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Apollo 11: Impact on the Modern Space Race

Apollo 11: Impact on the Modern Space Race

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Author Charles Fishman reflects on how the echoes of the Apollo program are felt in today's space race, and what the future of space exploration has in store.

Project Apollo: A Retrospective Analysis

On 25 May 1961 President John F. Kennedy announced to the nation a goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade. This decision involved much study and review prior to making it public, and tremendous expenditure and effort to make it a reality by 1969. Only the building of the Panama Canal rivaled the Apollo program's size as the largest non- military technological endeavor ever undertaken by the United States only the Manhattan Project was comparable in a wartime setting. The human spaceflight imperative was a direct outgrowth of it Projects Mercury (at least in its latter stages), Gemini, and Apollo were each designed to execute it. It was finally successfully accomplished on 20 July 1969, when Apollo 11's astronaut Neil Armstrong left the Lunar Module and set foot on the surface of the Moon.

The Kennedy Perspective on Space

In 1960 John F. Kennedy, a Senator from Massachusetts between 1953 and 1960, ran for president as the Democratic candidate, with party wheelhorse Lyndon B. Johnson as his running mate. Using the slogan, "Let's get this country moving again," Kennedy charged the Republican Eisenhower Administration with doing nothing about the myriad social, economic, and international problems that festered in the 1950s. He was especially hard on Eisenhower's record in international relations, taking a Cold Warrior position on a supposed "missile gap" (which turned out not to be the case) wherein the United States lagged far behind the Soviet Union in ICBM technology. He also invoked the Cold War rhetoric opposing a communist effort to take over the world and used as his evidence the 1959 revolution in Cuba that brought leftist dictator Fidel Castro to power. The Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon, who had been Eisenhower's Vice President tried to defend his mentor's record but when the results were in Kennedy was elected by a narrow margin of 118,550 out of more than 68 million popular votes cast.1

Kennedy as president had little direct interest in the U.S. space program. He was not a visionary enraptured with the romantic image of the last American frontier in space and consumed by the adventure of exploring the unknown. He was , on the other hand, a Cold Warrior with a keen sense of Realpolitik in foreign affairs, and worked hard to maintain balance of power and spheres of influence in American/Soviet relations. The Soviet Union's non-military accomplishments in space, therefore, forced Kennedy to respond and to serve notice that the U.S. was every bit as capable in the space arena as the Soviets. Of course, to prove this fact, Kennedy had to be willing to commit national resources to NASA and the civil space program. The Cold War realities of the time, therefore, served as the primary vehicle for an expansion of NASA's activities and for the definition of Project Apollo as the premier civil space effort of the nation. Even more significant, from Kennedy's perspective the Cold War necessitated the expansion of the military space program, especially the development of ICBMs and satellite reconnaissance systems.2

While Kennedy was preparing to take office, he appointed an ad hoc committee headed by Jerome B. Wiesner of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to offer suggestions for American efforts in space. Wiesner, who later headed the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) under Kennedy, concluded that the issue of "national prestige" was too great to allow the Soviet Union leadership in space efforts, and therefore the U.S. had to enter the field in a substantive way. "Space exploration and exploits," he wrote in a 12 January 1961 report to the president-elect, "have captured the imagination of the peoples of the world. During the next few years the prestige of the United States will in part be determined by the leadership we demonstrate in space activities." Wiesner also emphasized the importance of practical non-military applications of space technology--communications, mapping, and weather satellites among others--and the necessity of keeping up the effort to exploit space for national security through such technologies as ICBMs and reconnaissance satellites. He tended to deemphasize the human spaceflight initiative for very practical reasons. American launch vehicle technology, he argued, was not well developed and the potential of placing an astronaut in space before the Soviets was slim. He thought human spaceflight was a high-risk enterprise with a low-chance of success. Human spaceflight was also less likely to yield valuable scientific results than, and the U.S., Wiesner thought, should play to its strength in space science where important results had already been achieved.3

Kennedy only accepted part of what Wiesner recommended. He was committed to conducting a more vigorous space program than had been Eisenhower, but he was more interested in human spaceflight than either his predecessor or his science advisor. This was partly because of the drama surrounding Project Mercury and the seven astronauts that NASA was training.4 Wiesner had cautioned Kennedy about the hyperbole associated with human spaceflight. "Indeed, by having placed the highest national priority on the MERCURY program we have strengthened the popular belief that man in space is the most important aim for our non-military space effort," Wiesner wrote. "The manner in which this program has been publicized in our press has further crystallized such belief."5 Kennedy, nevertheless, recognized the tremendous public support arising from this program and wanted to ensure that it reflected favorably upon his administration.

But it was a risky enterprise--what if the Soviets were first to send a human into space? what if an astronaut was killed and Mercury was a failure?--and the political animal in Kennedy wanted to minimize those risks. The earliest Kennedy pronouncements relative to civil space activity directly addressed these hazards. He offered to cooperate with the Soviet Union, still the only other nation involved in launching satellites, in the exploration of space. In his inaugural address in January 1961 Kennedy spoke directly to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and asked him to cooperate in exploring "the stars."6 In his State of the Union address ten days later, he asked the Soviet Union "to join us in developing a weather prediction program, in a new communications satellite program, and in preparation for probing the distant planets of Mars and Venus, probes which may someday unlock the deepest secrets of the Universe." Kennedy also publicly called for the peaceful use of space, and the limitation of war in that new environment.7

In making these overtures Kennedy accomplished several important political ends. First, he appeared to the world as the statesman by seeking friendly cooperation rather than destructive competition with the Soviet Union, knowing full well that there was little likelihood that Khrushchev would accept his offer. Conversely, the Soviets would appear to be monopolizing space for their own personal, and presumably military, benefit. Second, he minimized the goodwill that the Soviet Union enjoyed because of its own success in space vis-…-vis the U.S. Finally, if the Soviet Union accepted his call for cooperation, it would tacitly be recognizing the equality of the U.S. in space activities, something that would also look very good on the world stage.8

The Soviet Challenge Renewed

Had the balance of power and prestige between the United States and the Soviet Union remained stable in the spring of 1961, it is quite possible that Kennedy would never have advanced his Moon program and the direction of American space efforts might have taken a radically different course. Kennedy seemed quite happy to allow NASA to execute Project Mercury at a deliberate pace, working toward the orbiting of an astronaut sometime in the middle of the decade, and to build on the satellite programs that were yielding excellent results both in terms of scientific knowledge and practical application. Jerome Wiesner reflected: "If Kennedy could have opted out of a big space program without hurting the country in his judgment, he would have."9

Firm evidence for Kennedy's essential unwillingness to commit to an aggressive space program came in March 1961 when the NASA Administrator, James E. Webb, submitted a request that greatly expanded his agency's fiscal year 1962 budget so as to permit a Moon landing before the end of the decade. While the Apollo lunar landing program had existed as a longterm goal of NASA during the Eisenhower administration, Webb proposed greatly expanding and accelerating it. Kennedy's budget director, David E. Bell, objected to this large increase and debated Webb on the merits of an accelerated lunar landing program. In the end the president was unwilling to obligate the nation to a much bigger and more costly space program. Instead, in good political fashion, he approved a modest increase in the NASA budget to allow for development of the big launch vehicles that would eventually be required to support a Moon landing.10

A slow and deliberate pace might have remained the standard for the U.S. civil space effort had not two important events happened that forced Kennedy to act. The Soviet Union's space effort counted coup on the United States one more time not long after the new president took office. On 12 April 1961 Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space with a one- orbit mission aboard the spacecraft Vostok 1 . The chance to place a human in space before the Soviets did so had now been lost. The great success of that feat made the gregarious Gagarin a global hero, and he was an effective spokesman for the Soviet Union until his death in 1967 from an unfortunate aircraft accident. It was only a salve on an open wound, therefore, when Alan Shepard became the first American in space during a 15-minute suborbital flight on 5 May 1961 by riding a Redstone booster in his Freedom 7 Mercury spacecraft.11

Comparisons between the Soviet and American flights were inevitable afterwards. Gagarin had flown around the Earth Shepard had been the cannonball shot from a gun. Gagarin's Vostok spacecraft had weighed 10,428 pounds Freedom 7 weighed 2,100 pounds. Gagarin had been weightless for 89 minutes Shepard for only 5 minutes. "Even though the United States is still the strongest military power and leads in many aspects of the space race," wrote journalist Hanson Baldwin in the New York Times not long after Gagarin's flight, "the world--impressed by the spectacular Soviet firsts--believes we lag militarily and technologically."12 By any unit of measure the U.S. had not demonstrated technical equality with the Soviet Union, and that fact worried national leaders because of what it would mean in the larger Cold War environment. These apparent disparities in technical competence had to be addressed, and Kennedy had to find a way to reestablish the nation's credibility as a technological leader before the world.

Close in the wake of the Gagarin achievement, the Kennedy Administration suffered another devastating blow in the Cold War that contributed to the sense that action had to be taken. Between 15 and 19 April 1961 the administration supported the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba designed to overthrow Castro. Executed by anti-Castro Cuban refugees armed and trained by the CIA, the invasion was a debacle almost from the beginning. It was predicated on an assumption that the Cuban people would rise up to welcome the invaders and when that proved to be false, the attack could not succeed. American backing of the invasion was a great embarrassment both to Kennedy personally and to his administration. It damaged U.S. relations with foreign nations enormously, and made the communist world look all the more invincible.13

While the Bay of Pigs invasion was never mentioned explicitly as a reason for stepping up U.S. efforts in space, the international situation certainly played a role as Kennedy scrambled to recover a measure of national dignity. Wiesner reflected, "I don't think anyone can measure it, but I'm sure it [the invasion] had an impact. I think the President felt some pressure to get something else in the foreground."14 T. Keith Glennan, NASA Administrator under Eisenhower, immediately linked the invasion and the Gagarin flight together as the seminal events leading to Kennedy's announcement of the Apollo decision. He confided in his diary that "In the aftermath of that [Bay of Pigs] fiasco, and because of the successful orbiting of astronauts by the Soviet Union, it is my opinion that Mr. Kennedy asked for a reevaluation of the nation's space program."15

Reevaluating NASA's Priorities

Two days after the Gagarin flight on 12 April, Kennedy discussed once again the possibility of a lunar landing program with Webb, but the NASA head's conservative estimates of a cost of more than $20 billion for the project was too steep and Kennedy delayed making a decision. A week later, at the time of the Bay of Pigs invasion, Kennedy called Johnson, who headed the National Aeronautics and Space Council, to the White House to discuss strategy for catching up with the Soviets in space. Johnson agreed to take the matter up with the Space Council and to recommend a course of action. It is likely that one of the explicit programs that Kennedy asked Johnson to consider was a lunar landing program, for the next day, 20 April 1961, he followed up with a memorandum to Johnson raising fundamental questions about the project. In particular, Kennedy asked

Do we have a chance of beating the Soviets by putting a laboratory in space, or by a trip around the moon, or by a rocket to go to the moon and back with a man? Is there any other space program that promises dramatic results in which we could win?16

While he waited for the results of Johnson's investigation, this memo made it clear that Kennedy had a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do in space. He confided in a press conference on 21 April that he was leaning toward committing the nation to a large- scale project to land Americans on the Moon. "If we can get to the moon before the Russians, then we should," he said, adding that he had asked his vice president to review options for the space program.17 This was the first and last time that Kennedy said anything in public about a lunar landing program until he officially unveiled the plan. It is also clear that Kennedy approached the lunar landing effort essentially as a response to the competition between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. For Kennedy the Moon landing program, conducted in the tense Cold War environment of the early 1960s, was a strategic decision directed toward advancing the far-flung interests of the United States in the international arena. It aimed toward recapturing the prestige that the nation had lost as a result of Soviet successes and U.S. failures. It was, as political scientist John M. Logsdon has suggested, "one of the last major political acts of the Cold War. The Moon Project was chosen to symbolize U.S. strength in the head-to-head global competition with the Soviet Union."18

Lyndon Johnson probably understood these circumstances very well, and for the next two weeks his Space Council diligently considered, among other possibilities, a lunar landing before the Soviets. As early as 22 April, NASA's Deputy Administrator Hugh L. Dryden had responded to a request for information from the National Aeronautics and Space Council about a Moon program by writing that there was "a chance for the U.S. to be the first to land a man on the moon and return him to earth if a determined national effort is made." He added that the earliest this feat could be accomplished was 1967, but that to do so would cost about $33 billion dollars, a figure $10 billion more than the whole projected NASA budget for the next ten years.19 A week later Wernher von Braun, director of NASA's George C. Marshall Space Flight Center at Huntsville, Alabama, and head of the big booster program needed for the lunar effort, responded to a similar request for information from Johnson. He told the vice president that "we have a sporting chance of sending a 3-man crew around the moon ahead of the Soviets" and "an excellent chance of beating the Soviets to the first landing of a crew on the moon (including return capability, of course.)" He added that "with an all-out crash program" the U.S. could achieve a landing by 1967 or 1968.20

After gaining these technical opinions, Johnson began to poll political leaders for their sense of the propriety of committing the nation to an accelerated space program with Project Apollo as its centerpiece. He brought in Senators Robert Kerr (D-OK) and Styles Bridges (R-NH) and spoke with several Representatives to ascertain if they were willing to support an accelerated space program. While only a few were hesitant, Robert Kerr worked to allay their concerns. He called on James Webb, who had worked for his business conglomerate during the 1950s, to give him a straight answer about the project's feasibility. Kerr told his congressional colleagues that Webb was enthusiastic about the program and "that if Jim Webb says we can a land a man on the moon and bring him safely home, then it can be done." This endorsement secured considerable political support for the lunar project. Johnson also met with several businessmen and representatives from the aerospace industry and other government agencies to ascertain the consensus of support for a new space initiative. Most of them also expressed support.21

Air Force General Bernard A. Schriever, commander of the Air Force Systems Command that developed new technologies, expressed the sentiment of many people by suggesting that an accelerated lunar landing effort "would put a focus on our space program." He believed it was important for the U.S. to build international prestige and that the return was more than worth the price to be paid.22 Secretary of State Dean Rusk, a member of the Space Council, was also a supporter of the initiative because of the Soviet Union's image in the world. He wrote to the Senate Space Committee a little later that "We must respond to their conditions otherwise we risk a basic misunderstanding on the part of the uncommitted countries, the Soviet Union, and possibly our allies concerning the direction in which power is moving and where long-term advantage lies."23 It was clear early in these deliberations that Johnson was in favor of an expanded space program in general and a maximum effort to land an astronaut on the Moon. Whenever he heard reservations Johnson used his forceful personality to persuade. "Now," he asked, "would you rather have us be a second-rate nation or should we spend a little money?"24

In an interim report to the president on 28 April 1961, Johnson concluded that "The U.S. can, if it will, firm up its objectives and employ its resources with a reasonable chance of attaining world leadership in space during this decade," and recommended committing the nation to a lunar landing.25 In this exercise Johnson had built, as Kennedy had wanted, a strong justification for undertaking Project Apollo but he had also moved on to develop a greater consensus for the objective among key government and business leaders.

