Project Apollo

Apollo 12 Commander Charles "Pete" Conrad on the Moon
Apollo 12 Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad on the surface of the Moon.

The Manned Missions: Apollo 1 and Apollo 7 to 17

On 25 May 1961, American President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech to Congress in which he stated that the United States of America should set landing a man on the Moon as a goal to be achieved before the end of the decade.

Project Apollo was set up to achieve this goal.

But the objectives of Project Apollo went beyond just landing men on the Moon and returning them safely back to Earth. They included:

  • Establishing space technology
  • Achieving pre-eminence in space for the USA
  • Carrying out scientific exploration of the Moon
  • Developing the capabilities of man to work on the Moon

The Apollo spacecraft was made up of three parts: the command module (CM), from where the crew controlled the flight and also lived; the service module (SM) for the propulsion and spacecraft support systems; and the lunar module (LM), which would take two of the crew to the lunar surface, support them while they were on the Moon and then return them to the CM while in lunar orbit.

On 20 July, 1969, at 20:18 Coordinated Universal Time, the LM of the Apollo 11 mission made the first manned landing on the Moon.
At 22:55 Coordinated Universal Time on 14 December, 1972, the LM of the Apollo 17 mission lifted off from the Moon’s surface.

We are yet to return…

…In 2017, a new NASA-led program was announced with the aim of returning a human-crewed mission to the Moon by 2025. This new program, now named Artemis, is in partnership with the ESA (European Space Agency), JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and CSA (Canadian Space Agency), with the longer-term goals to establish a permanent base camp on the Moon and facilitate the first crewed missions to Mars by the mid-2030s.

Apollo 1

Launch : 21 February 1967 (scheduled)

Launch Site : Launch Complex 34; Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Astronauts : Virgil Grissom, Edward White, Roger Chaffee

Payload : Spacecraft-012

Notes : This launch never took place. During a pre-flight test, the entire crew lost their lives to a fire that swept through the command module

Apollo 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 were unmanned missions.

Apollo 7

Launch : 11 October 1968, 11:02:45am EST

Launch Site : Launch Pad 34a; Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Astronauts : Walter Schirra Jr. (Commander), R. Walter Cunningham (Lunar Module Pilot), Donn F. Eisele (Command Module Pilot)

Payload : CSM-101

Notes : The primary objectives for this engineering test flight included demonstrating the command-and-service module (CSM) and crew performance; demonstrating crew, space vehicle and mission support facilities performance during a crewed CSM mission and demonstrating the CSM rendezvous capability.

Apollo 8

Launch : 21 December 1968, 7:51am EST

Launch Site : Launch Pad 39a; Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Astronauts : Frank Borman (Commander), William Anders (Lunar Module Pilot), James A. Lovell (Command Module Pilot)

Payload : CSM-103

Notes : The Apollo 8 mission objectives included a coordinated performance of the crew, the command and service module (CSM) and the support facilities. The detailed test objectives for this flight were to refine the systems and procedures relating to future lunar operations.

Apollo 9

Launch : 3 March 1969, 11:00am EST

Launch Site : Launch Pad 39a; Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Astronauts : James A. McDivitt (Commander), Russell L. Schweickart (Lunar Module Pilot), David R. Scott (Command Module Pilot)

Payload : Gumdrop (CSM-104), Spider (LM-3)

Notes : The main objective of Apollo 9 was to complete an Earth-orbital engineering test flight of the first crewed lunar module (LM). A series of flight tasks were to be completed between the CM, the CSM, the service module (SM) and the LM while they were linked in launch. The LM, ‘Spider’, was designed and tested to be a self-sufficient spacecraft, and should be able to perform rendezvous and docking manoeuvres identical to those scheduled for Apollo 10, the lunar-orbit mission.

Apollo 10

Launch : 18 May 1969, 12:49pm CDT

Launch Site : Launch Pad 39b; Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Astronauts : Thomas Stafford (Commander), Eugene Cernan (Lunar Module Pilot), John Young (Command Module Pilot)

Payload : Charlie Brown (SM-106), Snoopy (LM-4)

Notes : The Apollo 10 mission was designed to be the “dress rehearsal” for Apollo 11, which would include an actual lunar landing. An eight-hour lunar orbit of the separated LM was one of the objectives, along with a descent to roughly nine miles off the Moon’s surface.

