The Apollo Spacecraft, A Chronology – Free e-books (4 volumes)

A four volume chronological history of Apollo published by NASA


The Forward of each volume provides an outstanding overview of the content and they are reproduced below. Links to download Volumes 1 to 4 are provided at the end of this article.

Volume 1 – Foreword

The chronology of the development of the Apollo spacecraft and the lunar mission provides specific documented information covering a wide range of happenings both directly and indirectly related to the program. This wealth of material should be of value to historians and others interested in the events of the great adventure. The foreword presents a synopsis of the first several years of the program as seen from the vantage point of the first Apollo Project Office Manager. It is hoped that it will aid the user of the chronology by providing context for some of the material presented.

A discussion of the Apollo Spacecraft Program must include reference to the Mercury and Gemini Programs, not because they are manned space programs but because of the interrelationship between the programs in time, in people, and in organizations, and the differences and similarities in the requirements of the programs. The Mercury Program had a very specific objective, namely to place a man in orbit and return him to earth. The Gemini Program was somewhat different. It was operating in the same earth orbital environment as Mercury but had as its goal a number of objectives which were intended to explore and develop our capabilities to work in this environment. In doing this, the Gemini Program had more resources than Mercury, in terms of increased payload weight in orbit. Apollo is more like Mercury. It has a well-defined objective that involves moving into a new environment deep space – and resources that offer little if any payload capability beyond that required to achieve the objective. Perhaps the Apollo Applications Program will be to Apollo what Gemini has been to Mercury, establishing an operational capability in an environment which has been first explored in a prior program.

The Mercury project was formally initiated in October 1958 and at that time the Space Task Group was formed to manage the project. This group and others had been studying the specifics of the program for over a year at Langley and other NACA Centers. During 1959, the requirements of the Mercury Program left no time for advanced program study by the Space Task Group. In 1960, the first organized activity related to advanced mission study began. Committee studies, such as that carried out by the Goett Committee, had indicated that the lunar mission should be the next major manned objective. With this in mind, a series of technical guidelines was developed to guide the spacecraft studies. These guidelines were based on assumptions that launch vehicles then planned were capable only of circumlunar flight rather than lunar landing and that there were enough unknowns related to the lunar mission that the hardware should be equally capable of advanced earth orbital missions as an alternative.

Based on the technical guidelines, three efforts were undertaken. A formal liaison activity was set up with other NASA Centers to stimulate and encourage their research and studies toward the lunar mission, using the guidelines as a general reference. Three system study contracts were let to industry and a preliminary design study was conducted by Space Task Group personnel. This total effort took approximately one year and culminated in a conference held in Washington in June 1961. These studies were primarily based on a circumlunar mission with the intent that the hardware elements developed would have application to a later lunar mission.

Concurrent with the completion of this year of study effort in the Spring of 1961, two events of utmost significance to the program took place. The first U.S. manned suborbital flight, of Lt. Cdr. Alan B. Shepard, Jr., was successful. Shortly thereafter, President John F. Kennedy announced the national objective of a manned lunar landing mission within the decade.

As a follow-on to the study effort of the previous year, specifications were being prepared for the command and service modules so a contract could be let to industry. These specifications were changed to acknowledge the requirement for a lunar landing rather than a circumlunar mission. Since the lunar-mission launch vehicle had not been determined, it was assumed that a single launch vehicle would insert a spacecraft into the lunar trajectory and that the command and service modules would land on the lunar surface with the aid of a third module which would decelerate the total spacecraft as it approached the surface. The launch vehicle required for this approach was never fully defined but was of the class referred to as the Nova.

During the Spring and Summer of 1961, work statements and specifications were completed and issued to industry for the command and service modules. During the Fall, proposals were evaluated and a contractor was selected in November 1961. Throughout this period, practically all Space Task Group activity had been directed toward the command and service modules; launch vehicle studies by Marshall Space Flight Center and others had led to a selection of the Saturn C-5 as the lunar launch vehicle in the Fall of 1961.

This decision eliminated the lunar mission approach previously described, involving the Nova class vehicle, and offered two alternatives. The first involved the use of two Saturn C-5’s and an earth orbit rendezvous to mate the spacecraft module, plus an earth-to-moon rocket stage. This would allow a landing of the entire spacecraft, employing a third module to decelerate the command and service modules to the lunar surface; then a launch from the lunar surface would use the servicemodule propulsion. The other alternative was to use a single Saturn C-5 launch vehicle carrying the entire spacecraft, consisting of three modules. The third module, instead of being an unmanned module whose purpose was to decelerate the other two modules to the lunar surface, would be a manned module which would go to the lunar surface from lunar orbit and return, while the command and service modules waited in lunar orbit to rendezvous with the third module.

