer in a space race with the Soviet Union, NASA remains a critical agency for learning about the universe. It’s been doing so for a few decades already and will (hopefully) keep doing so for many more to come.