The NASA Position

While NASA's leaders were generally pleased with the course Johnson was recommending--they recognized and mostly agreed with the political reasons for adopting a determined lunar landing program--they wanted to shape it as much as possible to the agency's particular priorities. NASA Administrator James Webb, well known as a skilled political operator who could seize an opportunity, organized a short-term effort to accelerate and expand a long-range NASA master plan for space exploration. A fundamental part of this effort addressed a legitimate concern that the scientific and technological advancements for which NASA had been created not be eclipsed by the political necessities of international rivalries. Webb conveyed the concern of the agency's technical and scientific community to Jerome Wiesner on 2 May 1961, noting that "the most careful consideration must be given to the scientific and technological components of the total program and how to present the picture to the world and to our own nation of a program that has real value and validity and from which solid additions to knowledge can be made, even if every one of the specific so-called 'spectacular' flights or events are done after they have been accomplished by the Russians." He asked that Wiesner help him "make sure that this component of solid, and yet imaginative, total scientific and technological value is built in."26

Partly in response to this concern, Johnson asked NASA to provide for him a set of specific recommendations on how a scientifically-viable Project Apollo, would be accomplished by the end of the decade. What emerged was a comprehensive space policy planning document that had the lunar landing as its centerpiece but that attached several ancillary funding items to enhance the program's scientific value and advance space exploration on a broad front:

1. Spacecraft and boosters for the human flight to the Moon.

2. Scientific satellite probes to survey the Moon.

4. Satellites for global communications.

5. Satellites for weather observation.

6. Scientific projects for Apollo landings.

Johnson accepted these recommendations and passed them to Kennedy who approved the overall plan.27

The last major area of concern was the timing for the Moon landing. The original NASA estimates had given a target date of 1967, but as the project became more crystallized agency leaders recommended not committing to such a strict deadline.28 James Webb, realizing the problems associated with meeting target dates based on NASA's experience in space flight, suggested that the president commit to a landing by the end of the decade, giving the agency another two years to solve any problems that might arise. The White House accepted this proposal.29


President Kennedy unveiled the commitment to execute Project Apollo on 25 May 1961 in a speech on "Urgent National Needs," billed as a second State of the Union message. He told Congress that the U.S. faced extraordinary challenges and needed to respond extraordinarily. In announcing the lunar landing commitment he said:

If we are to win the battle that is going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, if we are to win the battle for men's minds, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take. . . . We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.

Then he added: "I believe this Nation should commitment itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."30

An Assessment of the Decision

The President had correctly gauged the mood of the nation. His commitment captured the American imagination and was met with overwhelming support. No one seemed concerned either about the difficulty or about the expense at the time. Congressional debate was perfunctory and NASA found itself literally pressing to expend the funds committed to it during the early 1960s. Like most political decisions, at least in the U.S. experience, the decision to carry out Project Apollo was an effort to deal with an unsatisfactory situation (world perception of Soviet leadership in space and technology). As such Apollo was a remedial action ministering to a variety of political and emotional needs floating in the ether of world opinion. Apollo addressed these problems very well, and was a worthwhile action if measured only in those terms. In announcing Project Apollo Kennedy put the world on notice that the U.S. would not take a back seat to its superpower rival. John Logsdon commented: "By entering the race with such a visible and dramatic commitment, the United States effectively undercut Soviet space spectaculars without doing much except announcing its intention to join the contest."31 It was an effective symbol, just as Kennedy had intended.

It also gave the U.S. an opportunity to shine. The lunar landing was so far beyond the capabilities of either the United States or the Soviet Union in 1961 that the early lead in space activities taken by the Soviets would not predetermine the outcome. It gave the U.S. a reasonable chance of overtaking the Soviet Union in space activities and recovering a measure of lost status.

Even though Kennedy's political objectives were essentially achieved with the decision to go to the Moon, there were other aspects of the Apollo commitment that require assessment. Those who wanted to see a vigorous space program, a group led by NASA scientists and engineers, obtained their wish with Kennedy's announcement. An opening was present to this group in 1961 that had not existed at any time during the Eisenhower Administration, and they made the most of it. They inserted into the overall package supporting Apollo additional programs that they believed would greatly strengthen the scientific and technological return on the investment to go to the Moon. In addition to seeking international prestige, this group proposed an accelerated and integrated national space effort incorporating both scientific and commercial components.

In the end 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 a forward-looking lunar landing program. What perhaps should be suggested is that a complex web or system of ties between various people, institutions, and interests allowed the Apollo decision.32 It then fell to NASA and other organizations of the Federal Government to accomplish the task set out in a few short paragraphs by President Kennedy.

Gearing Up for Project Apollo

The first challenge NASA leaders faced in meeting the presidential mandate was securing funding. While Congress enthusiastically appropriated funding for Apollo immediately after the president's announcement, NASA Administrator James E. Webb was rightly concerned that the momentary sense of crisis would subside and that the political consensus present for Apollo in 1961 would abate. He tried, albeit without much success, to lock the presidency and the Congress into a long-term obligation to support the program. While they had made an intellectual commitment, NASA's leadership was concerned that they might renege on the economic part of the bargain at some future date.33

Initial NASA estimates of the costs of Project Apollo were about $20 billion through the end of the decade, a figure approaching $150 billion in 1992 dollars when accounting for inflation. Webb quickly stretched those initial estimates for Apollo as far as possible, with the intent that even if NASA did not receive its full budget requests, as it did not during the latter half of the decade, it would still be able to complete Apollo. At one point in 1963, for instance, Webb came forward with a NASA funding projection through 1970 for more than $35 billion. As it turned out Webb was able to sustain the momentum of Apollo through the decade, largely because of his rapport with key members of Congress and with Lyndon B. Johnson, who became president in November 1963.34

Project Apollo, backed by sufficient funding, was the tangible result of an early national commitment in response to a perceived threat to the United States by the Soviet Union. NASA leaders recognized that while the size of the task was enormous, it was still technologically and financially within their grasp, but they had to move forward quickly. Accordingly, the space agency's annual budget increased from $500 million in 1960 to a high point of $5.2 billion in 1965.35 The NASA funding level represented 5.3 percent of the federal budget in 1965. A comparable percentage of the $1.23 trillion Federal budget in 1992 would have equaled more than $65 billion for NASA, whereas the agency's actual budget then stood at less than $15 billion.

Out of the budgets appropriated for NASA each year approximately 50 percent went directly for human spaceflight, and the vast majority of that went directly toward Apollo. Between 1959 and 1973 NASA spent $23.6 billion on human spaceflight, exclusive of infrastructure and support, of which nearly $20 billion was for Apollo.36 In addition, Webb sought to expand the definition of Project Apollo beyond just the mission of landing humans on the Moon. As a result even those projects not officially funded under the Apollo line item could be justified as supporting the mission, such as the Ranger, Lunar Orbiter, and Surveyor satellite probes.

For seven years after Kennedy's Apollo decision, through October 1968, James Webb politicked, coaxed, cajoled, and maneuvered for NASA in Washington. A longtime Washington insider- -the former director of the Bureau of the Budget and Undersecretary of State during the Truman Administration--he was a master at bureaucratic politics, understanding that it was essentially a system of mutual give and take. For instance, while the native North Carolinian may also have genuinely believed in the Johnson Administration's Civil Rights bill that went before Congress in 1964, as a personal favor to the President he lobbied for its passage on Capitol Hill. This secured for him Johnson's gratitude, which he then use to secure the administration's backing of NASA's initiatives. In addition, Webb wielded the money appropriated for Apollo to build up a constituency for NASA that was both powerful and vocal. This type of gritty pragmatism also characterized Webb's dealings with other government officials and members of Congress throughout his tenure as administrator. When give and take did not work, as was the case on occasion with some members of Congress, Webb used the presidential directive as a hammer to get his way. Usually this proved successful. After Kennedy's assassination in 1963, moreover, he sometimes appealed for continued political support for Apollo because it represented a fitting tribute to the fallen leader. In the end, through a variety of methods Administrator Webb built a seamless web of political liaisons that brought continued support for and resources to accomplish the Apollo Moon landing on the schedule Kennedy had announced.37

Funding was not the only critical component for Project Apollo. To realize the goal of Apollo under the strict time constraints mandated by the president, personnel had to be mobilized. This took two forms. First, by 1966 the agency's civil service rolls had grown to 36,000 people from the 10,000 employed at NASA in 1960. Additionally, NASA's leaders made an early decision that they would have to rely upon outside researchers and technicians to complete Apollo, and contractor employees working on the program increased by a factor of 10, from 36,500 in 1960 to 376,700 in 1965. Private industry, research institutions, and universities, therefore, provided the majority of personnel working on Apollo.38

To incorporate the great amount of work undertaken for the project into the formal bureaucracy never seemed a particularly savvy idea, and as a result during the 1960s somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of NASA's overall budget went for contracts to purchase goods and services from others. Although the magnitude of the endeavor had been much smaller than with Apollo, this reliance on the private sector and universities for the bulk of the effort originated early in NASA's history under T. Keith Glennan, in part because of the Eisenhower Administration's mistrust of large government establishments. Although neither Glennan's successor, nor Kennedy shared that mistrust, they found that it was both good politics and the best way of getting Apollo done on the presidentially-approved schedule. It was also very nearly the only way to harness talent and institutional resources already in existence in the emerging aerospace industry and the country's leading research universities.39

In addition to these other resources, NASA moved quickly during the early 1960s to expand its physical capacity so that it could accomplish Apollo. In 1960 the space agency consisted of a small headquarters in Washington, its three inherited NACA research centers, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Goddard Space Flight Center, and the Marshall Space Flight Center. With the advent of Apollo, these installations grew rapidly. In addition, NASA added three new facilities specifically to meet the demands of the lunar landing program. In 1962 it created the Manned Spacecraft Center (renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973), near Houston, Texas, to design the Apollo spacecraft and the launch platform for the lunar lander. This center also became the home of NASA's astronauts and the site of mission control. NASA then greatly expanded for Apollo the Launch Operations Center at Cape Canaveral on Florida's eastern seacoast. Renamed the John F. Kennedy Space Center on 29 November 1963, this installation's massive and expensive Launch Complex 34 was the site of all Apollo firings. Additionally, the spaceport's Vehicle Assemble Building was a huge and expensive 36-story structure where the Saturn/Apollo rockets were assembled. Finally, to support the development of the Saturn launch vehicle, in October 1961 NASA created on a deep south bayou the Mississippi Test Facility, renamed the John C. Stennis Space Center in 1988. The cost of this expansion was great, more than 2.2 billion over the decade, with 90 percent of it expended before 1966.40

The Program Management Concept

The mobilization of resources was not the only challenge facing those charged with meeting President Kennedy's goal. NASA had to meld disparate institutional cultures and approaches into an inclusive organization moving along a single unified path. Each NASA installation, university, contractor, and research facility had differing perspectives on how to go about the task of accomplishing Apollo.41 To bring a semblance of order to the program, NASA expanded the "program management" concept borrowed by T. Keith Glennan in the late 1950s from the military/industrial complex, bringing in military managers to oversee Apollo. The central figure in this process was U.S. Air Force Major General Samuel C. Phillips, the architect of the Minuteman ICBM program before coming to NASA in 1962. Answering directly to the Office of Manned Space Flight at NASA headquarters, which in turn reported to the NASA administrator, Phillips created an omnipotent program office with centralized authority over design, engineering, procurement, testing, construction, manufacturing, spare parts, logistics, training, and operations.42

One of the fundamental tenets of the program management concept was that three critical factors--cost, schedule, and reliability--were interrelated and had to be managed as a group. Many also recognized these factors' constancy if program managers held cost to a specific level, then one of the other two factors, or both of them to a somewhat lesser degree, would be adversely affected. This held true for the Apollo program. The schedule, dictated by the president, was firm. Since humans were involved in the flights, and since the president had directed that the lunar landing be conducted safely, the program managers placed a heavy emphasis on reliability. Accordingly, Apollo used redundant systems extensively so that failures would be both predictable and minor in result. The significance of both of these factors forced the third factor, cost, much higher than might have been the case with a more leisurely lunar program such as had been conceptualized in the latter 1950s. As it was, this was the price paid for success under the Kennedy mandate and program managers made conscious decisions based on a knowledge of these factors.43

The program management concept was recognized as a critical component of Project Apollo's success in November 1968, when Science magazine, the publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, observed:

In terms of numbers of dollars or of men, NASA has not been our largest national undertaking, but in terms of complexity, rate of growth, and technological sophistication it has been unique. . . . It may turn out that [the space program's] most valuable spin-off of all will be human rather than technological: better knowledge of how to plan, coordinate, and monitor the multitudinous and varied activities of the organizations required to accomplish great social undertakings.44

Understanding the management of complex structures for the successful completion of a multifarious task was an important outgrowth of the Apollo effort.

This management concept under Phillips orchestrated more than 500 contractors working on both large and small aspects of Apollo. For example, the prime contracts awarded to industry for the principal components of just the Saturn V included the Boeing Company for the S-IC, first stage North American Aviation--S-II, second stage the Douglas Aircraft Corporation--S-IVB, third stage the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation--J-2 and F-1 engines and International Business Machines (IBM)--Saturn instruments. These prime contractors, with more than 250 subcontractors, provided millions of parts and components for use in the Saturn launch vehicle, all meeting exacting specifications for performance and reliability. The total cost expended on development of the Saturn launch vehicle was massive, amounting to $9.3 billion. So huge was the overall Apollo endeavor that NASA's procurement actions rose from roughly 44,000 in 1960 to almost 300,000 by 1965.45

Getting all of the personnel elements to work together challenged the program managers, regardless of whether or not they were civil service, industry, or university personnel. There were various communities within NASA that differed over priorities and competed for resources. The two most identifiable groups were the engineers and the scientists. As ideal types, engineers usually worked in teams to build hardware that could carry out the missions necessary to a successful Moon landing by the end of the decade. Their primary goal involved building vehicles that would function reliably within the fiscal resources allocated to Apollo. Again as ideal types, space scientists engaged in pure research and were more concerned with designing experiments that would expand scientific knowledge about the Moon. They also tended to be individualists, unaccustomed to regimentation and unwilling to concede gladly the direction of projects to outside entities. The two groups contended with each other over a great variety of issues associated with Apollo. For instance, the scientists disliked having to configure payloads so that they could meet time, money, or launch vehicle constraints. The engineers, likewise, resented changes to scientific packages added after project definition because these threw their hardware efforts out of kilter. Both had valid complaints and had to maintain an uneasy cooperation to accomplish Project Apollo.

