The United States launched its first satellite into space on Jan. 31, 1958, the same year President Eisenhower created NASA. In May 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space as part of the Mercury program. Later that month, President Kennedy announced the United States would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, and the space program intensified.
In February 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth. By the year's end, the plans for the Apollo program in which the United States would send men to the moon were established.
The Apollo program lasted from 1963 to 1972. Apollo I resulted in a fire during a launch simulation that took the lives of three astronauts on Jan. 27, 1967. Apollo 7 was the first manned Apollo flight, and in December 1968, Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to orbit the moon.
Apollo 11 put the first two men, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, on the moon in July 1969. A near-disaster occurred with Apollo 13 in 1970 that prevented it from landing on the moon, but six manned missions in all included lunar landings. Apollo 17 was the last.
Between 1981 and 2011, 135 space shuttle missions flew, beginning with the flight of Columbia. Challenger,
Discovery, Endeavor and Atlantis were the other shuttles in the fleet. Challenger fell apart shortly after launching on Jan. 28, 1986, killing the crew of seven that included a civilian school teacher. Columbia fell apart during re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003, killing its crew of seven.