History of Manned Spaceflight - Part 2: APOLLO AND THE MOON

Project Gemini

At the conclusion of Project Mercury the United States had amassed only two days and six hours in space. It soon became evident that an intermediate step was needed before an attempt to go to the Moon could be made. Thus, Project Gemini was conceived. On December 7, 1961, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced a plan to extend the piloted spaceflight program by developing a two-person spacecraft.

Gemini was planned to perfect the techniques needed for a lunar mission. Its primary purpose was to demonstrate space rendezvous and docking techniques that would be used during the later Apollo flights to the Moon, when the lunar lander would separate from the command module in orbit around the Moon, then meet up with it again after the astronauts left the lunar surface. Gemini also sought to extend astronauts' stays in space to two weeks, longer than even the Apollo missions would require. There were 10 manned Gemini flights in 1965 and 1966.

Gemini XI USSR Meanwhile the USSR was planning a mission specifically to beat the Gemimi programme to the milestone of carrying a multiman crew into outer space. On October 12, 1964, Vladimir Komarov, Konstantin Feoktistov and Boris Yegorov flew on board Voskhod 1 without wearing spacesuits.

The second and final flight in the Voskhod series took place on March 18, 1965, with two crew members on board, Pavel Belyaev and Alexei Leonov. The capsule was equipped with an inflatable airlock. Another milestone in space exploration was established when Alexei Leonov became the first person to leave the spacecraft in a specialized spacesuit to conduct a 12 minute "spacewalk".

 Apollo program The Apollo program required more than six years of spacecraft and launch vehicle development and testing before the first manned missions could be flown. In December 1968 the crew of Apollo 8 orbited the Moon and became the first humans to see its far side and Earthrise with their own eyes. In May 1969 the Apollo 10 mission successfully carried out a “dress rehearsal” for lunar landing. Apollo 11 finally achieved the program goal. Six hours after landing at 20:17:39 UTC on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong took the “ … small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind” off the Lunar Module, named Eagle, onto the surface of the Moon. He was joined shortly afterwards by “Buzz” Aldrin. (see Diplome's required for Apollo 11 Records)

There followed a further six missions, including the ill-fated Apollo 13 which did not land on the lunar surface due to a malfunction. The last mission, Apollo 17, remains the most recent manned Moon landing and the most recent manned flight beyond low Earth orbit.