Apollo Timeline

Apollo Timeline

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Since opening its doors in 1914 and introducing the first Amateur Night contests in 1934, the Apollo has played a major role in the emergence of jazz, swing, bebop, R&B, gospel, blues, and soul — all quintessentially American music genres. Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis Jr., James Brown, Gladys Knight, Luther Vandross, D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, and countless others began their road to stardom on the Apollo stage. Today, the Apollo is a respected not-for-profit, which presents concerts, performing arts, education and community outreach programs.

The neo-classical theater known today as the Apollo Theater was designed by George Keister and first owned by Sidney Cohen. In 1914, Benjamin Hurtig and Harry Seamon obtained a thirty-year lease on the newly constructed theater calling it Hurtig and Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater. Like many American theaters during this time, African-Americans were not allowed to attend as patrons or to perform.

In 1933 Fiorello La Guardia, who would later become New York City’s Mayor, began a campaign against burlesque. Hurtig & Seamon’s was one of many theaters that would close down.

Cohen reopened the building as the 125th Street Apollo Theatre in 1934 with his partner, Morris Sussman serving as manager. Cohen and Sussman changed the format of the shows from burlesque to variety revues and redirected their marketing attention to the growing African-American community in Harlem.

Frank Schiffman and Leo Brecher took over the Apollo in 1935. The Schiffman and Brecher families would operate the Theater until the late 1970s.

The Apollo reopened briefly in 1978 under new management then closed again in November 1979. In 1981, it was purchased by Percy Sutton a prominent lawyer, politician, media and technology executive, and a group of private investors. Under Sutton’s ownership, the Theater was equipped with a recording and television studio.

In 1983, the Apollo received state and city landmark status and in 1991, Apollo Theater Foundation, Inc., was established as a private, not-for-profit organization to manage, fund and oversee programming for the Apollo Theater. Today, the Apollo, which functions under the guidance of a Board of Directors, presents concerts, performing arts, education and community outreach programs.

At 13:32 the Apollo 11 Saturn V lifted off from the Kennedy Space centre carrying three astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin.

At 17:21 Apollo 11 entered lunar orbit. Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were now over 240,000 miles away from the nearest humans. For 24 hours they prepared for the final stage.

The crew of Apollo 11. (From left to right) Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edward ‘Buzz’ Aldrin.


Origin and spacecraft feasibility studies Edit

The Apollo program was conceived during the Eisenhower administration in early 1960, as a follow-up to Project Mercury. While the Mercury capsule could support only one astronaut on a limited Earth orbital mission, Apollo would carry three. Possible missions included ferrying crews to a space station, circumlunar flights, and eventual crewed lunar landings.

The program was named after Apollo, the Greek god of light, music, and the Sun, by NASA manager Abe Silverstein, who later said, "I was naming the spacecraft like I'd name my baby." [3] Silverstein chose the name at home one evening, early in 1960, because he felt "Apollo riding his chariot across the Sun was appropriate to the grand scale of the proposed program." [4]

In July 1960, NASA Deputy Administrator Hugh L. Dryden announced the Apollo program to industry representatives at a series of Space Task Group conferences. Preliminary specifications were laid out for a spacecraft with a mission module cabin separate from the command module (piloting and reentry cabin), and a propulsion and equipment module. On August 30, a feasibility study competition was announced, and on October 25, three study contracts were awarded to General Dynamics/Convair, General Electric, and the Glenn L. Martin Company. Meanwhile, NASA performed its own in-house spacecraft design studies led by Maxime Faget, to serve as a gauge to judge and monitor the three industry designs. [5]

Political pressure builds Edit

In November 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected president after a campaign that promised American superiority over the Soviet Union in the fields of space exploration and missile defense. Up to the election of 1960, Kennedy had been speaking out against the "missile gap" that he and many other senators felt had developed between the Soviet Union and the United States due to the inaction of President Eisenhower. [6] Beyond military power, Kennedy used aerospace technology as a symbol of national prestige, pledging to make the US not "first but, first and, first if, but first period". [7] Despite Kennedy's rhetoric, he did not immediately come to a decision on the status of the Apollo program once he became president. He knew little about the technical details of the space program, and was put off by the massive financial commitment required by a crewed Moon landing. [8] When Kennedy's newly appointed NASA Administrator James E. Webb requested a 30 percent budget increase for his agency, Kennedy supported an acceleration of NASA's large booster program but deferred a decision on the broader issue. [9]

On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to fly in space, reinforcing American fears about being left behind in a technological competition with the Soviet Union. At a meeting of the US House Committee on Science and Astronautics one day after Gagarin's flight, many congressmen pledged their support for a crash program aimed at ensuring that America would catch up. [10] Kennedy was circumspect in his response to the news, refusing to make a commitment on America's response to the Soviets. [11]

On April 20, Kennedy sent a memo to Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, asking Johnson to look into the status of America's space program, and into programs that could offer NASA the opportunity to catch up. [12] [13] Johnson responded approximately one week later, concluding that "we are neither making maximum effort nor achieving results necessary if this country is to reach a position of leadership." [14] [15] His memo concluded that a crewed Moon landing was far enough in the future that it was likely the United States would achieve it first. [14]

On May 25, 1961, twenty days after the first US crewed spaceflight Freedom 7, Kennedy proposed the crewed Moon landing in a Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs:

Now it is time to take longer strides—time for a great new American enterprise—time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on Earth.

. I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important in the long-range exploration of space and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. [16] Full text

At the time of Kennedy's proposal, only one American had flown in space—less than a month earlier—and NASA had not yet sent an astronaut into orbit. Even some NASA employees doubted whether Kennedy's ambitious goal could be met. [17] By 1963, Kennedy even came close to agreeing to a joint US-USSR Moon mission, to eliminate duplication of effort. [18]

With the clear goal of a crewed landing replacing the more nebulous goals of space stations and circumlunar flights, NASA decided that, in order to make progress quickly, it would discard the feasibility study designs of Convair, GE, and Martin, and proceed with Faget's command and service module design. The mission module was determined to be useful only as an extra room, and therefore unnecessary. [19] They used Faget's design as the specification for another competition for spacecraft procurement bids in October 1961. On November 28, 1961, it was announced that North American Aviation had won the contract, although its bid was not rated as good as Martin's. Webb, Dryden and Robert Seamans chose it in preference due to North American's longer association with NASA and its predecessor. [20]

Landing humans on the Moon by the end of 1969 required the most sudden burst of technological creativity, and the largest commitment of resources ($25 billion $156 billion in 2019 dollars) [2] ever made by any nation in peacetime. At its peak, the Apollo program employed 400,000 people and required the support of over 20,000 industrial firms and universities. [21]

On July 1, 1960, NASA established the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama. MSFC designed the heavy lift-class Saturn launch vehicles, which would be required for Apollo. [22]

Manned Spacecraft Center Edit

It became clear that managing the Apollo program would exceed the capabilities of Robert R. Gilruth's Space Task Group, which had been directing the nation's crewed space program from NASA's Langley Research Center. So Gilruth was given authority to grow his organization into a new NASA center, the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). A site was chosen in Houston, Texas, on land donated by Rice University, and Administrator Webb announced the conversion on September 19, 1961. [23] It was also clear NASA would soon outgrow its practice of controlling missions from its Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch facilities in Florida, so a new Mission Control Center would be included in the MSC. [24]

In September 1962, by which time two Project Mercury astronauts had orbited the Earth, Gilruth had moved his organization to rented space in Houston, and construction of the MSC facility was under way, Kennedy visited Rice to reiterate his challenge in a famous speech:

But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? . We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win . [25] Full text

The MSC was completed in September 1963. It was renamed by the US Congress in honor of Lyndon Johnson soon after his death in 1973. [26]

Launch Operations Center Edit

It also became clear that Apollo would outgrow the Canaveral launch facilities in Florida. The two newest launch complexes were already being built for the Saturn I and IB rockets at the northernmost end: LC-34 and LC-37. But an even bigger facility would be needed for the mammoth rocket required for the crewed lunar mission, so land acquisition was started in July 1961 for a Launch Operations Center (LOC) immediately north of Canaveral at Merritt Island. The design, development and construction of the center was conducted by Kurt H. Debus, a member of Dr. Wernher von Braun's original V-2 rocket engineering team. Debus was named the LOC's first Director. [27] Construction began in November 1962. Following Kennedy's death, President Johnson issued an executive order on November 29, 1963, to rename the LOC and Cape Canaveral in honor of Kennedy. [28]

The LOC included Launch Complex 39, a Launch Control Center, and a 130-million-cubic-foot (3,700,000 m 3 ) Vertical Assembly Building (VAB). [29] in which the space vehicle (launch vehicle and spacecraft) would be assembled on a mobile launcher platform and then moved by a crawler-transporter to one of several launch pads. Although at least three pads were planned, only two, designated A and B, were completed in October 1965. The LOC also included an Operations and Checkout Building (OCB) to which Gemini and Apollo spacecraft were initially received prior to being mated to their launch vehicles. The Apollo spacecraft could be tested in two vacuum chambers capable of simulating atmospheric pressure at altitudes up to 250,000 feet (76 km), which is nearly a vacuum. [30] [31]

Organization Edit

Administrator Webb realized that in order to keep Apollo costs under control, he had to develop greater project management skills in his organization, so he recruited Dr. George E. Mueller for a high management job. Mueller accepted, on the condition that he have a say in NASA reorganization necessary to effectively administer Apollo. Webb then worked with Associate Administrator (later Deputy Administrator) Seamans to reorganize the Office of Manned Space Flight (OMSF). [32] On July 23, 1963, Webb announced Mueller's appointment as Deputy Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, to replace then Associate Administrator D. Brainerd Holmes on his retirement effective September 1. Under Webb's reorganization, the directors of the Manned Spacecraft Center ( Gilruth), Marshall Space Flight Center ( von Braun), and the Launch Operations Center ( Debus) reported to Mueller. [33]

Based on his industry experience on Air Force missile projects, Mueller realized some skilled managers could be found among high-ranking officers in the U.S. Air Force, so he got Webb's permission to recruit General Samuel C. Phillips, who gained a reputation for his effective management of the Minuteman program, as OMSF program controller. Phillips's superior officer Bernard A. Schriever agreed to loan Phillips to NASA, along with a staff of officers under him, on the condition that Phillips be made Apollo Program Director. Mueller agreed, and Phillips managed Apollo from January 1964, until it achieved the first human landing in July 1969, after which he returned to Air Force duty. [34]

Once Kennedy had defined a goal, the Apollo mission planners were faced with the challenge of designing a spacecraft that could meet it while minimizing risk to human life, cost, and demands on technology and astronaut skill. Four possible mission modes were considered:

  • Direct Ascent: The spacecraft would be launched as a unit and travel directly to the lunar surface, without first going into lunar orbit. A 50,000-pound (23,000 kg) Earth return ship would land all three astronauts atop a 113,000-pound (51,000 kg) descent propulsion stage, [35] which would be left on the Moon. This design would have required development of the extremely powerful Saturn C-8 or Nova launch vehicle to carry a 163,000-pound (74,000 kg) payload to the Moon. [36]
  • Earth Orbit Rendezvous (EOR): Multiple rocket launches (up to 15 in some plans) would carry parts of the Direct Ascent spacecraft and propulsion units for translunar injection (TLI). These would be assembled into a single spacecraft in Earth orbit.
  • Lunar Surface Rendezvous: Two spacecraft would be launched in succession. The first, an automated vehicle carrying propellant for the return to Earth, would land on the Moon, to be followed some time later by the crewed vehicle. Propellant would have to be transferred from the automated vehicle to the crewed vehicle. [37]
  • Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR): This turned out to be the winning configuration, which achieved the goal with Apollo 11 on July 24, 1969: a single Saturn V launched a 96,886-pound (43,947 kg) spacecraft that was composed of a 63,608-pound (28,852 kg) Apollo command and service module which remained in orbit around the Moon and a 33,278-pound (15,095 kg) two-stage Apollo Lunar Module spacecraft which was flown by two astronauts to the surface, flown back to dock with the command module and was then discarded. [38] Landing the smaller spacecraft on the Moon, and returning an even smaller part (10,042 pounds or 4,555 kilograms) to lunar orbit, minimized the total mass to be launched from Earth, but this was the last method initially considered because of the perceived risk of rendezvous and docking.

