The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower in July 1958. Amongst other provisions, this act created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which became the leading American agency during the Space Race:
“…The Congress hereby declares that it is the policy of the United States that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.
The Congress declares that the general welfare and security of the United States require that adequate provision be made for aeronautical and space activities. The Congress further declares that such activities shall be the responsibility of, and shall be directed by, a civilian agency exercising control over aeronautical and space activities sponsored by the United States, except that activities peculiar to or primarily associated with the development of weapons systems, military operations or the defense of the United States (including the research and development necessary to make effective provision for the defense of the United States) shall be the responsibility of… the Department of Defense…
The aeronautical and space activities of the United States shall be conducted so as to contribute materially to one or more of the following objectives:
1. The expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and space;
2. The improvement of the usefulness, performance, speed, safety, and efficiency of aeronautical and space vehicles;
3. The development and operation of vehicles capable of carrying instruments, equipment, supplies and living organisms through space;
4. The establishment of long-range studies of the potential benefits to be gained from, the opportunities for, and the problems involved in the utilization of aeronautical and space activities for peaceful and scientific purposes.
5. The preservation of the role of the United States as a leader in aeronautical and space science and technology and in the application thereof to the conduct of peaceful activities within and outside the atmosphere.
6. The making available to agencies directly concerned with national defences of discoveries that have military value or significance, and the furnishing by such agencies, to the civilian agency established to direct and control nonmilitary aeronautical and space activities, of information as to discoveries which have value or significance to that agency;
7. Cooperation by the United States with other nations and groups of nations in work done pursuant to this Act and in the peaceful application of the results thereof;
8. The most effective utilisation of the scientific and engineering resources of the United States, with close cooperation among all interested agencies of the United States in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort, facilities, and equipment.”