NASA’s attempt to put people on the moon in the 1960s and early 1970s was known as the Apollo program. With the achievement of Apollo 11, which landed humans on the moon for the first time in history in 1969, the United States was able to proclaim triumph in the Cold War space race against the Soviet Union. The Apollo program needed a massive effort, including nearly half a million people in the United States. The initiative cost $28 billion throughout its existence, or roughly $283 billion when accounting for inflation. According to NASA, the Apollo program comprised 11 total spaceflights that began in 1961, four of which were tested equipment, and six of the other seven landed humans on the moon (Mann, 2020). The very first human-crewed flight took place in 1968, while the last one took place in 1972. NASA’s Mercury mission, which operated from 1959 to 1963 and sent one-person teams into orbit to investigate if people could live and work in space, laid the groundwork for Apollo. The next step was the Gemini program, which spanned from 1962 to 1966 and comprised two-person missions that evaluated numerous maneuvers and components necessary for landing on the moon.
The Saturn V rocket was the most renowned of NASA’s new rockets created, particularly for Apollo. The Saturn V, tall as a 36-story skyscraper and had three stages, represents one of the largest propulsion systems ever flown. In addition, the Apollo command module, a three-person capsule that carried astronauts to the moon and back, was affixed to the rocket. Thus, during the nearly week-long lunar trips, the vessel’s cabin had almost the same amount of space as a vehicle, providing for rather tight travel circumstances.
Finally, there came the lunar module, which transported two people to the moon’s surface and landed on spindly legs. The lunar module’s top part started its engine and ascended to the command module for the return to Earth after the surface excursions were completed, and the crew had returned inside. The Saturn I rocket, a smaller version of the Saturn V intended to test the program’s engines and components, was utilized for the initial Apollo tests.
The first astronauts were scheduled to fly on Apollo 1, but a cabling flare on the day of a launch rehearsal caused a fire to spread throughout the command module, killing the three-person crew. January 27, 1967, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward White, and Roger B. Chaffee veterans of NASA’s Mercury and Gemini missions. All three men died as a consequence of a tragedy involving the highly oxygenated air within their capsule and a stray spark, as well as the vessel’s hatch being impossible to open from the inside.
The failure was a watershed moment for the software, prompting significant changes to the command module. As a result, NASA did not attempt to launch more astronauts into orbit for another 18 months. Instead, the CIA sent six uncrewed flights to investigate the Saturn V rocket’s efficiency and effectiveness during that period. During Apollo 7, the first successful crewed launch was a defining moment in the program’s history. The expedition proved the safety of transporting humans to space with the Saturn V rocket, even though personnel stayed in Earth orbit for the duration.
Apollo 8 was the first expedition to send men all the way to the moon, albeit they merely circled it rather than landing on its surface. The team took shifts reading from the Book of Genesis during the event, which took place on Christmas Eve in 1968 and captured the iconic snapshot of our world known as “Earthrise,” which is attributed with inspiring the environmental movement.
The Apollo 11 mission, when the first astronauts stepped foot on the moon, was the pinnacle of the Apollo program. On July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the lunar surface while Michael Collins flew the Columbia command module. As he took his first steps onto the moon, Armstrong said, “That’s one tiny stride for man, one great leap for mankind.” Upon returning to the command module, the astronauts spent 21 hours and 36 minutes on the surface.
Apollo 13 is regarded as the mission spared from disaster by a combination of hard labor and ingenious engineering solutions. Even though the crew never made it to the moon, their ordeal was chronicled in the Award-winning Academy film “Apollo 13.” The Apollo program was canceled in the early 1970s due to its exorbitant cost and declining public interest. President Richard Nixon and Congress chose to divert Apollo’s financing to other causes, including the Vietnam War. Apollo 17 was the program’s penultimate mission and the first to carry a scientist, geologist Harrison “Jack” Smith, who assisted in identifying significant rock specimens for return to Earth.
To understand why the United States was so determined to beat Russia in the space race, we need to look at the subsequent activities that culminated before the first landing of man on the moon and the previous space races that existed, if any. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union competed to see who possessed the most advanced space technology. This featured competitions such as who would be the first to launch a human spaceship into orbit and who would be the first to land on the moon. The Space Race was significant because it demonstrated to the rest of the world which country had the most scientific knowledge, technology, and economic system. Both the United States and the Soviet Union understood the military importance of rocket research after World War II. They both enlisted the aid of Germany’s finest rocket experts to further their studies. As a result, both sides made rapid advancements in rocket technology. The Space Race began in 1955, when both countries stated that satellites would be sent into orbit shortly. The Soviets regarded the United States statement as a challenge, forming a committee to beat the Americans to launch a satellite into orbit.