The scientific and engineering communities within NASA, additionally, were not monolithic, and differences among them thrived. Add to these groups representatives from industry, universities, and research facilities, and competition on all levels to further their own scientific and technical areas was the result. The NASA leadership generally viewed this pluralism as a positive force within the space program, for it ensured that all sides aired their views and emphasized the honing of positions to a fine edge. Competition, most people concluded, made for a more precise and viable space exploration effort. There were winners and losers in this strife, however, and sometimes ill-will was harbored for years. Moreover, if the conflict became too great and spilled into areas where it was misunderstood, it could be devastating to the conduct of the lunar program. The head of the Apollo program worked hard to keep these factors balanced and to promote order so that NASA could accomplish the presidential directive.46

Another important management issue arose from the agency's inherited culture of in-house research. Because of the magnitude of Project Apollo, and its time schedule, most of the nitty-gritty work had to be done outside NASA by means of contracts. As a result, with a few important exceptions, NASA scientists and engineers did not build flight hardware, or even operate missions. Rather, they planned the program, prepared guidelines for execution, competed contracts, and oversaw work accomplished elsewhere. This grated on those NASA personnel oriented toward research, and prompted disagreements over how to carry out the lunar landing goal. Of course, they had reason for complaint beyond the simplistic argument of wanting to be "dirty-handed" engineers they had to have enough in-house expertise to ensure program accomplishment. If scientists or engineers did not have a professional competence on a par with the individuals actually doing the work, how could they oversee contractors actually creating the hardware and performing the experiments necessary to meet the rigors of the mission?47

One anecdote illustrates this point. The Saturn second stage was built by North American Aviation at its plant at Seal Beach, California, shipped to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, and there tested to ensure that it met contract specifications. Problems developed on this piece of the Saturn effort and Wernher von Braun began intensive investigations. Essentially his engineers completely disassembled and examined every part of every stage delivered by North American to ensure no defects. This was an enormously expensive and time-consuming process, grinding the stage's production schedule almost to a standstill and jeopardizing the Presidential timetable.

When this happened Webb told von Braun to desist, adding that "We've got to trust American industry." The issue came to a showdown at a meeting where the Marshall rocket team was asked to explain its extreme measures. While doing so, one of the engineers produced a rag and told Webb that "this is what we find in this stuff." The contractors, the Marshall engineers believed, required extensive oversight to ensure they produced the highest quality work. A compromise emerged that was called the 10 percent rule: 10 percent of all funding for NASA was to be spent to ensure in- house expertise and in the process check contractor reliability.48

How do we go to the Moon?

One of the critical early management decisions made by NASA was the method of going to the Moon. No controversy in Project Apollo more significantly caught up the tenor of competing constituencies in NASA than this one. There were three basic approaches that were advanced to accomplish the lunar mission:

1. Direct Ascent called for the construction of a huge booster that launched a spacecraft, sent it on a course directly to the Moon, landed a large vehicle, and sent some part of it back to Earth. The Nova booster project, which was to have been capable of generating up to 40 million pounds of thrust, would have been able to accomplish this feat. Even if other factors had not impaired the possibility of direct ascent, the huge cost and technological sophistication of the Nova rocket quickly ruled out the option and resulted in cancellation of the project early in the 1960s despite the conceptual simplicity of the direct ascent method. The method had few advocates when serious planning for Apollo began.

2. Earth-Orbit Rendezvous was the logical first alternative to the direct ascent approach. It called for the launching of various modules required for the Moon trip into an orbit above the Earth, where they would rendezvous, be assembled into a single system, refueled, and sent to the Moon. This could be accomplished using the Saturn launch vehicle already under development by NASA and capable of generating 7.5 million pounds of thrust. A logical component of this approach was also the establishment of a space station in Earth orbit to serve as the lunar mission's rendezvous, assembly, and refueling point. In part because of this prospect, a space station emerged as part of the long-term planning of NASA as a jumping-off place for the exploration of space. This method of reaching the Moon, however, was also fraught with challenges, notably finding methods of maneuvering and rendezvousing in space, assembling components in a weightless environment, and safely refueling spacecraft.

3. Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous proposed sending the entire lunar spacecraft up in one launch. It would head to the Moon, enter into orbit, and dispatch a small lander to the lunar surface. It was the simplest of the three methods, both in terms of development and operational costs, but it was risky. Since rendezvous was taking place in lunar, instead of Earth, orbit there was no room for error or the crew could not get home. Moreover, some of the trickiest course corrections and maneuvers had to be done after the spacecraft had been committed to a circumlunar flight. The Earth-orbit rendezvous approach kept all the options for the mission open longer than the lunar-orbit rendezvous mode.49

Inside NASA, advocates of the various approaches contended over the method of flying to the Moon while the all-important clock that Kennedy had started continued to tick. It was critical that a decision not be delayed, because the mode of flight in part dictated the spacecraft developed. While NASA engineers could proceed with building a launch vehicle, the Saturn, and define the basic components of the spacecraft--a habitable crew compartment, a baggage car of some type, and a jettisonable service module containing propulsion and other expendable systems--they could not proceed much beyond rudimentary conceptions without a mode decision. The NASA Rendezvous Panel at Langley Research Center, headed by John C. Houbolt, pressed hard for the lunar-orbit rendezvous as the most expeditious means of accomplishing the mission. Using sophisticated technical and economic arguments, over a period of months in 1961 and 1962 Houbolt's group advocated and persuaded the rest of NASA's leadership that lunar-orbit rendezvous was not the risky proposition that it had earlier seemed.50

The last to give in was Wernher von Braun and his associates at the Marshall Space Flight Center. This group favored the Earth- orbit rendezvous because the direct ascent approach was technologically unfeasible before the end of the 1960s, because it provided a logical rationale for a space station, and because it ensured an extension of the Marshall workload (something that was always important to center directors competing inside the agency for personnel and other resources). At an all-day meeting on 7 June 1962 at Marshall, NASA leaders met to hash out these differences, with the debate getting heated at times. After more than six hours of discussion von Braun finally gave in to the lunar-orbit rendezvous mode, saying that its advocates had demonstrated adequately its feasibility and that any further contention would jeopardize the president's timetable.51

With internal dissention quieted, NASA moved to announce the Moon landing mode to the public in the summer of 1962. As it prepared to do so, however, Kennedy's Science Adviser, Jerome B. Wiesner, raised objections because of the inherent risk it brought to the crew. As a result of this opposition, Webb back-pedaled and stated that the decision was tentative and that NASA would sponsor further studies. The issue reached a climax at the Marshall Space Flight Center in September 1962 when President Kennedy, Wiesner, Webb, and several other Washington figures visited von Braun. As the entourage viewed a mock- up of a Saturn V first stage booster during a photo opportunity for the media, Kennedy nonchalantly mentioned to von Braun, "I understand you and Jerry disagree about the right way to go to the moon." Von Braun acknowledged this disagreement, but when Wiesner began to explain his concern Webb, who had been quiet until this point, began to argue with him "for being on the wrong side of the issue." While the mode decision had been an uninteresting technical issue before, it then became a political concern hashed over in the press for days thereafter. The science advisor to British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who had accompanied Wiesner on the trip, later asked Kennedy on Air Force One how the debate would turn out. The president told him that Wiesner would lose, "Webb's got all the money, and Jerry's only got me."52 Kennedy was right, Webb lined up political support in Washington for the lunar-orbit rendezvous mode and announced it as a final decision on 7 November 1962.53 This set the stage for the operational aspects of Apollo.

Prelude to Apollo: Mercury

At the time of the announcement of Project Apollo by President Kennedy in May 1961 NASA was still consumed with the task of placing an American in orbit through Project Mercury. Stubborn problems arose, however, at seemingly every turn. The first space flight of an astronaut, made by Alan B. Shepard, had been postponed for weeks so NASA engineers could resolve numerous details and only took place on 5 May 1961, less than three weeks before the Apollo announcement. The second flight, a suborbital mission like Shepard's, launched on 21 July 1961, also had problems. The hatch blew off prematurely from the Mercury capsule, Liberty Bell 7 , and it sank into the Atlantic Ocean before it could be recovered. In the process the astronaut, "Gus" Grissom, nearly drowned before being hoisted to safety in a helicopter. These suborbital flights, however, proved valuable for NASA technicians who found ways to solve or work around literally thousands of obstacles to successful space flight.54

As these issues were being resolved, NASA engineers began final preparations for the orbital aspects of Project Mercury. In this phase NASA planned to use a Mercury capsule capable of supporting a human in space for not just minutes, but eventually for as much as three days. As a launch vehicle for this Mercury capsule, NASA used the more powerful Atlas instead of the Redstone. But this decision was not without controversy. There were technical difficulties to be overcome in mating it to the Mercury capsule to be sure, but the biggest complication was a debate among NASA engineers over its propriety for human spaceflight.55

When first conceived in the 1950s many believed Atlas was a high-risk proposition because to reduce its weight Convair Corp. engineers under the direction of Karel J. Bossart, a pre-World War II immigrant from Belgium, designed the booster with a very thin, internally pressurized fuselage instead of massive struts and a thick metal skin. The "steel balloon," as it was sometimes called, employed engineering techniques that ran counter to a conservative engineering approach used by Wernher von Braun for the V-2 and the Redstone at Huntsville, Alabama.56 Von Braun, according to Bossart, needlessly designed his boosters like "bridges," to withstand any possible shock. For his part, von Braun thought the Atlas too flimsy to hold up during launch. He considered Bossart's approach much too dangerous for human spaceflight, remarking that the astronaut using the "contraption," as he called the Atlas booster, "should be getting a medal just for sitting on top of it before he takes off!"57 The reservations began to melt away, however, when Bossart's team pressurized one of the boosters and dared one of von Braun's engineers to knock a hole in it with a sledge hammer. The blow left the booster unharmed, but the recoil from the hammer nearly clubbed the engineer.58

Most of the differences had been resolved by the first successful orbital flight of an unoccupied Mercury-Atlas combination in September 1961. On 29 November the final test flight took place, this time with the chimpanzee Enos occupying the capsule for a two-orbit ride before being successfully recovered in an ocean landing. Not until 20 February 1962, however, could NASA get ready for an orbital flight with an astronaut. On that date John Glenn became the first American to circle the Earth, making three orbits in his Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft. The flight was not without problems, however Glenn flew parts of the last two orbits manually because of an autopilot failure and left his normally jettisoned retrorocket pack attached to his capsule during reentry because of a loose heat shield.

Glenn's flight provided a healthy increase in national pride, making up for at least some of the earlier Soviet successes. The public, more than celebrating the technological success, embraced Glenn as a personification of heroism and dignity. Hundreds of requests for personal appearances by Glenn poured into NASA headquarters, and NASA learned much about the power of the astronauts to sway public opinion. The NASA leadership made Glenn available to speak at some events, but more often substituted other astronauts and declined many other invitations. Among other engagements, Glenn did address a joint session of Congress and participated in several ticker-tape parades around the country. NASA discovered in the process of this hoopla a powerful public relations tool that it has employed ever since.59

Three more successful Mercury flights took place during 1962 and 1963. Scott Carpenter made three orbits on 20 May 1962, and on 3 October 1962 Walter Schirra flew six orbits. The capstone of Project Mercury was the 15-16 May 1963 flight of Gordon Cooper, who circled the Earth 22 times in 34 hours. The program had succeeded in accomplishing its purpose: to successfully orbit a human in space, explore aspects of tracking and control, and to learn about microgravity and other biomedical issues associated with spaceflight.60

Bridging the Technological Gap: From Gemini to Apollo

Even as the Mercury program was underway and work took place developing Apollo hardware, NASA program managers perceived a huge gap in the capability for human spaceflight between that acquired with Mercury and what would be required for a Lunar landing. They closed most of the gap by experimenting and training on the ground, but some issues required experience in space. Three major areas immediately arose where this was the case. The first was the ability in space to locate, maneuver toward, and rendezvous and dock with another spacecraft. The second was closely related, the ability of astronauts to work outside a spacecraft. The third involved the collection of more sophisticated physiological data about the human response to extended spaceflight.61

To gain experience in these areas before Apollo could be readied for flight, NASA devised Project Gemini. Hatched in the fall of 1961 by engineers at Robert Gilruth's Space Task Group in cooperation with McDonnell Aircraft Corp. technicians, builders of the Mercury spacecraft, Gemini started as a larger Mercury Mark II capsule but soon became a totally different proposition. It could accommodate two astronauts for extended flights of more than two weeks. It pioneered the use of fuel cells instead of batteries to power the ship, and incorporated a series of modifications to hardware. Its designers also toyed with the possibility of using a paraglider being developed at Langley Research Center for "dry" landings instead of a "splashdown" in water and recovery by the Navy. The whole system was to be powered by the newly developed Titan II launch vehicle, another ballistic missile developed for the Air Force. A central reason for this program was to perfect techniques for rendezvous and docking, so NASA appropriated from the military some Agena rocket upper stages and fitted them with docking adapters.