In early 1961, direct ascent was generally the mission mode in favor at NASA. Many engineers feared that rendezvous and docking, maneuvers that had not been attempted in Earth orbit, would be nearly impossible in lunar orbit. LOR advocates including John Houbolt at Langley Research Center emphasized the important weight reductions that were offered by the LOR approach. Throughout 1960 and 1961, Houbolt campaigned for the recognition of LOR as a viable and practical option. Bypassing the NASA hierarchy, he sent a series of memos and reports on the issue to Associate Administrator Robert Seamans while acknowledging that he spoke "somewhat as a voice in the wilderness", Houbolt pleaded that LOR should not be discounted in studies of the question. [39]

Seamans's establishment of an ad hoc committee headed by his special technical assistant Nicholas E. Golovin in July 1961, to recommend a launch vehicle to be used in the Apollo program, represented a turning point in NASA's mission mode decision. [40] This committee recognized that the chosen mode was an important part of the launch vehicle choice, and recommended in favor of a hybrid EOR-LOR mode. Its consideration of LOR—as well as Houbolt's ceaseless work—played an important role in publicizing the workability of the approach. In late 1961 and early 1962, members of the Manned Spacecraft Center began to come around to support LOR, including the newly hired deputy director of the Office of Manned Space Flight, Joseph Shea, who became a champion of LOR. [41] The engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), which had much to lose from the decision, took longer to become convinced of its merits, but their conversion was announced by Wernher von Braun at a briefing on June 7, 1962. [42]

But even after NASA reached internal agreement, it was far from smooth sailing. Kennedy's science advisor Jerome Wiesner, who had expressed his opposition to human spaceflight to Kennedy before the President took office, [43] and had opposed the decision to land people on the Moon, hired Golovin, who had left NASA, to chair his own "Space Vehicle Panel", ostensibly to monitor, but actually to second-guess NASA's decisions on the Saturn V launch vehicle and LOR by forcing Shea, Seamans, and even Webb to defend themselves, delaying its formal announcement to the press on July 11, 1962, and forcing Webb to still hedge the decision as "tentative". [44]

Wiesner kept up the pressure, even making the disagreement public during a two-day September visit by the President to Marshall Space Flight Center. Wiesner blurted out "No, that's no good" in front of the press, during a presentation by von Braun. Webb jumped in and defended von Braun, until Kennedy ended the squabble by stating that the matter was "still subject to final review". Webb held firm and issued a request for proposal to candidate Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) contractors. Wiesner finally relented, unwilling to settle the dispute once and for all in Kennedy's office, because of the President's involvement with the October Cuban Missile Crisis, and fear of Kennedy's support for Webb. NASA announced the selection of Grumman as the LEM contractor in November 1962. [45]

Space historian James Hansen concludes that:

Without NASA's adoption of this stubbornly held minority opinion in 1962, the United States may still have reached the Moon, but almost certainly it would not have been accomplished by the end of the 1960s, President Kennedy's target date. [46]

The LOR method had the advantage of allowing the lander spacecraft to be used as a "lifeboat" in the event of a failure of the command ship. Some documents prove this theory was discussed before and after the method was chosen. In 1964 an MSC study concluded, "The LM [as lifeboat] . was finally dropped, because no single reasonable CSM failure could be identified that would prohibit use of the SPS." [47] Ironically, just such a failure happened on Apollo 13 when an oxygen tank explosion left the CSM without electrical power. The lunar module provided propulsion, electrical power and life support to get the crew home safely. [48]

Faget's preliminary Apollo design employed a cone-shaped command module, supported by one of several service modules providing propulsion and electrical power, sized appropriately for the space station, cislunar, and lunar landing missions. Once Kennedy's Moon landing goal became official, detailed design began of a command and service module (CSM) in which the crew would spend the entire direct-ascent mission and lift off from the lunar surface for the return trip, after being soft-landed by a larger landing propulsion module. The final choice of lunar orbit rendezvous changed the CSM's role to the translunar ferry used to transport the crew, along with a new spacecraft, the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM, later shortened to LM (Lunar Module) but still pronounced / ˈ l ɛ m / ) which would take two individuals to the lunar surface and return them to the CSM. [49]

Command and service module Edit

The command module (CM) was the conical crew cabin, designed to carry three astronauts from launch to lunar orbit and back to an Earth ocean landing. It was the only component of the Apollo spacecraft to survive without major configuration changes as the program evolved from the early Apollo study designs. Its exterior was covered with an ablative heat shield, and had its own reaction control system (RCS) engines to control its attitude and steer its atmospheric entry path. Parachutes were carried to slow its descent to splashdown. The module was 11.42 feet (3.48 m) tall, 12.83 feet (3.91 m) in diameter, and weighed approximately 12,250 pounds (5,560 kg). [50]

A cylindrical service module (SM) supported the command module, with a service propulsion engine and an RCS with propellants, and a fuel cell power generation system with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen reactants. A high-gain S-band antenna was used for long-distance communications on the lunar flights. On the extended lunar missions, an orbital scientific instrument package was carried. The service module was discarded just before reentry. The module was 24.6 feet (7.5 m) long and 12.83 feet (3.91 m) in diameter. The initial lunar flight version weighed approximately 51,300 pounds (23,300 kg) fully fueled, while a later version designed to carry a lunar orbit scientific instrument package weighed just over 54,000 pounds (24,000 kg). [50]

North American Aviation won the contract to build the CSM, and also the second stage of the Saturn V launch vehicle for NASA. Because the CSM design was started early before the selection of lunar orbit rendezvous, the service propulsion engine was sized to lift the CSM off the Moon, and thus was oversized to about twice the thrust required for translunar flight. [51] Also, there was no provision for docking with the lunar module. A 1964 program definition study concluded that the initial design should be continued as Block I which would be used for early testing, while Block II, the actual lunar spacecraft, would incorporate the docking equipment and take advantage of the lessons learned in Block I development. [49]

Apollo Lunar Module Edit

The Apollo Lunar Module (LM) was designed to descend from lunar orbit to land two astronauts on the Moon and take them back to orbit to rendezvous with the command module. Not designed to fly through the Earth's atmosphere or return to Earth, its fuselage was designed totally without aerodynamic considerations and was of an extremely lightweight construction. It consisted of separate descent and ascent stages, each with its own engine. The descent stage contained storage for the descent propellant, surface stay consumables, and surface exploration equipment. The ascent stage contained the crew cabin, ascent propellant, and a reaction control system. The initial LM model weighed approximately 33,300 pounds (15,100 kg), and allowed surface stays up to around 34 hours. An extended lunar module weighed over 36,200 pounds (16,400 kg), and allowed surface stays of more than three days. [50] The contract for design and construction of the lunar module was awarded to Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, and the project was overseen by Thomas J. Kelly. [52]

Before the Apollo program began, Wernher von Braun and his team of rocket engineers had started work on plans for very large launch vehicles, the Saturn series, and the even larger Nova series. In the midst of these plans, von Braun was transferred from the Army to NASA and was made Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center. The initial direct ascent plan to send the three-person Apollo command and service module directly to the lunar surface, on top of a large descent rocket stage, would require a Nova-class launcher, with a lunar payload capability of over 180,000 pounds (82,000 kg). [53] The June 11, 1962, decision to use lunar orbit rendezvous enabled the Saturn V to replace the Nova, and the MSFC proceeded to develop the Saturn rocket family for Apollo. [54]

Since Apollo, like Mercury, used more than one launch vehicle for space missions, NASA used spacecraft-launch vehicle combination series numbers: AS-10x for Saturn I, AS-20x for Saturn IB, and AS-50x for Saturn V (compare Mercury-Redstone 3, Mercury-Atlas 6) to designate and plan all missions, rather than numbering them sequentially as in Project Gemini. This was changed by the time human flights began. [55]

Little Joe II Edit

Since Apollo, like Mercury, would require a launch escape system (LES) in case of a launch failure, a relatively small rocket was required for qualification flight testing of this system. A rocket bigger than the Little Joe used by Mercury would be required, so the Little Joe II was built by General Dynamics/Convair. After an August 1963 qualification test flight, [56] four LES test flights (A-001 through 004) were made at the White Sands Missile Range between May 1964 and January 1966. [57]

Saturn I Edit

Saturn I, the first US heavy lift launch vehicle, was initially planned to launch partially equipped CSMs in low Earth orbit tests. The S-I first stage burned RP-1 with liquid oxygen (LOX) oxidizer in eight clustered Rocketdyne H-1 engines, to produce 1,500,000 pounds-force (6,670 kN) of thrust. The S-IV second stage used six liquid hydrogen-fueled Pratt & Whitney RL-10 engines with 90,000 pounds-force (400 kN) of thrust. The S-V third stage flew inactively on Saturn I four times. [58]

The first four Saturn I test flights were launched from LC-34, with only the first stage live, carrying dummy upper stages filled with water. The first flight with a live S-IV was launched from LC-37. This was followed by five launches of boilerplate CSMs (designated AS-101 through AS-105) into orbit in 1964 and 1965. The last three of these further supported the Apollo program by also carrying Pegasus satellites, which verified the safety of the translunar environment by measuring the frequency and severity of micrometeorite impacts. [59]

In September 1962, NASA planned to launch four crewed CSM flights on the Saturn I from late 1965 through 1966, concurrent with Project Gemini. The 22,500-pound (10,200 kg) payload capacity [60] would have severely limited the systems which could be included, so the decision was made in October 1963 to use the uprated Saturn IB for all crewed Earth orbital flights. [61]

Saturn IB Edit

The Saturn IB was an upgraded version of the Saturn I. The S-IB first stage increased the thrust to 1,600,000 pounds-force (7,120 kN) by uprating the H-1 engine. The second stage replaced the S-IV with the S-IVB-200, powered by a single J-2 engine burning liquid hydrogen fuel with LOX, to produce 200,000 pounds-force (890 kN) of thrust. [62] A restartable version of the S-IVB was used as the third stage of the Saturn V. The Saturn IB could send over 40,000 pounds (18,100 kg) into low Earth orbit, sufficient for a partially fueled CSM or the LM. [63] Saturn IB launch vehicles and flights were designated with an AS-200 series number, "AS" indicating "Apollo Saturn" and the "2" indicating the second member of the Saturn rocket family. [64]

Saturn V Edit

Saturn V launch vehicles and flights were designated with an AS-500 series number, "AS" indicating "Apollo Saturn" and the "5" indicating Saturn V. [64] The three-stage Saturn V was designed to send a fully fueled CSM and LM to the Moon. It was 33 feet (10.1 m) in diameter and stood 363 feet (110.6 m) tall with its 96,800-pound (43,900 kg) lunar payload. Its capability grew to 103,600 pounds (47,000 kg) for the later advanced lunar landings. The S-IC first stage burned RP-1/LOX for a rated thrust of 7,500,000 pounds-force (33,400 kN), which was upgraded to 7,610,000 pounds-force (33,900 kN). The second and third stages burned liquid hydrogen the third stage was a modified version of the S-IVB, with thrust increased to 230,000 pounds-force (1,020 kN) and capability to restart the engine for translunar injection after reaching a parking orbit. [65]

NASA's director of flight crew operations during the Apollo program was Donald K. "Deke" Slayton, one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts who was medically grounded in September 1962 due to a heart murmur. Slayton was responsible for making all Gemini and Apollo crew assignments. [66]

Thirty-two astronauts were assigned to fly missions in the Apollo program. Twenty-four of these left Earth's orbit and flew around the Moon between December 1968 and December 1972 (three of them twice). Half of the 24 walked on the Moon's surface, though none of them returned to it after landing once. One of the moonwalkers was a trained geologist. Of the 32, Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were killed during a ground test in preparation for the Apollo 1 mission. [55]

The Apollo astronauts were chosen from the Project Mercury and Gemini veterans, plus from two later astronaut groups. All missions were commanded by Gemini or Mercury veterans. Crews on all development flights (except the Earth orbit CSM development flights) through the first two landings on Apollo 11 and Apollo 12, included at least two (sometimes three) Gemini veterans. Dr. Harrison Schmitt, a geologist, was the first NASA scientist astronaut to fly in space, and landed on the Moon on the last mission, Apollo 17. Schmitt participated in the lunar geology training of all of the Apollo landing crews. [67]

NASA awarded all 32 of these astronauts its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal, given for "distinguished service, ability, or courage", and personal "contribution representing substantial progress to the NASA mission". The medals were awarded posthumously to Grissom, White, and Chaffee in 1969, then to the crews of all missions from Apollo 8 onward. The crew that flew the first Earth orbital test mission Apollo 7, Walter M. Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham, were awarded the lesser NASA Exceptional Service Medal, because of discipline problems with the flight director's orders during their flight. The NASA Administrator in October, 2008, decided to award them the Distinguished Service Medals, by this time posthumously to Schirra and Eisele. [68]

The first lunar landing mission was planned to proceed as follows: [69]

Launch The three Saturn V stages burn for about 11 minutes to achieve a 100-nautical-mile (190 km) circular parking orbit. The third stage burns a small portion of its fuel to achieve orbit.

Translunar injection After one to two orbits to verify readiness of spacecraft systems, the S-IVB third stage reignites for about six minutes to send the spacecraft to the Moon.

Transposition and docking The Spacecraft Lunar Module Adapter (SLA) panels separate to free the CSM and expose the LM. The command module pilot (CMP) moves the CSM out a safe distance, and turns 180°.

Extraction The CMP docks the CSM with the LM, and pulls the complete spacecraft away from the S-IVB. The lunar voyage takes between two and three days. Midcourse corrections are made as necessary using the SM engine.

Lunar orbit insertion The spacecraft passes about 60 nautical miles (110 km) behind the Moon, and the SM engine is fired to slow the spacecraft and put it into a 60-by-170-nautical-mile (110 by 310 km) orbit, which is soon circularized at 60 nautical miles by a second burn.

After a rest period, the commander (CDR) and lunar module pilot (LMP) move to the LM, power up its systems, and deploy the landing gear. The CSM and LM separate the CMP visually inspects the LM, then the LM crew move a safe distance away and fire the descent engine for Descent orbit insertion, which takes it to a perilune of about 50,000 feet (15 km).

Powered descent At perilune, the descent engine fires again to start the descent. The CDR takes control after pitchover for a vertical landing.

The CDR and LMP perform one or more EVAs exploring the lunar surface and collecting samples, alternating with rest periods.

The ascent stage lifts off, using the descent stage as a launching pad.

The LM rendezvouses and docks with the CSM.

The CDR and LMP transfer back to the CM with their material samples, then the LM ascent stage is jettisoned, to eventually fall out of orbit and crash on the surface.

Trans-Earth injection The SM engine fires to send the CSM back to Earth.

