Apollo Program

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pollo was the name given to a project launched by the United States to fly astronauts to the Moon, land them, and return them safe­ly to Earth. The spacecraft built for the project were also named Apollo. The name comes from Greek and Roman mythology-Apollo was the god of light, of healing and medicine, and of poetry and music.

The Political Background

Project Apollo involved a series of spaceflights to increase knowledge of the Moon and of manned spaceflight. The program was carried out at great speed and high cost in the 1960s. Many people doubted it would succeed.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced to the U. S. Congress that the United States should aim to land astro­nauts on the Moon before 1970. At that time, the United States was in competi­tion with the communist federation of nations then called the USSR, or Soviet Union. The Soviet Union had launched the first Earth satellite (Sputnik 1) in 1957, and in 1959 it had sent three unmanned Luna spacecraft to the Moon. Luna 2 crashed onto the Moon’s surface, while Luna 3 flew around the Moon to photograph its far side, never before seen on Earth. The Soviet Union had clearly taken the lead in what the media called the space race.

U. S. space scientists knew the Soviets were capable of launching heavy

Apollo Program

О One of the first human marks on the Moon was made by the boot of astronaut Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969.

manned spacecraft using powerful booster rockets developed for the Soviet Union’s military missile program. The Soviets put the world’s first astronaut, Yuri Gagarin, into Earth orbit in April 1961. They followed this historic space­flight with a 25-hour flight by Gherman Titov in August 1961. Many experts predicted that the Soviets would land on the Moon within a year or two.

Project Apollo was America’s answer to that challenge. The program went ahead despite skepticism from some scientists that manned exploration of the Moon was too risky and not worth such a vast expenditure of time, money, and expertise.

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