NASA released a new book on Thursday to commemorate the last five decades of achievement in aeronautics, science and technology, and spaceflight since the launch of Soviet satellite Sputnik ushered in the Space Age.

The U.S. space agency is also celebrating its own 50th anniversary in 2008. Sputnik's historic launch on Oct. 4, 1957 led directly to NASA's creation in 1958 when Congress passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act.

"This book has a wonderful collection of imagery that chronicles the first half-century of NASA," said NASA deputy administrator Shana Dale in a statement. "As we view the historic achievement of our first generation of space explorers and see how far we have come in 50 years, we also peer over the horizon to a new era of exploration that will provide us with an outpost on the moon and eventually human exploration of Mars."

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Titled "America in Space" and published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, the book contains 500 color and black-and-white photographs — many never before published — that were gleaned from NASA archives.

Images show dramatic moments at lift-off as well as the faces behind-the-scenes in mission control, providing vivid illustration of the very human astronauts, scientists, engineers, and administrators.

"Abrams is tremendously proud to have collaborated with NASA to create 'America in Space,' which celebrates some of our nation's greatest achievements and is also a milestone in photographic publishing," said Eric Himmel, Abrams vice president and editor-in-chief. "It was thrilling to see these amazing images materialize from NASA's vast visual archives as the project took shape."

"America in Space" also features a foreword by Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong — the first human to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969.

NASA chief historian Steven Dick, lead photo researcher Constance Moore and other officials also contributed to the new book, the space agency said. The book sells for $50.

For more images from the book, click here.

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