The SM is jettisoned just before reentry, and the CM turns 180° to face its blunt end forward for reentry.

Atmospheric drag slows the CM. Aerodynamic heating surrounds it with an envelope of ionized air which causes a communications blackout for several minutes.

Parachutes are deployed, slowing the CM for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. The astronauts are recovered and brought to an aircraft carrier.

Lunar flight profile (distances not to scale).

Profile variations Edit

  • The first three lunar missions (Apollo 8, Apollo 10, and Apollo 11) used a free return trajectory, keeping a flight path coplanar with the lunar orbit, which would allow a return to Earth in case the SM engine failed to make lunar orbit insertion. Landing site lighting conditions on later missions dictated a lunar orbital plane change, which required a course change maneuver soon after TLI, and eliminated the free-return option. [70]
  • After Apollo 12 placed the second of several seismometers on the Moon, [71] the jettisoned LM ascent stages on Apollo 12 and later missions were deliberately crashed on the Moon at known locations to induce vibrations in the Moon's structure. The only exceptions to this were the Apollo 13 LM which burned up in the Earth's atmosphere, and Apollo 16, where a loss of attitude control after jettison prevented making a targeted impact. [72]
  • As another active seismic experiment, the S-IVBs on Apollo 13 and subsequent missions were deliberately crashed on the Moon instead of being sent to solar orbit. [73]
  • Starting with Apollo 13, descent orbit insertion was to be performed using the service module engine instead of the LM engine, in order to allow a greater fuel reserve for landing. This was actually done for the first time on Apollo 14, since the Apollo 13 mission was aborted before landing. [74]

Uncrewed flight tests Edit

Two Block I CSMs were launched from LC-34 on suborbital flights in 1966 with the Saturn IB. The first, AS-201 launched on February 26, reached an altitude of 265.7 nautical miles (492.1 km) and splashed down 4,577 nautical miles (8,477 km) downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. [75] The second, AS-202 on August 25, reached 617.1 nautical miles (1,142.9 km) altitude and was recovered 13,900 nautical miles (25,700 km) downrange in the Pacific Ocean. These flights validated the service module engine and the command module heat shield. [76]

A third Saturn IB test, AS-203 launched from pad 37, went into orbit to support design of the S-IVB upper stage restart capability needed for the Saturn V. It carried a nose cone instead of the Apollo spacecraft, and its payload was the unburned liquid hydrogen fuel, the behavior of which engineers measured with temperature and pressure sensors, and a TV camera. This flight occurred on July 5, before AS-202, which was delayed because of problems getting the Apollo spacecraft ready for flight. [77]

Preparation for crewed flight Edit

Two crewed orbital Block I CSM missions were planned: AS-204 and AS-205. The Block I crew positions were titled Command Pilot, Senior Pilot, and Pilot. The Senior Pilot would assume navigation duties, while the Pilot would function as a systems engineer. [78] The astronauts would wear a modified version of the Gemini spacesuit. [79]

After an uncrewed LM test flight AS-206, a crew would fly the first Block II CSM and LM in a dual mission known as AS-207/208, or AS-278 (each spacecraft would be launched on a separate Saturn IB). [80] The Block II crew positions were titled Commander, Command Module Pilot, and Lunar Module Pilot. The astronauts would begin wearing a new Apollo A6L spacesuit, designed to accommodate lunar extravehicular activity (EVA). The traditional visor helmet was replaced with a clear "fishbowl" type for greater visibility, and the lunar surface EVA suit would include a water-cooled undergarment. [81]

Deke Slayton, the grounded Mercury astronaut who became director of flight crew operations for the Gemini and Apollo programs, selected the first Apollo crew in January 1966, with Grissom as Command Pilot, White as Senior Pilot, and rookie Donn F. Eisele as Pilot. But Eisele dislocated his shoulder twice aboard the KC135 weightlessness training aircraft, and had to undergo surgery on January 27. Slayton replaced him with Chaffee. [82] NASA announced the final crew selection for AS-204 on March 21, 1966, with the backup crew consisting of Gemini veterans James McDivitt and David Scott, with rookie Russell L. "Rusty" Schweickart. Mercury/Gemini veteran Wally Schirra, Eisele, and rookie Walter Cunningham were announced on September 29 as the prime crew for AS-205. [82]

In December 1966, the AS-205 mission was canceled, since the validation of the CSM would be accomplished on the 14-day first flight, and AS-205 would have been devoted to space experiments and contribute no new engineering knowledge about the spacecraft. Its Saturn IB was allocated to the dual mission, now redesignated AS-205/208 or AS-258, planned for August 1967. McDivitt, Scott and Schweickart were promoted to the prime AS-258 crew, and Schirra, Eisele and Cunningham were reassigned as the Apollo 1 backup crew. [83]

Program delays Edit

The spacecraft for the AS-202 and AS-204 missions were delivered by North American Aviation to the Kennedy Space Center with long lists of equipment problems which had to be corrected before flight these delays caused the launch of AS-202 to slip behind AS-203, and eliminated hopes the first crewed mission might be ready to launch as soon as November 1966, concurrently with the last Gemini mission. Eventually, the planned AS-204 flight date was pushed to February 21, 1967. [84]

North American Aviation was prime contractor not only for the Apollo CSM, but for the Saturn V S-II second stage as well, and delays in this stage pushed the first uncrewed Saturn V flight AS-501 from late 1966 to November 1967. (The initial assembly of AS-501 had to use a dummy spacer spool in place of the stage.) [85]

The problems with North American were severe enough in late 1965 to cause Manned Space Flight Administrator George Mueller to appoint program director Samuel Phillips to head a "tiger team" to investigate North American's problems and identify corrections. Phillips documented his findings in a December 19 letter to NAA president Lee Atwood, with a strongly worded letter by Mueller, and also gave a presentation of the results to Mueller and Deputy Administrator Robert Seamans. [86] Meanwhile, Grumman was also encountering problems with the Lunar Module, eliminating hopes it would be ready for crewed flight in 1967, not long after the first crewed CSM flights. [87]

Apollo 1 fire Edit

Grissom, White, and Chaffee decided to name their flight Apollo 1 as a motivational focus on the first crewed flight. They trained and conducted tests of their spacecraft at North American, and in the altitude chamber at the Kennedy Space Center. A "plugs-out" test was planned for January, which would simulate a launch countdown on LC-34 with the spacecraft transferring from pad-supplied to internal power. If successful, this would be followed by a more rigorous countdown simulation test closer to the February 21 launch, with both spacecraft and launch vehicle fueled. [88]

The plugs-out test began on the morning of January 27, 1967, and immediately was plagued with problems. First, the crew noticed a strange odor in their spacesuits which delayed the sealing of the hatch. Then, communications problems frustrated the astronauts and forced a hold in the simulated countdown. During this hold, an electrical fire began in the cabin and spread quickly in the high pressure, 100% oxygen atmosphere. Pressure rose high enough from the fire that the cabin inner wall burst, allowing the fire to erupt onto the pad area and frustrating attempts to rescue the crew. The astronauts were asphyxiated before the hatch could be opened. [89]

NASA immediately convened an accident review board, overseen by both houses of Congress. While the determination of responsibility for the accident was complex, the review board concluded that "deficiencies existed in command module design, workmanship and quality control". [89] At the insistence of NASA Administrator Webb, North American removed Harrison Storms as command module program manager. [90] Webb also reassigned Apollo Spacecraft Program Office (ASPO) Manager Joseph Francis Shea, replacing him with George Low. [91]

To remedy the causes of the fire, changes were made in the Block II spacecraft and operational procedures, the most important of which were use of a nitrogen/oxygen mixture instead of pure oxygen before and during launch, and removal of flammable cabin and space suit materials. [92] The Block II design already called for replacement of the Block I plug-type hatch cover with a quick-release, outward opening door. [92] NASA discontinued the crewed Block I program, using the Block I spacecraft only for uncrewed Saturn V flights. Crew members would also exclusively wear modified, fire-resistant A7L Block II space suits, and would be designated by the Block II titles, regardless of whether a LM was present on the flight or not. [81]

Uncrewed Saturn V and LM tests Edit

On April 24, 1967, Mueller published an official Apollo mission numbering scheme, using sequential numbers for all flights, crewed or uncrewed. The sequence would start with Apollo 4 to cover the first three uncrewed flights while retiring the Apollo 1 designation to honor the crew, per their widows' wishes. [55] [93]

In September 1967, Mueller approved a sequence of mission types which had to be successfully accomplished in order to achieve the crewed lunar landing. Each step had to be successfully accomplished before the next ones could be performed, and it was unknown how many tries of each mission would be necessary therefore letters were used instead of numbers. The A missions were uncrewed Saturn V validation B was uncrewed LM validation using the Saturn IB C was crewed CSM Earth orbit validation using the Saturn IB D was the first crewed CSM/LM flight (this replaced AS-258, using a single Saturn V launch) E would be a higher Earth orbit CSM/LM flight F would be the first lunar mission, testing the LM in lunar orbit but without landing (a "dress rehearsal") and G would be the first crewed landing. The list of types covered follow-on lunar exploration to include H lunar landings, I for lunar orbital survey missions, and J for extended-stay lunar landings. [94]

The delay in the CSM caused by the fire enabled NASA to catch up on human-rating the LM and Saturn V. Apollo 4 (AS-501) was the first uncrewed flight of the Saturn V, carrying a Block I CSM on November 9, 1967. The capability of the command module's heat shield to survive a trans-lunar reentry was demonstrated by using the service module engine to ram it into the atmosphere at higher than the usual Earth-orbital reentry speed.

Apollo 5 (AS-204) was the first uncrewed test flight of the LM in Earth orbit, launched from pad 37 on January 22, 1968, by the Saturn IB that would have been used for Apollo 1. The LM engines were successfully test-fired and restarted, despite a computer programming error which cut short the first descent stage firing. The ascent engine was fired in abort mode, known as a "fire-in-the-hole" test, where it was lit simultaneously with jettison of the descent stage. Although Grumman wanted a second uncrewed test, George Low decided the next LM flight would be crewed. [95]

This was followed on April 4, 1968, by Apollo 6 (AS-502) which carried a CSM and a LM Test Article as ballast. The intent of this mission was to achieve trans-lunar injection, followed closely by a simulated direct-return abort, using the service module engine to achieve another high-speed reentry. The Saturn V experienced pogo oscillation, a problem caused by non-steady engine combustion, which damaged fuel lines in the second and third stages. Two S-II engines shut down prematurely, but the remaining engines were able to compensate. The damage to the third stage engine was more severe, preventing it from restarting for trans-lunar injection. Mission controllers were able to use the service module engine to essentially repeat the flight profile of Apollo 4. Based on the good performance of Apollo 6 and identification of satisfactory fixes to the Apollo 6 problems, NASA declared the Saturn V ready to fly crew, canceling a third uncrewed test. [96]

Crewed development missions Edit

Apollo 7, launched from LC-34 on October 11, 1968, was the C mission, crewed by Schirra, Eisele, and Cunningham. It was an 11-day Earth-orbital flight which tested the CSM systems. [97]

Apollo 8 was planned to be the D mission in December 1968, crewed by McDivitt, Scott and Schweickart, launched on a Saturn V instead of two Saturn IBs. [98] In the summer it had become clear that the LM would not be ready in time. Rather than waste the Saturn V on another simple Earth-orbiting mission, ASPO Manager George Low suggested the bold step of sending Apollo 8 to orbit the Moon instead, deferring the D mission to the next mission in March 1969, and eliminating the E mission. This would keep the program on track. The Soviet Union had sent two tortoises, mealworms, wine flies, and other lifeforms around the Moon on September 15, 1968, aboard Zond 5, and it was believed they might soon repeat the feat with human cosmonauts. [99] [100] The decision was not announced publicly until successful completion of Apollo 7. Gemini veterans Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, and rookie William Anders captured the world's attention by making ten lunar orbits in 20 hours, transmitting television pictures of the lunar surface on Christmas Eve, and returning safely to Earth. [101]

The following March, LM flight, rendezvous and docking were successfully demonstrated in Earth orbit on Apollo 9, and Schweickart tested the full lunar EVA suit with its portable life support system (PLSS) outside the LM. [102] The F mission was successfully carried out on Apollo 10 in May 1969 by Gemini veterans Thomas P. Stafford, John Young and Eugene Cernan. Stafford and Cernan took the LM to within 50,000 feet (15 km) of the lunar surface. [103]

The G mission was achieved on Apollo 11 in July 1969 by an all-Gemini veteran crew consisting of Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. Armstrong and Aldrin performed the first landing at the Sea of Tranquility at 20:17:40 UTC on July 20, 1969. They spent a total of 21 hours, 36 minutes on the surface, and spent 2 hours, 31 minutes outside the spacecraft, [104] walking on the surface, taking photographs, collecting material samples, and deploying automated scientific instruments, while continuously sending black-and-white television back to Earth. The astronauts returned safely on July 24. [105]

That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.

Production lunar landings Edit

In November 1969, Charles “Pete” Conrad became the third person to step onto the Moon, which he did while speaking more informally than had Armstrong:

Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that's a long one for me.