Problems with the Gemini program abounded from the start. The Titan II had longitudinal oscillations, called the "pogo" effect because it resembled the behavior of a child on a pogo stick. Overcoming this problem required engineering imagination and long hours of overtime to stabilize fuel flow and maintain vehicle control. The fuel cells leaked and had to be redesigned, and the Agena reconfiguration also suffered costly delays. NASA engineers never did get the paraglider to work properly and eventually dropped it from the program in favor of a parachute system the one used for Mercury. All of these difficulties shot an estimated $350 million program to over $1 billion. The overruns were successfully justified by the space agency, however, as necessities to meet the Apollo landing commitment.62

By the end of 1963 most of the difficulties with Gemini had been resolved, albeit at great expense, and the program was ready for flight. Following two unoccupied orbital test flights, the first operational mission took place on 23 March 1965. Mercury astronaut Grissom commanded the mission, with John W. Young, a Naval aviator chosen as an astronaut in 1962, accompanying him. The next mission, flown in June 1965 stayed aloft for four days and astronaut Edward H. White II performed the first extra-vehicular activity (EVA) or spacewalk.63 Eight more missions followed through November 1966. Despite problems great and small encountered on virtually all of them, the program achieved its goals. Additionally, as a technological learning program Gemini had been a success, with 52 different experiments performed on the ten missions. The bank of data acquired from Gemini helped to bridge the gap between Mercury and what would be required to complete Apollo within the time constraints directed by the president.64

Satellite Support of Apollo

In addition to the necessity of acquiring the skills necessary to maneuver in space prior to executing the Apollo mandate, NASA had to learn much more about the Moon itself to ensure that its astronauts would survive. They needed to know the composition and geography of Moon, and the nature of the lunar surface. Was it solid enough to support a lander, was it composed of dust that would swallow up the spacecraft? Would communications systems work on the Moon? Would other factors--geology, geography, radiation, etc.--affect the astronauts? To answer these questions three distinct satellite research programs emerged to study the Moon. The first of these was Project Ranger, which had actually been started in the 1950s, in response to Soviet lunar exploration, but had been a notable failure until the mid-1960s when three probes photographed the lunar surface before crashing into it.65

The second project was the Lunar Orbiter, an effort approved in 1960 to place probes in orbit around the Moon. This project, originally not intended to support Apollo, was reconfigured in 1962 and 1963 to further the Kennedy mandate more specifically by mapping the surface. In addition to a powerful camera that could send photographs to Earth tracking stations, it carried three scientific experiments--selnodesy (the lunar equivalent of geodesy), meteoroid detection, and radiation measurement. While the returns from these instruments interested scientists in and of themselves, they were critical to Apollo. NASA launched five Lunar Orbiter satellites between 10 August 1966 and 1 August 1967, all successfully achieving their objectives. At the completion of the third mission, moreover, the Apollo planners announced that they had sufficient data to press on with an astronaut landing, and were able to use the last two missions for other activities.66

Finally, in 1961 NASA created Project Surveyor to soft-land a satellite on the Moon. A small craft with tripod landing legs, it could take post-landing photographs and perform a variety of other measurements. Surveyor 1 landed on the Moon on 2 June 1966 and transmitted more than 10,000 high-quality photographs of the surface. Although the second mission crash landed, the next flight provided photographs, measurements of the composition and surface-bearing strength of the lunar crust, and readings on the thermal and radar reflectivity of the soil. Although Surveyor 4 failed, by the time of the program's completion in 1968 the remaining three missions had yielded significant scientific data both for Apollo and for the broader lunar science community.67

Building Saturn

NASA inherited the effort to develop the Saturn family of boosters used to launch Apollo to the Moon in 1960 when it acquired the Army Ballistic Missile Agency under Wernher von Braun.68 By that time von Braun's engineers were hard at work on the first generation Saturn launch vehicle, a cluster of eight Redstone boosters around a Jupiter fuel tank. Fueled by a combination of liquid oxygen (LOX) and RP-1 (a version of kerosene), the Saturn I could generate a thrust of 205,000 pounds. This group also worked on a second stage, known in its own right as the Centaur, that used a revolutionary fuel mixture of LOX and liquid hydrogen that could generate a greater ratio of thrust to weight. The fuel choice made this second stage a difficult development effort, because the mixture was highly volatile and could not be readily handled. But the stage could produce an additional 90,000 pounds of thrust. The Saturn I was solely a research and development vehicle that would lead toward the accomplishment of Apollo, making ten flights between October 1961 and July 1965. The first four flights tested the first stage, but beginning with the fifth launch the second stage was active and these missions were used to place scientific payloads and Apollo test capsules into orbit.69

The next step in Saturn development came with the maturation of the Saturn IB , an upgraded version of earlier vehicle. With more powerful engines generating 1.6 million pounds of thrust from the first stage, the two-stage combination could place 62,000- pound payloads into Earth orbit. The first flight on 26 February 1966 tested the capability of the booster and the Apollo capsule in a suborbital flight. Two more flights followed in quick succession. Then there was a hiatus of more than a year before the 22 January 1968 launch of a Saturn IB with both an Apollo capsule and a lunar landing module aboard for orbital testing. The only astronaut-occupied flight of the Saturn IB took place between 11 and 22 October 1968 when Walter Schirra, Donn F. Eisele, and R. Walter Cunningham, made 163 orbits testing Apollo equipment.70

The largest launch vehicle of this family, the Saturn V , represented the culmination of those earlier booster development and test programs. Standing 363 feet tall, with three stages, this was the vehicle that could take astronauts to the Moon and return them safely to Earth. The first stage generated 7.5 million pounds of thrust from five massive engines developed for the system. These engines, known as the F-1, were some of the most significant engineering accomplishments of the program, requiring the development of new alloys and different construction techniques to withstand the extreme heat and shock of firing. The thunderous sound of the first static test of this stage, taking place at Huntsville, Alabama, on 16 April 1965, brought home to many that the Kennedy goal was within technological grasp. For others, it signaled the magic of technological effort one engineer even characterized rocket engine technology as a "black art" without rational principles. The second stage presented enormous challenges to NASA engineers and very nearly caused the lunar landing goal to be missed. Consisting of five engines burning LOX and liquid hydrogen, this stage could deliver 1 million pounds of thrust. It was always behind schedule, and required constant attention and additional funding to ensure completion by the deadline for a lunar landing. Both the first and third stages of this Saturn vehicle development program moved forward relatively smoothly. (The third stage was an enlarged and improved version of the IB, and had few developmental complications.)71

Despite all of this, the biggest problem with Saturn V lay not with the hardware, but with the clash of philosophies toward development and test. The von Braun "Rocket Team" had made important technological contributions and enjoyed popular acclaim as a result of conservative engineering practices that took minutely incremental approaches toward test and verification. They tested each component of each system individually and then assembled them for a long series of ground tests. Then they would launch each stage individually before assembling the whole system for a long series of flight tests. While this practice ensured thoroughness, it was both costly and time-consuming, and NASA had neither commodity to expend. George E. Mueller, the head of NASA's Office of Manned Space Flight, disagreed with this approach. Drawing on his experience with the Air Force and aerospace industry, and shadowed by the twin bugaboos of schedule and cost, Mueller advocated what he called the "all-up" concept in which the entire Apollo-Saturn system was tested together in flight without the laborious preliminaries.72

A calculated gamble, the first Saturn V test launch took place on 9 November 1967 with the entire Apollo-Saturn combination. A second test followed on 4 April 1968, and even though it was only partially successful because the second stage shut off prematurely and the third stage--needed to start the Apollo payload into lunar trajectory--failed, Mueller declared that the test program had been completed and that the next launch would have astronauts aboard. The gamble paid off. In 17 test and 15 piloted launches, the Saturn booster family scored a 100 percent launch reliability rate.73

The Apollo Spacecraft

Almost with the announcement of the lunar landing commitment in 1961 NASA technicians began a crash program to develop a reasonable configuration for the trip to lunar orbit and back. What they came up with was a three-person command module capable of sustaining human life for two weeks or more in either Earth orbit or in a lunar trajectory a service module holding oxygen, fuel, maneuvering rockets, fuel cells, and other expendable and life support equipment that could be jettisoned upon reentry to Earth a retrorocket package attached to the service module for slowing to prepare for reentry and finally a launch escape system that was discarded upon achieving orbit. The tear-drop shaped command module had two hatches, one on the side for entry and exit of the crew at the beginning and end of the flight and one in the nose with a docking collar for use in moving to and from the lunar landing vehicle.74

Work on the Apollo spacecraft stretched from 28 November 1961, when the prime contract for its development was let to North American Aviation, to 22 October 1968 when the last test flight took place. In between there were various efforts to design, build, and test the spacecraft both on the ground and in suborbital and orbital flights. For instance, on 13 May 1964 NASA tested a boilerplate model of the Apollo capsule atop a stubby Little Joe II military booster, and another Apollo capsule actually achieved orbit on 18 September 1964 when it was launched atop a Saturn I . By the end of 1966 NASA leaders declared the Apollo command module ready for human occupancy. The final flight checkout of the spacecraft prior to the lunar flight took place on 11-22 October 1968 with three astronauts.75

As these development activities were taking place, tragedy struck the Apollo program. On 27 January 1967, Apollo-Saturn (AS) 204, scheduled to be the first spaceflight with astronauts aboard the capsule, was on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, moving through simulation tests. The three astronauts to fly on this mission--"Gus" Grissom, Edward White, and Roger B. Chaffee--were aboard running through a mock launch sequence. At 6:31 p.m., after several hours of work, a fire broke out in the spacecraft and the pure oxygen atmosphere intended for the flight helped it burn with intensity. In a flash, flames engulfed the capsule and the astronauts died of asphyxiation. It took the ground crew five minutes to open the hatch. When they did so they found three bodies. Although three other astronauts had been killed before this time--all in plane crashes--these were the first deaths directly attributable to the U.S. space program.76

Shock gripped NASA and the nation during the days that followed. James Webb, NASA Administrator, told the media at the time, "We've always known that something like this was going to happen soon or later. . . . who would have thought that the first tragedy would be on the ground?"77 As the nation mourned, Webb went to President Lyndon Johnson and asked that NASA be allowed to handle the accident investigation and direct the recovery from the accident. He promised to be truthful in assessing blame and pledged to assign it to himself and NASA management as appropriate. The day after the fire NASA appointed an eight member investigation board, chaired by longtime NASA official and director of the Langley Research Center, Floyd L. Thompson. It set out to discover the details of the tragedy: what happened, why it happened, could it happen again, what was at fault, and how could NASA recover? The members of the board learned that the fire had been caused by a short circuit in the electrical system that ignited combustible materials in the spacecraft fed by the oxygen atmosphere. They also found that it could have been prevented and called for several modifications to the spacecraft, including a move to a less oxygen-rich environment. Changes to the capsule followed quickly, and within a little more than a year it was ready for flight.78

Webb reported these findings to various Congressional committees and took a personal grilling at every meeting. His answers were sometimes evasive and always defensive. The New York Times , which was usually critical of Webb, had a field day with this situation and said that NASA stood for "Never a Straight Answer." While the ordeal was personally taxing, whether by happenstance or design Webb deflected much of the backlash over the fire from both NASA as an agency and from the Johnson administration. While he was personally tarred with the disaster, the space agency's image and popular support was largely undamaged. Webb himself never recovered from the stigma of the fire, and when he left NASA in October 1968, even as Apollo was nearing a successful completion, few mourned his departure.79

The AS 204 fire also troubled Webb ideologically during the months that followed. He had been a high priest of technocracy ever since coming to NASA in 1961, arguing for the authority of experts, well-organized and led, and with sufficient resources to resolve the "many great economic, social, and political problems" that pressed the nation. He wrote in his book, Space Age Management , as late as 1969 that "Our Society has reached a point where its progress and even its survival increasingly depend upon our ability to organize the complex and to do the unusual."80 He believed he had achieved that model organization for complex accomplishments at NASA. Yet that model structure of exemplary management had failed to anticipate and resolve the shortcomings in the Apollo capsule design and had not taken what seemed in retrospect to be normal precautions to ensure the safety of the crew. The system had broken down. As a result Webb became less trustful of other officials at NASA and gathered more and more decisionmaking authority to himself. This wore on him during the rest of his time as NASA Administrator, and in reality the failure of the technological model for solving problems was an important forecaster of a trend that would be increasingly present in American culture thereafter as technology was blamed for a good many of society's ills. That problem would be particularly present as NASA tried to win political approval of later NASA projects.81

The Lunar Module

If the Saturn launch vehicle and the Apollo spacecraft were difficult technological challenges, the third part of the hardware for the Moon landing, the Lunar Module (LM), represented the most serious problem. Begun a year later than it should have been, the LM was consistently behind schedule and over budget. Much of the problem turned on the demands of devising two separate spacecraft components--one for descent to the Moon and one for ascent back to the command module--that only maneuvered outside an atmosphere. Both engines had to work perfectly or the very real possibility existed that the astronauts would not return home. Guidance, maneuverability, and spacecraft control also caused no end of headaches. The landing structure likewise presented problems it had to be light and sturdy and shock resistent. An ungainly vehicle emerged which two astronauts could fly while standing. In November 1962 Grumman Aerospace Corp. signed a contract with NASA to produce the LM, and work on it began in earnest. With difficulty the LM was orbited on a Saturn V test launch in January 1968 and judged ready for operation.82

Trips to the Moon

After a piloted orbital mission to test the Apollo equipment on October 1968, on 21 December 1968 Apollo 8 took off atop a Saturn V booster from the Kennedy Space Center with three astronauts aboard--Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr., and William A. Anders--for a historic mission to orbit the Moon.83 At first it was planned as a mission 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, pressed for approval to make it a circumlunar flight. The advantages of this could be important, both in technical and scientific knowledge gained as well as in a public demonstration of what the U.S. could achieve.84 So far Apollo had been all promise now the delivery was about to begin. In the summer of 1968 Low broached the idea to Phillips, who then carried it to the administrator, and in November the agency reconfigured the mission for a lunar trip. After Apollo 8 made one and a half Earth orbits its third stage began a burn to put the spacecraft on a lunar trajectory. As it traveled outward the crew focused a portable television camera on Earth and for the first time humanity saw its home from afar, a tiny, lovely, and fragile "blue marble" hanging in the blackness of space. When it arrived at the Moon on Christmas Eve this image of Earth was even more strongly reinforced when the crew sent images of the planet back while reading the first part of the Bible--"God created the heavens and the Earth, and the Earth was without form and void"--before sending Christmas greetings to humanity. The next day they fired the boosters for a return flight and "spashed down" in the Pacific Ocean on 27 December. It was an enormously significant accomplishment coming at a time when American society was in crisis over Vietnam, race relations, urban problems, and a host of other difficulties. And if only for a few moments the nation united as one to focus on this epochal event. Two more Apollo missions occurred before the climax of the program, but they did little more than confirm that the time had come for a lunar landing.85

Then came the big event. Apollo 11 lifted off on 16 July 1969, and after confirming that the hardware was working well began the three day trip to the Moon. At 4:18 p.m. EST on 20 July 1969 the LM--with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin- -landed on the lunar surface while Michael Collins orbited overhead in the Apollo command module. After checkout, Armstrong set foot on the surface, telling millions who saw and heard him on Earth that it was "one small step for man--one giant leap for mankind." (Neil Armstrong later added "a" when referring to "one small step for a man" to clarify the first sentence delivered from the Moon's surface.) Aldrin soon followed him out, and the two plodded around the landing site in the 1/6 lunar gravity, planted an American flag but omitted claiming the land for the U.S. as had been routinely done during European exploration of the Americas, collected soil and rock samples, and set up scientific experiments. The next day they launched back to the Apollo capsule orbiting overhead and began the return trip to Earth, splashing down in the Pacific on 24 July.86

These flights rekindled the excitement felt in the early 1960s with John Glenn and the Mercury astronauts. Apollo 11 , in particular, met with an ecstatic reaction around the globe, as everyone shared in the success of the mission. Ticker tape parades, speaking engagements, public relations events, and a world tour by the astronauts served to create good will both in the U.S. and abroad.