This latter approach had been studied by the Langley Research Center and others during 1960 and 1961. At first it was not received enthusiastically by the Space Task Group in comparison with the Nova direct approach previously described.

In late 1961, the Space Task Group (redesignated Manned Spacecraft Center, November 1, 1961) personnel moved to Houston and initiated studies of the two remaining approaches offered by the C-5 vehicle. Studies were also being conducted by Marshall, Headquarters, and other groups. The Manned Spacecraft Center study concentrated on the feasibility of the lunar orbit rendezvous method and the definition of the lunar module, then known as the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module). In the Spring of 1962, the Manned Spacecraft Center studies indicated the desirability of the lunar orbit rendezvous approach as opposed to the earth orbit rendezvous approach. Discussions were held with Headquarters and Marshall. It was decided to complete preparation of the work statement and specifications for the LEM and to issue them to industry. This was done in the Summer and contractors’ proposals were evaluated. In early November, the final decision was made to go the lunar orbit rendezvous approach. A contractor was selected and negotiations were completed by the end of 1962.

Parallel to the effort related to mission selection, specifications preparation, and contractor selection for the major modules, additional work was being done on the navigation and guidance system. During this 1960 study phase previously described, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was conducting a study of concepts for the Apollo system. It was subsequently decided that MIT would be given the navigation and guidance system task, with support from appropriate industrial contractors. The contract with MIT was signed in August 1961, the support contractor work statements and specifications were prepared and issued in early 1962, and three contractors were selected in the Spring of that year.

In summary, the period through 1962 was one of mission definition and major contractor selection. With the selection of the lunar orbit rendezvous mission mode and the LEM contractor, the program was in a position to move into specific design efforts.

Volume 2 – Foreword

This, the second volume of the Apollo Spacecraft Chronology, takes up the story where the first left off, in November 1962. The first volume dealt with the birth of the Apollo Program and traced its early development. The second concerns its teenage period, up to September 30, 1964.

By late 1962 the broad conceptual design of the Apollo spacecraft and the Apollo lunar landing mission was complete. The Administrator formally advised the President of the United States on December 10 that NASA had selected lunar orbit rendezvous over direct ascent and earth orbit rendezvous as the mode for landing on the moon. All major spacecraft contractors had been selected; detailed system design and early developmental testing were under way.

On October 20, 1962, soon after Wally Schirra’s six-orbit mission in Sigma 7, the first formal overall status review of the Apollo spacecraft and flight mission effort was given to Administrator James E. Webb. The writer of this foreword, who was then the Assistant Director for Apollo Spacecraft Development, recalls George Low, then Director of Manned Spacecraft and Flight Missions under D. Brainerd Holmes, discussing the planning schedule for completion of the Mercury Project in 1963, initiation of Gemini flights in 1964, and the start of Apollo earth orbital flights in 1965. Major design features of the spacecraft and subsystems were discussed and so were facilities, training, flight mission plans, and resources. At the conclusion of the review, Mr. Webb, Dr. Dryden, and Dr. Seamans commented favorably on the overview provided and on the accomplishments and hard planning that had been completed. The chronology of events during the subsequent two years, as summarized herein, provides an interesting comparison with the plans as discussed that day; we came very close to what was planned for 1963 and 1964.

During 1963 formal contract negotiations with the previously selected major spacecraft contractors were completed. In addition most of the contractors for major facilities and support activities on the ground were selected. The latter group included Radio Corporation of America to furnish the spacecraft vacuum test chamber at Houston, Bell Aerosystems for the lunar landing training vehicle, Philco Corporation as prime contractor for the Mission Control Center, Link Division of General Precision, Inc., for the lunar mission simulators, and International Business Machines for the Real Time Computer Complex at Houston’s Mission Control Center.