Conrad and rookie Alan L. Bean made a precision landing of Apollo 12 within walking distance of the Surveyor 3 uncrewed lunar probe, which had landed in April 1967 on the Ocean of Storms. The command module pilot was Gemini veteran Richard F. Gordon Jr. Conrad and Bean carried the first lunar surface color television camera, but it was damaged when accidentally pointed into the Sun. They made two EVAs totaling 7 hours and 45 minutes. [104] On one, they walked to the Surveyor, photographed it, and removed some parts which they returned to Earth. [108]

The contracted batch of 15 Saturn Vs was enough for lunar landing missions through Apollo 20. Shortly after Apollo 11, NASA publicized a preliminary list of eight more planned landing sites after Apollo 12, with plans to increase the mass of the CSM and LM for the last five missions, along with the payload capacity of the Saturn V. These final missions would combine the I and J types in the 1967 list, allowing the CMP to operate a package of lunar orbital sensors and cameras while his companions were on the surface, and allowing them to stay on the Moon for over three days. These missions would also carry the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) increasing the exploration area and allowing televised liftoff of the LM. Also, the Block II spacesuit was revised for the extended missions to allow greater flexibility and visibility for driving the LRV. [109]

The success of the first two landings allowed the remaining missions to be crewed with a single veteran as commander, with two rookies. Apollo 13 launched Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise in April 1970, headed for the Fra Mauro formation. But two days out, a liquid oxygen tank exploded, disabling the service module and forcing the crew to use the LM as a "lifeboat" to return to Earth. Another NASA review board was convened to determine the cause, which turned out to be a combination of damage of the tank in the factory, and a subcontractor not making a tank component according to updated design specifications. [48] Apollo was grounded again, for the remainder of 1970 while the oxygen tank was redesigned and an extra one was added. [110]

Mission cutbacks Edit

About the time of the first landing in 1969, it was decided to use an existing Saturn V to launch the Skylab orbital laboratory pre-built on the ground, replacing the original plan to construct it in orbit from several Saturn IB launches this eliminated Apollo 20. NASA's yearly budget also began to shrink in light of the successful landing, and NASA also had to make funds available for the development of the upcoming Space Shuttle. By 1971, the decision was made to also cancel missions 18 and 19. [111] The two unused Saturn Vs became museum exhibits at the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida, George C. Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. [112]

The cutbacks forced mission planners to reassess the original planned landing sites in order to achieve the most effective geological sample and data collection from the remaining four missions. Apollo 15 had been planned to be the last of the H series missions, but since there would be only two subsequent missions left, it was changed to the first of three J missions. [113]

Apollo 13's Fra Mauro mission was reassigned to Apollo 14, commanded in February 1971 by Mercury veteran Alan Shepard, with Stuart Roosa and Edgar Mitchell. [114] This time the mission was successful. Shepard and Mitchell spent 33 hours and 31 minutes on the surface, [115] and completed two EVAs totalling 9 hours 24 minutes, which was a record for the longest EVA by a lunar crew at the time. [114]

In August 1971, just after conclusion of the Apollo 15 mission, President Richard Nixon proposed canceling the two remaining lunar landing missions, Apollo 16 and 17. Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Caspar Weinberger was opposed to this, and persuaded Nixon to keep the remaining missions. [116]

Extended missions Edit

Apollo 15 was launched on July 26, 1971, with David Scott, Alfred Worden and James Irwin. Scott and Irwin landed on July 30 near Hadley Rille, and spent just under two days, 19 hours on the surface. In over 18 hours of EVA, they collected about 77 kilograms (170 lb) of lunar material. [117]

Apollo 16 landed in the Descartes Highlands on April 20, 1972. The crew was commanded by John Young, with Ken Mattingly and Charles Duke. Young and Duke spent just under three days on the surface, with a total of over 20 hours EVA. [118]

Apollo 17 was the last of the Apollo program, landing in the Taurus–Littrow region in December 1972. Eugene Cernan commanded Ronald E. Evans and NASA's first scientist-astronaut, geologist Dr. Harrison H. Schmitt. [119] Schmitt was originally scheduled for Apollo 18, [120] but the lunar geological community lobbied for his inclusion on the final lunar landing. [121] Cernan and Schmitt stayed on the surface for just over three days and spent just over 23 hours of total EVA. [119]

Canceled missions Edit

Several missions were planned for but were canceled before details were finalized.

Designation Date Launch
CSM LM Crew Summary
AS-201 Feb 26, 1966 AS-201 CSM-009 None None First flight of Saturn IB and Block I CSM suborbital to Atlantic Ocean qualified heat shield to orbital reentry speed.
AS-203 Jul 5, 1966 AS-203 None None None No spacecraft observations of liquid hydrogen fuel behavior in orbit, to support design of S-IVB restart capability.
AS-202 Aug 25, 1966 AS-202 CSM-011 None None Suborbital flight of CSM to Pacific Ocean.
AS-204 (Apollo 1) Feb 21, 1967 AS-204 CSM-012 None Gus Grissom
Ed White
Roger B. Chaffee
Not flown. All crew members died in a fire during a launch pad test on January 27, 1967.
Apollo 4 Nov 9, 1967 AS-501 CSM-017 LTA-10R None First test flight of Saturn V, placed a CSM in a high Earth orbit demonstrated S-IVB restart qualified CM heat shield to lunar reentry speed.
Apollo 5 Jan 22–23, 1968 AS-204 None LM-1 None Earth orbital flight test of LM, launched on Saturn IB demonstrated ascent and descent propulsion human-rated the LM.
Apollo 6 Apr 4, 1968 AS-502 CM-020
LTA-2R None Uncrewed, second flight of Saturn V, attempted demonstration of trans-lunar injection, and direct-return abort using SM engine three engine failures, including failure of S-IVB restart. Flight controllers used SM engine to repeat Apollo 4's flight profile. Human-rated the Saturn V.
Apollo 7 Oct 11–22, 1968 AS-205 CSM-101 None Wally Schirra
Walt Cunningham
Donn Eisele
First crewed Earth orbital demonstration of Block II CSM, launched on Saturn IB. First live television publicly broadcast from a crewed mission.
Apollo 8 Dec 21–27, 1968 AS-503 CSM-103 LTA-B Frank Borman
James Lovell
William Anders
First crewed flight of Saturn V First crewed flight to Moon CSM made 10 lunar orbits in 20 hours.
Apollo 9 Mar 3–13, 1969 AS-504 CSM-104 Gumdrop LM-3
James McDivitt
David Scott
Russell Schweickart
Second crewed flight of Saturn V First crewed flight of CSM and LM in Earth orbit demonstrated portable life support system to be used on the lunar surface.
Apollo 10 May 18–26, 1969 AS-505 CSM-106 Charlie Brown LM-4
Thomas Stafford
John Young
Eugene Cernan
Dress rehearsal for first lunar landing flew LM down to 50,000 feet (15 km) from lunar surface.
Apollo 11 Jul 16–24, 1969 AS-506 CSM-107 Columbia LM-5 Eagle Neil Armstrong
Michael Collins
Buzz Aldrin
First crewed landing, in Tranquility Base, Sea of Tranquility. Surface EVA time: 2:31 hr. Samples returned: 47.51 pounds (21.55 kg).
Apollo 12 Nov 14–24, 1969 AS-507 CSM-108 Yankee Clipper LM-6
C. "Pete" Conrad
Richard Gordon
Alan Bean
Second landing, in Ocean of Storms near Surveyor 3. Surface EVA time: 7:45 hr. Samples returned: 75.62 pounds (34.30 kg).
Apollo 13 Apr 11–17, 1970 AS-508 CSM-109 Odyssey LM-7
James Lovell
Jack Swigert
Fred Haise
Third landing attempt aborted in transit to the Moon, due to SM failure. Crew used LM as "lifeboat" to return to Earth. Mission labelled as a "successful failure". [122]
Apollo 14 Jan 31 – Feb 9, 1971 AS-509 CSM-110 Kitty Hawk LM-8
Alan Shepard
Stuart Roosa
Edgar Mitchell
Third landing, in Fra Mauro formation, located northeast of the Ocean of Storms. Surface EVA time: 9:21 hr. Samples returned: 94.35 pounds (42.80 kg).
Apollo 15 Jul 26 – Aug 7, 1971 AS-510 CSM-112 Endeavour LM-10
David Scott
Alfred Worden
James Irwin
First Extended LM and rover, landed in Hadley-Apennine, located near the Sea of Showers/Rains. Surface EVA time: 18:33 hr. Samples returned: 169.10 pounds (76.70 kg).
Apollo 16 Apr 16–27, 1972 AS-511 CSM-113 Casper LM-11
John Young
T. Kenneth Mattingly
Charles Duke
Landed in Plain of Descartes. Rover on Moon. Surface EVA time: 20:14 hr. Samples returned: 207.89 pounds (94.30 kg).
Apollo 17 Dec 7–19, 1972 AS-512 CSM-114 America LM-12
Eugene Cernan
Ronald Evans
Harrison Schmitt
Only Saturn V night launch. Landed in Taurus–Littrow. Rover on Moon. First geologist on the Moon. Apollo's last crewed Moon landing. Surface EVA time: 22:02 hr. Samples returned: 243.40 pounds (110.40 kg).

Source: Apollo by the Numbers: A Statistical Reference (Orloff 2004) [123]

The Apollo program returned over 382 kg (842 lb) of lunar rocks and soil to the Lunar Receiving Laboratory in Houston. [124] [123] [125] Today, 75% of the samples are stored at the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility built in 1979. [126]

The rocks collected from the Moon are extremely old compared to rocks found on Earth, as measured by radiometric dating techniques. They range in age from about 3.2 billion years for the basaltic samples derived from the lunar maria, to about 4.6 billion years for samples derived from the highlands crust. [127] As such, they represent samples from a very early period in the development of the Solar System, that are largely absent on Earth. One important rock found during the Apollo Program is dubbed the Genesis Rock, retrieved by astronauts David Scott and James Irwin during the Apollo 15 mission. [128] This anorthosite rock is composed almost exclusively of the calcium-rich feldspar mineral anorthite, and is believed to be representative of the highland crust. [129] A geochemical component called KREEP was discovered by Apollo 12, which has no known terrestrial counterpart. [130] KREEP and the anorthositic samples have been used to infer that the outer portion of the Moon was once completely molten (see lunar magma ocean). [131]

Almost all the rocks show evidence of impact process effects. Many samples appear to be pitted with micrometeoroid impact craters, which is never seen on Earth rocks, due to the thick atmosphere. Many show signs of being subjected to high-pressure shock waves that are generated during impact events. Some of the returned samples are of impact melt (materials melted near an impact crater.) All samples returned from the Moon are highly brecciated as a result of being subjected to multiple impact events. [132]

Analysis of the composition of the lunar samples supports the giant impact hypothesis, that the Moon was created through impact of a large astronomical body with the Earth. [133]

Apollo cost $25.4 billion (or approximately $156 billion in 2019 dollars when adjusted for inflation via the GDP deflator index). [1]

Of this amount, $20.2 billion ($124 billion adjusted) was spent on the design, development, and production of the Saturn family of launch vehicles, the Apollo spacecraft, spacesuits, scientific experiments, and mission operations. The cost of constructing and operating Apollo-related ground facilities, such as the NASA human spaceflight centers and the global tracking and data acquisition network, added an additional $5.2 billion ($31.9 billion adjusted).

The amount grows to $28 billion ($172 billion adjusted) if the costs for related projects such as Project Gemini and the robotic Ranger, Surveyor, and Lunar Orbiter programs are included. [134]

NASA's official cost breakdown, as reported to Congress in the Spring of 1973, is as follows:

Project Apollo Cost (original $)
Apollo spacecraft 8.5 billion
Saturn launch vehicles 9.1 billion
Launch vehicle engine development 900 million
Operations 1.7 billion
Total R&D 20.2 billion
Tracking and data acquisition 900 million
Ground facilities 1.8 billion
Operation of installations 2.5 billion
Total 25.4 billion

Accurate estimates of human spaceflight costs were difficult in the early 1960s, as the capability was new and management experience was lacking. Preliminary cost analysis by NASA estimated $7 billion – $12 billion for a crewed lunar landing effort. NASA Administrator James Webb increased this estimate to $20 billion before reporting it to Vice President Johnson in April 1961. [135]

Project Apollo was a massive undertaking, representing the largest research and development project in peacetime. At its peak, it employed over 400,000 employees and contractors around the country and accounted for more than half of NASA's total spending in the 1960s. [136] After the first Moon landing, public and political interest waned, including that of President Nixon, who wanted to rein in federal spending. [137] NASA's budget could not sustain Apollo missions which cost, on average, $445 million ($2.28 billion adjusted) [138] each while simultaneously developing the Space Shuttle. The final fiscal year of Apollo funding was 1973.

