President John F. Kennedy issued a challenge in 1961 for the nation to put a man on the Moon by the end of this decade. Through this interactive presentation, learn about its successes and setbacks.
The goal of the Apollo program was to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth.
One lesson from the Apollo moon program is its emphasis on having a compelling vision. President John F. Kennedy articulated this in a speech to Congress calling for sending men to land on the Moon within 10 years; though initially considered impossible at first, NASA and its astronauts ultimately achieved this goal with incredible effort; the mission has proven highly successful and its legacy lives on today.
The Apollo spacecraft consisted of three main parts: The command module (CM), which contained crew quarters and flight control systems; the service module, which provided propulsion and support systems; and the lunar module, which could transport two astronauts safely to the Moon, land them safely on its surface, and return them safely back into lunar orbit before returning back into lunar orbit again. Additionally, this LM was fitted with landing gear as well as a rover which could traverse its surface.
NASA first began sending humans on Apollo missions in 1968. Apollo 7 marked the first successful voyage beyond low Earth orbit and provided live television broadcast from a piloted spacecraft. Apollo 8 featured Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders as its crewmembers; these individuals became the first humans to reach near to Moon. On their mission they conducted scientific investigations such as deployment of solar wind composition experiment, seismic experiment package deployment and laser ranging retroreflector deployment – among many other scientific investigations conducted during their voyage.
During their mission, NASA astronauts captured images of the lunar surface and their rover that were relayed back to Houston’s Mission Control Center for analysis. They collected samples of lunar material as well as deployed a television camera that broadcast their experiences back home; additionally they took portraits of each other while photographing surroundings inside an LM that returned back into lunar orbit and returned directly back into NASA control.
On July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human ever to step foot onto the Moon when Apollo 11 touched down on its inaugural lunar landing, with its legendary slogan being broadcast worldwide to over 530 million viewers. There would later be five further lunar landings before Apollo 17’s final mission on December 14, 1972.
The mission was successful.
President Kennedy set a national goal eight years earlier for Apollo 11, with its successful lunar landing and return. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin successfully performed this goal for all 530 million viewers worldwide who watched live television coverage of this spectacular momentous occasion.
However, astronauts weren’t just there for sightseeing: their mission included conducting experiments and gathering samples of Moon rock and soil. For instance, Astronaut David Scott conducted a test that confirmed Galileo’s hypothesis that objects in space fall at equal rates regardless of mass; when dropping a geological hammer and feather onto a platform below him both dropped at once to prove this theory.
Apollo 13 faced its return challenge head on, meeting it head on through innovation and perseverance. When an oxygen tank’s switch and insulation were accidentally damaged, which prevented its shut-down, it left astronauts without enough oxygen to breathe or produce power, leaving only enough to last three hours before they transferred into LEMs with engines designed by University of Minnesota alumnus Gerard Elverum Jr. which allowed for increased or decreased output control by astronauts themselves.
To return to lunar orbit, the astronauts employed one of the LEM’s two propulsion systems for repositioning maneuvers before switching engines for return back to CSM – docking on 27th revolution 128 hours 3 minutes into mission.
Three days later, they were safely retrieved by the USS Hornet and returned home safely, where they were doused with disinfectant to make sure no dangerous Moon bugs had hitched a ride home and quarantined for three weeks to ensure there weren’t disease-causing microbes present. Overall, the Apollo program cost approximately $257 billion in 2020 dollars while employing around 400,000 Americans at its peak; they provided 382 kilograms of lunar rocks, core samples, and regolith samples to scientists so they can understand its formation 4.5 billion years ago.
The mission was expensive.
The Apollo project was an ambitious undertaking, both costly and ambitious. President Kennedy stood before Congress to advocate for funding of this ambitious endeavor and laid out his vision of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely back home – showing America could outdo even its Soviet competitors in space, using this dramatic goal as motivation to unify all Americans in working toward its accomplishment.
This program cost over 20 billion dollars when adjusted for inflation; today it would likely be even higher. As the largest research and development project ever seen in peacetime history, employing over 400,000 workers at its peak across America, it had an enormous effect on national politics, sparking political disputes over spending priorities.
NASA had no idea of the cost involved with sending humans into space when the project first started, so several uncrewed tests were performed to ascertain its performance – then came Apollo 7, the inaugural crewed mission that successfully sent astronauts Wally Schirra, Don Eisele and Walt Cunningham into orbit for orbital test flights – but this mission also revealed some challenges associated with human space travel.
Apollo 13’s crew had completed seven successful missions before it attempted to land on the Moon; however, due to an explosion on board they decided instead to orbit around it instead of landing there. Their mission proved an overwhelming success, being considered amongst one of the best ever undertaken in space program history.
Costly as it was, this project demonstrated how essential having an inspirational vision can be in motivating people towards working toward one common goal. Convincing Congress and the American public to finance it was made all the easier thanks to such an inspirational vision.
The mission was divisive.
After much anticipation and saturation coverage of Apollo 11’s journey to the Moon in July 1969, Americans were divided in their opinion of it when it finally landed there four weeks later. According to a Harris Poll taken four weeks after landing, only 39% thought the program had been worth its $4 billion annual cost; by comparison, Vietnam war costing nearly 20x that amount and had claimed 17,899 lives by that point.
The lunar landing was only the latest challenge facing an astronaut team that had spent years training, communicating in cramped spacecraft that only provided about as much room as a car interior, and being propelled by a rocket as tall as 36-story buildings with three stages. NASA developed several vehicles specifically tailored for this mission – most notably its command module – with which to accomplish it.
This was where astronauts lived and slept when not conducting scientific research. It was attached to both a Service Module that provided propulsion and spacecraft support systems, and a Lunar Module (LM), capable of transporting two astronauts to the Moon before landing them safely on its surface before returning them back into lunar orbit for return journey back home.
On the moon, astronauts took pictures and collected samples for analysis. Their LM was fitted with a television camera to transmit images back to Earth as well as various tools for exploring its surface – as well as an airlock to store urine and feces samples.
The astronauts had to traverse the lunar surface hopping to maneuver in its low gravity environment, which proved challenging with cumbersome spacesuits on. Most hopped while holding onto their lander’s sides; Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin preferred cross-country skiing across its dusty landscape to increase productivity on mission and potentially discover something of greater benefit to humanity. Lesson: Vision and boldness are indispensable tools in initiating missions that challenge status quo norms.