NASA, after celebrating its 50th anniversary last week, opened a Website interactive tour highlighting its first half century of exploration.

Combining current and historic video with state-of-the-art computer animation, the virtual exhibit takes a World’s Fair approach to NASA history, featuring pavilions that host each decade of the agency’s challenges and achievements. Visitors will get unique insight into NASA’s activities over the years, including a wide range of exploration and research initiatives, and a glimpse into the future.

"We’re very excited to have people come and take a look at NASA’s history," said Brian Dunbar, NASA’s Internet services manager at headquarters in Washington. "We’ve been able to take a wide range of material and weave it into a virtual tour that allows people to explore at their own pace."

The exhibit’s host is an animated robot named Automa, who will guide visitors through their journey. Also assisting everyone throughout their tour are important historic and cultural figures of the past 50 years of aerospace history, including astronauts, presidents, astronomers, and other popular icons associated with NASA’s history.

For example, in the 1970s pavilion, visitors will see a presentation of NASA’s Voyager and Viking missions hosted by an avatar of the late astronomer Carl Sagan, complete with excerpts from his popular television series Cosmos.

"We’re making our first real foray into animation," said David Mould, NASA associate administrator for public affairs.

Other attractions include interior 3D views of John Glenn’s Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft, the original April 1959 press conference introducing the Mercury astronauts, a tour of the International Space Station, video presentations about NASA’s aeronautics programs, and an interview with former CBS news journalist Walter Cronkite

On July 29, 1958, the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, signed into law the "National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958" (Public Law 85-568). Less than one month later, President Eisenhower administered the oath of office to NASA’s first Administrator, T. Keith Glennan, and the agency’s Deputy Administrator, Hugh L. Dryden, who had been serving as the director of NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA.

(Please see separate story on the NASA 50th anniversary status in this issue.)