Looking beyond the crewed lunar landings, NASA investigated several post-lunar applications for Apollo hardware. The Apollo Extension Series (Apollo X) proposed up to 30 flights to Earth orbit, using the space in the Spacecraft Lunar Module Adapter (SLA) to house a small orbital laboratory (workshop). Astronauts would continue to use the CSM as a ferry to the station. This study was followed by design of a larger orbital workshop to be built in orbit from an empty S-IVB Saturn upper stage and grew into the Apollo Applications Program (AAP). The workshop was to be supplemented by the Apollo Telescope Mount, which could be attached to the ascent stage of the lunar module via a rack. [139] The most ambitious plan called for using an empty S-IVB as an interplanetary spacecraft for a Venus fly-by mission. [140]

The S-IVB orbital workshop was the only one of these plans to make it off the drawing board. Dubbed Skylab, it was assembled on the ground rather than in space, and launched in 1973 using the two lower stages of a Saturn V. It was equipped with an Apollo Telescope Mount. Skylab's last crew departed the station on February 8, 1974, and the station itself re-entered the atmosphere in 1979. [141] [142]

The Apollo–Soyuz program also used Apollo hardware for the first joint nation spaceflight, paving the way for future cooperation with other nations in the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs. [142] [143]

In 2008, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's SELENE probe observed evidence of the halo surrounding the Apollo 15 Lunar Module blast crater while orbiting above the lunar surface. [144]

Beginning in 2009, NASA's robotic Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, while orbiting 50 kilometers (31 mi) above the Moon, photographed the remnants of the Apollo program left on the lunar surface, and each site where crewed Apollo flights landed. [145] [146] All of the U.S. flags left on the Moon during the Apollo missions were found to still be standing, with the exception of the one left during the Apollo 11 mission, which was blown over during that mission's lift-off from the lunar surface and return to the mission Command Module in lunar orbit the degree to which these flags retain their original colors remains unknown. [147]

In a November 16, 2009, editorial, The New York Times opined:

[T]here's something terribly wistful about these photographs of the Apollo landing sites. The detail is such that if Neil Armstrong were walking there now, we could make him out, make out his footsteps even, like the astronaut footpath clearly visible in the photos of the Apollo 14 site. Perhaps the wistfulness is caused by the sense of simple grandeur in those Apollo missions. Perhaps, too, it's a reminder of the risk we all felt after the Eagle had landed—the possibility that it might be unable to lift off again and the astronauts would be stranded on the Moon. But it may also be that a photograph like this one is as close as we're able to come to looking directly back into the human past . There the [Apollo 11] lunar module sits, parked just where it landed 40 years ago, as if it still really were 40 years ago and all the time since merely imaginary. [148]

Science and engineering Edit

The Apollo program has been called the greatest technological achievement in human history. [149] Apollo stimulated many areas of technology, leading to over 1,800 spinoff products as of 2015. [150] The flight computer design used in both the lunar and command modules was, along with the Polaris and Minuteman missile systems, the driving force behind early research into integrated circuits (ICs). By 1963, Apollo was using 60 percent of the United States' production of ICs. The crucial difference between the requirements of Apollo and the missile programs was Apollo's much greater need for reliability. While the Navy and Air Force could work around reliability problems by deploying more missiles, the political and financial cost of failure of an Apollo mission was unacceptably high. [151]

Technologies and techniques required for Apollo were developed by Project Gemini. [152] The Apollo project was enabled by NASA's adoption of new advances in semiconductor electronic technology, including metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs) in the Interplanetary Monitoring Platform (IMP) [153] [154] and silicon integrated circuit chips in the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC). [155]

Cultural impact Edit

The crew of Apollo 8 sent the first live televised pictures of the Earth and the Moon back to Earth, and read from the creation story in the Book of Genesis, on Christmas Eve 1968. [156] An estimated one-quarter of the population of the world saw—either live or delayed—the Christmas Eve transmission during the ninth orbit of the Moon, [157] and an estimated one-fifth of the population of the world watched the live transmission of the Apollo 11 moonwalk. [158]

The Apollo program also affected environmental activism in the 1970s due to photos taken by the astronauts. The most well known include Earthrise, taken by William Anders on Apollo 8, and The Blue Marble, taken by the Apollo 17 astronauts. The Blue Marble was released during a surge in environmentalism, and became a symbol of the environmental movement as a depiction of Earth's frailty, vulnerability, and isolation amid the vast expanse of space. [159]

According to The Economist, Apollo succeeded in accomplishing President Kennedy's goal of taking on the Soviet Union in the Space Race by accomplishing a singular and significant achievement, to demonstrate the superiority of the free-market system. The publication noted the irony that in order to achieve the goal, the program required the organization of tremendous public resources within a vast, centralized government bureaucracy. [160]

Apollo 11 broadcast data restoration project Edit

Prior to Apollo 11's 40th anniversary in 2009, NASA searched for the original videotapes of the mission's live televised moonwalk. After an exhaustive three-year search, it was concluded that the tapes had probably been erased and reused. A new digitally remastered version of the best available broadcast television footage was released instead. [161]

NASA spinoffs are dual-purpose technologies created by NASA that have come to help day-to-day life on Earth. Many of these discoveries were made to deal with problems in space. Spinoffs have come out of every NASA mission as well as other discoveries outside of space missions. The following are NASA spinoffs that have come from discoveries from and for the Apollo mission.

Cordless power tools Edit

NASA started using cordless tools to build the International Space Station in orbit. Today these innovations have led to cordless battery-powered tools used on Earth. Cordless tools have been able to help surgeons in operating rooms greatly because they allow for a greater range of freedom. [162]

Fireproof material Edit

Following the 1967 Apollo fire, NASA learned that they needed fireproof material to protect astronauts inside the spaceship. NASA developed fireproof material for use on parts of the capsule and on spacesuits. This is important because there is a high percentage of oxygen under great pressure, presenting a fire hazard. The fireproof fabric, called Durette, was created by Monsanto and is now used in firefighting gear. [162]

Heart monitors Edit

Technology discovered and employed in the Apollo missions led to technology that Medrad used to create an AID implantable automatic pulse generator. [163] This technology is able to monitor heart attacks and can help correct heart malfunctions using small electrical shocks. With heart disease being so common in the United States, heart monitoring is a very important technological advance. [162]

Solar panels Edit

Solar panels are able to absorb light to create electricity. This technology used discoveries from NASA's Apollo Lunar Module program. Light collected from the panels is transformed into electricity through a semiconductor. Solar panels are now employed in many common applications including outdoor lighting, houses, street lights and portable chargers. In addition to being used on Earth, this technology is still being used in space on the International Space Station. [162]

Digital imaging Edit

NASA has been able to contribute to creating technology for CAT scans, radiography and MRIs. [163] This technology came from discoveries using digital imaging for NASA's lunar research. CAT scans, radiography and MRIs have made a huge impact in the world of medicine, allowing doctors to see in more detail what is happening inside patients’ bodies. [162]

Liquid methane Edit

Liquid methane is a fuel which the Apollo program created as a less expensive alternative to traditional oil. It is still used today in rocket launches. Methane must be stored supercooled to remain liquid, requiring a temperature of −260 °F (−162 °C). Liquid methane was created by Beech Aircraft Corporation's Boulder Division, and since then the company has been able to convert some cars to run on liquid methane. [162]

Documentaries Edit

Numerous documentary films cover the Apollo program and the Space Race, including:

  • Footprints on the Moon (1969)
  • Moonwalk One (1970) [164]
  • For All Mankind (1989) [165]
  • Moon Shot (1994 miniseries)
  • "Moon" from the BBC miniseries The Planets (1999)
  • Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D (2005)
  • The Wonder of It All (2007)
  • In the Shadow of the Moon (2007) [166]
  • When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions (2008 miniseries)
  • Moon Machines (2008 miniseries)
  • James May on the Moon (2009)
  • NASA's Story (2009 miniseries)
  • Apollo 11 (2019) [167][168]
  • Chasing the Moon (2019 miniseries)

Docudramas Edit

The Apollo program, or certain missions, have been dramatized in Apollo 13 (1995), Apollo 11 (1996), From the Earth to the Moon (1998), The Dish (2000), Space Race (2005), Moonshot (2009), and First Man (2018).

Fictional Edit

The Apollo program has been the focus of several works of fiction, including:

  • Apollo 18, a 2011 horror movie which was released to negative reviews.
  • For All Mankind, a 2019 TV series depicting an alternate reality in which the Soviet Union was the first country to successfully land a man on the Moon. The rest of the series follows an alternate history of the late 1960s and early 1970s with NASA continuing Apollo missions to the Moon.

This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Coming in 2021

2021: NASA's Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (or CAPSTONE) cubesat is scheduled to launch via a Rocket Lab Electron rocket.

2021: Peregrine Mission 1, the first commercial lunar landing, is scheduled to launch. It will include Astrobotic's Peregrine lander and close to a dozen other NASA payloads like the Iris rover.

2021: Russia plans to launch Luna 25, a lander developed in collaboration with the ESA. (Luna-24 launched in 1976.)

2021: Intuitive Machines plans to land its Nova-C craft with private and NASA payloads.

2021: NASA plans to launch several cubesats via the Space Launch System rocket as part of the Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon. OMOTENASHI, Japan's first lunar lander, and a Japanese cubesat called EQUULEUS are expected to launch as part of this block as well.

Apollo Timeline - History

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Detailed Chronology of Events Surrounding the Apollo 13 Accident

Events from 2.5 minutes before the accident to about 5 minutes after. Times given are in Ground Elapsed Time (G.E.T.), that is, the time elapsed since liftoff of Apollo 13 on April 11, 1970, at 2:13 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST). 55:52:00 G.E.T. is equal to 10:05 PM EST on April 13, 1970.

55:52:31 - Master caution and warning triggered by low hydrogen pressure in tank no. 1

55:52:58 - CapCom (Jack Lousma): "13, we've got one more item for you, when you get a chance. We'd like you to stir up the cryo tanks. In addition, I have shaft and trunnion .

55:53:07 - CapCom: ". for looking at Comet Bennett, if you need it."

55:53:12 - Swigert: "Okay. Stand by."

55:53:18 - Oxygen tank No. 1 fans on.

55:53:19 - Oxygen tank No. 2 pressure decreases 8 psi.

55:53:20 - Oxygen tank No. 2 fans turned on.

55:53:20 - Stabilization control system electrical disturbance indicates a power transient.

55:53:21 - Oxygen tank No. 2 pressure decreases 4 psi.

55:53:22.718 - Stabilization control system electrical disturbance indicates a power transient.

55:53:22.757 - 1.2 Volt decrease in ac bus 2 voltage.

55:53:22.772 - 11.1 amp rise in fuel cell 3 current for one sample

55:53:26 - Oxygen tank No. 2 pressure begins rise lasting for 24 seconds.

55:53:38.057 - 11 volt decrease in ac bus 2 voltage for one sample.

55:53:38.085 - Stabilization control system electrical disturbance indicates a power transient.

55:53:41.172 - 22.9 amp rise in fuel cell 3 current for one sample

55:53:41.192 - Stabilization control system electrical disturbance indicates a power transient.

55:54:00 - Oxygen tank No. 2 pressure rise ends at a pressure of 953.8 psia.

55:54:15 - Oxygen tank No. 2 pressure begins to rise.

55:54:30 - Oxygen tank No. 2 quantity drops from full scale for 2 seconds and then reads 75.3 percent.

55:54:31 - Oxygen tank No. 2 temperature begins to rise rapidly.

55:54:43 - Flow rate of oxygen to all three fuel cells begins to decrease.

55:54:45 - Oxygen tank No. 2 pressure reaches maximum value of 1008.3 psia.

55:54:51 - Oxygen tank No. 2 quantity jumps to off-scale high and then begins to drop until the time of telemetry loss, indicating failed sensor.

55:54:52 - Oxygen tank No. 2 temperature sensor reads -151.3 F.

55:54:52.703 - Oxygen tank No. 2 temperature suddenly goes off-scale low, indicating failed sensor.

55:54:52.763 - Last telemetered pressure from oxygen tank No. 2 before telemetry loss is 995.7 psia.

55:54:53.182 - Sudden accelerometer activity on X, Y, Z axes.

55:54:53.220 - Stabilization control system rate changes begin.

55:54:53.323 - Oxygen tank No. 1 pressure drops 4.2 psi.

55:54:53.500 - 2.8 amp rise in total fuel cell current.

55:54:53.542 - X, Y, and Z accelerations in CM indicate 1.17g, 0.65g, and 0.65g.

55:54:53.555 - Master caution and warning triggered by DC main bus B undervoltage. Alarm is turned off in 6 seconds. All indications are that the cryogenic oxygen tank No. 2 lost pressure in this time period and the panel separated.

55:54:54.741 - Nitrogen pressure in fuel cell 1 is off-scale low indicating failed sensor.

55:54:55.350 - Telemetry recovered.

55:54:56 - Service propulsion system engine valve body temperature begins a rise of 1.65 F in 7 seconds. DC main A decreases 0.9 volts to 28.5 volts and DC main bus B 0.9 volts to 29.0 volts. Total fuel cell current is 15 amps higher than the final value before telemetry loss. High current continues for 19 seconds. Oxygen tank No. 2 temperature reads off-scale high after telemetry recovery, probably indicating failed sensors. Oxygen tank No. 2 pressure reads off-scale low following telemetry recovery, indicating a broken supply line, a tank pressure below 19 psi, or a failed sensor. Oxygen tank No. 1 pressure reads 781.9 psia and begins to drop.

55:54:57 - Oxygen tank No. 2 quantity reads off-scale high following telemetry recovery indicating failed sensor.

55:55:01 - Oxygen flow rates to fuel cells 1 and 3 approached zero after decreasing for 7 seconds.

55:55:02 - The surface temperature of the service module oxidizer tank in bay 3 begins a 3.8 F increase in a 15 second period. The service propulsion system helium tank temperature begins a 3.8 F increase in a 32 second period.

55:55:09 - DC main bus A voltage recovers to 29.0 volts, DC main bus B recovers to 28.8.

55:55:20 - Swigert: "Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here."

55:55:28 - Lousma: "This is Houston. Say again please."

55:55:35 - Lovell: "Houston, we've had a problem. We've had a main B bus undervolt."

55:55:42 - Lousma: "Roger. Main B undervolt."

55:55:49 - Oxygen tank No. 2 temperature begins steady drop lasting 59 seconds indicating a failed sensor.

55:56:10 - Haise: "Okay. Right now, Houston, the voltage is--is looking good. And we had a pretty large bang associated with the caution and warning there. And as I recall, main B was the one that had an amp spike on it once before.

