1915: The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) is founded by the U.S. government with the goal of conducting research on flight.
1947: NACA’s Bell X-1 aircraft achieves supersonic flight for the first time.
1957: The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite. Alarmed by this development, the U.S. Congress asks NACA to step up its space-related efforts. A Special Committee on Space Technology, led by scientist Guyford Stever, is established one month later.
1958: NACA launches the first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, which carries an instrument for measuring cosmic rays. The National Aeronautics and Space Act establishes the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NACA’s budget, facilities, and staff are entirely absorbed by the new agency. NASA begins work on Project Mercury, which would later demonstrate that humans can survive in space. The first unmanned space probes are launched as part of the Pioneer mission to explore other planets. Pioneer 1 was to be sent to the moon but never made it due to a malfunction.
1961: Astronaut Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space. He pilots "Freedom 7" as part of Project Mercury in a suborbital flight for 15 minutes. President John F. Kennedy spearheads the creation of the Apollo program with the goal of eventually landing an American on the moon.
1962: John Glenn, aboard the "Friendship 7" spacecraft, is the first American to complete an orbit of the Earth. Project Gemini begins conducting research into the feasibility of lunar missions.
1963: The first of the unmanned Mariner spacecraft is launched with the goal of exploring Mercury, Venus, and Mars.
1965: The first Gemini mission with humans on board is launched, demonstrating that humans can live in space for extended durations.
1968: The first manned flight to the moon occurs in December of this year during the Apollo 8 mission.
1969: Apollo 11 lands on the moon with astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins. Armstrong and Aldrin become the first
humans to walk on the moon.