The Apollo program was the third human spaceflight program carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the United States' civilian space agency. First conceived during the Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower as a three-man spacecraft to follow the one-man Project Mercury which puts the first Americans in space.
For the future of Apollo and for human planetary exploration in general, in August 1970 NASA management made the "right" decision...[commitment to the "J" missions [to include a rover] was surely one of the most rewarding decisions of the Apollo programme].
The first steps by humans on another planetary body were taken by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969. The astronauts also returned to Earth the first samples from another planetary body.
That landing came during the flight of Apollo 11, which lifted off on July 16, 1969, and, after confirmation that the hardware was working well, began the three-day trip to the Moon. Then, at 4:18p.m. EST on July 20,1969, the Lunar Module--with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin aboard--landed on the lunar surface while Michael Collins orbited over-head in the Apollo command module.
[Apollo 8] orbited the Moon on December 24 and 25 and then fired the boosters for a return flight. It "splashed down" in the Pacific Ocean on December 27. That flight was such an enormously significant accomplishment because it came at a time when American society was in crisis over Vietnam, race relations, urban problems, and a host of other difficulties.
May 25, 1961, President Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress and a national television audience, declaring: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”
Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth — one more space triumph for the Soviet Union.
Soviet firsts in space sustained panic in the US over a perceived ‘missile gap’ and the launch of Sputnik ignited a space race which saw the two superpowers building and attempting to launch a variety of rockets that could double as Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs).
The announcement of the Apollo programme to land a man on the Moon made by President Kennedy on May 25th, 1961, came just six weeks after Gagarin’s flight and was intended to neutralise and ultimately trump the Soviet achievement.
Apollo is without a doubt one of the most amazing accomplishments of the human species. By the end of 1972, twenty-four men had travelled a quarter of a million miles from the Earth to the Moon, three made the trip twice, and twelve of them walked on the Moon.
The Apollo program was designed to land humans on the Moon and bring them safely back to Earth. Six of the missions (Apollos 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17) achieved this goal.