NASA reaches a milestone

Claudine Zap
Claudine Zap
Yahoo! News

From putting people on the moon in 1969 to weathering near disasters (“Houston, we have a problem”) and actual ones — the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy in 1986 — NASA has had our attention.

This week, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, commonly known as NASA, celebrated a hefty milestone: The Space Act that created NASA was signed 55 years ago, in 1958.

Now the Space Shuttle program is mothballed. Private citizens, like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, have stepped in to sponsor a salvage mission searching for NASA artifacts. Americans hitch rides on Soyuz and live with the Russians on the International Space Station.

That’s a far cry from when NASA was first formed — to enter the space race, only nine months after the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik.

NASA is still part of popular culture, and still exploring. The Mars rover Curiosity captivated audiences far and wide with its live-stream landing on the red planet.

"I think the most powerful of NASA’s accomplishments has been the way it enabled us to appreciate the place of our tiny, 'pale blue dot' in an unimaginably huge universe," Bing F. Quock, assistant director of Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences, told Yahoo News in an email.

"Whether directly as a member of that elite band of 'rocket-riders' or vicariously as Earthbound armchair space-travelers, the perspective of seeing Earth in space has triggered a widespread consciousness of our world’s fragility and a desire to preserve and protect the life upon it. Hopefully, that’ll be the most enduring legacy of the Space Age," Quock added.

In honor of the space organization’s legacy, check out this video, which came out last year and quickly went viral.