Also in 1963 the Office of Manned Space Flight was reorganized under its new leader, George E. Mueller, to strengthen its systems engineering and integration role in overall management of the Apollo-Saturn Program. In December Dr. Mueller brought in General Sam Phillips as Deputy Director of the Apollo Program. Soon thereafter Phillips was named Apollo Program Director. A comparable reorganization took place at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston as the tempo of spacecraft module design and development increased. At the same time, the prime contractors were selecting and completing negotiations with their subcontractors and suppliers for the thousands of subsystems and components involved. The government-industry team for carrying out the Apollo spacecraft and flight mission related tasks was essentially complete by late 1963. Concurrently, similar activities were proceeding for the Saturn launch vehicles at the Marshall Space Flight Center and for launch site preparation at the Kennedy Space Center, as it was named by President Johnson on November 28, 1963.

Meanwhile, a series of basic program decisions were made; these enabled the spacecraft and lunar landing mission design teams to proceed into detail design. Among these decisions were the following:

  • Nominal earth landing would be on the water. This was a change from the original plan which provided for earth landing in either Australia or the southwestern United States. The change was made primarily to take advantage of the softer impact conditions afforded by water landing, although the operational flexibility afforded by ocean landing was an additional favorable factor.
  • CSM to LM transposition and docking would be by the free flying mode. This meant that, after injection into translunar trajectory, the crew would detach the CSM from its launch position and would rotate the spacecraft 180 degrees and manually maneuver it into a docked position with the LM.
  • The crew would operate the LM from standing position.
  • The spacecraft guidance computer would use micrologic design.
  • The Lunar Module would have a four-legged, deployable landing gear. This was a change from the original Grumman configuration which had five legs.
  • The Lunar Module would be capable of supporting the effective operation of two men on the lunar surface for up to 24 hours, plus 24 hours in flight.

At the same time, rapid progress was made on the development of the spacecraft, on the Saturn launch vehicles, and on the facilities to support them. Typical events in 1963 included:

  • The service propulsion prototype engine successfully completed initial firings.
  • The first of a number of parachute malfunctions occurred during development drop tests.
  • The impact test facility for development and verification of the Command Module landing system at the North American plant in Downey, California, was completed.
  • Flight of Saturn SA-4 verified the capability of the Saturn first stage to operate satisfactorily after a simulated in-flight failure of one engine.
  • The Little Joe II launch complex at White Sands was completed and the first Little Joe II test article was launched successfully.
  • The LM-1 lunar module mockup was completed.
  • Prototype fuel cells were delivered by Pratt & Whitney to North American.
  • The first pad abort test was successfully completed at White Sands.
  • The J-2 engine successfully completed its initial long duration firing.

The Mercury Program ended with Gordon Cooper’s 34-hour earth orbit mission on May 15-16, 1963, the unmanned Lunar Orbiter Project was approved, and scientific guidelines for the Apollo mission were promulgated. A new group of 14 astronauts, including Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins, who were destined to join Neil Armstrong in the first lunar landing mission, was selected in October 1963.

Dr. Mueller, in the fall of 1963, introduced something that was to have a mighty effect on “landing before this decade is out.” It was called “all-up testing.” Under the “all-up” concept, launch vehicle and spacecraft development flights were combined, with all elements active and as close to lunar configuration as possible, beginning with the very first flight. This plan replaced the more conventional approach of making initial launch vehicle tests with dummy upper stages and dummy spacecraft.

Because the Saturn I flight program was of an interim non-lunar configuration, it was curtailed and four manned earth orbital flights with the Saturn launch vehicle were canceled. The Saturn IB development for manned flight was accelerated and all Saturn IB flights, beginning with SA-201, would carry operational spacecraft. Similarly, the Saturn V development flights, beginning with 501, would be in “all-up” configuration and vehicle 501 would be used to obtain reentry data on the Apollo spacecraft. The first manned flight on both the Saturn IB and V would follow two successful unmanned flights, so that the first manned flights could be as early as vehicles 203 and 503 for the IB and V, respectively. This would exploit early successful flight operation of the new launch vehicles by reducing the total number of flights required to qualify the lunar flight configuration for manned operations. The first manned flight on a Saturn V did of course take place on vehicle 503 in December 1968 – the successful Apollo 8 mission.

Another Mueller innovation was the Apollo Executives Group, which first met in the fall of 1963. It brought together senior officials of the major Apollo-Saturn contractors, such as the Presidents of North American, Boeing, and Grumman, with senior NASA Manned Space Flight executives (Mueller, von Braun, Gilruth, and Debus). These periodic meetings proved to be an excellent mechanism for opening lines of communication at the top, for assuring timely top management attention to the most important problems as they arose, and for assuring a coordinated team effort on the many faceted Apollo-Saturn activities. A similar group of Gemini Executives was also set up; there was considerable cross-communication between the two since several of the same organizations were involved in both programs.