Apollo 11

Launch : 16 July 1969, 9:32am EDT

Launch Site : Launch Pad 39a; Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Astronauts : Neil Armstrong (Commander), Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. (:Lunar Module Pilot), Michael Collins (Command Module Pilot)

Payload : Colombia (CSM-107), Eagle (LM-5)

Notes : The Apollo 11 mission was the first to achieve a national goal set by President John F. Kennedy in 1961; perform a crewed lunar landing and return to Earth. The crew members left behind on the Moon’s surface commemorative medallions bearing the names of the three astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire, and a silicon disk containing miniaturised goodwill messages from 73 countries.

Apollo 12

Launch : 24 November 1969, 11:22am EST

Launch Site : Launch Pad 39a; Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Astronauts : Charles Conrad Jr. (Commander), Alan L. Bean. (Lunar Module Pilot), Richard F. Gordon Jr. (Command Module Pilot)

Payload : Yankee Clipper (CM-108), Intrepid (LM-6)

Notes : Apollo 12 was the second crewed lunar landing. Extensive lunar exploration tasks were carried out by the LM crew, and the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) was left on the Moon’s surface after the exploration tasks were completed. The ALSEP was designed to gather seismic, scientific and engineering data over a long period of time.

Apollo 13

Launch : 11 April 1970, 1:13pm CST

Launch Site : Launch Pad 39a; Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Astronauts : James A. Lovell Jr. (Commander), Fred W. Haise Jr. (Lunar Module Pilot), John L. Swigert Jr. (Command Module Pilot)

Payload : Odyssey (CM-109), Aquarius (LM-7)

Notes : The Apollo mission named ‘the successful failure’ was due to be a third lunar landing attempt. An explosion on board forced Apollo 13 to circle the Moon only, without landing in the planned Fra Mauro area. The ‘successful failure’ tag came from the efforts in saving and rescuing all three crew members on board.

Apollo 14

Launch : 31 January 1971, 4:03pm EDT

Launch Site : Launch Pad 39a; Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Astronauts : Alan B. Shepard Jr. (Commander), Edgar D. Mitchell (Lunar Module Pilot), Stuart A. Roosa (Command Module Pilot)

Payload : Kitty Hawk (CM-110), Antares (LM-8)

Notes : Almost a year after the Apollo 13 near-disaster, Apollo 14 was launched with the intention of exploring the Fra Mauro region and collection of surface materials from the Moon. The crew also deployed other scientific materials that were not part of ALSEP, and took photographs of future landing sites.

Apollo 15

Launch : 26 July 1971, 9:34:00am EDT

Launch Site : Launch Pad 39a; Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Astronauts : David R. Scott (Commander), James B. Irwin (Lunar Module Pilot), Alfred M. Worden (Command Module Pilot)

Payload : Endeavor (CM-112), Falcon (LM-10)

Notes : The Apollo ‘J’ missions were designed for longer stays on the Moon, and Apollo 15 was the first of these missions. The objectives that it was designed to complete included exploration of the Hadley-Apennine region, as well as continuing to activate lunar surface experiments and take photographs.

Apollo 16

Launch : 16 April 1972, 12:59:00pm EST

Launch Site : Launch Pad 39a; Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Astronauts : John W. Young (Commander), Charles M. Duke Jr. (Lunar Module Pilot), Thomas K. Mattingly II (Command Module Pilot)

Payload : Casper (CM-113), Orion (LM-11)

Notes : Apollo 16 carried on the experiments and surveys of the lunar surroundings, with a selected landing site in the Descartes region. Additional objectives on this missions included testing the performance of experiments that required zero gravity, alongside an engineering evaluation of the spacecraft and its equipment.

Apollo 17

Launch : 7 December 1972, 12.33am EST

Launch Site : Launch Pad 39a; Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Astronauts : Eugene A. Cernan (Commander), Harrison H. Schmitt (Lunar Module Pilot), Ronald E. Evans (Command Module Pilot)

Payload : America (CM-114), Challenger (LM-12)

Notes : The Taurus-Littrow highlands and valley area was the selected lunar landing site for Apollo 17, the last of the manned Apollo missions. The landing site was chosen specifically for its rocks; the crew of Apollo 17 wanted to find rocks that were both older and younger than those discovered on previous Apollo missions.

For more detailed information on the Apollo missions, visit the NASA website.

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Astronomy, Cosmology, Space and Astrophysics