The History of the Apollo Program: A Giant Leap for Mankind!
The history of the Apollo program is a shining moment in what man can accomplish. In October of 1958 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed in the United States of America. What would flow out of this organization would impact Americans and the world.
To understand the history and purpose of the Apollo space program, you must understand what came before Apollo and the goals that the Apollo program wanted to accomplish. There were three primary space programs in the U.S. from 1958 through 1972. They were Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. Each contributed greatly, but it was Apollo that would produce the most manned space missions and provide the clearest goals for a NASA program.
President John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to risk this incredible journey. He was interested in civil space activity. He would, in fact, demand that the program be implemented and accepted. His reasoning was sound but cloaked his true desires for the space program.
Apollo was a reflection of the Cold War and the Bay of Pigs. The nation needed to establish itself as preeminent in science and space exploration. While the Apollo space program may not have originated for true scientific reasons, it certainly became that and more. It was the victory card for the U.S. in the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States.
Apollo’s primary goals were:
* To establish technology to meet other national interests in space.
* To achieve preeminence in space for the U.S.
* To carry out a program of manned flight for exploration of the moon.
* Develop man’s capability to work in the lunar environment.
Having implemented his vision, President Kennedy would now be forced to wait. At the appropriately named, Kennedy Space Center, Apollo I would be an abysmal failure. On January 27, 1967 Apollo I would catch fire, due to electrical wiring, and kill all 3 astronauts aboard. NASA would not allow this tragedy to stop them. There would be many Apollo flights. Eleven of those would be fully manned space explorations.
Some of the most famous Apollo flights were these:
* Apollo 8 would take the first photos of the earth from space. Many high school science text books still use these photos to illustrate the success of the Apollo 8 mission.
* Apollo 11 would have the entire nation watching as Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. It was this space flight the provided these famous words: That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind. (Neil Armstrong) With Neil’s first step on the lunar surface, the U.S. had won the space race and achieved the goal that was set before the program.
* Apollo 13 would be a voyage so unique that a movie called Apollo 13 would revisit it’s journey. This manned flight would go horribly wrong. A ruptured fuel cell in the oxygen tank in the service module would almost leave the crew stranded in space. With exceptional training and cool heads, the crew of Apollo 13 would propel themselves around the moon and safely home.
* Apollo 14 would take seeds from trees to the moon and back. Those seeds would be planted around the nation. The majority of those trees are still alive today.
* Apollo 17 would remain in space for 10 days. Each of these were milestones of space exploration and hard work.
The Apollo space program is an important part of the cultural, technological and idealogical vision of NASA. However, today’s space programs seem to lack the direction of the glory days of the Apollo program. Apollo was a culmination of scientific genius and dedication to a specific cause. When looking at the goals and accomplishments of the Apollo space program, it is easy to forget that we haven’t always walked on the moon. It was NASA’s Apollo program that made that, almost laughable dream, a reality.