55:56:30 - Lousma: "Roger, Fred."

55:56:38 - Oxygen tank No. 2 quantity becomes erratic for 69 seconds before assuming an off-scale low state, indicating a failed sensor.

55:56:54 - Haise: "In the interim here, we're starting to go ahead and button up the tunnel again."

55:57:04 - Haise: "That jolt must have rocked the sensor on -- see now -- oxygen quantity 2. It was oscillating down around 20 to 60 percent. Now it's full-scale high."

55:57:39 - Master caution and warning triggered by DC main bus B undervoltage. Alarm is turned off in 6 seconds.

55:57:40 - DC main bus B drops below 26.25 volts and continues to fall rapidly.

55:57:44 - Lovell: "Okay. And we're looking at our service module RCS helium 1. We have -- B is barber poled and D is barber poled, helium 2, D is barber pole, and secondary propellants, I have A and C barber pole." AC bus fails within 2 seconds.

55:57:45 - Fuel cell 3 fails.

55:57:59 - Fuel cell current begins to decrease.

55:58:02 - Master caution and warning caused by AC bus 2 being reset.

55:58:06 - Master caution and warning triggered by DC main bus undervoltage.

55:58:07 - DC main bus A drops below 26.25 volts and in the next few seconds levels off at 25.5 volts.

55:58:07 - Haise: "AC 2 is showing zip."

55:58:25 - Haise: "Yes, we got a main bus A undervolt now, too, showing. It's reading about 25 and a half. Main B is reading zip right now."

56:00:06 - Master caution and warning triggered by high hydrogen flow rate to fuel cell 2.

Timeline: 50 Years of Spaceflight

On Oct. 4, 2007, the Space Age celebrated the 50th anniversary of the historic launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, by the former Soviet Union.

The space shot also launched the Space Race to the moon between the United States and the Soviet Union. But despite that turbulent beginning, the initial launch has led to five decades of triumphs and tragedies in space science and exploration.

Below is a timeline by Space News and chronicling the first 50 years of spaceflight. You are invited to walk through the half century of space exploration and click related links for more in depth information:

Sometime in the 11th century: China combines sulfur, charcoal and saltpeter (potassium nitrate) to make gunpowder, the first fuel used to propel early rockets in Chinese warfare.

July 4, 1054: Chinese astronomers observe the supernova in Taurus that formed the Crab Nebula.

Mid-1700s: Hyder Ali, the Sultan of Mysome in India, begins manufacturing rockets sheathed in iron, not cardboard or paper, to improve their range and stability.

March 16, 1926: Robert Goddard, sometimes referred to as the "Father of Modern Rocketry," launches the first successful liquid-fueled rocket.

July 17, 1929: Robert Goddard launches a rocket that carries with it the first set of scientific tools &mdash a barometer and a camera &mdash in Auburn, Mass. The launch was Goddard's fourth.

Feb. 18, 1930: The dwarf planet Pluto is discovered by American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Oct. 3, 1942: Germany successfully test launches the first ballistic missile, the A4, more commonly known as the V-2, and later uses it near the end of European combat in World War II.

Sep. 29, 1945: Wernher von Braun arrives at Ft. Bliss, Texas, with six other German rocket specialists.

Oct. 14, 1947: American test pilot Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier for the first time in the X-1, also known as Glamorous Glennis.

Oct. 4, 1957: A modified R-7 two-stage ICBM launches the satellite Sputnik 1 from Tyuratam. The Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States begins.

Nov. 3, 1957: The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 2 with the first living passenger, the dog Laika, aboard.

Dec. 6, 1957: A Vanguard TV-3 carrying a grapefruit-sized satellite explodes at launch a failed response to the Sputnik launch by the United States.

Jan. 31, 1958: Explorer 1, the first satellite with an onboard telemetry system, is launched by the United States into orbit aboard a Juno rocket and returns data from space.

Oct. 7, 1958: NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan publicly announces NASA's manned spaceflight program along with the formation of the Space Task Group, a panel of scientist and engineers from space-policy organizations absorbed by NASA. The announcement came just six days after NASA was founded.

Jan. 2, 1959: The U.S.S.R. launches Luna 1, which misses the moon but becomes the first artificial object to leave Earth orbit.

Jan. 12, 1959: NASA awards McDonnell Corp. the contract to manufacture the Mercury capsules.

Feb. 28, 1959: NASA launches Discover 1, the U.S. first spy satellite, but it is not until the Aug. 11, 1960, launch of Discover 13 that film is recovered successfully.

May 28, 1959: The United States launches the first primates in space, Able and Baker, on a suborbital flight.

Aug. 7, 1959: NASA's Explorer 6 launches and provides the first photographs of the Earth from space.

Sept. 12, 1959: The Soviet Union's Luna 2 is launched and two days later is intentionally crashed into the Moon.

Sept. 17, 1959: NASA's X-15 hypersonic research plane, capable of speeds to Mach 6.7, makes its first powered flight.

Oct. 24, 1960: To rush the launch of a Mars probe before the Nov. 7 anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, Field Marshall Mitrofan Nedelin ignored several safety protocols and 126 people are killed when the R-16 ICBM explodes at the Baikonur Cosmodrome during launch preparations.

Feb. 12, 1961: The Soviet Union launches Venera to Venus, but the probe stops responding after a week.

April 12, 1961: Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space with a 108-minute flight on Vostok 1 in which he completed one orbit.

May 5, 1961: Mercury Freedom 7 launches on a Redstone rocket for a 15-minute suborbital flight, making Alan Shepard the first American in space.

May 25, 1961: In a speech before Congress, President John Kennedy announces that an American will land on the moon and be returned safely to Earth before the end of the decade.

Oct. 27, 1961: Saturn 1, the rocket for the initial Apollo missions, is tested for the first time.

Feb. 20, 1962: John Glenn makes the first U.S. manned orbital flight aboard Mercury 6.

June 7, 1962: Wernher von Braun backs the idea of a Lunar Orbit Rendezvous mission.

July 10, 1962: The United States launches Telstar 1, which enables the trans-Atlantic transmission of television signals.

June 14, 1962: Agreements are signed establishing the European Space Research Organisation and the European Launcher Development Organisation. Both eventually were dissolved.

July 28, 1962: The U.S.S.R launches its first successful spy satellite, designated Cosmos 7.

Aug. 27, 1962: Mariner 2 launches and eventually performs the first successful interplanetary flyby when it passes by Venus.

Sept. 29, 1962: Canada's Alouette 1 launches aboard a NASA Thor-Agena B rocket, becoming the first satellite from a country other than the United States or Soviet Union.

June 16, 1963: Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman to fly into space.

July 28, 1964: Ranger 7 launches and is the Ranger series' first success, taking photographs of the moon until it crashes into its surface four days later.

April 8, 1964: Gemini 1, a two-seat spacecraft system, launches in an unmanned flight.

Aug. 19, 1964: NASA's Syncom 3 launches aboard a Thor-Delta rocket, becoming the first geostationary telecommunications satellite.

Oct. 12, 1964: The Soviet Union launches Voskhod 1, a modified Vostok orbiter with a three-person crew.

March 18, 1965: Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov makes the first spacewalk from the Voskhod 2 orbiter.

March 23, 1965: Gemini 3, the first of the manned Gemini missions, launches with a two-person crew on a Titan 2 rocket, making astronaut Gus Grissom the first man to travel in space twice.

June 3, 1965: Ed White, during the Gemini 4 mission, becomes the first American to walk in space.

July 14, 1965: Mariner 4 executes the first successful Mars flyby.

Aug. 21, 1965: Gemini 5 launches on an eight-day mission.

Dec. 15, 1965: Gemini 6 launches and performs a rendezvous with Gemini 7.

Jan. 14, 1966: The Soviet Union's chief designer, Sergei Korolev, dies from complications stemming from routine surgery, leaving the Soviet space program without its most influential leader of the preceding 20 years.

Feb. 3, 1966: The unmanned Soviet spacecraft Luna 9 makes the first soft landing on the Moon.

March 1, 1966: The Soviet Union's Venera 3 probe becomes the first spacecraft to land on the planetVenus, but its communications system failed before data could be returned.

March 16, 1966: Gemini 8 launches on a Titan 2 rocket and later docks with a previously launched Agena rocket &mdash the first docking between two orbiting spacecraft.

April 3, 1966: The Soviet Luna 10 space probe enters lunar orbit, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit the Moon.

June 2, 1966: Surveyor 1, a lunar lander, performs the first successful U.S. soft landing on the Moon.

Jan. 27, 1967: All three astronauts for NASA's Apollo 1 mission suffocate from smoke inhalationin a cabin fire during a launch pad test.

April 5, 1967: A review board delivers a damning report to NASA Administrator James Webb about problem areas in the Apollo spacecraft. The recommended modifications are completed by Oct. 9, 1968.

April 23, 1967: Soyuz 1 launches but myriad problems surface. The solar panels do not unfold, there are stability problems and the parachute fails to open on descent causing the death of Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov.

Oct. 11, 1968: Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission, launches on a Saturn 1 for an 11-day mission in Earth orbit. The mission also featured the first live TV broadcast of humans in space.

Dec. 21, 1968: Apollo 8 launches on a Saturn V and becomes the first manned mission to orbit the moon.

Jan. 16, 1969: Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5 rendezvous and dock and perform the first in-orbit crew transfer.

March 3, 1969: Apollo 9 launches. During the mission, tests of the lunar module are conducted in Earth orbit.

May 22, 1969: Apollo 10's Lunar Module Snoopy comes within 8.6 miles (14 kilometers) of the moon's surface.

July 20, 1969: Six years after U.S. President John F. Kennedy's assassination, the Apollo 11 crew lands on the Moon, fulfilling his promise to put an American there by the end of the decade and return him safely to Earth.

Nov. 26, 1965: France launches its first satellite, Astérix, on a Diamant A rocket, becoming the third nation to do so.

Feb. 11, 1970: Japan's Lambda 4 rocket launches a Japanese test satellite, Ohsumi into orbit.

April 13, 1970: An explosion ruptures thecommand module of Apollo 13, days after launch and within reach of the moon. Abandoning the mission to save their lives, the astronauts climb into the Lunar Module and slingshot around the Moon to speed their return back to Earth.

April 24, 1970: The People's Republic of China launches its first satellite, Dong Fang Hong-1, on a Long March 1 rocket, becoming the fifth nation capable of launching its own satellites into space.

Sept. 12: 1970: The Soviet Union launches Luna 16, the first successful automated lunar sample retrieval mission.

April 19, 1971: A Proton rocket launches thefirst space station, Salyut 1, from Baikonur.

June 6, 1971: Soyuz 11 launches successfully, docking with Salyut 1. The three cosmonauts are killed during re-entry from a pressure leak in the cabin.

July 26, 1971: Apollo 15 launches with a Boeing-built Lunar Roving Vehicle and better life-support equipment to explore the Moon.

Oct. 28, 1971: The United Kingdom successfully launches its Prospero satellite into orbit on a Black Arrow rocket, becoming the sixth nation capable of launching its own satellites into space.

Nov. 13, 1971: Mariner 9 becomes the first spacecraft to orbit Mars and provides the first complete map of the planet's surface.

Jan. 5, 1972: U.S. President Richard Nixon announces that NASA is developing a reusable launch vehicle, the space shuttle.

March 3, 1972: Pioneer 10, the first spacecraft to leave the solar system, launches from Cape Kennedy, Fla.

Dec. 19, 1972: Apollo 17, the last mission to the moon, returns to Earth.

May 14, 1973: A Saturn V rocket launches Skylab, the United States' first space station.

March 29, 1974: Mariner 10 becomes the first spacecraft to fly by Mercury.

April 19, 1975: The Soviet Union launches India's first satellite, Aryabhata.

May 31, 1975: The European Space Agency is formed.

July 17 1975: Soyuz-19 and Apollo 18 dock.

Aug. 9, 1975: ESA launches its first satellite, Cos-B, aboard a Thor-Delta rocket.

Sept. 9, 1975: Viking 2, composed of a lander and an orbiter, launches for Mars.

July 20, 1976: The U.S. Viking 1 lands on Mars, becoming the first successful Mars lander.

Aug. 20, 1977: Voyager 2 is launched on a course toward Uranus and Neptune.

Sept. 5, 1977: Voyager 1 is launched to perform flybys of Jupiter and Saturn.

Sept. 29, 1977: Salyut 6 reaches orbit. It is the first space station equipped with docking stations on either end, which allow for two vehicles to dock at once, including the Progress supply ship.

Feb. 22, 1978: The first GPS satellite, Navstar 1, launches aboard an Atlas F rocket.

July 11, 1979: Skylab, the first American space station, crashes back to Earth in the sparsely populated grasslands of western Australia.

Sept. 1, 1979: Pioneer 11 becomes the first spacecraft to fly past Saturn.

Dec. 24, 1979: The French-built Ariane rocket, Europe's first launch vehicle, launches successfully.

July 18 1980: India launches its Rohini 1 satellite. By using its domestically developed SLV-3 rocket, India becomes the seventh nation capable of sending objects into space by itself.

April 12, 1981: Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off from Cape Canaveral, beginning the first space mission for NASA's new astronaut transportation system.

June 24, 1982: French air force test pilot Jean-Loup Chrétien launches to the Soviet Union's Salyut 7 aboard Soyuz T-6.

Nov. 11, 1982: Shuttle Columbia launches. During its mission, it deploys two commercial communications satellites.