The first successful satellite launch occurred on October 4, 1957, by the Russians’ Sputnik 1. In the Space Race, the Russians had gained an advantage. Four months later, Explorer I, the first American satellite, was successfully launched. The race to send the first man into space was once again won by the Soviets. Yuri Gagarin became the first man to circle the Earth in the Vostok I spacecraft on April 12, 1961. The United States piloted the Freedom 7 three weeks later, and astronaut Alan Shepherd became the first American in space. Shepherd’s vessel, on the other hand, did not orbit the Earth. On February 20, 1962, over a year later, the first American, John Glenn, orbited the Earth aboard the Friendship 7 spacecraft. The Americans felt humiliated by their role in the Space Race. President John F. Kennedy stated to Congress in 1961 that he intended to be the first to land a man on the moon. This, he believed, was crucial for the country and the western world. Thus, the Apollo lunar mission was launched.
The Apollo program arose from the space race, a competition between the capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union for space dominance that began in 1957. In his famous 1961 “Moon Speech” at Rice University in Texas, U.S. President John F. Kennedy challenged the newly established NASA to put men on the moon and return them safely, despite the Russians being ahead at the start of the race.
The following explains the subsequent event that took place from the launching of Apollo 11 to landing on the moon.
On July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 spacecraft was launched from Cape Kennedy at 13:32:00 UT. The S-IVB engine was restarted after 2 hours and 33 minutes in Earth orbit to accelerate the spaceship to the velocity necessary for Earth gravity escape. The insertion of the lunar orbit began at 75:50 GMT (GET). The spacecraft was put in an elliptical orbit (61 by 169 nautical miles) with a 1.25-degree inclination to the lunar equatorial plane. The service module propulsion system was restarted at 80:12 GET, and the orbit was made almost circular (66 by 54 nautical miles) above the moon’s surface. Each orbit took two hours to complete. Photographs from lunar orbit gave a broad perspective of the lunar surface, allowing researchers to investigate regional lunar geology. Following a comprehensive check of all the Lunar Modul systems, with Astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin aboard, it was undocked from the command-service module (CSM) at 100:14 GET. The Lunar Modul descent engine was fired for around 29 seconds at 101:36 GET, and the fall to the lunar surface started. The Lunar Modul descent engine was ignited for the last time at 102:33 GET and burned until it landed on the lunar surface. Eagle landed 102 hours, 45 minutes, and 40 seconds after takeoff on the moon.
Armstrong and Aldrin configured the Lunar Modul for liftoff right after landing on the moon as a backup plan. Following the lunch, the astronauts requested a scheduled nap break be postponed, and they began preparing for their descent to the lunar surface. Armstrong was the first to exit the spaceship. He unfastened the Modularized Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA). The surface television camera was stored while descending, and the camera captured the first human walk on the moon at 109:24:19 GET. A sample of lunar surface material was gathered and stored to ensure that samples of lunar surface material would be returned to Earth if a situation forced an early conclusion to the scheduled surface operations. Following that, Aldrin landed on the lunar surface.
The astronauts completed the scheduled series of events, which included the deployment of a Solar Wind Composition (SWC) test, the collection of a large sample of lunar material, scenic images of the region close to the landing site and the moon horizon, closeup photographs of in place lunar surface material, the deployment of a Laser-Ranging Retroreflector (LRRR), and the deployment of a Passive Seismic Experiment.
The astronauts began preparing to reenter the Lunar Modul around two and a quarter hours after landing on the surface. At 124:22 GET, 21 hours and 36 minutes after the lunar descent, the ascent from the lunar surface commenced. Only one of the four scheduled midcourse corrections was necessary for the trans earth coast. With a speed of 36,194 feet per second (11,032 meters per second), the CM entered the Earth’s atmosphere and landed in the Pacific Ocean.
The number of technologies developed due to the space race is endless (Spadoni, 2020). LED lights, portable cordless vacuums, Wireless headsets, memory foam, scratch-resistant eyeglass lenses, and freeze-dried meals are technologies that we currently use that directly profited from space technology research and development.
Mann, A. (2020, June 25). The Apollo Program: How NASA sent astronauts to the moon. Space.Com. Retrieved from
https://www.space.com/apollo-program-overview.htmlSpadoni, A. (2020). How Technology From the Space Race Changed the World –. Now. Powered by Northrop Grumman. Retrieved from