Five more landing missions followed at approximately six month intervals through December 1972, each of them increasing the time spent on the Moon. Three of the latter Apollo missions used a lunar rover vehicle to travel in the vicinity of the landing site, but none of them equaled the excitement of Apollo 11 . The scientific experiments placed on the Moon and the lunar soil samples returned through Project Apollo have provided grist for scientists' investigations of the Solar System ever since. The scientific return was significant, but the Apollo program did not answer conclusively the age-old questions of lunar origins and evolution.87

In spite of the success of the other missions, only Apollo 13 , launched on 11 April 1970, came close to matching earlier popular interest. But that was only because, 56 hours into the flight, an oxygen tank in the Apollo service module ruptured and damaged several of the power, electrical, and life support systems. People throughout the world watched and waited and hoped as NASA personnel on the ground and the crew, well in their way to the Moon and with no way of returning until they went around it, worked together to find a way safely home. While NASA engineers quickly determined that air, water, and electricity did not exist in the Apollo capsule sufficient to sustain the three astronauts until they could return to Earth, they found that the LM--a self- contained spacecraft unaffected by the accident--could be used as a "lifeboat" to provide austere life support for the return trip. It was a close-run thing, but the crew returned safely on 17 April 1970. The near disaster served several important purposes for the civil space program--especially prompting reconsideration of the propriety of the whole effort while also solidifying in the popular mind NASA's technological genius.88

A Meaning for Apollo

Project Apollo in general, and the flight of Apollo 11 in particular, should be viewed as a watershed in the nation's history. It was an endeavor that demonstrated both the technological and economic virtuosity of the United States and established technologically preeminence over rival nations--the primary goal of the program when first envisioned by the Kennedy administration in 1961. It had been an enormous undertaking, costing $25.4 billion (about $95 billion in 1990 dollars), with only the building of the Panama Canal rivaling the Apollo program's size as the largest non-military technological endeavor ever undertaken by the United States and only the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb in World War II being comparable in a wartime setting.

There are several important legacies (or conclusions) about Project Apollo that need to be remembered. First, and probably most important, the Apollo program was successful in accomplishing the political goals for which it had been created. Kennedy had been dealing with a Cold War crisis in 1961 brought on by several separate factors--the Soviet orbiting of Yuri Gagarin and the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion only two of them--that Apollo was designed to combat. At the time of the Apollo 11 landing Mission Control in Houston flashed the words of President Kennedy announcing the Apollo commitment on its big screen. Those phrases were followed with these: "TASK ACCOMPLISHED, July 1969." No greater understatement could probably have been made. Any assessment of Apollo that does not recognize the accomplishment of landing an American on the Moon and safely returning before the end of the 1960s is incomplete and innaccurate, for that was the primary goal of the undertaking.89

Second, Project Apollo was a triumph of management in meeting enormously difficult systems engineering, technological, and organizational integration requirements. James E. Webb, the NASA Administrator at the height of the program between 1961 and 1968, always contended that Apollo was much more a management exercise than anything else, and that the technological challenge, while sophisticated and impressive, was largely within grasp at the time of the 1961 decision.90 More difficult was ensuring that those technological skills were properly managed and used.

Webb's contention was confirmed in spades by the success of Apollo. NASA leaders had to acquire and organize unprecedented resources to accomplish the task at hand. From both a political and technological perspective, management was critical. For seven years after Kennedy's Apollo decision, through October 1968, James Webb maneuvered for NASA in Washington to obtain sufficient resources to meet Apollo requirements. More to the point, NASA personnel employed the "program management" concept that centralized authority and emphasized systems engineering. The systems management of the program was critical to Apollo's success.91 Understanding the management of complex structures for the successful completion of a multifarious task was a critical outgrowth of the Apollo effort.

Third, Project Apollo forced the people of the world to view the planet Earth in a new way. Apollo 8 was critical to this fundamental change, as it treated the world to the first pictures of the Earth from afar. Writer Archibald MacLeish summed up the feelings of many people when he wrote at the time of Apollo, that "To see the Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold--brothers who know now that they are truly brothers."92 The modern environmental movement was galvanized in part by this new perception of the planet and the need to protect it and the life that it supports.93

Finally, the Apollo program, while an enormous achievement, left a divided legacy for NASA and the aerospace community. The perceived "golden age" of Apollo created for the agency an expectation that the direction of any major space goal from the president would always bring NASA a broad consensus of support and provide it with the resources and license to dispense them as it saw fit. Something most NASA officials did not understand at the time of the Moon landing in 1969, however, was that Apollo had not been conducted under normal political circumstances and that the exceptional circumstances surrounding Apollo would not be repeated.94

The Apollo decision was, therefore, an anomaly in the national decision-making process. The dilemma of the "golden age" of Apollo has been difficult to overcome, but moving beyond the Apollo program to embrace future opportunities has been an important goal of the agency's leadership in the recent past. Exploration of the Solar System and the universe remains as enticing a goal and as important an objective for humanity as it ever has been. Project Apollo was an important early step in that ongoing process of exploration.


1. Michael R. Beschloss, The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960-1963 (New York: Harper, 1991), p. 28 U.S. Senate, Joint Appearances of Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1961) U.S. Senate, The Speeches of Senator John F. Kennedy: Presidential Campaign of 1960 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1961).

2. See John M. Logsdon, "An Apollo Perspective," Astronautics & Aeronautics , December 1979, pp. 112-17.

3. Jerome B. Wiesner, "Report to the President-elect of the Ad Hoc Committee on Space," 12 January 1961, p. 16, Presidential Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston, MA.

4. On this see Loyd S. Swenson, Jr., James M. Grimwood, and Charles C. Alexander, This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4201, 1966), 129-32.

5. Wiesner, "Report to the President- elect," 12 January 1961, p. 16.

6. "Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961," in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1962), pp. 1-3.

7. "Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union, January 30, 1961," in ibid ., pp. 19- 28, quote from p. 26.

8. Arnold W. Frutkin oral history, April 4, 1974, by Eugene M. Emme and Alex Roland, pp. 28-29, and Arnold W. Frutkin oral history, July 30, 1970, by John M. Logsdon, pp. 17- 18, both in NASA Historical Reference Collection, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC. See also Arnold W. Frutkin, International Cooperation in Space (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1965).

9. Quoted in John M. Logsdon, The Decision to Go to the Moon: Project Apollo and the National Interest (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1970), p. 111.

10. David Bell, Memorandum for the President, "National Aeronautics and Space Administration Budget Problem," 22 March 1961, NASA Historical Reference Collection U.S. Congress, House, Committee of Science and Astronautics, NASA Fiscal 1962 Authorization, Hearings , 87th Cong., 1st. sess., 1962, pp. 203, 620 Logsdon, Decision to Go to the Moon , pp. 94-100.

11. Leonid Vladimirov, The Russian Space Bluff: The Inside Story of the Soviet Drive to the Moon (New York: Dial Press, 1973), trans. David Floyd, pp. 86-97 Pravda , 17 April 1961, 12 May 1961 Walter A. McDougall, . . . The Heavens and The Earth: A Political History of the Space Age (New York: Basic Books, 1985), pp. 243-49 Brian Harvey, Race into Space: The Soviet Space Programme (London: Ellis Horwood, 1988), pp. 38-59 Swenson, Grimwood, and Alexander, This New Ocean , pp. 341-81.

12. New York Times , 17 April 1961, p. 5.

13. On this invasion see, Peter Wyden, Bay of Pigs: The Untold Story (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979) Haynes Bonner Johnson, The Bay of Pigs: The Leaders' Story of Brigade 2506 (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1964) Albert C. Persons, Bay of Pigs: A Firsthand Account of the Mission by a U.S. Pilot in Support of the Cuban Invasion Force in 1961 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1990).

14. Quoted in Logsdon, Decision to Go to the Moon , pp. 111-12.

15. T. Keith Glennan, The Birth of NASA: The Diary of T. Keith Glennan , edited by J.D. Hunley (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4105, 1993), pp. 314-15. This is essentially the same position as set forth in Logsdon, Decision to Go to the Moon , pp. 111-12, although McDougall, . . . Heavens and the Earth , p. 8, also includes a "growing technocratic mentality" as a reason for the decision.

16. John F. Kennedy, Memorandum for Vice President, 20 April 0, 1961, Presidential Files, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston, MA.

17. New York Times , 22 April 1961.

18. Logsdon, "An Apollo Perspective," p. 114.

19. Hugh L. Dryden to Lyndon B. Johnson, 22 April 1961, Vice Presidential Security File, box 17, John F. Kennedy Library Logsdon, Decision to Go to the Moon , pp. 59-61, 112-14.

20. Wernher von Braun to Lyndon B. Johnson, 29 April 1961, NASA Historical Reference Collection.

21. Robert A. Divine, "Lyndon B. Johnson and the Politics of Space," in Robert A. Divine, ed., The Johnson Years: Vietnam, the Environment, and Science (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1987), pp. 231-33.

22. Quoted in Logsdon, Decision to Go to the Moon , p. 115.

23. This letter is printed in U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1962 , 87th Cong., 1st sess. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1961), p. 257.

24. Edward C. Welsh Oral History, pp. 11-12, Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, Austin, TX.

25. Lyndon B. Johnson, Vice President, Memorandum for the President, "Evaluation of Space Program," April 28, 1961, Presidential Papers, Kennedy Presidential Library.

26. James E. Webb to Jerome B. Wiesner, 2 May 1961, NASA Historical Reference Collection.

27. James E. Webb and Robert S. McNamara to John F. Kennedy, May 8, 1961, John F. Kennedy Library.

28. There is evidence to suggest that the 1967 date was hit upon because it was the fiftieth anniversary of the communist revolution in the Soviet Union and that U.S. leaders believed the Soviets were planning something spectacular in space in commemoration of the date. Interview with Robert C. Seamans, Jr., 23 February 1994, Washington, DC.

29. See original excerpts from "Urgent National Needs," Speech to a Joint Session of Congress, 25 May 1961, Presidential Files, Kennedy Presidential Library.

30. John F. Kennedy, "Urgent National Needs," Congressional Record--House (25 May 1961), p. 8276 text of speech, speech files, NASA Historical Reference Collection, NASA History Office, Washington, DC.

31. Logsdon, "An Apollo Perspective," p. 115.

32. John Law, "Technology and Heterogeneous Engineering: The Case of Portuguese Expansion," pp. 111-34 and Donald MacKenzie, "Missile Accuracy: A Case Study in the Social Processes of Technological Change," pp. 195-222, both in Wiebe E. Bijker, Thomas P. Hughes, and Trevor J. Pinch, eds., The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1987).

33. As an example see the 1963 defense of Apollo by the vice president. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson to the President, 13 May 1963, with attached report, John F. Kennedy Presidential Files, NASA Historical Reference Collection.

34. Linda Neuman Ezell, NASA Historical Data Book, Vol II: Programs and Projects, 1958- 1968 (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4012, 1988), pp. 122- 23.

35. Aeronautics and Space Report of the President, 1988 Activities (Washington, DC: NASA Annual Report, 1990), p. 185.

36. Ezell, NASA Historical Data Book, Vol II , 2:122-32.

37. On Webb see, W. Henry Lambright, Powering Apollo: James E. Webb of NASA (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, forthcoming 1995).

38. On this subject see Arnold S. Levine, Managing NASA in the Apollo Era (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4102, 1982), Chapter 4.

39. See Sylvia K. Kraemer, "Organizing for Exploration," in John M. Logsdon, editor. Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the U.S. Civil Space Program, Volume I, Organizational Developments (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4407, forthcoming 1994), chapter 4.

40. On these see, Virginia P. Dawson, Engines and Innovation: Lewis Laboratory and American Propulsion Technology (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4306, 1991) James R. Hansen, Engineer in Charge: A History of the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, 1917-1958 (Washington, DC: NASA SP- 4305, 1987) Elizabeth A. Muenger, Searching the Horizon: A History of Ames Research Center, 1940-1976 (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4304, 1985) Richard P. Hallion, On the Frontier: Flight Research at Dryden, 1946-1981 (Washington, DC: NASA SP- 4303, 1984) Alfred Rosenthal, Venture into Space: Early Years of Goddard Space Flight Center (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4301, 1968) Clayton R. Koppes, JPL and the American Space Program: A History of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1982) Henry C. Dethloff, "Suddenly Tomorrow Came . . .": A History of the Johnson Space Center (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4307 and Charles D. Benson and William Barnaby Faherty, Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4204, 1978).

41. On the NASA organizational culture see, Howard E. McCurdy, Inside NASA: High Technology and Organizational Change in the U.S. Space Program (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993).

42. Albert F. Siepert, memorandum to James E. Webb, 8 February 1963, NASA Historical Reference Collection Sarah M. Turner, "Sam Phillips: One Who Led Us to the Moon," NASA Activities , 21 (May/June 1990): 18-19.

43. Aaron Cohen, "Project Management: JSC's Heritage and Challenge," Issues in NASA Program and Project Management (Washington, DC: NASA SP-6101, 1989), pp. 7-16 C. Thomas Newman, "Controlling Resources in the Apollo Program," Issues in NASA Program and Project Management (Washington, DC: NASA SP-6101, 1989), pp. 23-26 Eberhard Rees, "Project and Systems Management in the Apollo Program," Issues in NASA Program and Project Management (Washington, DC: NASA SP-6101 (02), 1989), pp. 24-34.

44. Dael Wolfe, Executive Officer, American Association for the Advancement of Science, editorial for Science , 15 November 1968.

