Men On The Moon The Apollo Story


For years, man has looked up at the stars and wondered, what power they
possessed or from what great God were they born? The answer to this question has
always been a dream to man, but the dream is getting closer to reality. Space travel in
the 1960's was become a reality, but man went farther with his expectations. Man now
wanted to land and walk on the the only one of Earth's natural satellites know as the
Moon. The splashdown May 26, 1969, of Apollo 10 cleared the way for the first formal
attempt at a manned lunar landing.1 The 363-foot-tall Apollo 11 space vehicle was
launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, at 9:37 a.m., July 16,
1969. It was the United States' first lunar landing mission. The launch vehicle, AS-506,
was the sixth in the Apollo Saturn V series and was the fourth manned Saturn V vehicle.
After a 2?-hour check-out period, the spacecraft was injected into the translunar phase of
the mission.2 ? July 1996 marks the twenty-seventh anniversary of the epochal lunar
landing of Apollo 11 in the summer of 1969. Although President John F. Kennedy had
made a public commitment on 25 May 1961 to land an American on the Moon by the end
of the decade, up until this time Apollo had been all promise. Now the realization was
about to begin. Even though Kennedy's political objectives were essentially achieved
with the decision to go to the Moon, Project Apollo took on a life of its own over the
years and left an important legacy to both the nation and the proponents of space
exploration. Its success was enormously significant, coming at a time when American
society was in crisis.?3
A unique confluence of political necessity, personal commitment and activism,
scientific and technological ability, economic prosperity, and public mood made possible
the 1961 decision to carry out an aggressive lunar landing program. It then fell to NASA,
other organizations of the federal government, and the aerospace community to
accomplish the task set out in a few short paragraphs by the president. By the time that
the goal was accomplished in 1969, only a few of the key figures associated with the
decision were still in leadership positions in the government. Kennedy fell victim to an
assassin's bullet in 1963, and science adviser Jerome B. Wiesner returned to MIT soon
afterwards. Lyndon B. Johnson, of course, succeeded Kennedy as president but left office
in January 1969 just a few months before the first landing. NASA Administrator James
E. Webb resolutely guided NASA through most of the 1960s, but his image was tarnished
by, among other things, a 1967 Apollo accident that killed three astronauts. He retired
from office in October 1968. Several other early supporters of Apollo in Congress and
elsewhere died during the 1960s and never saw the program successfully completed.
The first Apollo mission of public significance was the flight of Apollo 8. On 21
December 1968 it took off atop a Saturn V booster from the Kennedy Space Center.
Three astronauts were aboard--Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr., and William A.
Anders- -for a historic mission to orbit the Moon. At first that mission had been planned
as a flight to test Apollo hardware in the relatively safe confines of low Earth orbit, but
senior engineer George M. Low of the Manned Spacecraft Center at Houston, Texas, and
Samuel C. Phillips, Apollo Program Manager at NASA headquarters, obtained approval
to make it a circumlunar flight. The advantages of this could be important, they believed,
both in technical and scientific knowledge gained as well as in a public demonstration of
what the U.S. could achieve.
After Apollo 8 made one and a half Earth orbits its third stage began a burn to put
the spacecraft on a lunar trajectory. It orbited the Moon on 24-25 December and then
fired the boosters for a return flight; it splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on 27
December. The public reaction to the Apollo 8 circumlunar mission was enthusiastic. It
rekindled the excitement felt in the early 1960s during the first Mercury flights, and set
the stage for the Apollo landing missions.
Perhaps most important, the flight was a