June 18, 1983: Sally Ride aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger becomes the first American woman in space.

Feb. 7, 1984: Astronauts Bruce McCandless and Robert Stewart maneuver as many as 328 feet (100 meters) from the Space Shuttle Challenger using the Manned Maneuvering Unit, which contains small thrusters, in the first ever untethered spacewalks.

April 8, 1984: Challenger crew repairs the Solar Max satellite during a spacewalk.

Sept. 11: 1985: The International Cometary Explorer, launched by NASA&enspin 1978, performs the first comet flyby.

Jan. 24, 1986: Voyager 2 completes the first and only spacecraft flyby of Uranus.

Jan. 28, 1986: Challenger broke apart 73 seconds after launch after its external tank exploded, grounding the shuttle fleet for more than two years.

Feb. 20, 1986: The Soviet Union launches theMir space station.

March 13, 1986: A two-cosmonaut crew launches aboard Soyuz T-15 to power up the Mir space station. During their 18-month mission, they also revive the abandoned Salyut 7, and take parts that are later placed aboard Mir.

June 15, 1988: PanAmSat launches its first satellite, PanAmSat 1, on an Ariane 4 rocket, giving Intelsat its first taste of competition.

Sept. 19, 1988: Israel launches its first satellite, the Ofeq 1 reconnaissance probe, aboard an Israeli Shavit rocket.

Nov. 15, 1988: The Soviet Union launches its Buran space shuttle on its only flight, an unpiloted test.

May 4, 1989: The Space Shuttle Atlantis launches the Magellan space probe to use radar to map the surface of Venus.

Oct. 18, 1989: Shuttle Atlantis launches with Jupiter-bound Galileo space probe on board.

April 7, 1990: China launches the Asiasat-1 communications satellite, completing its first commercial contract.

April 25, 1990: The Space Shuttle Discovery releases the Hubble Space Telescopeinto Earth orbit.

Oct. 29, 1991: The U.S. Galileo spacecraft, on its way to Jupiter, successfully encounters the asteroid Gaspra, obtaining images and other data during its flyby.

April 23, 1992: The U.S. Cosmic Background Explorer spacecraft detects the first evidence of structure in the residual radiation left over from the Big Bang that created the Universe.

Dec. 28, 1992: Lockheed and Khrunichev Enterprise announce plans to form Lockheed-Khrunichev-Energia International, a new company to market Proton rockets.

June 21, 1993: Shuttle Endeavour launches carrying Spacehab, a privately owned laboratory that sits in the shuttle cargo bay.

Dec. 2, 1993: Endeavour launches on a mission to repair theHubble Space Telescope.

Dec. 17, 1993: DirecTV launches its first satellite, DirecTV 1, aboard an Ariane 4 rocket.

Feb. 7, 1994: The first Milstar secure communications satellite launches. The geosynchronous satellites are used by battlefield commanders and for strategic communications.

Oct. 15, 1994: India launches its four-stage PolarSatellite Launch Vehicle for the first time.

Jan. 26, 1995: A Chinese Long March rocket carrying the Hughes-built Apstar-1 rocket fails. The accident investigation, along with the probe of a subsequent Long March failure that destroyed an Intelsat satellite, leads to technology-transfer allegations that ultimately result in the U.S. government barring launches of American-built satellites on Chinese rockets.

Feb. 3, 1995: The Space Shuttle Discovery launches anddocks with the Mir space station.

March 15, 1995: Aerospace giants Lockheed Corp. and Martin Marietta Corp. merge.

July 13, 1995: Galileo releases its space probe, which is bound for Jupiter and its moons.

Aug. 7, 1996: NASA and Stanford University researchers announce a paper contending that a 4-billion-year-old Martian meteorite, called ALH 84001, found in Antarctica in 1984, contains fossilized traces of carbonate materials that suggest primitive life might once have existed on Mars. That contention remains controversial.

May 5, 1997: Satellite mobile phone company Iridium launches its first five satellites on a Delta 2 rocket.

June 25 1997: An unmanned Russian Progress supply spacecraft collides with the Mir space station.

July 4, 1997: The Mars Pathfinder lander and its accompanying Sojourner rover touch down on the surface of Mars.

Aug. 1, 1997: The Boeing Co. and the McDonnell Douglas Corp. merge, keeping Boeing's name.

Feb. 14, 1998: Globalstar, a satellite mobile telephone company, launches its first four satellites on a Delta 2 rocket.

Sept. 9, 1998: A Russian Zenit 2 rocket launches and subsequently crashes, destroying all 12 Loral-built Globalstar satellites aboard. The payload had an estimated value of about $180 million.

Nov. 20, 1998: Russia's Zarya control module, the first segment of the International Space Station, launches into space and unfurls its solar arrays.

March 27, 1999: Sea Launch Co. launches a demonstration satellite, successfully completing its first launch.

July 23, 1999: The Chandra X-ray observatory, NASA's flagship mission for X-ray astronomy, launches aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Aug. 13, 1999: Iridium files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, after being unable to pay its creditors. Iridium Satellite LLC later acquired the original Iridium's assets from bankruptcy.

Nov. 19, 1999: China successfully test launches the unmanned Shenzhou 1.

July 10, 2000: Europe's largest aerospace company, European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., EADS, forms with the consolidation of DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG of Munich, Aerospatiale Matra S.A. of Paris, and Construcciones Aeronáuticas S.A. of Madrid.

March 18, 2001: After launch delays with XM-1, XM Satellite Radio's XM-2 satellite becomes the company's first satellite in orbit when it is launched by Sea Launch Co.

March 23, 2001: After being mothballed in 1999, Mir descends into the Earth's atmosphere and breaks up over the Pacific Ocean.

May 6, 2001: U.S. entrepreneur Dennis Tito returns to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to become the world's first paying tourist to visit the International Space Station.

Aug. 29, 2001: Japan's workhorse launch system, the two-stage H-2A rocket, launches for the first time.

Feb. 15, 2002: After having trouble selling its satellite mobile phone service, Globalstar voluntarily files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from escalating creditor debt. The company emerged from bankruptcy April 14, 2004.

Feb. 1, 2003: The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrates as it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere, killing the crew. Damage from insulating foam hitting the orbiter's leading wing on liftoff is later cited as the cause of the accident.

Aug 22, 2003: The VLS-V03, a Brazilian prototype rocket, explodes on the launch pad at Alcántara killing 21 people.

Aug. 25, 2003: NASA launches the Spitzer Space Telescope aboard a Delta rocket.

Oct. 1, 2003: Japan's two space agencies, the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science and the National Space Development Agency of Japan, merge into the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Oct. 15, 2003: Yang Liwei becomes China's first taikonaut, having launched aboard Shenzhou 5.

Jan. 4, 2004: The first Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit, lands on Mars. Its twin, Opportunity lands Jan. 25.

Jan. 14, 2004: President George W. Bush advocates space exploration missions to the moon and Mars for NASA in his Vision for Space Exploration speech.

Sept. 20, 2004: India launches its three-stage Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle for the first time.

Oct. 4, 2004: Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne piloted craft wins the X Prize by flying over 100 kilometers above Earth twice within two weeks.

July 26, 2005: Discovery becomes the first shuttle to launch since the Columbia disaster more than two years before. While the crew returned safely, the loss of several pieces of foam debris prompted further investigation, which delayed future shuttle missions.

Oct. 12, 2005: A two-taikonaut crew launches aboard the Chinese Shenzhou 6.

Oct 19, 2005: The last of the Martin Marietta-built Titan 4 heavy-lift rockets launches.

Jan. 19, 2006: New Horizons, NASA's first-ever mission to the dwarf planet Pluto and its moons, launches atop an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Flies past Jupiter one year later in what is billed as NASA's fastest mission to date.

July 3, 2006: Intelsat acquires fellow fixed satellite service provider PanAmSat for $6.4 billion.

July 4, 2006: NASA's second post-Columbia accident test flight, STS-121 aboard Discovery, begins a successful space station-bound mission, returning the U.S. orbiter fleet to flight status.

Sept. 9., 2006: NASA resumes construction of the International Space Station with the launch of the shuttle Atlantis on STS-115 after two successful return to flight test missions. Atlantis' launch occurs after nearly four years without a station construction flight.

Oct. 11, 2006: Lockheed Martin completes the sale of its majority share in International Launch Services to Space Transport Inc. for $60 million.

Jan. 11, 2007: China downs one of its weather satellites, Fengyun-1C, with a ground launched missile. In doing so, China joins Russia and the United States as the only nations to have successfully tested anti-satellite weapons.

April 6, 2007: The European Commission approves the acquisition of French-Italian Alcatel Alenia by Paris-based Thales, thus creating satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space.?

Aug. 8, 2007: NASA's Space Shuttle Endeavour launches toward the International Space Station on the STS-118 construction mission. The shuttle crew includes teacher-astronaut Barbara Morgan, NASA's first educator spaceflyer, who originally served backup for the first Teacher-in-Space Christa McAuliffe who was lost with six crewmates during the 1986 Challenger accident.

Sept. 27, 2007: Dawn, the first ion-powered probe to visit two celestial bodies in one go, launches on an eight-year mission to the asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres, the two largest space rocks in the solar system.

Oct. 1, 2007: NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, the first female commander of the International Space Station, prepares for an Oct. 10 launch with her Expedition 16 crewmate Yuri Malenchenko and Malaysia's first astronaut Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor. Whitson, and NASA's second female shuttle commander Pamela Melroy, will command a joint space station construction mission in late October.

Oct. 4, 2007: The Space Age turns 50, five decades after the historic launch of Sputnik 1.

Apollo 11 Mission Timeline

"Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin into an initial Earth-orbit of 114 by 116 miles."

Translunar Orbit

"Two hours, 44 minutes and one-and-a-half revolutions after launch, the S-IVB stage reignited for a second burn of five minutes, 48 seconds, placing Apollo 11 into a translunar orbit."

SPS Three-Second Burn

"Later, on July 17, a three-second burn of the SPS was made to perform the second of four scheduled midcourse corrections programmed for the flight."

Second TV Transmission

"On July 18, Armstrong and Aldrin put on their spacesuits and climbed through the docking tunnel from Columbia to Eagle to check out the LM, and to make the second TV transmission."

First Lunar Orbit Insertion Maneuver

"On July 19, after Apollo 11 had flown behind the moon out of contact with Earth, came the first lunar orbit insertion maneuver."

Eagle Undocks From Columbia

"On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin entered the LM again, made a final check, and at 100 hours, 12 minutes into the flight, the Eagle undocked and separated from Columbia for visual inspection."

First Man on the Moon

"At about 109 hours, 42 minutes after launch, Armstrong stepped onto the moon."

Lunar Landing

"Partially piloted manually by Armstrong, the Eagle landed in the Sea of Tranquility in Site 2 at 0 degrees, 41 minutes, 15 seconds north latitude and 23 degrees, 26 minutes east longitude. This was about four miles downrange from the predicted touchdown point and occurred almost one-and-a-half minutes earlier than scheduled."

Second Man on the Moon

"About 20 minutes later, Aldrin followed him. Commemorative medallions bearing the names of the three Apollo 1 astronauts who lost their lives in a launch pad fire, and two cosmonauts who also died in accidents, were left on the moon's surface."

Eagle and Columbia Reconnect

"Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the moon's surface. After a rest period that included seven hours of sleep, the ascent stage engine fired at 124 hours, 22 minutes.Docking with Columbia occurred on the CSM's 27th revolution at 128 hours, three minutes into the mission. Armstrong and Aldrin returned to the CSM with Collins. Four hours later, the LM jettisoned and remained in lunar orbit."

Trans-Earth Injections Begins

"Trans-Earth injection of the CSM began July 21 as the SPS fired for two-and-a-half minutes when Columbia was behind the moon in its 59th hour of lunar orbit. Following this, the astronauts slept for about 10 hours."

Midcourse Correction

"An 11.2 second firing of the SPS accomplished the only midcourse correction required on the return flight. The correction was made July 22 at about 150 hours, 30 minutes into the mission. Two more television transmissions were made during the trans-Earth coast."

Apollo 11 Lands Back on Earth

"Re-entry procedures were initiated July 24, 44 hours after leaving lunar orbit. After a flight of 195 hours, 18 minutes, 35 seconds -- about 36 minutes longer than planned -- Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, 13 miles from the recovery ship USS Hornet. Because of bad weather in the target area, the landing point was changed by about 250 miles. Apollo 11 landed 13 degrees, 19 minutes north latitude and 169 degrees, nine minutes west longitude July 24, 1969. "

Local residents led by independent councillor, Joan Maslin, mount a campaign calling for the Pavilion to be demolished stating that it has become an eyesore and a focal point for anti-social behaviour.

Following a protracted period of debate, the local authority takes action to remove the staircase access to the Pavilion’s raised deck level. As a measure aimed at further dissuading people from gaining access the council removes the balustrades from the deck and fills it with soil and plants.

It is hoped this measure will also ‘soften’ the appearance of the Pavilion. Victor Pasmore objects to the more radical proposal of filling in sections of the Pavilion’s internal spaces on the grounds that this action would be irreversible.


The moon has held our imaginations for millennia, yet it is only in modern times that we have visited this body, first with robotic machines and then with astronauts. Exploration of the moon has taught us much about the evolution of the solar system and ourselves. We&rsquove known for centuries about the effects on tides and biological cycles from a waxing and waning moon. But it took space-age exploration to show us how the moon is connected to human existence on a very fundamental level.

