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Space Exploration

Apollo Program

Skylab space station, Apollo spacecraft, Zond, Apollo missions, Apollo Program

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>  Spacecraft and Supporting Systems

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>  Missions to Skylab

>  Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

>  Apollo Achievements

Apollo Program, American manned lunar-space program designed to land an astronaut on the Moon and return him safely to Earth, as well as to overtake the former Soviet Union in the race to dominate space exploration. Conducted between May 1961 and December 1972 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the program successfully landed Neil Armstrong—the first person to walk on the Moon—and 11 other astronauts on the Moon. The program included 12 manned missions: 2 into Earth orbit (Apollo 7 and 9); 2 into lunar orbit (Apollo 8 and 10); 3 lunar landing missions (Apollo 11, 12, and 14); and 3 lunar exploration missions (Apollo 15, 16, and 17), which involved extended stays on the Moon’s surface and more in-depth scientific exploration. One mission was lost during a test on the launch pad (Apollo 1), and one mission returned to Earth without making a scheduled lunar landing (Apollo 13). Following the Apollo program, Apollo spacecraft were used to shuttle astronauts to and from the Skylab space station, and an Apollo spacecraft docked with the orbiting Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 19 in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.

The Apollo program was initiated by United States President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961. It was preceded by the manned Gemini program, which engineers used to develop the techniques that would be needed for the ambitious trip to the Moon, and the unmanned Surveyor Program, which scientists used to probe the lunar surface. At the peak of Apollo preparations in 1965, NASA employed 36,000 civil servants and 376,700 contractor employees, and had a yearly operating budget of $5.2 billion. Between 1961 and 1973, NASA spent approximately $25.4 billion on the Apollo missions.

During the same time period, the Soviet Union scheduled a manned mission to circle the Moon (Zond 7)—just three weeks before Apollo 8. This mission was postponed and the spacecraft was later launched unmanned. The Soviets continued to develop and test their one-man Lunar Lander spacecraft in Earth orbit through August 1971, but a Soviet cosmonaut never reached the Moon.


Scott, David R., B.S., M.S., E.A.A.

President, Scott Science and Technology, Inc., Lancaster, California. Commander, Apollo 15. Command Module Pilot, Apollo 9. Pilot, Gemini 8.

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