In 1961, President John Kennedy announced the United States' enter into the space race, with a series of exploration flights known as Project Apollo.
He declared it our country's goal to land on the moon and bring back all of the astronauts safely. This goal was realized in 1969, with Apollo 11, but a number of events in Project Apollo led up to this final success.
Project Apollo was an idea originally brought to light with President Eisenhower, but it wasn't until the 1960s that the concept really took hold, mainly because of the Cold War. It became a race to the moon, since it was understood that the most powerful country would be the one to land on the moon first.
The United States didn't want to be left in the dust, especially because a communist country was the other major contender, so the Apollo Project aggressively attacked problems in order to achieve a moon landing.
NASA came up with four different plans for moon landing, but ultimately decided on a technique called lunar orbit rendezvous, or LOR.
With this plan, which was carried out, the spacecraft was separated into to separate modules, one in which to house the astronauts, and one in which the astronauts could travel to the moon from orbit. This was seen as the safest and quickest way to reach the moon before any other country.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of NASA personnel and dozens of astronauts flew in Apollo missions, but the most famous are the crewmembers from Apollo 11, who first landed on the moon in 1969. This crew was comprised of a primary crew of Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin.
Their backup crew consisted of James Lovell, Bill Anders, and Fred Haise, and their support crew was made up of Charles Moss Duke, Jr, Ronald Evans, Owen K. Garriott, Don L. Lind, Ken mattingly, Bruce McCandless II, Harrison Schmitt, Bill Pogue, and Jack Swigert. Flight directors were Clifford E. Charlesworth, Gerald D. Griffin, Gene Krans, and Glynn S. Lunney.
The launch of Apollo 11 on July 16, 1968 was a highly publicized event, with over a million people watching from the launch site and over 600 million, including the current president, Richard Nixon, tuning in. Four days later, the crew touched down on the moon, and Aldrin named the site Tranquility Base.
Six and a half hours later, on July 21, Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, saying the famous words, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Aldrin's first words, which are less famous but still recognizable, were "Beautiful. Beautiful. Magnificent desolation. The two astronauts spent the next few hours on the moon, doing experiments and gathering data.
After they returned to earth, the three-man crew was quarantined for fear there were undiscovered illnesses to be picked up on the moon. After three weeks they were deemed healthy, and on the day of their release, August 13, they were the honorees of parades in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Apollo 11 wasn't the end of the Apollo project, nor the end of the space program, but it did give the United State an edge in the world's Cold War situation. In November of that same year, Apollo 12 landed on the moon and recovered pieces of the Surveyor 2 Probe, and earlier launch.
The infamous Apollo 13 explosion less than a year later made the public uneasy about space travel, but Project Apollo launched Apollos 14, 15, 16, and 17 to further study the moon. Due to budget cuts and interest in other areas of space exploration, the program was then largely cancelled, or at least, put on hold. However, a number of missions in the late 1960s and 1970s used Apollo hardware, giving new life to old projects.
Today, the impact these men made on space exploration is evident. Although some conspiracy theorists claim that the moon landing never took place, this is clearly an impossible claim, as the research done and data collected from Project Apollo has given the United States and the rest of the world the information need to move forward in the filed of space exploration.
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