The Space Age arrives: Robots to the Moon

With the shocking launch of Sputnik 1 in October 1957, the moon changed from a distant silver disk in the sky to a real place, a probable destination for probes and people. The Soviets struck first, flying Luna 1 by the moon in January 1959. They followed this success with a number of other robotic probes, culminating later the same year with Luna 3, which photographed the far side of the moon, never visible from Earth. From these early, poor quality images, we discovered that the far side has surprisingly little of the dark, smooth mare plains that cover about a third of the near side. Other surprises would soon follow.

In response to the 1961 flight of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, President John F. Kennedy committed the United States to landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade. The Apollo program greatly accelerated interest in exploring the moon. To ensure that human crews could safely land and depart from the lunar surface, it was important to understand its environment, surface and processes. At the same time, the robotic precursors would collect valuable information, constituting the first scientific exploration of another planetary body.

America&rsquos first step was the Ranger series of hard landers. These probes were designed to photograph the lunar surface at increasing levels of detail before crashing into the surface. After several heartbreaking failures, Ranger 7 succeeded in sending back detailed television pictures of Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds) in July 1964. From the Ranger probes, we discovered that craters, those strange holes that pepper the lunar surface, range down in size to the very limits of resolution. Micrometeorite bombardment has ground up the surface rocks, creating a fine powder (called regolith). Two more Ranger spacecraft flew to the moon, culminating with the 1965 Live From the Moon television images from Ranger 9, careening into the spectacular lunar crater Alphonsus.

We got a much closer look at the moon&rsquos surface in early 1966. Again, the U.S.S.R. led the way by safely soft-landing the robotic Luna 9 spacecraft on the mare plain, Oceanus Procellarum. It found the surface to be powdery dirt strewn with a few rocks, but strong enough to support the weight of a landed spacecraft. In May 1966, the United States followed with the landing of the complex robotic spacecraft, Surveyor 1. It sent television pictures back to Earth, showing the surface and its physical properties in detail. Later Surveyor missions (five in all), collected physical data on soil properties, including its chemical composition. Analysis of the lunar surface showed that the dark maria had a composition similar to terrestrial basalt, a dark iron-rich lava, while the highlands near the very fresh rayed crater Tycho were lighter in color and strangely enriched in aluminum. This led to an astonishing revelation about the moon&rsquos early history after the first physical samples were later returned to Earth by the Apollo 11 crew.

The final robotic missions mapped the entire moon from orbit for the first time and obtained extremely high resolution pictures of potential landing sites, certifying their safety for the Apollo missions to follow. This U.S. Lunar Orbiter series conducted five mapping missions, whereby boulders as small as a couple of meters could be seen. They also obtained amazing views of scientifically interesting targets, such as the first &ldquopilot&rsquos eye&rdquo view of the large, brightly rayed crater Copernicus, dubbed the &ldquopicture of the century&rdquo by news reporters. More &ldquopictures of the century&rdquo were soon to be obtained by people walking on the moon.

From these robotic missions, we learned that the moon was cratered and pitted at all scales. The surface was powdery dust but strong enough to support the weight of people and machines. The moon had no global magnetic field or atmosphere and was made up of common rock types, similar to those found on Earth. Now the stage was set for the next giant leap in understanding lunar and planetary history.

Apollo: The Humans Follow

Apollo was the finest hour of America&rsquos space program. In just eight years, we had gone from zero human spaceflight capability to landing men on the surface of the moon. From these missions, scientists developed a new view of the origin and evolution of the planets and of life on Earth.

The 1968 Christmastime flight of Apollo 8 was a milestone &ndash humans left low Earth orbit and reached the moon, circling it for almost a day. For the first time, people gazed on the moon from orbit. They found it desolate and gray, but saw nothing to prevent journeying the final 62 miles to the surface. In May of 1969, Apollo 10 orbited the moon, testing the lunar lander. It was a dress rehearsal for the manned landing to come. Each of the Apollo missions &ndash and the astronauts who remained in the orbiting Command Module during the subsequent landed missions &ndash took hundreds of high-resolution photographs of the moon&rsquos surface. Their visual observations added to the burgeoning knowledge of lunar geology.

In a harrowing descent marked by program alarms from an overloaded computer and freezing fuel lines, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in Apollo 11 safely landed in Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility) on July 20, 1969. They walked on the moon for over 2 hours, collecting rocks and soil and laying out experiment packages. From the Apollo 11 samples, we learned that the dark maria are ancient volcanic lavas, having crystallized over 3.6 billion years ago. Lunar samples are similar in chemical composition to Earth rocks but extremely dry, with no evidence for any significant water on the moon, past or present. Small bits of white rock were found in the soil, blasted to the site from distant highlands. Combined with the earlier results of the Surveyor 7 chemical analysis at the crater Tycho, scientists reasoned that the ancient moon had been nearly completely molten, covered in a layer of liquid rock. This idea of an early &ldquomagma ocean&rdquo has since been applied to all the rocky planets. Micrometeorite bombardment ground up the bedrock and gases from the sun were implanted on the surfaces of the lunar dust grains. While preserved on the moon, most of this ancient, shared history has been lost on our geologically active Earth.

In November 1969, Apollo 12 touched down in Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms), near the previously landed Surveyor 3 spacecraft. This mission demonstrated our ability to precisely land on the moon, a skill critical for navigating to future sites in the highlands and rugged areas. Astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean explored the site in two moonwalks. They collected over 75 pounds of samples and deployed a nuclear-powered experiment package. Lavas from this landing site are slightly younger than those of Apollo 11, but still over 3.1 billion years old. The highland component here is different from that of the first landing it has an unusual enrichment in radioactive and rare-earth elements, suggesting that the moon&rsquos crust is laterally variable and complex. As a bonus, the crew also returned a light colored soil, possibly part of a &ldquoray&rdquo cast-off and flung outward during the formation of the distant crater Copernicus &ndash 186 miles north of the landing site. Dating of glass from this soil suggests that Copernicus is &ldquoonly&rdquo 900 million years old, ancient by Earth standards but one of the youngest major features on the moon.

The explosion of an oxygen tank on Apollo 13 prevented it from landing on the moon. The three-man crew returned safely to Earth &mdash a memorable saga closely followed around the world. Apollo 14 was sent to a highlands site east of Apollo 12, near the ancient crater Fra Mauro. This site was chosen to collect rocks blasted out from deep within the moon by the formation of the giant Imbrium impact basin, a crater over 620 miles in diameter and situated 3,723 miles north of the landing site. Astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell conducted two moonwalks on the lunar surface. Towing a pull-cart filled with tools, they returned over 95 pounds of rock and soil. Samples from the Fra Mauro highlands are breccias (complex mixtures of ancient rocks), broken and crushed by the giant impact that created the Imbrium basin. From these samples, scientists learned the Imbrium impact occurred more than 3.8 billion years ago, before the dark mare lavas flooded the moon&rsquos surface but well after the formation of the moon&rsquos crust over 4.4 billion years ago. After this third landing, a new picture of lunar evolution was emerging. The moon was not a simple lump of cold meteorite nor was it an active volcanic inferno, but a planetary body with its own complex, subtle history.

In July 1971, with Apollo 15, NASA began the first of three what were termed "J" missions &ndash long duration stays on the moon with a greater focus on science than had been possible previously. Apollo 15, whose lunar module Falcon spent three days on the lunar surface, was the first mission to use a lunar rover &mdash a small electric cart that allowed the crew to travel many kilometers away from their landing craft. On three lunar rover excursions Dave Scott and Jim Irwin explored the beautiful Hadley-Apennine landing site &mdash a valley at the base of the main rim of the huge Imbrium basin that included both mare and highland rocks. The crew returned the &ldquoGenesis Rock,&rdquo composed almost entirely of a single mineral (plagioclase feldspar), representing the most ancient crustal rocks on the moon. They also found small fragments of an emerald green glass, formed when magma from the deep mantle explosively erupted through the crust in a spray of lava. They sampled the mare bedrock at the edge of Hadley Rille, a giant canyon and ancient lava channel, formed over 3.3 billion years ago. The Apollo 15 mission obtained over 80 kilograms of samples and its command module carried chemical sensors and cameras that mapped almost 20 percent of the moon&rsquos surface from orbit.

Apollo 16 was sent to the ancient crater Descartes, deep in the lunar highlands in April 1972. Astronauts John Young and Charlie Duke spent three days exploring the site. They traveled over 18 miles and collected more than 206 pounds of samples. They deployed and operated the first astronomical telescope on the moon. The highlands rocks, almost all breccias, attest to a long and complicated history of repeated impacts from space. Ancient crustal rocks, similar to the Genesis Rock of Apollo 15, were also found. One puzzling observation by the crew was the measurement of a very strong magnetic field on the surface. Even though the moon has no global magnetic field, some lunar samples have remnant magnetism, suggesting that they cooled in the presence of strong fields. Although we still do not understand lunar magnetism, with the flight of Lunar Prospector 26 years later, the Apollo 16 result would become a little clearer.

The last human mission to the moon to date, Apollo 17, was sent to the edge of Mare Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity) -- another combination mare/highland site -- in December 1972. Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt (the first professional geologist sent to the moon) spent three days thoroughly exploring the Taurus-Littrow valley. They returned over 242 pounds of samples and deployed a set of new surface experiments. They made startling and significant discoveries. The crew found 3.6-billion-year old orange volcanic ash. From the mountains, they returned crustal rocks and complex breccias created during the impact that formed the Serenitatis basin almost 3.9 billion years ago. Lavas at this site are over 3.6 billion years old, documenting at least a 700-million-year span of lava flooding on the moon.

The Apollo missions revolutionized planetary science. The early solar system was one of colliding planets, melted surfaces and exploding volcanoes &mdash a complex and violent geologic mixture. The concept of an &ldquoearly bombardment&rdquo 3.9 billion years ago is now widely accepted for all the planets, but the actual evidence comes from study of the lunar samples. The constant rain of micrometeorites grinds away all airless planetary surfaces, albeit this sandblaster is extremely slow (the moon erodes at a rate of roughly 1 millimeter per million years.) While Apollo did a magnificent job of outlining lunar history, more surprises were waiting to be unveiled.

The Robots Return: Clementine and Lunar Prospector

In the 1990s, two small robotic missions were sent to the moon. For 71 days in 1994, the joint NASA-Strategic Defense Initiative Organization Clementine mission orbited the moon, testing sensors developed for space-based missile defense, as well as mapping the color and shape of the moon. From Clementine, we documented the enormous south pole-Aitken impact basin, a hole in the moon 1, 616 miles across and over 8 miles deep. This basin is so large, it may have excavated the entire crust down to the mantle. The color data from Clementine, combined with Apollo sample information, allows us to map regional compositions, creating the first true &ldquorock map&rdquo of the moon. Finally, Clementine gave us a tantalizing hint that permanently dark areas near the south pole of the moon may contain frozen water deposited over millions of years by impacting comets.

Soon after Clementine, the Lunar Prospector spacecraft mapped the moon&rsquos surface from orbit during its mission in 1998 and 1999. These data, combined with those from Clementine, gave scientists global compositional maps showing the complicated crust of the moon. Lunar Prospector also mapped the surface magnetic fields for the first time. The data showed that the Apollo 16 Descartes highlands is one of the strongest magnetic areas on the moon, explaining the surface measurements made by John Young in 1972. The mission also found enhanced quantities of hydrogen at both poles, adding to the lively controversy over the welcome prospect for lunar ice.

The moon throws stones at us: Lunar meteorites

In 1982, we made a startling discovery. A meteorite found in Antarctica, ALHA 81005, is from the moon! The rock is a complex regolith breccia, similar to those returned by the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. We have since found over 50 meteorites that, as determined from their unique chemical composition, come from the moon. These rocks were blasted off the lunar surface by impacts, then captured and swept up by Earth as it moves through space. The lunar meteorites come from random places all over the moon and they provide data complementary to the Apollo samples and the global maps of composition obtained by Clementine and Lunar Prospector.

The Future and Significance of Lunar Exploration

Now we are preparing for humanity&rsquos return to the moon. Over the next couple of years, at least four international robotic missions will orbit the moon, making global maps of unsurpassed quality. We will soft land on the moon, particularly the mysterious polar regions, to map the surface, examine the volatile deposits and characterize the unusual environment there. Ultimately, people will return to the moon. The goals of lunar return this time are not to prove that we can do it (as Apollo did) but to learn how to use the moon to support a new and growing spacefaring capability. On the moon, we will learn the skills and develop the technologies needed to live and work on another world. We will use this knowledge and technology to open the solar system for human exploration.

The story of the moon&rsquos history and processes is interesting in its own right, but it has also subtly shifted perspectives on our own origins. One of the most significant discoveries of the 1980s was the giant impact 65 million years ago in Mexico that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs, allowing the subsequent rise of mammals. This discovery (made possible by recognizing and interpreting the telltale chemical and physical signs of hypervelocity impact) came directly from the study of impact rocks and landforms stimulated by Apollo. Scientists now think that impacts are responsible for many, if not most, extinction events in the history of life on Earth. The moon retains this record and we will read it in detail upon our return.

By going to the moon, we continue to obtain new insights into how the universe works and our own origins. Lunar exploration revolutionized understanding of the collision of solid bodies. This process, previously thought to be bizarre and unusual, is now viewed as fundamental to planetary origin and evolution &ndash an unexpected connection. By returning to the moon, we anticipate learning even more about our past, and equally importantly, obtaining a glimpse into our future.

Watch the video: AEK YMNOS (September 2022).


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