The Apollo program was the final lap of the Space Race. The Americans were clearly ahead at this point of the Soviets despite their slow start. The Soviets launched two successful satellites into space: Sputnik I and II before the Americans had a clue of what was going on. It didn’t even look like the Americans were in the race until John F. Kennedy stepped up to the plate.
“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.” Those were John F. Kennedy’s words that put Americans in the Space Race. It was commonly thought that whoever won the Space Race also won the Cold War making the stakes even higher. The race was definitely on. In the October of 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed in the United States. From 1958- 1972 there were three major programs: The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. Each program was a baby step leading to the first man on the moon.
The Apollo program was the last of the three programs. The goals of the Apollo program were to first test out the Saturn V boosters, orbit the moon, and then land on the moon. Disaster struck immediately as Apollo 1 caught fire killing of its crew. However, NASA would not let the crew die in vain and continued on with the program.
The Apollo program went well. Parts were tested, orbits went well, and the Americans were far ahead of the slumping Soviets. Apollo 9 and 10 had astronauts spend several days in space. The Americans were on the verge of victory.
Then, on the famous Apollo 11 flight, the Americans landed successfully on the moon. All the lives that were lost, the pain and suffering that went along with it, and the money spent was worth it after all. The Apollo program was more than successful. Following the Apollo 11 flight, Apollo 12-17 all featured successful manned missions. The Space Race was finally over, and the winner was clearly the Americans.
Apollo started as a terrible disaster and turned into a victory for the US over the Soviets. Thanks to the men and women at NASA, the leadership of John F. Kennedy, and the success of the Apollo program, a person on the moon is longer in science fiction books.