45. Roger E. Bilstein, Stages to Saturn: A Technological History of the Apollo/Saturn Launch Vehicles (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4206, 1980), passim , and Appendix E.

46. McCurdy, Inside NASA , pp. 11-98.

47. See the discussion of this issue in Sylvia Doughty Fries, "Apollo: A Pioneering Generation," International Astronautical Federation, 37th Congress, 9 October 1986, Ref. No. IAA-86-495 Sylvia Doughty Fries, NASA Engineers and the Age of Apollo (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4104, 1992), passim.

48. Eberhard Rees, memorandum, 9 December 1965, quoted in Bilstein, Stages to Saturn , p. 227 interview with John D. Young by Howard E. McCurdy, 19 August 1987, NASA Historical Reference Collection.

49. This story has been told in John M. Logsdon, "Selecting the Way to the Moon: The Choice of the Lunar Orbital Rendezvous Mode," Aerospace Historian , 18 (Summer 1971): 63-70 Courtney G. Brooks, James M. Grimwood, and Loyd S. Swenson, Jr., Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft (Washington: NASA SP-4205, 1979), pp. 61-86 Bilstein, Stages to Saturn , pp. 57-68 and James R. Hansen, "Enchanted Rendezvous: The Genesis of the Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous Concept," 1993, unpublished historical manuscript, NASA Historical Reference Collection.

50. John C. Houbolt, "Lunar Rendezvous," International Science and Technology , 14 (February 1963): 62-65.

51. "Concluding Remarks by Dr. Wernher von Braun about Mode Selection given to Dr. Joseph F. Shea, Deputy Director (Systems), Office of Manned Space Flight," 7 June 1962, NASA Historical Reference Collection.

52. Quoted in Charles A. Murray and Catherine Bly Cox, Apollo, the Race to the Moon (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989), pp. 142-43.

53. Brooks, Grimwood, and Swenson, Chariots for Apollo , pp. 106-107.

54. Swenson, Grimwood, and Alexander, This New Ocean , pp. 341-79.

55. Wernher von Braun, "The Redstone, Jupiter,and Juno," in Eugene M. Emme, ed., The History of Rocket Technology: Essays on Research, Development, and Utility (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1964), pp. 107-22.

56. See Richard E. Martin, The Atlas and Centaur "Steel Balloon" Tanks: A Legacy of Karel Bossart (San Diego, CA: General Dynamics Space Systems Division, 1989).

57. Interview with Karrel J. Bossart by John L. Sloop, 27 April 1974, quoted in John L. Sloop, Liquid Hydrogen as a Propulsion Fuel, 1945-1959 (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4404, 1978), pp. 176-77.

58. Martin, Atlas and Centaur "Steel Balloon" Tanks , p. 5.

59. Swenson, Grimwood, and Alexander, This New Ocean , pp. 422-36.

61. Barton C. Hacker, "The Idea of Rendezvous: From Space Station to Orbital Operations, in Space- Travel Thought, 1895-1951," Technology and Culture , 15 (July 1974): 373-88 Barton C. Hacker, "The Genesis of Project Apollo: The Idea of Rendezvous, 1929-1961," Actes 10: Historic des techniques (Paris: Congress of the History of Science, 1971), pp. 41-46 Barton C. Hacker and James M. Grimwood, On Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4203, 1977), pp. 1-26.

62. James M. Grimwood and Ivan D. Ertal, "Project Gemini," Southwestern Historical Quarterly , 81 (January 1968): 393-418 James M. Grimwood, Barton C. Hacker, and Peter J. Vorzimmer, Project Gemini Technology and Operations (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4002, 1969) Robert N. Lindley, "Discussing Gemini: A 'Flight' Interview with Robert Lindley of McDonnell," Flight International , 24 March 1966, pp. 488-89.

63. Reginald M. Machell, ed., Summary of Gemini Extravehicular Activity (Washington, DC: NASA SP-149, 1968).

64. Gemini Summary Conference (Washington, DC: NASA SP-138, 1967) Ezell, NASA Historical Data Book, Vol. II , pp. 149-70.

65. On this project see, R. Cargill Hall, Lunar Impact: A History of Project Ranger (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4210, 1977).

66. On this project see, Bruce K. Byers, Destination Moon: A History of the Lunar Orbiter Program (Washington, DC: NASA TM X-3487, 1977).

67. Surveyor's history has yet to be written, but a start is contained in Ezell, NASA Historical Data Book, Vol. II , pp. 325-31.

68. U.S. Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Authorization Subcommittee, Transfer of Von Braun Team to NASA, 86th Cong., 2d Sess. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1960) Robert M. Rosholt, An Administrative History of NASA, 1958-1963 (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4101, 1966), pp. 46-47, 117-20.

69. Bilstein, Stages to Saturn , pp. 155-258 Ezell, NASA Historical Data Book, Vol. II , pp. 54-61.

70. Ezell, NASA Historical Data Book, Vol. II , pp. 58-59.

71. Roger E. Bilstein, "From the S-IV to the S-IVB: The Evolution of a Rocket Stage for Space Exploration," Journal of the British Interplanetary Society , 32 (December 1979): 452-58 Richard P. Hallion, "The Development of American Launch Vehicles since 1945," in Paul A. Hanle ad Vol Del Chamberlain," eds., Space Science Comes of Age: Perspectives in the History of the Space Sciences (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981), pp. 126-32.

72. George E. Mueller, NASA, to Manned Spacecraft Center Director, et al ., 31 October 1963 Eberhard Rees, Marshall Space Flight Center Director, to Robert Sherrod, 4 March 1970, both in "Saturn 'All-Up' Testing Concept" File, Launch Vehicles, NASA Historical Reference Collection Bilstein, Stages to Saturn , pp. 348-51 McCurdy, Inside NASA , pp. 94-96, Murray and Cox, Apollo , pp. 160-62.

73. Ezell, NASA Historical Data Book, Vol. II , p. 61 Space Flight: The First Thirty Years (Washington, DC: NASA NP-150, 1991), pp. 12-17.

74. A lengthy discussion of the development of the Apollo spacecraft can be found in Ivan D. Ertal and Mary Louise Morse, The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology, Volume I, Through November 7, 1962 (Washington, DC: NASA SP- 4009, 1969) Mary Louise Morse and Jean Kernahan Bays, The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology, Volume II, November 8, 1962- September 30, 1964 (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4009, 1973) Courtney G. Brooks and Ivan D. Ertal, The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology, Volume III, October 1, 1964-January 20, 1966 (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4009, 1973) and Ivan D. Ertal and Roland W. Newkirk, with Courtney G. Brooks, The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology, Volume IV, January 21, 1966-July 13, 1974 (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4009, 1978). A short developmental history is in Ezell, NASA Historical Data Book, Vol. II , pp. 171-85.

75. Ezell, NASA Historical Data Book, Vol. II , pp. 182-85.

76. On this subject see, "The Ten Desperate Minutes," Life , 21 April 1967, pp. 113-114 Erik Bergaust, Murder on Pad 34 (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1968) Mike Gray, Angle of Attack: Harrison Storms and the Race to the Moon (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1992) Erlend A. Kennan and Edmund H. Harvey, Jr., Mission to the Moon: A Critical Examination of NASA and the Space Program (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1969) Hugo Young, Bryan Silcock, and Peter Dunn, Journey to Tranquillity: The History of Man's Assault on the Moon (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1970) Brooks, Grimwood, and Swenson, Chariots for Apollo , pp. 213-36.

77. Quoted in Bergaust, Murder on Pad 34 , p. 23.

78. United States House, Committee on Science and Astronautics, Subcommittee on NASA Oversight, Investigation into Apollo 204 accident, Hearings, Ninetieth Congress, first session (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1967) United States House, Committee on Science and Astronautics, Apollo Program Pace and Progress Staff Study for the Subcommittee on NASA Oversight, Ninetieth Congress, first session (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1967) United States House, Committee on Science and Aeronautics, Apollo and Apollo Applications: Staff Study for the Subcommittee on NASA Oversight of the Committee on Science and Astronautics, U.S. House of Representatives, Ninetieth Congress, Second Session (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1968) Robert C. Seamans, Jr., and Frederick I. Ordway III, "Lessons of Apollo for Large-Scale Technology," in Frederick C. Durant III, ed., Between Sputnik and the Shuttle: New Perspectives on American Astronautics (San Diego: Univelt, 1981), pp. 241-87.

79. Administrative History of NASA, chap. II, pp. 47-52, Administrative Files, Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, Austin, TX Lyndon B. Johnson interview by Walter Cronkite 5 July 1969, LBJ Files, Johnson Presidential Library Senator Clinton P. Anderson by Robert Sherrod, 25 July 1968 Sherrod to John B. Oakes, May 24, 1972, RSAC Edward C. Welsh interview by Eugene M. Emme, 20 February 1969, all in NASA Historical Reference Collection Lambright, Powering Apollo , chapter 9.

80. James E. Webb, Space Age Management: The Large Scale Approach (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1969), p. 15.

81. Interview with Robert C. Seamans, Jr., 23 February 1994, Washington, DC.

82. Ezell, NASA Historical Data Book, Vol. II , pp. 173-76, 187-94.

83. Space Flight: The First 30 Years , p. 14.

84. NASA, Apollo Program Director, to NASA, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, "Apollo 8 Mission Selection," 11 November 1968, Apollo 8 Files, NASA Historical Reference Collection.

85. Rene Jules Dubos, A Theology of the Earth (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1969), pp. 1-3 Oran W. Nicks, ed., This Island Earth (Washington, DC: NASA SP-250, 1970), pp. 3-4 R. Cargill Hall, "Project Apollo in Retrospect," 20 June 1990, pp. 25-26, R. Cargill Hall Biographical File, NASA Historical Reference Collection.

86. Neil A. Armstrong, et al ., First on the Moon: A Voyage with Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. , Written with Gene Farmer and Dora Jane Hamblin (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970) Neil A. Armstrong, et al ., The First Lunar Landing: 20th Anniversary/as Told by the Astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, Michael Collins (Washington, DC: NASA EP-73, 1989) John Barbour, Footprints on the Moon (Washington, DC: The Associated Press, 1969) CBS News, 10:56:20 PM EDT, 7/20/69: The Historic Conquest of the Moon as Reported to the American People (New York: Columbia Broadcasting System, 1970) Henry S.F. Cooper, Apollo on the Moon (New York: Dial Press, 1969) Tim Furniss, "One Small Step"--The Apollo Missions, the Astronauts, the Aftermath: A Twenty Year Perspective (Somerset, England: G.T. Foulis & Co., 1989) Richard S. Lewis, Appointment on the Moon: The Inside Story of America's Space Adventure (New York: Viking, 1969) John Noble Wilford, We Reach the Moon: The New York Times Story of Man's Greatest Adventure (New York: Bantam Books, 1969).

87. On these missions see, W. David Compton, Where No Man Has Gone Before: A History of Apollo Lunar Exploration Missions (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4214, 1989) Stephen G. Brush, "A History of Modern Selenogony: Theoretical Origins of the Moon from Capture to Crash 1955-1984," Space Science Reviews , 47 (1988): 211-73 Stephen G. Brush, "Nickel for Your Thoughts: Urey and the Origin of the Moon," Science , 217 (3 September 1982): 891-98.

88. United States Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Apollo 13 Mission. Hearing, Ninety-first Congress, second session. April 24, 1970 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1970) United States Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Apollo 13 Mission. Hearing, Ninety-first Congress, second session. June 30, 1970 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1970) Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr., Thirteen: The Flight that Failed (New York: Dial Press, 1973) "Four Days of Peril Between Earth and Moon: Apollo 13, Ill-Fated Odyssey," Time , 27 April 1970, pp. 14-18 "The Joyous Triumph of Apollo 13," Life , 24 April 1970, pp. 28-36 NASA Office of Public Affairs, Apollo 13: "Houston, We've Got a Problem" (Washington, DC: NASA EP-76, 1970).

89. John Pike, "Apollo--Perspectives and Provocations," address to Cold War History Symposium, 11 May 1994, Ripley Center, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

90. See Arnold S. Levine, Managing NASA in the Apollo Era (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4102, 1982) Sylvia D. Fries, NASA Engineers and the Age of Apollo (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4104, 1992) Sylvia K. Kraemer, "Organizing for Exploration."

91. This seems to be a genuine strength of American engineering in general. See, Thomas P. Hughes, American Genesis: A Century of Invention and Technological Enthusiasm (New York: Viking, 1989).


Apollo 11 marks an important part of the American history. This is mainly because it marked the success of the United States against the Soviet Union. This also marked the first time a man stepped on the moon. The Apollo 11 is viewed as a realization of an American dream where the US won the cold war and rose as a super power because of its technological, scientific, and technical superiority.


Cortright, E. M. (Ed.). (2012). Apollo Expeditions to the Moon: The NASA History. Courier Dover Publications. Print.

Elvis, M. (2012). After Apollo: The American West in Devising a New Space Policy. Harvard International Review, 33(4), 38.

Godwin, R. (2005). Apollo 11: First men on the moon. Burlington, Ont: Apogee Books. Print.

Harland, D. M. (2007). The First Men on the Moon: The Story of Apollo 11. Springer. Print.

Keeping It Safe

Technology from the space race has also been applied to directly improve public safety and reduce the risk of accident and injury. Anti-icing systems allow aircraft to safely fly in cold weather. Safety grooving, which first was used to reduce aircraft accidents on wet runways, is now also used on our roadways to prevent car accidents. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors were first developed for the NASA Skylab program in the 1970s. Modern firefighting equipment widely used throughout the United States is based on NASA-developed lightweight fireproof materials.

One of the most important spinoff technologies is in the area of food safety. NASA was faced with the problem of feeding astronauts in confined environments under weightless conditions. They also could not tolerate potentially disastrous crumbs, bacteria or toxins. NASA teamed with the Pillsbury Company to develop the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) concept. HACCP is designed to prevent food safety problems during production, rather than catching them after they have occurred. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has used HACCP guidelines for the safe handling of seafood, juice and dairy products since the early 1990s.

How the Apollo Moon landings changed the world forever

Landing human beings on the Moon undoubtedly changed life on our planet forever. Below we take a look at the legacy of Apollo 11 and how it continues to shape our lives today.

This competition is now closed

Published: July 2, 2019 at 2:38 pm

On 20 July 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took their first steps on the Moon. But how did this monumental achievement change life as we know it, and what effect does the Apollo programme have on our life today?