During 1964 ground and flight development activity accelerated further and the first of many flight components, the launch escape rockets built by the Lockheed Propulsion Company, successfully completed qualification testing.

In early 1964, the Block II CSM lunar-orbit-rendezvous configuration guidelines were forwarded by NASA to North American, and the Block II mockup was formally reviewed in September of that year. The Block I configuration had been configured before the LOR mode was chosen; as a consequence, it did not have the docking and crew-transfer provisions which, among other changes, were incorporated in the Block II.

The first Gemini mission, a successful unmanned test flight, was launched on April 8. Ranger VII provided the first close-up pictures of the moon in July. Project FIRE provided flight data at Apollo reentry speeds, and Saturn I flights SA-5, SA-6, and SA-7 were successfully completed during 1964. SA-7, the seventh straight Saturn I success, provided a functional verification of the Apollo Launch Escape System jettison. The unbroken string of Saturn launch successes presented a far different picture from earlier days when a 50% launch success record was considered exceptional.

In summary, the two years covered by this volume of the Chronology saw the essential completion of the putting together of the Apollo government-industry team, substantial maturing of the design, verification of many essential design features by test, streamlining of the flight program through adoption of the all-up concept, and the acquisition of first data about the lunar surface from the Ranger Program.

As this volume comes to a close, there were still four years to go before the first manned Apollo mission, and nearly five years to the first lunar landing. Many difficulties lay ahead, but the course had been marked and giant strides had been taken along that course.

Volume 3 – Foreword

Work on the Command Module had progressed to the point where some full-scale testing was initiated. The launch escape system was tested for off-the-pad aborts at White Sands, New Mexico. A special test vehicle, “Little Joe II,” built by Convair, San Diego, was employed at WSMR to accelerate the Command Module to “maximum q” conditions for tests of the launch escape system under this most difficult situation. At El Centro, California, the parachute system was undergoing extensive testing. Back at Downey, California, North American built a large trapeze-like structure over an artificial lake to certify the Command Module structure for water impact loads. At yet another site, the White Sands Test Facility, located on the other side (west) of the Organ Mountains from the Little Joe II launch area, the testing of the Service Module propulsion system and the ascent and descent propulsion stages for the Lunar Module was started. As might be expected in the initial development testing of advanced design hardware, a number of disappointing failures were experienced. For instance the Command Module structure ruptured and the test article sank during the first water impact test.

Considerable analytical and experimental work was underway on engineering problems associated with landing the LEM on the Moon. Landing loads and stability were studied by dropping dynamically scaled models on simulated lunar soil and by computer runs which utilized mathematical models of both the LEM and the lunar surface. At the same time an effort was underway to deduce in engineering terms the surface characteristics and soil mechanics of the lunar surface, Only the sparse photographic information from Ranger was available to the engineers, yet later data from Surveyor and Orbiter led to no significant change in the LEM design. In addition to lack of definition of the lunar surface, uncertainty about the cislunar space environment also handicapped design progress. The intensity of the radiation flux during solar flares was not fully understood. In addition to worry about radiation sickness, a particular concern was possible damage to the eyes in the form of cataracts of the astronauts. Thick transparent plastic eye shields were proposed. A program was instituted to learn more about predicting solar events and a network of H-alpha telescopes and radio frequency detectors was planned for this purpose. At the same time much effort was expended to assure that neither the spacecraft nor the astronauts’ space suits would be damaged by micrometeors. In this regard help came from the data obtained by the Pegasus micrometeor detection satellites orbited by the last two Saturn I launch vehicles.

During this same period the Gemini program entered into its operational phase with a launch rate averaging once every two months. Significant to the Apollo mission were the development of operational procedures for orbital rendezvous, “shirtsleeve” operation by the crew in orbit, and exposure to fourteen days of weightlessness with only incidental physiological effects.

Finally, important scientific aspects of the mission were defined. Studies of lunar sample return and back contamination had progressed to the point that the essential features of the Lunar Receiving Laboratory were established. Further definition of the lunar geological surveys was achieved. With a goal of better precision in selection of Apollo landing sites, a coordinated activity was instituted with the Orbiter project. The Apollo Lunar Science Experiment Package (ALSEP) design progressed to the point of commitment to a 56-watt radioisotope power generator. Thus these small automated science stations would be assured an extended lifetime of operation after departure of the astronauts. It was also during this period that NASA recruited its first group of scientist astronauts.

