NASA's 60th Birthday: 60 of the Space Agency's Most Spectacular Images

From jaw-dropping pictures of interlacing galaxies to man's first steps outside of Earth, these are NASA's most incredible images so far.
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NASA’s 60th Birthday: 60 of the Space Agency’s Most Spectacular Images NASA

In 1957, the Russians did something that would change the course of American history. They launched the world's first artificial satellite on board an intercontinental ballistic missile, called the Sputnik 1.

Although the U.S. government dismissed it as "useless hunk of iron," they were frightened by the rapid progress of their Soviet enemies—especially when Russia launched Laika the dog into space the next month on Sputnik II.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower gathered his advisors and pushed for an American response to this technological development, which had become the pride of the Russian propaganda machine.

Patriotic pride aside, national security consultants were beginning to see the benefits of space exploration, which would improve navigational and communication abilities, as well as expand defensive range.

The U.S. entered the space race with the 1958 launch of Explorer 1. Later that year, Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, establishing NASA, which opened its doors in October.

The space agency has gone on to organize some of the most impressive interstellar missions in the world (and, possibly, the universe). Most famously, their Apollo missions ensured an American Space Race victory, which saw twelve men land on the moon between 1969 to 1972.

Other massive achievements include inventing a partially reusable space shuttle and the development of a permanent international space station orbiting Earth.

The next step for NASA is discovering more about Mars. The rover mission Mars 2020 is due to launch in July 2020. It aims to investigate the Red Planet's astrobiology and settle the question of whether there was once life on Mars.

To celebrate the agency's 60th year, we've put together 60 of their most stunning images. From jaw-dropping pictures of interlacing galaxies to man's first steps outside of Earth, these are NASA's most incredible images so far.

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A huge, handle-shaped prominence erupts from the Sun in this image taken on September 14,1999. Prominences are huge clouds of relatively cool dense plasma suspended in the Sun's hot, thin corona. At times, they can erupt, escaping the Sun's atmosphere. ESA/NASA/SOHO