Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole emerged as one of the early favourites after earning the highest score - 25 points out of 30 - for a Viennese waltz that judge Bruno Tonioli called "a performance of sparkling finesse".
Gold medal figure skater Evan Lysacek also impressed with his waltz, getting the second-highest score of 23 points.
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin earned the night's lowest score, collecting 14 points out of 30 for his cha-cha. The judges were reluctant to criticise the 80-year-old war veteran, whom host Tom Bergeron introduced as a "living legend," but Bruno summed it up by saying: "It looked like you still had your moon boots on."
Other low-scorers included soap star Aiden Turner, who earned 15 points for his cha-cha, and reality TV star Kate Gosselin, who collected 16 points for her Viennese waltz.
Also competing this season are reality star Jake Pavelka, sportscaster Erin Andrews, American football star Chad Ochocinco and actor Niecy Nash.
The first episode also featured the debut of co-host Brooke Burke, who will share duties with Bergeron, and the return of judges Bruno, Len Goodman and Carrie Ann Inaba.
:: Dancing With The Stars begins in the UK on Watch on Friday March 26 at 9pm.