In summary, during this period the Apollo program settled into the substance and routine of making the lunar landing a reality. The tremendous challenge in scope and depth of the venture was unmistakably clear to the government-industry team mobilized to do the job.

Volume 4 – Foreword

This fourth and final volume of the Apollo Spacecraft Chronology covers a period of eight and a half years, from January 21, 1966, through July 13, 1974. The events that took place during that period included all flight tests of the Apollo spacecraft, as well as the last five Gemini flights, the AS-204 accident, the AS-204 Review Board activities, the Apollo Block II Redefinition Tasks, the manned Apollo flight program and its results, as well as further use of the Apollo spacecraft in the Skylab missions.

The manned flights of Apollo, scheduled to begin in early 1967, were delayed by the tragic accident that occurred on January 27, 1967, during a simulated countdown for mission AS-204. A fire inside the command module resulted in the deaths of the three prime crew astronauts, Virgil I. Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chaffee. On January 28, 1967, the Apollo 204 Review Board was established to investigate the accident. It was determined that action should be initiated to reduce the crew risk by eliminating unnecessary hazardous conditions that would imperil future missions. Therefore, on April 27, a NASA Task Team – Block II Redefinition, CSM – was established to provide input on detailed design, overall quality and reliability, test and checkout, baseline specification, configuration control, and schedules.

Months of scrutinizing and hard work followed. The testing of the unmanned spacecraft began with the successful all-up test launch and recovery of the Saturn V-Apollo space system on November 9, 1967. This flight, designated Apollo 4, marked the culmination of more than seven years of developmental activity in design, fabrication, testing and launch-site preparation by tens of thousands of workers in government, industry and universities. The unmanned Apollo 4 placed 126,000 kilograms in earth orbit. It accomplished the first restart in space of the S-IVB stage; the first reentry into the earth’s atmosphere at the speed of return from the moon, nearly 40,200 kilometers per hour; and the first test of Launch Complex 39.

As time for the first manned Apollo flight neared, a decision was reached to use a 60-percent-oxygen and 40-percent-nitrogen atmosphere in the spacecraft cabin while on the launch pad and to retain the pure oxygen environment in space. By March 14, 1968, testing of the redesigned interior of the vehicle demonstrated that hardware changes inside the cabin, minimized possible sources of ignition, and materials changes had vastly reduced the danger of fire propagation.

During the beginning of the period covered by this chronology (from March through November 1966) the last five Gemini spacecraft were flown. The objectives of the Gemini program that were applicable to Apollo included: (1) long-duration flight, (2) rendezvous and docking, (3) postdocking maneuver capability, (4) controlled reentry and landing, (5) flight- and ground-crew proficiency, and (6) extravehicular capability. The prelaunch checkout and verification concept as originated during the Gemini program was used for Apollo. The testing and servicing tasks were very similar for both spacecraft. Although complexity of the operations substantially increased, the mission control operations for Apollo evolved from Projects Mercury and Gemini. The medical data collected during the Gemini flights verified that man could function in space for the planned duration of the lunar landing mission. Many of the concepts for crew equipment – such as food and waste management, housekeeping, and general sanitation – originated from the Gemini experience with long-duration missions. The Gemini missions also provided background experience in many systems such as communications, guidance and navigation, fuel cells, and propulsion.

While the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft were being developed and operated, the three-man Apollo program had grown in magnitude and complexity and included a command module, a service module, a lunar module, and a giant Saturn V rocket. The spacecraft and launch vehicle towered 110 meters above the launching pad, and weighed some 3 million kilograms. With the Apollo program, the missions and flight plans had become much more ambitious, the hardware had become more refined, the software had become more sophisticated, and ground support equipment also grew in proportion. 

In October 1968 Apollo 7 became the first manned flight test of the Apollo command and service modules in earth orbit and demonstrated the effectiveness of the manned space flight tracking, command and communications network. This first mission was a rousing success, with all systems meeting or exceeding requirements.

The second Apollo flight was the much-publicized Apollo 8 mission in December 1968, during which man for the first time orbited the moon. Aside from the fact that the flight marked a major event in the history of man, it also was technically a remarkable mission. The purpose of the mission, to check out the navigation and communication systems at lunar distance, was accomplished with a complete verification of those systems.