Historians in 1969 had little idea whether Apollo would change the world.

On the night of the Apollo 11 landing, British historian AJP Taylor stated in a TV interview how he doubted the event would make any difference to the course of human history.

But it seems clear now that the six Apollo Moon landings did alter the world in many ways, covering the short, medium and long term.

The decision by the United States to land on the Moon before the end of the 1960s was born out of the ideological Cold War with the Soviet Union, which had been ongoing since the 1950s.

A precursor to the Apollo missions had been those of the Mercury Seven, who laid the groundwork for putting human feet on the Moon.

When President Kennedy addressed Congress on 25 May 1961 seeking support for the Apollo project, he spoke of how the US had to compete technologically and politically during the ongoing Cold War, saying: “If we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny… it is time for a great new American enterprise.”

Kennedy took the initiative, realising that there were geopolitical and economic reasons to invest government resources in advanced technology.

Eventually over 400,000 Americans would work on the Apollo programme.

The Moon Race became a test of ideological systems. Apollo 8 astronaut Frank Borman described his December 1968 flight around the Moon as “a battle in the Cold War”.

The Space Race is on

By spending a peak of over 4 per cent of its federal budget on space in 1965 and 1966, the US gained huge geopolitical and economic prestige.

The USSR had committed approximately half the US funding level, but had failed in its own attempts at a Moon landing project, which had started in 1963 in response to Apollo.

The US success saw the nation through the dark days of the Vietnam war to the early 1970s. Arguably, Apollo changed short and medium term geopolitical and economic history between the 1970s and 1990s.

By 1991 the Soviet Union had collapsed, ending the Cold War.

There is no doubt that the Apollo programme, undertaken openly for the world, had strongly contributed to the outcome of this superpower battle.

It was, according to many political commentators, like “fighting a war without direct casualties.”

There was more to Apollo than political posturing, however.

In Kennedy’s historic 1962 ‘we choose to go to the Moon’ speech he said Apollo could “in many ways hold the key to our future on Earth”.

Futurist space writers like Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, HG Wells, Olaf Stapledon and Arthur C Clarke had always proposed that humanity’s early exploration of the Solar System would represent a new destiny in the evolution of Homo sapiens as a species.

Armstrong’s carefully crafted words, “one giant leap for mankind”, recognised the symbolic change that was happening at this time.

After two million years of the evolution of Homo sapiens, humankind had reached the stage of being able to travel across interplanetary space – it had become a spacefaring species.

Tsiolkovsky’s deep words, “the Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in the cradle forever”, were being fulfilled.

Yet, rather than making us look out at our future beyond our planet, perhaps one of the programme’s most lasting legacies was changing how we looked at our own planet.

During the Apollo years of 1968-72, worldwide environmental concerns became evident.

Pressure groups like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace were established, while a report titled ‘The Limits to Growth’ set out what would happen to the planet should the population continue to grow and expand unchecked.

Environmentalist James Lovelock created his Gaia theory, viewing Earth as a self-regulating biosystem.

A new perspective

We have Apollo to thank for the powerful motivational images of this vulnerable planet taken from 384,000km away.

The Earthrise photo from the 1968 Apollo 8 mission resonated with the public in an unexpected way.

Allied to other images such as the famous Blue Marble whole-Earth photo taken by Harrison Schmitt in 1972, there was a striking change in our perception of the lonely Earth as an oasis of life in the cosmos.

As Anders said of the Apollo 8 mission: “We came all this way to explore the Moon and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth”.

Beyond this, an Apollo legacy must be the hope for future planet-wide initiatives.

The global-level inspiration that the Moon landings provided means projects like the reduction of carbon emissions could be seen as more viable, provided nations followed the emerging ‘we can land on the Moon and therefore achieve anything’ approach, with sufficient financial investment.

An example is the encouraging CFC reduction following a UN-led initiative – this used Apollo 17’s Blue Marble image of Earth.

An age of invention

If the political will is there, similarly Apollo-inspired efforts might well help feed the planet, properly attack world poverty and disease, plus of course address CO2 reduction internationally.

A key gift of Apollo, identified by space historian and film-maker Chris Riley, is the technological stimulus provided by the hi-tech nature of the NASA Moon programme.

Many practical products developed by NASA during the Apollo years are well known: cordless drills, PV (solar) panels, freeze-dried food, thermal insulation material, heat coatings and so on.

But Riley has also recorded how NASA approached Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop a small, lightweight computer to fit into the Apollo spacecraft.

The computer used reliable integrated circuits and NASA placed an order for one million of them from the Fairchild Semiconductor company.

This financial kick-start to the industry prompted two Fairchild employees to leave and form Intel in 1969.

From this, the computer revolution of the 1970–2000 period developed, leading to small PCs, smart phones, the internet and dot-com industries.

The technological gift from Apollo accelerated computer technology perhaps by 10–15 years, thanks to the knock-on effect within the industry.

Apollo also had a powerful inspirational effect on young STEM graduates across the world – there were three times more engineering and science PhDs following Apollo.

Professors Brian Cox, John Zarnecki, Martin Sweeting and World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee have referred to the inspiration of Apollo, while space entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Paul Allen and Jeff Bezos have all noted their own ‘Apollo effect’ calling.

Apollo was a world experience – 500 million watched the Moon landing in 1969, a fifth of the globe’s population.

Culturally, it can be argued that the ‘can-do’ attitude of NASA from the Apollo years is now respected on a worldwide scale.

The visceral and heroic nature of the human spaceflight adventure has become fascinating to young people in recent years, thanks to movies like Apollo 13 (1995) and First Man (2018) (both of which feature in our guide to the best space movies of all time).

Real space travellers, like the UK’s Tim Peake and the reluctant hero Neil Armstrong himself, are new role models.

Another key legacy of the Apollo Moon landings must be the deep philosophical consequence of mankind knowing that it achieved the extraordinary.

The common view of Apollo and the desire to ‘choose to go to the Moon’ is arguably at the core of the human spirit, with a common desire to explore and venture as far as possible from home – “because it’s there,” as Everest climber George Mallory put it.

There are new worlds to explore beyond Earth orbit and Apollo’s success confirmed that the dream of deep space travel is indeed achievable.

The Apollo message was highly emotional for many – Arthur C Clarke said at the launch of Apollo 11, “I cried for the first time in 20 years! … This is the last day of the old world”.

Apollo’s scientific legacy

While the first three Apollo missions were intended as a precursor to fuller lunar exploration, Apollo 15 to 17 opened up a detailed geological study of the Moon.

The crews found that the Moon has evolved over its 4.6 billion-year lifetime, being melted, erupting and impacted many times.

The Moon rocks brought back were similar in composition to Earth’s, although lacking iron and elements that could provide an atmosphere.

Samples as old as any on Earth were discovered, with the Apollo 15 ‘Genesis Rock’ dating back 4 billion years.

Thanks to Apollo, lunar cratering is now better understood, and Earth, Mars, Venus and Mercury’s cratering rates have been clarified.

Lunar mascons – areas where the lunar mass is more concentrated – were discovered beneath lunar basins, originating from impacts 3.2–3.6 billion years ago.

Theories explaining the difference between the thicker crust of the lunar far-side and the thinner Earth-facing side are now emerging.

As well as what the Apollo astronauts brought back in Moon rocks, scientists have learned from what they left behind, as laser reflectors placed on the surface by Apollo show that the Moon is slowly drifting away from Earth at a rate of about 4cm per year.

Return to the Moon

The last decade has seen a renewed interest in making the journey back to the lunar surface.

Apollo cost $160bn at today’s prices. Due to huge US spending on the Vietnam War, social deprivation and other concerns at home, in 1972 President Nixon cancelled the last three planned Apollo missions.

Saddened at the cuts, Arthur C Clarke said at the time: “The Solar System was lost, at least for a while, in the paddy fields of Vietnam,” but then later noted, “in the long perspective of history, a few odd decades of delay does not really matter.”

Post-Apollo ambitions, like NASA’s Project Constellation Moon return plan, did not work due to lack of funding, but in the last five years there has been renewed interest across the world, fired by water-ice discoveries at the lunar poles.

Following President Trump’s Space Policy Directive 1 in 2017, NASA is developing the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway space station, with European, Japanese and Canadian support.

Landing missions may occur by the late 2020s. Recently, Vice President Mike Pence called for a US return to the Moon as early as 2024 – an endeavour now called the Artemis mission.

Though President Trump has requested an additional $1.6 billion to NASA’s 2020 budget, many at NASA consider this too much of a challenge, and 2028 is probably the more realistic date.

The driving phrase from space agencies now is, “this time we will stay”!

After Apollo: key lunar events

1976 Luna 24 returns limited soil samples to Earth

1990 Japanese Hiten orbiter

1994 NASA’s Clementine observes the Moon

1998 NASA’s Lunar Prospector orbits

2006 SMART-1, ESA orbiter intentionally crashes

2007 Japanese SELENE orbiter

2009 Chinese Chang’e 1 orbits crashed deliberately

2007–15 Google Lunar X prize challenges private companies to land on the Moon

2008 Indian Chandrayaan 1 impacts – water discovered

2009 NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter takes detailed survey 2015 International Moon Village idea promoted by ESA

2017 Space Policy Directive 1 plans for US return to the Moon

2019 Chinese Chang’e 4 lands on the far side

2019 Israeli SpaceIL Beresheet probe crashes during landing

The future?

2021 Luna-Glob, Russian polar lander

2023 Chang’e sample return missions

2023 NASA/ESA Orion manned orbital flight EM-2

2024 Potential SpaceX lunar missions

2028 NASA-led Moon orbiting station, the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway

2030 International lunar outpost or village established at the South Pole. Partly self-sustaining via in situ resource utilisation

2030–40s Lunar water for fuel and air, accelerating future exploration of Mars and the Solar System

SpaceX plans to send paying tourists around moon

The UK may not know what it wants with Brexit. But it does know it wants a 10 percent share of the global space market by 2030.

Portugal has its space ambitions, too. It wants to build satellites and launch them from the Azores.

Add to that list companies and agencies in India, China, Israel, Australia, all competing to take shares from the traditional players, from rockets to launch sites.

Hey, Cape Canaveral, Baikonur, French Guyana — mind your backs!

Who hasn't been to the moon?

For decades, the list of countries who had made it to the moon numbered two.

That was Soviet Russia and the USA. And only the latter had landed people there.

But new players are storming the field.

Beresheet was Israel's attempt to put the first privately-funded probe on the moon. It crash landed in April 2019

China became the first country to land a spacecraft on the "dark side of the moon" in January 2019. It was launched on one of China's own rockets, too.

And India is next. Its plan to launch a robotic probe to the moon in the same week of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 was no coincidence. It also builds its own rockets.

And we dare not forget Iran or North Korea. If they can build missiles, they can build rockets, too.

Ironically, the one country that's relatively quiet on commercial space is Russia.


Apollo 11: Impact on the Modern Space Race - HISTORY

On Wednesday evening, Lamont-Doherty director Sean Solomon will speak on a panel honoring the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

Sean Solomon has served as the director of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory since 2012. Much of his recent research has focused on the geology and geophysics of the solar system’s inner planets. He was the principal investigator for NASA’s MESSENGER mission, which sent the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury and study the planet’s composition, geology, topography, gravity and magnetic fields, exosphere, magnetosphere, and heliospheric environment.

The beginning of Solomon’s research career coincided with the birth of a new field — planetary science. Below, he explains how Apollo 11 affected the scientific community at that time, how Lamont was involved, and what comes next for lunar exploration.

Solomon discussed these topics and more during a panel discussion entitled “Small Steps and Giant Leaps: How Apollo 11 Shaped Our Understanding of Earth and Beyond” on July 17. The event, hosted in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, was co-sponsored by the American Geophysical Union and the National Archives.

At what point were you in your career when Apollo 11 landed the first humans on the Moon?

I was a graduate student at MIT, and I was doing a thesis in seismology. However, I had written a paper about the interior structure of the Moon before the Apollo 11 mission. MIT faculty and students were holding discussions about the Moon in advance of the Apollo 11 landing, so we were primed to think about the impact of the mission’s findings.

How did the Moon landing affect you personally?

I was glued to the television set watching the landing and the Moon walks like everybody else. It was a singular event in history for humans to walk on another planetary body. It captivated everyone. The landing and Neil Armstrong’s first steps onto the lunar surface were watched, I would guess, by billions of people on this planet. So, it was a great event for the world’s population to come together and marvel at a profound technological achievement.

In terms of my own work, the mission led to an explosion of new data about the Moon. I included lunar work in my research agenda for a number of years thereafter, using data from all of the Apollo missions, from the findings of sample analyses to the observations from the orbital and surface experiments that Apollo carried.

July 20th marks 50 years since the Apollo 11 moon landing. Photo: NASA

How did this mission affect the scientific community as a whole?

There was really no field of planetary science in 1969, just a handful of people who called themselves planetary astronomers and studied other worlds through telescopes or with theoretical work. NASA had sent spacecraft to Venus and Mars by the time of Apollo 11, so there were a few people who were working on planetary data, but the space age was less than 12 years old at the time of the first Moon landing. Almost everybody who worked on the scientific return from the Apollo program came from other fields — earth science, chemistry, or physics — and they became lunar scientists. NASA’s investments brought in huge numbers of scientific experts and funded new instruments and labs across the county to create a lunar community that hadn’t been there before.

It’s also important to remember that nearly coincident with the Apollo program was an explosion of robotic missions to explore other parts of the solar system. Within a few years of Apollo 11 we had launched spacecraft to fly by Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn. It was an enormous expansion of our presence in space that was enabled by a healthy NASA built up to conduct the Apollo missions but an agency that also had the budget and the engineering expertise to figure out how to explore the rest of the solar system by spacecraft. The field of planetary science came into its own in those few years after Apollo.

Can you tell me a little bit about Lamont’s involvement with Apollo 11?

Several Apollo missions carried a seismic experiment led by Lamont’s Gary Latham (left), shown here monitoring the signal from his experiment. Photo: NASA

Lamont was very heavily involved in the Apollo program and was much more active in planetary research than it is now. There were Lamont scientists who were in line to receive some of the first samples brought back from the Moon. At least equally importantly, Lamont was a leader in the geophysical exploration of the Moon. Over the course of the Apollo missions there were several geophysical experiments, but the one that spanned nearly all of the missions was the passive seismic experiment. And several early Lamont seismologists had teamed together to put that experiment on Apollo, including Maurice Ewing, Frank Press, Gary Latham — the principal investigator — and other team members from Lamont as well.

