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The United States dared to boldly go where no man had gone before when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act on this day in history, July 29, 1958.
The legislation established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The action was a direct response to the success of the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik, the first man-made satellite, in October 1957.
The achievement created fears in the United States and Western Europe of ceding control of the final frontier to the Soviets.
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These fears, however real, were short-lived.
The creation of NASA ushered in American dominance in space and a period of exploratory achievement unparalleled in human history.
NASA quickly executed the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs, building on the success of the other.
NASA enjoyed one of the crowning achievements in history when Apollo 11 landed American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon on July 20, 1969 – just 11 years after Eisenhower signed the Space Act.
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No human has set foot on the moon since the Apollo program ended in 1972.
The creation of NASA joins the short list of Eisenhower’s greatest achievements – first as a general and then as president. He stands among the most consequential figures in American history.
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As Supreme Allied Commander during World War II, Eisenhower tactfully held together a coalition of American, British and French leaders despite clashing egos and conflicting personal and national goals.
He orchestrated the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of Europe, arguably the single greatest logistical and military feat in human history.
And he presided over the total defeat and military dissolution of Nazi Germany in less than 3.5 years after US entry into the conflict.
His two-term presidency (1953-1961) proved a period of unprecedented American peace, prosperity, and global hegemony.
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In particular, he ended US involvement in the Korean War in 1953, created the US Interstate Highway System in 1956, and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
Then, in 1958, he inspired a bold new era of human exploration, this age of the cosmos.