Apollo Missions Logo The Apollo Missions

The Apollo Program began before the first American was launched into space. In July, 1960, NASA announced that a program to fly Astronauts around the moon would follow the planned Mercury program, but with President Kennedy's famous speech on May 25, 1961, the focus on the Apollo missions shifted to a lunar landing and came into sharper focus with the concrete goal of achieving this before the decade's end.

Many people feel that the Apollo program stands as mankind's greatest technological achievement. In all, six missions landed on the surface of the moon, and three others orbited the moon without landing, including the ill-fated Apollo 13.

The spacecraft was in three parts: The conical Command Module where the crew ate and slept on its way to the moon and home; the Service Module, supplying electricity, maneuvering power and thrust to get home from lunar orbit, and water to the spacecraft; and the Lunar Module, or LM, a two-part, totally self-contained spacecraft that used its own rockets to land on and take off from the surface of the moon, and even served as its own launch pad.

Apollo missions were launched atop two different boosters, the Saturn 1B used for the Earth orbiting missions (including Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz), and the mighty Saturn V, the rocket to the moon.

Apollo started in tragedy, when a fire on the launch pad in the Command Module of Apollo 1 claimed the lives of our second man in space and first Gemini astronaut, Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, our first space walker, Edward White, and rookie astronaut Roger Chaffee on January 27, 1967, in a routine training exercise for what had been scheduled to be the first Apollo mission. A detailed description of the ill-fated Apollo 1 mission is available from KSC.

Although the spacecraft had to be modified to prevent any chance of a recurrance, Apollo 7 was readied for flight by October, 1968, after an unoccupied test (named Apollo 4, the first flight of the Saturn V). Following its success, Apollo 8 , the first human flight of the Saturn V, was launched around the moon in December, and by the following July, Apollo 11 actually placed a man on another celestial body and brought him home again.

Twelve men in all walked on the moon before Apollo was done. The last three missions featured the Lunar Rover, which permitted the astronauts to drive about and explore various terrains too rough for the LM to attempt to land upon. On the last Apollo mission to the moon, the astronauts spent 22 hours in moon walks and camped out on the moon for three days total.

Sadly, Apollo 18, 19 and 20 were cancelled due to budget limitations. One of these missions had been scheduled to explore the scientifically intriguing crater Aristarchus, where astronomers through the ages had witnessed geological (or, more properly, "lunalogical") activity through their telescopes and wondered whether or not it might be volcanism. We are still wondering.

We have never yet returned to the moon. How sad. The Apollo spacecraft was used for four later missions, the three long-duration Skylab missions the final Apollo flight, the Apollo-Soyuz linkup with the Soviet Soyuz 19.

The Apollo Flights

Test Flights and Lunar Missions:


Mission            Astronauts     Launch/Landing1/Landing2 Highlights

              Walter M. Schirra, Jr.  October 11, 1968     First Apollo mission

Apollo 7      Donn F. Eisele          October 22, 1968     to fly.  Made 163

              Walter Cunningham                            orbits of earth.

              Frank Borman            December 21, 1968    First occupied launch of

Apollo 8      James A. Lovell, Jr.    December 27, 1968    Saturn V.  Looped around

              William A. Anders                            moon on Christmas Eve.

              James A. McDivitt       March 3, 1969        151 orbits of Earth.

Apollo 9      David R. Scott          March 13, 1969       First human test of

              Russell R. Schweikart                        Lunar Module.

              Thomas P. Stafford      May 18, 1969         Orbited moon.  Lunar

Apollo 10     John W. Young           May 26, 1969         Module dropped to within

              Eugene A. Cernan                             9 miles of Lunar surface.

              Neil A. Armstrong       July 16, 1969        Landed on moon with 30 seconds

Apollo 11     Michael Collins         July 20, 1969        of fuel remaining.  Took core

              Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin  July 24, 1969        samples.  Planted American flag.

              Charles "Pete" Conrad   November 14, 1969    Met up with and returned

Apollo 12     Richard F. Gordon, Jr.  November 18, 1969    parts of old

              Alan L. Bean            November 24, 1969    Surveyor 3 probe.

              James A. Lovell, Jr.    April 11, 1970       "OK, Houston, we've had a

Apollo 13     Fred W. Haise, Jr.      April 17, 1970       problem here."  O2 tank blew up;

              John L. Sweigert. Jr.                        LM got 'em around moon and home.

              Alan B. Shepard, Jr.    January 31, 1971     Extensive scientific experiments.

Apollo 14     Stuart A. Roosa         February 3, 1971     Astronauts almost got lost when

              Edgar D. Mitchell       February 9, 1971     alien landscape became disorienting.

              David R. Scott          July 26, 1971        First use of Lunar Rover.

Apollo 15     James B. Irwin          July 30, 1971        Astronauts rode over 27 kilometers.

              Alfred M. Worden        August 7, 1971       First Apollo space walk.

              John W. Young           April 16, 1972       Malfunction almost scrubbed landing.

Apollo 16     Thomas K. Mattingly II  April 20, 1972       Stayed 3 days, got Lunar Rover up

              Charles M. Duke, Jr.    April 27, 1972       to almost 18 kph.

              Eugene A. Cernan        December 7, 1972

Apollo 17     Ronald E. Evans         December 11, 1972    Last men on the moon (so far).

              Harrison H. Schmitt     December 19, 1972

Skylab Missions:


Mission            Astronauts          Launch/Landing     Orbits    Duration

              Charles "Pete" Conrad   May 25, 1973

Skylab I      Paul J. Weitz           June 22, 1973         404    672 hours, 49 minutes, 49 seconds

              Joseph P. Kerwin

              Alan L. Bean            July 28, 1973

Skylab II     Jack R. Lousma          September 25, 1973    858    1,427 hours, 9 minutes, 4 seconds

              Owen K. Garriott

              Gerald P. Carr          November 16, 1973

Skylab III    William R. Pogue        February 8, 1974    1,214    2,017 hours, 16 minutes, 30 seconds

              Edward G. Gibson



Mission       Astronauts/Cosmonauts     Launch/Landing    Orbits    Duration

              Thomas P. Stafford        July 15, 1975

Apollo 18     Vance D. Brand            July 24, 1975       136    217 hours, 30 minutes

              Donald K. "Deke" Slayton

Soyuz 19      Alexei Leonov             July 15, 1975        96    143 hours, 31 minutes

              Valeri Kubasov            July 21, 1975

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Updated November 12, 2008
Charles Redmond, Author
Steven J. Dick, NASA Chief Historian
Steve Garber, NASA History Web Curator
For further information E-mail histinfo@hq.nasa.gov