SCIENCE

19 Amazing Photos Spotlight NASA On Its Big Day

Here's a rare look at the space agency through the years.

Happy (sort of) birthday, NASA! The space agency was created 57 years ago today -- July 29, 1958 -- when President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act into law, allowing for the agency to officially open its doors on Oct. 1.

In the years since, NASA has landed astronauts on the moon and a rover on Mars. More recently, it has gotten up close and personal with Pluto, and even discovered the most Earth-like planet yet outside of our solar system. Of course, the agency has seen its dark days as well, including the space shuttle Challenger tragedy.

What else has happened in the space agency's history? Take a rare look at NASA's rockets, launches, astronauts, and accomplishments in the photos below, curated by the photo agency Getty. Enjoy!

  • Edward H. White II, pilot of the Gemini 4 spacecraft, floats in the zero gravity of space with Earth in the background in&nbs
    Edward H. White II, pilot of the Gemini 4 spacecraft, floats in the zero gravity of space with Earth in the background in November 1965. The extravehicular activity was performed during the third revolution of the Gemini 4 spacecraft and represents the first time an American has stepped outside the confines of his spacecraft. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
  • Kinescope images of astronaut Commander Neil Armstrong in the Apollo 11 space shuttle during the space mission to land on the
    Kinescope images of astronaut Commander Neil Armstrong in the Apollo 11 space shuttle during the space mission to land on the moon for the first time in history on July 20, 1969 (Photo by NBC NewsWire/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
  • Orion, the Apollo 16 Lunar Module prepares to rendezvous with the Apollo 16 Command and Service Module, Casper, wit
    Orion, the Apollo 16 Lunar Module prepares to rendezvous with the Apollo 16 Command and Service Module, Casper, with astronaut Thomas Mattingly aboard in lunar orbit on April 23, 1972. This picture was taken by a camera on the Lunar Rover. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
  • Five NASA astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis look out overhead windows on the aft flight deck toward their counterp
    Five NASA astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis look out overhead windows on the aft flight deck toward their counterparts aboard the Mir Space Station in March 1996. (Courtesy of NASA)
  • The exhaust plume from space shuttle Atlantis is seen through the window of a Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) as it launches
    The exhaust plume from space shuttle Atlantis is seen through the window of a Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) as it launches at the Kennedy Space Center on July 8, 2011 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was the final launch of the space shuttle program, which began in 1981. (Photo by Dick Clark/NASA via Getty Images)
  • A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket carrying NASA's first Orion deep space exploration craft sits on its launch pad as it
    A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket carrying NASA's first Orion deep space exploration craft sits on its launch pad as it is prepared for a 7:05 a.m. launch on December 4, 2014 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
  • A military pilot sits in the cockpit of an X-15 experimental rocket aircraft, wearing an astronaut's spacesuit circa 1959.  (
    A military pilot sits in the cockpit of an X-15 experimental rocket aircraft, wearing an astronaut's spacesuit circa 1959. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
  • Echo 1, a spherical balloon with a metalized skin, was launched by NASA on August 12, 1960. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
    Echo 1, a spherical balloon with a metalized skin, was launched by NASA on August 12, 1960. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
  • Four views of Earth rising above the lunar horizon, photographed by the crew of the Apollo 10 Lunar Module, while in lunar or
    Four views of Earth rising above the lunar horizon, photographed by the crew of the Apollo 10 Lunar Module, while in lunar orbit in May 1969. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
  • American geologist and Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Hagan Schmitt stands next to the U.S. flag on the surface of the moon&nbs
    American geologist and Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Hagan Schmitt stands next to the U.S. flag on the surface of the moon in December 1972. The earth is visible in the far distance. (Photo by Eugene A. Cernan/Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
  • The space shuttle 'Enterprise' (NASA Orbiter Vehicle 101) makes its way along Rideout Road (Alabama State Route 255) to the M
    The space shuttle 'Enterprise' (NASA Orbiter Vehicle 101) makes its way along Rideout Road (Alabama State Route 255) to the Marshall Space Flight Center near Huntsville, Alabama on March 15, 1978. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
  • A crowd of people, viewed from behind, watch the launch of the first NASA Space Shuttle mission (STS-1) from the launchpad at
    A crowd of people, viewed from behind, watch the launch of the first NASA Space Shuttle mission (STS-1) from the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida on April 12, 1981. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
  • Astronaut Bruce McCandless II photographed at his maximum distance (320 feet) from the Space Shuttle Challenger during the fi
    Astronaut Bruce McCandless II photographed at his maximum distance (320 feet) from the Space Shuttle Challenger during the first untethered EVA, made possible by his nitrogen jet propelled backpack, on February 7, 1984:. (Photo by NASA/Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
  • Aerial shot of the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-41-D) as it takes off, leaving a trail of exhaust smoke, from Kenne
    Aerial shot of the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-41-D) as it takes off, leaving a trail of exhaust smoke, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, August 30, 1984. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
  • Two technicians inside a Space Shuttle external tank, circa 1985. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
    Two technicians inside a Space Shuttle external tank, circa 1985. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
  • Pluto's largest moon Charon is shown from a distance of 289,000 miles from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager aboard NASA's
    Pluto's largest moon Charon is shown from a distance of 289,000 miles from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager aboard NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, and released July 15, 2015. (Photo by NASA/APL/SwRI via Getty Images)
  • An astronaut's bootprint leaves a mark on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969 on the moon. (Photo by NASA/Newsmakers)
    An astronaut's bootprint leaves a mark on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969 on the moon. (Photo by NASA/Newsmakers)
  • Astronaut Charles Moss Duke, Jr. leaves a photograph of his family on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 16 lunar land
    Astronaut Charles Moss Duke, Jr. leaves a photograph of his family on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 16 lunar landing mission on April 23, 1972. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
  • Photograph of the Milky Way Galaxy captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope in 2007. (Photo by Universal History
    Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty Images
    Photograph of the Milky Way Galaxy captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope in 2007. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
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