A Dictionary of American History

Author: Thomas L. Purvis  | Date: 1995

Apollo Project

Apollo Project On 25 May 1961, after the USSR orbited the first man of the space race, John F. Kennedy declared the US intention of landing on the moon before 1970. On 20 February 1962, John Glenn became the first US astronaut to orbit the earth. In 1964 unmanned Ranger missions circled the moon for photographic reconnaissance. Lunar Orbiter missions began in August 1966 and eventually photographed the moon’s entire surface. The first US unmanned lunar landing was Surveyor I in June 1966. Following NASA’s Mercury Program to gain experience in weightless flight by single astronauts, the Gemini Program began sending two-man crews into outer space in March 1963, to perfect techniques of docking and extravehicular activities.

The Apollo Project, which would conduct the moon landings, was set back on 27 January 1967 when faulty wiring caused a fire that left Virgil Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chafee dead in a simulated launch at Cape Canaveral, Fla. From 21 to 27 December 1968, Apollo 8 carried the first three men to leave the earth’s gravitational pull and orbit the moon. Apollo missions 9 and 10 conducted manned lunar orbits in 1969. On 16 July 1969, Apollo 11 left Cape Canaveral for the moon. On 20 July, with Michael Collins hovering in Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong (first) and Edwin Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon; they returned to earth on 24 July. Five more lunar landings were conducted (another was aborted), with the last such mission from 7 to 19 December 1972. Apollo’s final exercise was a joint docking with USSR cosmonauts orbiting the earth from 26 July to 7 August 1975. Putting an American on the moon required efforts by 420,000 NASA employees or contractors in 1969, when the project absorbed almost 1 percent of US GNP, and ultimately cost $25 billion.


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Chicago: Thomas L. Purvis, "Apollo Project," A Dictionary of American History in A Dictionary of American History (Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Reference, 1995), Original Sources, accessed April 13, 2024, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=RCHD7UPNHXXYXTI.

MLA: Purvis, Thomas L. "Apollo Project." A Dictionary of American History, in A Dictionary of American History, Cambridge, Mass., Blackwell Reference, 1995, Original Sources. 13 Apr. 2024. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=RCHD7UPNHXXYXTI.

Harvard: Purvis, TL, 'Apollo Project' in A Dictionary of American History. cited in 1995, A Dictionary of American History, Blackwell Reference, Cambridge, Mass.. Original Sources, retrieved 13 April 2024, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=RCHD7UPNHXXYXTI.