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Apollo 11 Mission

Kennedy's Dream

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Apollo 11 Mission Patch

Apollo 11 Mission Patch

NASA
"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

President Kennedy
Rice University
Houston, Texas
September 12, 1962

The Space Race, and competition to land on the moon was a product of the Cold War. Not only was it an effort to prove technological superiority, but there was also a real fear on both sides that the other might place weapons of mass destruction in space.

The Soviet Union was ahead of the US in this effort. So far, they had placed the first artificial satellite in orbit, with the launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. On April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth! From the time he entered office in 1961, President John F. Kennedy made it a priority to place a man on the moon.

Ostensibly, the purposes of a manned lunar mission would be to study the internal structure of the moon, surface composition, how the surface structure was formed and the age of the moon. They would also investigate traces of volcanic activity, the rate of solid objects hitting the moon, presence of any magnetic fields, and tremors. Samples would also be gathered of lunar soil and detected gases.

The early manned flights of the Mercury and Gemini missions had demonstrated that humans could survive in space. Next came the Apollo missions, whose purpose would be the landing of humans on the moon.

First would come unmanned test flights. These would be followed by manned missions testing the command module in Earth's orbit. Next, the lunar module would be connected to the command module, still in Earth's orbit. Then, the first flight to the moon would be attempted, followed by the first attempt to land on the moon. There would eventually be plans for as many as 20 apollo missions.

Early in the program, a tragedy occured which nearly killed the program, and did kill three astronauts.

A fire aboard the ship during tests of the Apollo/Saturn 204 (more commonly known as Apollo 1 mission) left all three crewmembers (Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, {the second American astronaut to fly into space} astronaut Edward H. White II, {the first American astronaut to "walk" in space} and astronaut Roger B. Chaffee) dead.

After an investigation had been completed, and changes made, the program continued. No mission was ever conducted with the name Apollo 2 or Apollo 3. Apollo 4 launched on 9 November 1967 was the first all-up launch of Saturn V platform. It was followed on 22 January 1968 with Apollo 5, the first test of the Lunar Module in space. The final unmanned Apollo Mission was Apollo 6 which launched on 4 April 1968.

The manned Apollo missions began with Apollo 7's Earth orbit, which launched 11 October 1968 and splashed down on 22 October 1968. Apollo 8 launched on 21 December 1968, orbited the moon and returned to Earth 27 December 1968. Apollo 9 was another Earth orbit mission, launching 03 March 1969, testing the lunar module and splashing down on 13 March 1969.

Finally, the Apollo 10 mission was a complete staging of the Apollo 11 mission without actually landing on the Moon. The mission, which launched 18 May 1969, was the second to orbit the Moon and the first to travel to the Moon with the entire Apollo spacecraft configuration. Astronauts Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan decended inside the Lunar Module to within 14 kilometers of the lunar surface achieving the closest approach to date to the Moon.

The splashdown on May 26, 1969, of Apollo 10 cleared the way for the first formal attempt at a manned lunar landing.

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