NASA Fast Facts

(CNN)Here's a look at NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), the United States government agency that conducts research into space.

There are ten major NASA installations, including the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Timeline:
October 4, 1957 -
The Soviets launch Sputnik 1, the world's first artificial satellite.

October 1, 1958 - The official start of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

October 7, 1958 - NASA announces Project Mercury.

April 9, 1959 - The Mercury project's objectives are to place a human spacecraft into orbital flight around Earth, observe human performance in such conditions, and recover the human and the spacecraft safely.

Seven are introduced to the public. The Mercury Seven are the first American astronauts: Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., John H. Glenn, Jr., Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Alan B. Shepard, Jr., and Donald K. "Deke" Slayton.

    May 5, 1961 - Freedom 7, the first piloted Mercury spacecraft carrying Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., is launched from Cape Canaveral. It is the first American space flight involving human beings.

    February 20, 1962 - John Glenn becomes the first American to circle the Earth, making three orbits in his Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft.

    March 23, 1965 - The first operational mission of Project Gemini takes place, under the command of Mercury astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom.

    June 3-7, 1965 - The second piloted Gemini mission, GT-4, stays aloft for four days. Astronaut Edward H. White II performs the first extra-vehicular activity (EVA) or spacewalk by an American.

    January 27, 1967 - Apollo 1 catches fire during a dress rehearsal and the three astronauts aboard, Lt. Col. Virgil I. Grissom, Lt. Col. Edward H. White, and Roger B. Chaffee, are killed.

    July 16-24, 1969 - Apollo 11 goes to the moon. On July 20, 1969, the Lunar Module with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin lands on the lunar surface while Michael Collins orbits overhead in the Apollo command module. Armstrong sets foot on the surface, saying that it is "one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

    April 11-17, 1970 - The flight of Apollo 13 becomes one of the near disasters of the Apollo flight program when an oxygen tank in the Apollo service module ruptures and damages several of the power, electrical, and life support systems. NASA ground personnel and the crew, well on their way to the Moon, work together to find a safe way home. The astronauts and NASA engineers on the ground find that the Lunar Module, a self-contained spacecraft unaffected by the accident, could be used as a "lifeboat" to provide austere life support for the return trip. The crew returns safely on April 17, 1970.

    July 15-24, 1975 - The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project is the first human space flight mission managed jointly by two nations. It is designed to test the compatibility of rendezvous and docking systems for American and Soviet spacecraft in order to open the way for future joint human flights.

    April 12, 1981 - Astronauts John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen fly Space Shuttle Columbia on the first flight of the Space Transportation System (STS-1). Columbia becomes the first airplane-like craft to land from orbit for reuse.

    June 18, 1983 - Astronauts Robert L. Crippen and Frederick H. Hauck pilot Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-7) on a mission to launch two communications satellites and the reusable Shuttle Pallet Satellite (SPAS 01). Sally K. Ride, one of three mission specialists on the first Shuttle flight with five crew members, becomes the first American woman astronaut.

    January 28, 1986 - The space shuttle Challenger on mission STS-51L explodes 73 seconds after launch as a result of a leak in one of two Solid Rocket Boosters that ignite the main liquid fuel tank. All seven crew on board die: Commander Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, pilot Michael J. Smith, three mission specialists, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, payload specialist Gregory B. Jarvis, and Sharon Christa McAuliffe, a teacher selected through the teacher in space program.

    April 24-29, 1990 - During the flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-31) the crew deploys the Hubble Space Telescope.

    February 3-11, 1995 - Exactly one year after a major cooperative flight with the Russians in STS-60, NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery, this time STS-63, flies another historic mission featuring the flyby of the Russian Mir Space Station. It is also the first time that a woman pilot, Eileen M. Collins, commands the Space Shuttle.

    July 4, 1997 - The Mars Pathfinder lands on Mars. Two days later, the Sojourner Rover rolls out of the Pathfinder and onto Mars's surface, where it soon begins transmitting pictures of Mars back to Earth.

    November 2, 2000 - The first permanent crew, Expedition One, arrives at the International Space Station.

    February 1, 2003 - The space shuttle Columbia on mission STS-107 disintegrates during reentry and all 7 crew on board are killed: Commander Rick Husband, pilot Willie McCool and mission specialists Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, Mike Anderson, David Brown and Israeli payload specialist Ilan Ramon.

    August 31, 2006 - NASA awards Lockheed Martin Corp a contract to build a manned lunar spaceship called Orion. The first test flight for Orion is scheduled for September 2014. NASA estimates astronauts could use Orion to return to the moon in late 2019 or 2020.

    December 4, 2006 - Announces plans for a permanent astronaut settlement on the Moon's south pole by the mid 2020's.

    September 2010 - Shuttle fleet, Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour are set to be retired from service.

    October 11, 2010 - President Obama signs the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 bill, which includes funds for commercial space programs, authorization for a heavy lift launch vehicle, and approval of an additional shuttle launch before the fleet retires.

    December 2, 2010 - NASA scientists announce the discovery of an arsenic-eating bacteria found in California's Mono Lake, expanding the traditional notions of sustainable life.

    August 5, 2011 - Mission Juno, an unmanned spacecraft launches. The arrival in Jupiter's atmosphere is scheduled for August 2016 and the mission's end is to be October 2017. Investigations into the formation and evolution of the planet, its cloud cover, magnetic and gravitational fields will be performed in an effort to further understandings of the formation of Earth.

    July 2, 2012 - NASA unveils Orion, the agency's newest manned spaceship. Orion's first mission with crew aboard is scheduled for 2021.

    August 6, 2012 - The $2.6 billion rover, Curiosity, successfully lands on target on Mars at 1:32am EDT.

    September 12, 2013 - Scientists confirm that Voyager 1 has crossed into interstellar space. Voyager 1 was launched in 1977.

    July 23, 2015 - NASA's Kepler spacecraft locates "Earth's bigger, older cousin." The planet Kepler-452b is about 1,400 light-years from Earth in the Cyngnus constellation.