July 16th, 1969. It’s a peaceful morning at Cape Canaveral with pleasant temperatures and little wind. All is calm. Suddenly, a tremendous roar shatters the morning as the crew of Apollo 11 blast off toward the moon, riding the biggest rocket ever created. Burning 20 tons of explosive fuel a second, it propels Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins into history. The spacecraft lands four days later on the moon. Millions watched as men took the first steps on a strange place 238,900 miles away, or 9 and ½ times around the earth. After placing America’s flag among the lunar rocks, the Apollo 11 crew lit their engines and headed for the small blue sphere we call home, splashing down safely in the ocean and completing Kennedy’s challenge as well as winning the space race to the moon. It took a monumental effort by the National Air and Space Administration (NASA) and billions of dollars to reach this point. The Apollo Missions’ accidents, successes, and space leadership have drastically changed America’s space program.
On the 25th of May, President Kennedy shocked the nation with his historical speech to put an American on the moon before the decade was out. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard!” Kennedy announced. In the rest of his speech he challenged the Nation’s smartest minds to build a rocket capable of lifting a man to the Moon and returning him safely to the earth. He also stressed that it would finally put America’s space program in front of the Soviets. The Russian’s had beat America not only to put a satellite in space, but a man too. Yuri Gagarin had orbited the earth just weeks before American astronaut Alan Shepard was scheduled for lift off (When). In his speech, the President stated that landing a man on the moon would America ahead of the Russians in terms of space exploration, as well as winning the race to
the moon, know to most as the “Space Race.” Following the speech, NASA went into overdrive as the race to the moon began.
NASA soon responded with the Mercury Missions. These Missions put Americans in orbit and many believe was the real start of the America’s space program. This brought one of the biggest changes to the Nation’s space program. Every tool had to either be built or adapted from another tool to fit the requirement needed. The procedures and systems all had to be redesigned. After the 10 missions, NASA moved on to project Gemini, which concentrated on learning the skills to be able to descend onto the lunar surface. This included docking in space and performing EVAs, or extra vehicular activities, more commonly known as a space walks.
Then it came time for the Apollo missions. Eleven manned launches into space, 6 of which landing on the moon, carried man farther than ever before. Apollo 1 was scheduled to be the first in the series. Just 4 days before the launch, there was a problem. During a test flight, a...