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Happy 55th Birthday NASA: The Agency's Greatest Moments (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

07/29/2013 05:16 EDT | Updated 07/31/2013 09:22 EDT

Happy birthday NASA!

The space agency celebrates its 55th birthday on Monday. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was founded by president Dwight Eisenhower in 1958 with the passing of the National Aeronautics and Space Act (the agency would start operations in October of 1958). In the last five-and-a-half decades the men, women, animals and robots of NASA have explored our solar system, given us unforgettable glimpses of the planets and our interstellar neighbours and taken those first careful steps off Earth. Here's a look back at some of the most memorable moments from NASA's history

1. You put men on the moon

Not once, not twice but six times.

nasa flag moon

2. And probes on Mars

The most recent probe to land on Mars is the Curiosity, but NASA has run missions to red planet going back to the 1960s. The Viking probes in the 1970s were the first to land on the Martian surface.

This recent picture from Curiosity is one of the most detailed images of the planet ever taken.

mars billion pixel image

The Curiosity landing last year was an amazing example of years of science, engineering and bravery boiled down to one defining moment.

3. You sent probes out of the solar system

The Voyager and Pioneer space probes have now left our solar system or are at its outer borders. Voyager 1 is about 11 1/2 billion miles away from Earth. Both probes carry a golden LP with messages and sounds from our planet. If you listen to Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan's widow, talk about the record you'll also realize that some of the nerds at NASA are the biggest romantics around.

voyager probe nasa

A photo of Jupiter from 1979, taken by the Voyager 1 probe. (Getty Images)

4. You also put a giant telescope into space so we can get a better look

The Hubble Space Telescope has been giving scientists an unparalleled look at stars, nebulae and other interstellar objects for more than 16 years.

hubbledeepfield

The Deep Field photos always makes us feel incredibly small. Those are galaxies people.

5. You gave us a better look at the planet

earth photos

That one was taken by the astronauts on Apollo 8.

6. Sometimes from really far away

cassini earth

That photo was taken by Cassini, a space probe currently hanging around Saturn. That little blue dot. That's every mountain, every ocean, every city, everyone you know and love.

7. You always bounce back

Going to space is dangerous business and you've lost men and women. But NASA never gives up on exploration.

challenger disaster nasa

The crew of the NASA shuttle Challenger. (Back, L-R) Mission Specialist Ellison S. Onizuka, Teacher-in-Space participant Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist Greg Jarvis and mission specialist Judy Resnick. (Front, L-R) Pilot Mike Smith, commander Dick Scobee and mission specialist Ron McNair. The shuttle exploded minutes after its launch in 1986, killing all aboard. (NASA/Getty Images)

8. You remind us how awesome the universe is every day... Happy Birthday!

Do you have a favourite NASA or space exploration moment? Where were you when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon? Share it with us in the comments

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