Apollo 9 (March 1969) was an earth-orbital flight and included the first engineering test of a manned lunar module and the first rendezvous and docking of two manned space vehicles. 

In May 1969 Apollo 10 journeyed to the moon and completed a dress rehearsal for the landing mission to follow in July. This mission was designed to be exactly like the landing mission except for the final phases of the landing, which were not attempted. The lunar module separated from the command module and descended to within 15 kilometers of the lunar surface, proving that man could navigate safely and accurately in the moon’s gravitational field.

With the flight of Apollo 11, man for the first time stepped onto the lunar surface on July 20, 1969. The mission proved that man could land on the moon, perform specific tasks on the lunar surface, and return safely to earth.

Apollo 12 (November 1969) was the second manned lunar landing. Pieces from the unmanned Surveyor III spacecraft were recovered, and the first Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) was deployed.

Apollo 13 (April 1970) had been scheduled to be the third manned lunar landing. However, the lunar landing portion of the mission was aborted because of the explosion of an oxygen tank in the service module en route to the moon. A cislunar mission was accomplished and the lunar module was used to provide life support and propulsion for the disabled command and service module en route home. A safe return and landing was effected in the Pacific.

Apollo 14 (January-February 1971) successfully landed on the lunar surface, with the crew performing two extravehicular activities (EVAs), deploying the second Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package, and completing other scientific tasks with the aid of a rickshawlike mobile equipment transporter (MET). The crew remained on the lunar surface 33½ hours.

The fourth manned lunar landing, Apollo 15 (July-August 1971), was the first mission to use the Lunar Rover, the first to deploy a subsatellite in lunar orbit, the first to perform experiments in lunar orbit by using a scientific instrument module (SIM) in the service module, and the first to conduct extravehicular activity during the journey back to earth. Lunar stay time was 66 hours and 55 minutes.

Apollo 16 (July 1972), the fifth manned lunar landing, was essentially identical to Apollo 15 and configured for extended mission duration, remote sensing from lunar orbit, and long-distance surface traverses. The scientific instrument module was included in the service module.

The splashdown of Apollo 17 on December 19, 1972, not only ended one of the most perfect missions, but also drew the curtain on the manned flights of Project Apollo. It was the most ambitious moon probe, the longest moon mission – about 40 hours longer than Apollo 16, with 75 hours on the lunar surface from touchdown to liftoff. The extensive scientific exploration utilized a new generation of experiments. The crew traversed from the LM farther than ever before, traveling 32 kilometers in the Lunar Rover.

Although Apollo 17 was the last of the manned flights to the moon, it was not the last of the Apollo spacecraft. Apollo paved the way for missions to follow. The next program using an Apollo command module was Skylab (May 14, 1973-February 8, 1974), occurring within the time frame of this chronology, as studies of lunar samples and data returned from Project Apollo continued in laboratories throughout the world. Skylab was man’s most ambitious and organized scientific probing of his planet and proved the value of manned scientific space expeditions. Skylab proved man’s value in space as a manufacturer, an astronomer, and an earth observer, using the most sophisticated instruments in ways that unmanned satellites cannot match. Skylab also demonstrated man’s great utility as a repairman in space.

Detailed studies of man’s physiological responses to prolonged exposure to weightlessness proved his ability to adjust to the space environment and to perform useful and valuable work in space. In solar physics, Skylab enriched our solar data more than a hundredfold, with a total of some 200,000 photographs of the sun made from the Apollo Telescope Mount. As observers of earth resources from Skylab, the crews returned over 40,000 photographs and more than 60 kilometers of high-density magnetic tape. Data were acquired for all 48 continental United States and 34 foreign countries. 

Beyond the period covered by this chronology, but before its publication, the Apollo spacecraft was used again in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), July 15-24, 1975. This joint space flight culminated in the first historical meeting in space between American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts. The event marked the successful testing of a universal docking system and signaled a major advance in efforts to pave the way for joint experiments and mutual assistance in future international space explorations. There were some 44 hours of docked joint activities during ASTP, highlighted by four crew transfers and the completion of a number of joint scientific experiments and engineering investigations. All major ASTP objectives were accomplished, including testing a compatible rendezvous system in orbit, testing androgynous docking assemblies, verifying techniques for crew transfers, and gaining experience in the conduct of joint international flights.

