Apollo programme

Alan Bean on the Moon

Apollo programme

Project Apollo, the United States' manned Moon landing programme, culminated in 1969 with Apollo 11. Mission commander Neil Armstrong's famous words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind", spoken as he stepped onto the lunar surface, were heard by an estimated 600 million television viewers.

There were a further five Apollo landings: Apollo 12 and Apollo 14-17. Famously, Apollo 13 ended in near-disaster in 1970 when a oxygen tank explosion forced the mission to be aborted. The programme was cancelled in 1972.

Photo: Alan Bean collecting soil samples (NASA/C. Conrad)

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Alan Bean on the Moon

About Apollo programme

America lands a man on the Moon.

About Apollo programme

The Apollo program, also known as Project Apollo, was the third human spaceflight program carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the United States' civilian space agency, and the program was responsible for the landing of the first humans on Earth's Moon in 1969. First conceived during the Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower as a three-man spacecraft to follow the one-man Project Mercury which put the first Americans in space, Apollo was later dedicated to President John F. Kennedy's national goal of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" by the end of the 1960s, which he proposed in a May 25, 1961, address to Congress. Project Mercury was followed by the two-man Project Gemini (1962–66). The first manned flight of Apollo was in 1968.

Kennedy's goal was accomplished on the Apollo 11 mission when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed their Lunar Module (LM) on the Moon on July 20, 1969, and walked on its surface while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the command spacecraft, and all three landed safely on Earth on July 24. Five subsequent Apollo missions also landed astronauts on the Moon, the last in December 1972. In these six spaceflights, 12 men walked on the Moon.

Apollo ran from 1961 to 1972, and was supported by the two-man Gemini program which ran concurrently with it from 1962 to 1966. Gemini missions developed some of the space travel techniques that were necessary for the success of the Apollo missions. Apollo used Saturn family rockets as launch vehicles. Apollo / Saturn vehicles were also used for an Apollo Applications Program which consisted of three Skylab space station missions in 1973–74.

Apollo succeeded in achieving its goal of manned lunar landing, despite the major setback of a 1967 Apollo 1 cabin fire that killed the entire crew during a pre-launch test. After the first landing, sufficient flight hardware remained for nine follow-on landings with an ambitious plan for extended lunar geological and astrophysical exploration. Budget cuts forced the cancellation of three of these. Five of the remaining six missions achieved successful landings, but the Apollo 13 landing was prevented by an oxygen tank explosion in transit to the Moon, which disabled the command spacecraft's propulsion and life support. The crew returned to Earth safely by using the Lunar Module as a "lifeboat" for these functions.

Apollo set several major human spaceflight milestones. It stands alone in sending manned missions beyond low Earth orbit; Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to orbit another celestial body, while the final Apollo 17 mission marked the sixth Moon landing and the ninth manned mission beyond low Earth orbit. The program returned 842 pounds (382 kg) of lunar rocks and soil to Earth, greatly contributing to the understanding of the Moon's composition and geological history. The program laid the foundation for NASA's current human spaceflight capability, and funded construction of its Johnson Space Center and Kennedy Space Center. Apollo also spurred advances in many areas of technology incidental to rocketry and manned spaceflight, including avionics, telecommunications, and computers.

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