In later Apollo missions, astronauts measured the heat flowing out from the lunar interior. The Apollo Heat Flow Experiment was led by Marcus Langseth, a Lamont scientist for whom our current research ship is named. Also, during the Apollo 17 mission, there was a gravimeter that was mounted on the astronauts’ rover to measure the variation in lunar gravity over the course of the rover traverse. That experiment was led by Manik Talwani, who by then was the Lamont director.

Ewing was studying seismology in the ocean basins before he was contacted by NASA. How does that relate to studying seismology on the Moon?

Ewing pioneered the use of seismology to study the crust beneath the oceans. He took seismic experiments to a venue where there had never been such experiments before. And with them he showed that oceanic crust is different from continental crust. So when he had the opportunity to send a seismometer to the Moon, it was another chance to make seismic experiments in a new place, just as he had done in the oceans, and he was sure he’d learn something new.

Why is learning about the Moon so important to us?

Landing humans on the Moon and bringing them back safely was a formidable technological challenge. And the time within which that was accomplished was incredibly short. The first human spaceflight was in 1961. Kennedy’s speech announcing that we would go to the Moon before the end of the decade was in 1961. Within only eight years we not only figured out how to send humans to the Moon and get them back, but we actually did it. That was the first time in human history that a person set foot on another planetary body. It’s something that will never happen again.

Apollo also provided our first detailed look at another planetary body. And it showed us how special the Earth-Moon system is. It was the Apollo 11 mission that demonstrated convincingly for the first time how ancient the Moon is — the samples brought back were more than 3 billion years old. We learned that the Moon recorded and illuminated a period of solar system history that we hadn’t begun to appreciate through our study of Earth. There’s no rock record on Earth for the first half billion years, but there is on the Moon. And because the Moon is our satellite, it’s part of our history, too. We learned how violent and chaotic the earliest history of the solar system was. We wouldn’t have gained that perspective without leaving Earth.

How do you think we were able to send humans to the moon so quickly?

As a nation, we put a big priority on meeting the goal that Kennedy set out. And throughout most of the 1960s we had Democratic presidents, Kennedy and Johnson, who were supportive of that program. In the 60s, the funding was there, and America’s reputation was at stake. There were military implications to the control of space. We were in the middle of the Cold War. There were many reasons we put the resources behind the Apollo program. NASA was a pretty daring agency at that time. They were willing to take risks. They didn’t want to risk more human lives than they needed to, but the astronauts were putting their lives on the line. The first astronauts were test pilots, who risked their lives every day over the course of their work they knew what the risks were. NASA was a different agency back in the 60s than it has been since. Their engineers and managers set their sights high and did what they needed to do to meet schedules. And they had the resources to do it.

How have lunar missions changed from the time of Apollo 11 to present day?

When the Apollo program was underway we were sending two missions a year to different parts of the Moon. There was to have been an Apollo 18, an Apollo 19, and an Apollo 20, but these were expensive missions, and in 1972 the U.S. was spending a lot of money fighting the war in Vietnam. Those missions were cancelled, even though all of the hardware had been built and the astronauts that would fly those missions had been selected, and that decision ended the Apollo program. It was a challenge to devise experiments that could build on Apollo’s legacy and yet be done inexpensively with robotic spacecraft, which were being sent to many other targets — Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, and, a few years later, Uranus and Neptune.

NASA did not return again to the Moon until the 1990s, with the Clementine orbiter — sponsored jointly with the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization — and the Lunar Prospector orbiter. Ten years ago, NASA launched the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which is still operating at the Moon, and other missions have followed. Space organizations in other countries have also launched lunar missions, including the Soviet Union prior to and even after the Apollo missions, and later Japan, India, China, and Israel. In the U.S. and abroad, there are commercial entities that have their sights set on lunar landing. And earlier this year NASA announced plans to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024. If that goal is to be met, partnership with the commercial sector will be needed.

What do you hope the takeaway of the reignited interest surrounding the Moon landing will be?

I hope for two takeaway messages. First, the Apollo 11 mission was not only a remarkable technological achievement in the history of our species, but it also marked a “giant leap” in our appreciation of Earth’s place in our planetary system. And second, the Moon today still holds answers to important questions about the early history of our planet, and there remain myriad scientific as well as political and commercial reasons to return.

50 Years Later: Historians discuss impact of Apollo 11

It all started with a declaration by a president in the midst of a cold war.

Apollo 11 50th Anniversary: The lasting impact of landing on the moon

Saturday, July 20, marks the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon. Those five decades have allowed historians to realize the impact Apollo 11 has had not just on the U.S., but on mankind.

It all started with a declaration by President John F. Kennedy in the midst of a cold war.

"We choose to go to the moon," President Kennedy famously said in 1962.

The American space program was struggling, and the Soviet Union was winning the race to space. Before the U.S. successfully reached the lunar surface, Americans watched the Soviet Union put the first satellite, Sputnik I, and humans into orbit.

"I think of it as a military mission that we had to beat the Soviets because it wasn't just for global prestige, but to show the world that democracy was a more efficient form of government than communism," said historian and author of "American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and The Great Space Race" Douglas Brinkley.

At the time of Kennedy's speech, the U.S. didn't know how to get to the moon and didn't have a big enough rocket to reach it. The project ended up costing $25 billion dollars -- a controversial expense throughout the 1960s.

"That was a tumultuous couple of years in the late 1960s," historian and author of "Apollo's Legacy: Perspectives on the Moon Landings" Roger Launius said. "Height of Vietnam, urban unrest, civil unrest. For a very brief period of time in 1969, everybody sort of paused and paid attention to this."

It wasn't an easy feat to bring people together, but Kennedy's challenge had touched a nerve in America's psyche.

"Somewhere deep in the American DNA is this belief in pioneer spirit, frontier spirit, like cowboys and explorers, like Lewis and Clark, and space fulfilled that romanticization of the American ideal," Brinkley said. "These were space cowboys."

On July 20, 1969, that American ideal was realized and millions watched as Neil Armstrong took the "giant leap for mankind."

"Neil Armstrong is one of the most romanticized figures in American history," Brinkley said. "But he was the least romantic of men. He just was about, 'Mission accomplished,' and, 'I'm doing it for the sake of my country, for my government, for democracy.'"

For Brinkley, Apollo 11's mission was an "epic moment in civilization," but he recalls an "empty" feeling after it was complete.

"We did it and it was sort of feeling like, 'Well now what?'" Brinkley said.

The U.S. did not become a space-faring nation, but the technology that took us to the moon is now pocket-sized. Those innovations were all fueled by the program that brought man to the moon.

"NASA was the great laboratory for the modern economy of today," Brinkley said of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). "The beginnings of the Internet began in 1969. The length between the tech revolution of the 1970's and NASA have a direct linkage and that's the world we're living in today."

Apollo 11's 50th anniversary has been widely-celebrated with events across the country -- bringing people together just like it did 50 years ago.

"Five hundred years from now if you think about the 20th century this is one of two or three of the things that you will think about," Launius said.

ABC News' Nate Luna and Christine Theodorou contributed to this report.

The impact of Apollo 11

On the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, columnist Dale Brosius reflects on the past and future of advanced composites use in spacecraft.
#perspectives-and-provocations #polyacrylonitrile #precursor


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Looking back at the Apollo 11 spacecraft as the tower is moved away during a Countdown Demonstration Test (July 11, 1969). Source | NASA

It&rsquos July 20 as I start this column, exactly fifty years since Apollo 11 became the first space mission to land Earthlings on the moon. After the landing, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent a few hours collecting dust and rocks from the lunar surface before catching a bit of sleep and departing to rendezvous with Michael Collins in the command module orbiting above. The trio successfully splashed down in the ocean three days later, completing the first manned mission to the moon, which had been promised by President John F. Kennedy eight years earlier in 1961.

The night of the landing, I was one month shy of my 11th birthday. Right after Armstrong took his first steps on the surface, my younger brother and I ran outside, looked into the sky and both claimed we could &ldquosee the astronauts on the moon!&rdquo Of course, we couldn&rsquot, but as sibling rivalries go, neither of us would be willing to admit that! We lived in a Houston suburb, only 15 miles from NASA Mission Control, and without a doubt the Apollo program, especially Apollo 11, inspired my already engineering-inclined mind to pursue a career based in science.

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Humans have had a fascination with the moon for millennia. An estimated 600 million people, or one-sixth of the global population at the time, watched the moon landing live. That&rsquos impressive. To put this event in perspective, 1969 was the year The Beatles released &ldquoAbbey Road&rdquo and that summer there was also this little music festival called Woodstock. While the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was already developing the backbone of what would, in 1974, be termed &ldquothe Internet,&rdquo it would take until 1989 before the World Wide Web was a thing, and until 1991 before it became widely available to the public. True personal computers appeared in 1977, and mobile phones everyone could buy didn&rsquot happen until 1984.

Apollo was built upon a long history of rocket science. Even today, all rockets are governed by the famous equation developed in 1903 by Russian visionary and scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who first postulated the concept of escape velocity to defeat Earth&rsquos gravity. Although he never built a rocket, Tsiolkovsky inspired the famous scientists who did, including American Robert Goddard and Germans Hermann Oberst and his protégé Werner von Braun. After World War II, von Braun emigrated to the U.S. and was instrumental in establishing the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo efforts.

What role, if any, did composites play in Apollo? Aside from the ablative head shield on the command module &mdash a mix of epoxy phenolic novolac resins potted into a fiberglass honeycomb &mdash it&rsquos hard to say. It&rsquos possible that composites using fiberglass and/or boron fibers found their way onto certain non-critical components. Although carbon fiber composites based on rayon fibers were available, they were not known for having high strength or stiffness. PAN-based carbon fiber became commercially available around 1970, too late for Apollo, which completed its last mission in 1972.

On the other hand, advanced composites have played significant roles in spacecraft developed since Apollo. The Space Shuttle used advanced composites extensively during its run after Apollo, flying from 1981 to 2011, a period of 30 years. Satellites, space telescopes, the International Space Station and launch vehicles are enabled by the properties of carbon fiber. No doubt future vehicles, perhaps returning to the moon or going to Mars, will rely on advanced composite materials to fulfill their missions.

NASA's Apollo technology has changed history

Forty years after astronauts on NASA's Apollo 11 spacecraft first landed on the moon, many experts say the historic event altered the course of space exploration as well man's view of itself in the universe.

The Apollo missions also had another major affect on the world -- rapidly accelerating the pace of technology development. The work of NASA engineers at the time caused a dramatic shift in electronics and computing systems, scientists say.

Without the research and development that went into those space missions, top companies like Intel Corp. may not have been founded, and the population likely wouldn't be spending a big chunk of work and free time using laptops and Blackberries to post information on Facebook or Twitter.

"During the mid- to late-1960s, when Apollo was being designed and built, there was significant advancement," said Scott Hubbard, who worked at NASA for 20 years before joining the faculty at Stanford University, where he is a professor in the aeronautics and astronautics department. "Power consumption. Mass. Volume. Data rate. All the things that were important to making space flight feasible led to major changes in technology. A little told story is how much NASA, from the Cold War up through the late '80s or early '90s affected technology."

It's fairly well-known that technology developed by NASA scientists routinely makes its way into products developed in the robotics, computer hardware and software, nanotechnology, aeronautics, transportation and health care industries. While the story that Tang, the bright orange powdered beverage, was developed for astronauts is just a myth, many other advancements - think micro-electromechanical systems, supercomputers and microcomputers, software and microprocessors - were also created using technology developed by NASA over the past half century.

Hubbard noted that overall, $7 or $8 in goods and services are still produced for every $1 that the government invests in NASA.

But the string of Apollo missions alone -- which ran from the ill-fated, never-flown Apollo 1 mission in 1967 to Apollo 17, the last to land men on the moon, in 1972 - had a critical, and often overlooked impact on technology at a key time in the computer industry.

Daniel Lockney, the editor of Spinoff, NASA's annual publication that reports on the use of the agency's technologies in the private sector, said the advancements during the Apollo missions were staggering.

"There were remarkable discoveries in civil, electrical, aeronautical and engineering science, as well as rocketry and the development of core technologies that really pushed technology into the industry it is today," he said. "It was perhaps one of the greatest engineering and scientific feats of all time. It was huge. The engineering required to leave Earth and move to another heavenly body required the development of new technologies that before hadn't even been thought of. It has yet to be rivaled."

Lockney cited several technologies that can be directly linked engineering work done for the Apollo missions.

Software designed to manage a complex series of systems onboard the capsules is an ancestor to the software that today is used in retail credit card swipe devices, he said. And race car drivers and firefighters today use liquid-cooled garments based on on the devices created for Apollo astronauts to wear under their spacesuits. And the freeze-dried foods developed for Apollo astronauts to eat in space are used today in military field rations, known as MREs, and as part of survival gear.

And those technologies are just a drop in the bucket to importance of the development of the integrated circuit, and the emergence of Silicon Valley, which were very closely linked to the Apollo program.

The development of that integrated circuit, the forbearer to the microchip, basically is a miniaturized electronic circuit that did away with the manual assembly of separate transistors and capacitors. Revolutionizing electronics, integrated circuits are used in nearly all electronic equipment today.

While Robert Noyce, co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and then Intel Corp. is credited with co-founding the microchip, Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments demonstrated the first working integrated circuit that was built for the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA.

NASA, according to Lockney, set the parameters of what it needed out of the technology and then Kilby designed it. Kilby later won the Nobel Prize in Physics for for creating the technology.

"The co-investment between defense and civilian space was very real and hugely important," said Hubbard.

"With Apollo, they needed to cut down on weight and power consumption. Mass into space equals money," he said. "It has been and continues to be about $10,000 a pound to get to lower Earth orbit. They certainly don't want computers that take up basketball courts. They want something very powerful and very light that doesn't take massive power. That was one of the driving requirements that led to the development of the integrated circuit, where you put all the components on a chip rather than having a board stuffed with individual transistors and other circuit components."

He added that the microchip took the high-tech industry to a place of mass production and economies of scale.

"There was a major shift in electronics and computing and at least half credit goes to Apollo," said Hubbard. "Without it, you wouldn't have a laptop. You'd still have things like the Univac."

Sharon Gaudin is a science writer at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and an experienced technology reporter.

Watch the video: The Space Race 1955-1975 (August 2022).