We will continue to apply what we learned from Apollo, as well as Skylab and ASTP, as we venture into the next manned program, known as the Space Shuttle. The Shuttle will be another leap forward. It will be the first reusable space vehicle. It will consist of three components: solid rocket boosters, a jettisonable external propellant tank, and an orbiter. The Space Shuttle will be launched like a rocket, fly in orbit like a spaceship, and land like an airplane. These vehicles are being designed to last for at least a hundred missions. The reusability will reduce the cost of putting men and payloads in orbit to about 10 percent of the Apollo costs.

In this chronology, as with any collection of written communications on a given project, the negative aspects of the program, its faltering and its failures, become more apparent because these are the areas that require written communication for corrective action. However, it should be stressed that in spite of the failures, the moon was reached by traveling an unparalleled path of success for an undertaking so complex. The disastrous fire at Cape Kennedy had given the Apollo program a drastic setback. But when Apollo 7 was launched, the first manned flight in nearly two years, it was a success. Every spacecraft since that time improved in performance with the exception of the problems experienced in Apollo 13. For example, consider the Apollo 8 spacecraft and booster, which contained some 15 million parts. If those parts had been 99.9 percent reliable, there still would have been 15,000 failures. But it had only five failures, all in noncritical parts.

To summarize Project Apollo – there were 11 manned flights; 27 Americans orbited the moon; 12 walked on its surface; 6 drove lunar vehicles. Perhaps one of the most important legacies of Apollo to future programs is the demonstration that great successes can be achieved in spite of serious difficulties along the way.

No other event in the history of mankind has served to bring the peoples of the world closer together than the lunar landings of Project Apollo. This feeling of “oneness” was fully displayed during the flight of Apollo 13 when many nations of the earth offered assistance in recovering the voyagers from their crippled spacecraft. From nearly every country came prayers and words of encouragement. The crippling of the Apollo 13 spacecraft en route to the moon called forth maximum cooperative use of the ability of astronauts, the ground support organization, and the contractors. The men and the equipment they designed and operated proved capable of handling this emergency.

Besides the demonstration of the power of teamwork, many areas of understanding have come out of the lunar landing program. The command and service modules on the last three lunar missions carried some 450 kilograms of cameras, sophisticated remote-sensing equipment, and additional consumables to investigate the moon thoroughly from orbit. Detailed studies of the moon were accomplished – of its size, shape, and surface, and the interrelationship of the lunar surface features and its gravitational field. On the surface of the moon, where there is no atmosphere to erode, secrets were uncovered that have long since been worn away here on earth. Understanding the geology of the moon improves the understanding of our own planet. 

Twelve men, who spent a total of 296 hours exploring the lunar surface in six radically different areas, mined 382 kilograms of lunar rocks and material. Scientists have catalogued, distributed, and analyzed this lunar material. Much of the real discovery is still being unraveled in laboratories around the world. 

Five lunar science stations, originally designed to last a minimum of a year, are still at work on the lunar surface, continuing to transmit to earth technical data about the moon. 

The national space program became an example of a successful management approach to accomplish an almost impossible project. The task of going to the moon required a government, industry, and university team which, at its peak, organized 400,000 people, hundreds of universities, and 20,000 separate industrial companies for a common goal. This project was accomplished in full public view of the world. These management techniques are available to our country to use again on what are considered almost impossible tasks. 

The Apollo photographs of the entire earth in one frame have made us realize how small and finite and limited are the resources of spaceship Earth. Apollo not only brought home to us more clearly the problems we must face in protecting this tiny planet, but it also suggested solutions. As we now turn some of our attention to such problems as mass transportation, pollution of our atmosphere and our fresh water resources, urban renewal, and utilization of new power sources, the same management approach, techniques, and teams that landed men on the moon can combine to help solve these kinds of problems. The photographs of our earth taken by astronauts on Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and ASTP have clearly demonstrated that we can make ecological surveys from space in geography, in agriculture and forestry, geology, hydrology, and oceanography. We can update maps, study pollution, predict floods, and help locate our natural resources and good commercial fishing grounds. We have only scratched the surface in the application of space technology. 

The Apollo spacecraft not only made history, but laid a great foundation of hope for a better future. The really important benefits are yet to be derived, for we have merely cracked open the door to a completely new laboratory in which to pursue knowledge.

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