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The Apollo Missions

General Knowledge | 12-14 yrs | Interactive, Learning Pod

What is NASA?

NASA (National Aeronautic and Space Administration) is the name of the American civil space aviation program. It explicitly stays away from things like conflict and does not engage in war. Its aim is to explore space and see how the information it collects can benefit humankind. All the Presidents of the US who have been in office, since NASA was created in 1958, have supported its efforts.

Headquartered in Washington, DC. USA, National Aeronautics and Space Administration(NASA) is the centre of US Civil Aerospace Research and Development.
It carries out its work across four mission directorates :

  • Space Technology
  • Aeronautics Research Science
  • Explorations by Humans
  • Operations
  • It also operates several Earth observing and remote sensing scientific satellites.

Space Projects

The first human space flight program conducted by NASA, was called Project Mercury, with 3 successful flights. Soon after, was the two-man program Project Gemini (1962-1966). Alongside, the Apollo Missions began in 1961 and carried on through 1972.

What is NASA’s Project Mercury?

Project Mercury was the first human space flight program of the United States, from 1958 through 1963.
On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard Jr, became the first American in space, when Freedom 7 spacecraft was launched into space.
On February 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on Friendship 7 mission.

Mission Objective

It must be understood that missions were named to complete a certain objective like sending a man into space or collecting photographs of the earth. Multiple launches can be part of 1 mission and the mistakes or shortcomings of previous launches were corrected during subsequent space flights. Therefore missions like Mercury and Gemini, whose objective had nothing to do with the moon, aided the Apollo missions in successfully achieving its objective.

What are NASA’s Gemini and Apollo Missions?

NASA’s Gemini program was designed to refine space travel.
The Apollo Missions heralded a new era in the space race.
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin became the first people to reach the moon on Apollo 11. Neil Armstrong famously called his first step on the moon as ‘a single step for man, a giant leap for mankind.’

Which Apollo mission caught on fire?

There were major errors and mishaps in the Apollo Missions. Apollo 1 had a cabin fire that killed the crew in the pre-launch test. This was in 1967.

First flight to Moon, Apollo 11 mission

  • Date landed – July 20, 1969
  • Time landed – 20:18 UTC
  • Place – Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility)
  • Time spent – 21 hrs, 38 min, 21 sec
  • What they did – Collected rock samples and returned
  • Date returned – July 24, 1969

But this happened after careful observation and experimentation. The aim was to improve technology so that man may travel in space more effectively – less time, less fuel, more comfort, better food etc. Earlier missions were unmanned.

3 Interesting facts about the Apollo Missions

  1. Apollo 8 was the first manned space-craft to travel in the lower earth orbit. With this mission, NASA scientists realized that this is an ideal distance from the earth’s atmosphere. Space-crafts traveling in this range (300km -2000km above the earth’s atmosphere) do not get dragged down by the earth’s atmosphere. Therefore they require less effort to fly and consume less fuel. It orbited the moon 10 times in 20 hours and came back.
  2. After the success of the three-man Apollo 11, six more moon landings were undertaken. Space missions were also undertaken so that we may learn a little more about the moon. Apollo 17, the final lunar mission space craft brought back large quantities of lunar soil and rocks, so that we could study them and learn some more about the moon’s geology.
  3. Just as the Apollo Missions learnt from Mercury and Gemini, later American space programs have learnt from the Apollo Missions.

There were 17 Apollo space flight in total. Can you find out the objectives and outcomes of the 6 other moon landings after Apollo 11?

For more such interesting General Knowledge articles and videos, visit: GK for Kids.