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)
America lands a man on the Moon.
Apollo 12 finds hardy bacteria on an old Moon probe.
The Apollo 12 astronauts located Surveyor 3, a 1967 unmanned Moon probe, and returned a piece of it to Earth. Scientists wanted to know what effect 33 months on the Moon had had on the probe. Inside the spacecraft's camera they found droplets from a sneeze accidentally sealed into the instrument by one of its builders. The bacteria in the droplets "came back to life" once they were returned to the right conditions. This showed how hardy life can be.
Apollo 8 orbits the Moon as NASA prepares for a manned landing.
Apollo 8 orbited the Moon on Christmas Eve in 1968 and temporarily lost contact with mission controllers when the spacecraft went behind the Moon. This mission was one of the final test flights before the 1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing.
Patrick Moore and his guest tackle a common Moon hoax claim.
Playing devil's advocate, Sir Patrick Moore asks space imaging expert Douglas Arnold about a common claim made by people who say the Moon landings were faked.
The only scientist to walk on the Moon finds orange volcanic soil.
In 1972, Apollo 17's Harrison Schmitt, the only scientist to walk on the Moon, and his fellow astronaut Eugene Cernan discovered orange volcanic soil. At first, it was thought that this was evidence of recent lunar volcanism.
Astronauts search for a piece of the Moon's original surface.
In 1971 the Apollo 15 astronauts were tasked with finding an original piece of the Moon, not the volcanic basalts previously returned to Earth. They discovered a piece of anorthosite, crystalline rock as old as the Earth. This sample came to be known as the Genesis Rock.
The Apollo program was the third human spaceflight program carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the United States' civilian space agency. 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 and it succeeded in landing the first humans on Earth's Moon from 1969 through 1972.
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 despite the major setback of a 1967 Apollo 1 cabin fire that killed the entire crew during a pre-launch test. Six manned landings on the Moon were achieved. A seventh landing mission, the 1970 Apollo 13 flight, failed in transit to the Moon when an oxygen tank explosion disabled the command spacecraft's propulsion and life support, forcing the crew to use the Lunar Module as a "lifeboat" for these functions to return to Earth safely.
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 lunar geology. 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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