July 29, 1958. The US Congress passes the National Aeronautics and Space Act which establishes the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The United States, under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, was in a hurry to join the space race started by the Soviet Union in October 1957 with the launch of Sputnik I, the first satellite to orbit the earth. The fear that the Russians could use their advantage in space to military and even nuclear ends is referred to as the “Sputnik Crisis.” Over the next few years Congress would introduce education programs to foster future engineers and significantly increase the budget for America’s activities in space. In May 1969 President John F. Kennedy laid down a challenge to the Russians by declaring that the US should put man on the moon by the end of the decade. NASA duly made this possible in 1969 with the Apollo 11 programme. Much progress has been made since in non-military space exploration and NASA has contributed greatly to the International Space Station. It says it plans to build a permanent base on the Moon by 2024.
Also on July 29: the British navy defeats the Spanish Armada at the Battle of Gravelines (1588); the Arc de Triomphe is inaugurated in Paris (1836); the International Atomic Energy Agency is established (1957); marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana (1981).
Born on July 29: Alexis de Tocqueville (1805), Dag Hammarskjöld (1905), Fernando Alonso (1981).