A short tour of history can help us understand where the world was in space exploration in the late 1960s. The quest to conquer space became a priority between the two superpowers that emerged at the end of WWII: the United States of America and the former USSR.(Union of Soviet Socialist Republics)
Germany was developing liquid fuel rockets in the early 1930s. The first A4 rocket was flown in August of 1942. It had mild success as it reached an altitude of 7 miles before it exploded. In October of 1942, the improved rocket traveled 120 miles and hit its target as it followed the planned trajectory.
The A4 later renamed the V2 rocket was the first successful ballistic rocket, and is the grandfather of almost all rockets flown in the world today. The Germans had the V2 rocket as early as 1927, but it wasn’t developed for full-scale military warfare until the early 1930s. It went into full production in 1943 with the first V2 launched against London in September of 1944. Fortunately, for the United States, the V2 came too late to turn the tide of the war for Germany.
As the war came to a conclusion, Germany’s top scientist in rocketry, Wernher von Braun and his team of scientists were forced to leave Germany or face execution. They chose to leave Germany and surrendered to American forces.
Within a few months of arrival in the US, in early 1946, vonBraun and his team of scientists were launching and testing V2 rockets in New Mexico.
By 1956, the Jupiter Intermediate range ballistic missile was in development. In 1958, NASA came into being. In 1958, the United States placed its first satellite into space. Three years later, in 1961, astronaut, Alan Shephard became the first American to fly in sub orbital space, launched by the Mercury Redstone rocket.
The first Saturn I moon rocket, the launch vehicle for Apollo spacecraft was launched in October of 1961. Mercury Redstone rockets were used for the first earth orbiting space craft in 1962. “Saturn I, the first U.S. rocket specifically developed for space flight, was a two-stage, liquid-fuel vehicle that placed unmanned test versions of Apollo spacecraft and other satellites…”
1962 major launches:
“On February 20, 1962, Glenn piloted the Mercury-Atlas 6 “Friendship 7″ spacecraft on the first manned orbital mission of the United States. Launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, he completed a successful three-orbit mission around the earth.” Russian Cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin had already made one orbit around the earth, but without recovery of the space capsule. Gagarin parachuted to safety after the capsule reentered the earth’s atmosphere.
The TelstarI satellite was placed into orbit October 1962. From this time on, international news and telecasts became available for all Americans via television.
The Saturn moon rocket, a two-stage rocket, went through extensive testing before it lifted unmanned Apollo spacecraft during years of launch test and development from 1961 until the first manned space craft launched in 1968. All tests and efforts led up to the launch of the Saturn V moon rocket that carried Neil Armstrong and his crew of Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins to their lunar landing in 1969.
The rocketry of the Apollo era came from the principles of the grandfather V2 rockets.
Read the history; view the photographs and judge for yourself. The lunar moon landing didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen.