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NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is the government agency responsible for the space program of the United States of America and the civil and military aerospace research.
July 29, 1958 President Eisenhower signed the act of incorporation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which began its activities in October of that year. Von Braun became the director and the center occupying 7,000 people. The first NASA programs were focused on the possibility of human missions in space, under the pressure of competition between the U.S. and the USSR due to the cold war. The Mercury program was the first NASA program designed to determine whether the man could travel in space. On May 5, 1961, astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space, piloting the Mercury 3 in a 15-minute suborbital flight. John Glenn was however the first American to orbit around the Earth February 20, 1962, during the Mercury 6 mission. Once demonstrated the possibility of human spaceflight with the Mercury program, the Apollo Program was launched in order to arrive in lunar orbit. May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy changed the program by saying that the U.S. would have to "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" by 1970. The Gemini program soon after he left to experiment with the techniques to this ambitious mission. After eight years of preparatory missions and the loss of Apollo 1 crew, the Apollo program achieved its goal July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on Moon’s surface. Neil Armstrong, the first man to touch the lunar soil uttered the famous phrase " That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." Ten other astronauts walked on the moon in later Apollo missions ended in December 1972.
Later the activity was focused on the exploration of Mars. To this end, several missions were launched to the red planet, the last of them in order of time was the Phoenix Mars Lander.
(translated from: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA )