The story of Apollo is a remarkable chapter in the history of mankind. How remarkable will be determined by future generations as they attempt to assess and understand the relationship and significance of the Apollo achievements to the development of mankind. We hope that this book will contribute to their assessments and assist in their judgments.
Writing the history of Apollo has been a tremendous undertaking. There is so much to tell; there are so many facets. The story of Apollo is filled with facts and figures about complex machines, computers, and facilities, and intricate maneuvers—these are the things with which the Apollo objectives were achieved. But a great effort has also been made to tell the real story of Apollo, to identify and describe the decisions and actions of men and women that led to the creation and operation of those complex machines.
The purpose of this book is only partly to record the engineering and scientific accomplishments of the men and women who made it possible for a human to step away from his home planet for the first time. It is primarily an attempt to show how scientists interested in the moon and engineers interested in landing people on the moon worked out their differences and conducted a program that was a major contribution to science as well as a stunning engineering accomplishment.
When scientific requirements began to be imposed on manned space flight operations, hardly any aspect was unaffected. The choice of landing sites, the amount of scientific equipment that could be carried, and the weight of lunar material that could be brought back all depended on the capabilities of the spacecraft and mission operations. These considerations limited the earliest missions and constituted the challenge of the later ones.
President John F. Kennedy’s decision to build the United States’ space program around a manned lunar landing owed nothing to any scientific interest in the moon. The primary dividend was to be national prestige, which had suffered from the Soviet Union’s early accomplishments in space. A second, equally important result of a manned lunar landing would be the creation of a national capability to operate in space for purposes that might not be foreseeable. Finally, Kennedy felt the need for the country to set aside “business as usual” and commit itself with dedication and discipline to a goal that was both difficult and worthwhile. Kennedy had the assurance of those in the best position to know that it was technologically possible to put a human on the moon within the decade. His political advisers, while stressing the many benefits (including science) that would accrue from a strong space program, recognized at once that humans were the key. If the Soviets sent men and women to the moon, no American robot, however sophisticated or important, would produce an equal impact on the world’s consciousness. Hence America’s leadership in space would be asserted by landing humans on the moon.
A program as complex as Apollo is not easily handled by a simple chronological account. In the early stages, from 1961 to roughly the end of 1966, the several phases of the program had to be hammered out more or less independently and many complex relationships had to be built. For those reasons I have organized the early chapters of the book topically, the better to deal in some detail with these early developments.
348 pages with photos and illustration. Contents hyperlinked for easy navigation.
Table of Contents
AMERICA STARTS FOR THE MOON: 1957-1963
LINKING SCIENCE TO MANNED SPACE FLIGHT
APOLLO’S LUNAR EXPLORATION PLANS
HANDLING SAMPLES FROM THE MOON
SELECTING AND TRAINING THE CREWS
MISSION AND SCIENCE PLANNING
SETBACK AND RECOVERY: 1967
FINAL PREPARATIONS: 1968
PRIMARY MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: 1969
LUNAR EXPLORATION BEGINS
FIRST PHASE OF LUNAR EXPLORATION COMPLETED:
APOLLO ASSUMES ITS FINAL FORM:
LUNAR EXPLORATION CONCLUDED
PROJECT APOLLO: THE CONCLUSION