NACA's Dreams Turned into NASA Reality
Since its inception 50 years ago, NASA’s scientific and technological excellence has helped power the nation into the 21st century, shaping and improving life. As icons of human achievement, NASA’s enduring accomplishments promise another era of discovery and innovation.
Before NASA could stamp its permanent presence in history, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA, conducted the nation's aeronautical research. In response to the advancing European aeronautical programs in 1915, President Woodrow Wilson created NACA to gain back the U.S. lead. Its first center, known today as NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., was the first government facility to coordinate aeronautical research in the civil and military sectors.
NACA's peace-oriented operations and significant contributions to aeronautics, throughout its 43-year history, led Congress to organize a national program in space science formed around NACA.
On April 2, 1958, the bill for establishing a National Aeronautics and Space Agency was submitted. It reinforced the belief that space should only be used for peaceful purposes and stated that NACA would be absorbed into the new agency with new development and flight operations responsibilities.
On July 29, President Eisenhower signed into law the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, establishing a broad charter for civilian aeronautical and space research. Two months later, on Oct. 1, the first NASA personnel reported to work.
After receiving control of the Army's Missile Firing Laboratory in 1960, NASA changed the name to the Launch Operations Directorate and formed NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
When the space competition rose with the Soviet Union, President John F. Kennedy proposed a lunar landing initiative to Congress that required a new launch facility capable of launching larger spacecraft.
In 1962, NASA broke away from the Launch Operations Directorate in Huntsville and designated Merritt Island Launch Area an independent field installation in Cape Canaveral, Fla., which became Kennedy Space Center in 1963.
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center