We currently possess 8,400 publicly available photos of the Moon, hundreds of hours of video footage, and mountains of scientific data pertaining to its formation and structure – plus 382 kilograms of Moon rock!
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin from Apollo 11 became humanity’s first steps on another world. Six more Apollo missions soon followed suit.
1. Apollo 1
Once NASA had demonstrated that humans could survive and work in space through its Mercury and Gemini programs, it set its sights on landing astronauts on the Moon via Apollo – an endeavor which took 15 years and consumed $28 billion of funding.
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon’s surface. Their mission marked a major step forward for exploration missions to explore lunar terrain while returning samples back home for analysis and interpretation.
At this stage in their mission, Stafford, Young, and Cernan used Snoopy to investigate potential landing sites for Apollo 11. After taking several surveys around Earth’s moon craters – such as Ptolemaeus and Theophilus – they landed near Taurus-Littrow between Theophilus and Ptolemaeus craters; where they observed Descartes formation hills as well as Cayley plains.
2. Apollo 2
Before humans could land on the Moon, they needed to show they could withstand long durations in space. Therefore, several uncrewed test missions were launched between 1966 and 1967 to demonstrate astronaut safety and equipment protection.
Apollo 13’s James Lovell, Fred Haise and John Swigert almost perished when an oxygen tank exploded 56 hours into their journey.
After successfully performing their Lunar practice run during Apollo 10, Armstrong and Aldrin made their successful lunar landing on July 20, 1969. Once outside their Eagle spacecraft, Armstrong set foot onto the Moon’s surface saying: “That is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Their bootprints still exist today as part of what remains one of the most watched television events ever.
3. Apollo 3
After Apollo 10, the next step was to put astronauts through an endurance test of making it from Earth to Moon without using backup plans. That goal was successfully met on Apollo 12, which landed in November 1969 as the inaugural mission to use a lunar rover and Commander David Scott and Lunar Module Pilot James Irwin demonstrated Galileo’s theory that objects in a vacuum (without air resistance) fall at equal rates by dropping both hammer and feather from equal heights to demonstrate this principle.
At 56 hours into their flight, Odyssey experienced an oxygen tank explosion which nearly crippled it; but its crew members, James Lovell, Fred Haise and John Swigert managed to use the lunar module as their lifeboat in an extrication that marked their dangerous return home.
4. Apollo 4
The Apollo program began as part of the U.S. and Soviet space race to establish supremacy. Each Apollo spacecraft consisted of a Command Module housing astronauts and Lunar Module which landed on the moon to explore its surface using four-wheeled Lunar Roving Vehicles; later J’ missions added science bays for further study of lunar environments.
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the Moon on 16 July 1969 after successfully using an ascent stage from their spacecraft, the LM Eagle, to reach lunar orbit before using their descent stage to land safely onto its surface. They spent 21.5 hours there before returning back to LM – marking both its inaugural manned landing as well as America’s inaugural appearance elsewhere in space.
5. Apollo 5
Apollo astronauts weren’t just exploring our closest celestial neighbour – they conducted a scientific examination of it as well, collecting hundreds of kilograms of rocks and drilling core samples for deep analyses. Furthermore, they studied sunlight’s effect on lunar surfaces as well as measuring seismic activity (moonquakes) as well as collecting information about its near-vacuum atmosphere.
Saturn IB worked flawlessly, successfully placing both command module and Lunar Module (LM) into an orbit of 163x222km. Following an orbital coast, the Lunar Module separated from its command module.
Commander Thomas Stafford and pilot Eugene Cernan used a lunar rover to explore our natural satellite for 75 hours using photographs and experiments – even long enough to plant Armstrong’s historical boot prints!
6. Apollo 6
NASA had already prepared itself for this step through their Mercury and Gemini programs, so when Apollo spacecrafts landed on the Moon they needed to undergo extensive preflight inspections before being brought into orbit with astronauts aboard them.
Apollo 4 through Apollo 6 missions tested the Saturn V rocket that was used to launch crewed Apollo missions, while manned Apollo 7 and 10 tested systems for entering lunar orbit and docking with Lunar Modules.
Apollo 8, launched on Christmas Eve 1968, was the inaugural human mission to travel all the way to the Moon. Commander Frank Borman and his crew circled it, but did not land. Instead, they planted a United States flag near Descartes and Kant craters – look out for it near Descartes and Kant!
7. Apollo 7
Astronauts were able to view Earth from space for the first time ever. Additionally, they tested out their lunar module’s rover and sent pictures back home. This mission became the first one ever undertaken that broke existing speed and distance records.
Nasa designed its spacecraft to protect astronauts from lethal radiation exposure by choosing an optimal trajectory that minimised time spent inside Van Allen belts.
Commander Thomas Stafford, pilot John Young and astronaut Eugene Cernan became closer to the moon than ever before in their mission. Driving the lunar rover up to 30 km of its surface and taking photographs was possible thanks to these men, as were conducting experiments, surveying areas around it and leaving historic boot prints behind them on its surface.
8. Apollo 8
Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders were the pioneers of Apollo 8, the first human mission to leave Earth’s orbit and gaze upon the far side of the moon. While onboard Apollo 8, its crew conducted extensive tests of both command and service modules (CSM) and Lunar Modules (LM), which would transport astronauts directly onto its surface. They captured an iconic photo showing Earth rising above Moon limb and demonstrated the capability of landing and egress from Lunar Module after launch.
This mission also included testing of a docking maneuver, which captured millions of television viewers’ attention for just an instant during a Christmas Eve broadcast, when Lovell made an announcement that there is “Please be aware, there is Santa Claus.” Eventually, on December 27, 2001 the spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean after spending 10 days and three hours in space.
9. Apollo 9
This was the final Apollo mission to land astronauts on the moon. Under Commander John Young and Lunar Module Pilot Charles Duke’s guidance, their crew explored lunar highlands for two days while taking photographs, samples, deploying scientific equipment, docking with Thomas Mattingly’s orbiting command module piloted from Earth orbit and docking back up again with its orbital command module piloted from earth orbit.
Armstrong and Aldrin used their service module’s engines to enter lunar orbit, jettison the lunar module, rejoin Collins in their command module, and begin their return home. At some point during their return flight home, Armstrong and Aldrin noticed an alarm signal (code 1202) from their guidance computer that neither knew how to interpret; nonetheless they kept heading toward Sea of Tranquillity because NASA simulations indicated landing could still occur.
10. Apollo 10
Apollo 10 took off on May 18, 1969 to conduct its final dress rehearsal of a lunar landing mission. On board were Commander Thomas Stafford and Lunar Module Pilot Eugene Cernan – they flew close to our natural satellite by reaching about 50,000 feet away in Snoopy! The lunar landing mission would then proceed successfully on December 21, 1969.
At least 75 hours were dedicated to testing Lunar Module descent and ascent engines as well as the radio system combined with command module performance evaluation. Furthermore, an experimental seismometer and laser retroreflector for distance measurements were included as part of this mission.
The crew was successful in all areas, except landing directly on the lunar surface itself. Minutes later, Armstrong made history when he announced “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. And so they took it; this event marked America’s space race with Russia that eventually led to an end of Cold War tensions.