NASA was officially founded in October 1958. Only two years later the agency started what would become one of the defining programs of the 20th century – Apollo, which put people on the moon in 1969. In honor of NASA & # 39; s 60th birthday and the upcoming 50th anniversary of the moon landing, here are 17 facts about the Apollo program.
1. THE NAME HAS NO DEEP ROOTS.
When NASA and the Space Task Group brainstormed names for their first manned satellite project, they preferred & # 39; Project Astronaut & # 39 ;, which they thought would & # 39; emphasize the man in the satellite & # 39; . According to NASA, that name was eventually ignored, because it may lead to too great an emphasis on the personality of the man. "Mercury was chosen: thanks to its use in thermometers and automobile branding it was known to the American public, and the role of the Roman god as a messenger was also attractive. [PDF]. The program would go on to make six manned flights between 1961 and 1963, taking us from Alan Shepard's flight of 15 minutes to the 34 hours of L. Gordon Cooper in space.
When NASA went beyond Mercury missions, they recognized that a mythological naming convention had been set up. Dr. Abe Silverstein, director of NASA space flight program, proposed the Greco-Roman god Apollo – which may seem like a strange choice for a lunar program, since Apollo is traditionally associated with the sun instead of the moon. But Silverstein believed that the image of "Apollo driving his chariot across the sun was suitable for the large scale of the proposed program."
According to The New York TimesHowever, Silverstein would later say that there was "no specific reason for it … it was just an attractive name."
2. APOLLO WAS NOT ORIGINALLY SUPPORTED TO TAKE US TO THE SURFACE OF THE MOON.
The original intention of the program was not actually a moon landing. When it was announced in 1960, Project Apollo's goal was to send a three-man team to it job the moon, not land on the. It was not until May 1961 that President John F. Kennedy delivered his famous speech in which he stated that "this nation should commit itself to the goal, before this decade is over, to land a man on the moon and take him safely to to bring the earth. "
It was an ambitious plan: at the moment Kennedy made his announcement, only two people had been in space. In addition to the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in April 1961, and Alan Shepard a month later, other animals that had reached space were fruit flies, monkeys, dogs and a chimpanzee.
3. APOLLO 2 AND 3 ARE NOT EXISTING.
In 1967, astronauts Virgil Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee conducted a preflight test – where the command module was mounted as it would be for a launch, but nothing was fueled – for what was known as mission AS-204 when a broke fire broke out. and killed the three astronauts. The decision was taken to honor the astronauts by referring to the never-completed flight as Apollo 1But this left open the question of what the next flight should be.
One solution was to call the next flight Apollo 2. Another option proposed was to designate three previous flights (AS-201, 202 and 203) retroactively as Apollo 1-A, Apollo 2 and Apollo 3, although these flights had been launched earlier. the fire. The reason for the suggestion was not clear even to NASA. As the bureau explained, "the order and reasoning behind mission statements is not really clear to anyone."
Ultimately, according to NASA's history, the never-launched flight "would be officially recorded as Apollo 1, first manned Apollo Saturn flight, failed at ground test." AS-201, AS-202 and AS -203 would not be numbered in the & # 39; Apollo & # 39; series, and the next mission would be Apollo 4. & # 39;
4. THE INTRODUCTION OF APOLLO 4 WAS EVER ONE OF THE LOUDEST MAN-MADE NOISES.
Apollo 4 – an unmanned mission that served as a test of the 363-meter-high Saturn V rocket – was the first ever launch at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, when it took place on November 9, 1967. The launch was loud (according to NASA, one of the loudest man-made sounds ever) that it shocked buildings up to three miles away, causing dust and debris to fall from the ceiling of the control center (top). "I hope that the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) will not get any cracks", said Dr. Hans Greune, director of Kennedy Launch Vehicle Operations, after the launch. "It rattled pretty hard and cheers went up in the control room after the launch." A noise suppression system was missing on the start panel, but by the time the Space Shuttle was in use, more than 300,000 gallons of water were washed away in just 41 seconds to mute the sound to acceptable levels.
The mission, which was successful, was intended to test the structural and thermal integrity of the vessel and to evaluate various support facilities.
5. APOLLO 5 WAS A SUCCESS; APOLLO 6, NOT SO MUCH.
The unscrewed Apollo 5 was designed to test the functioning of the lunar module, and it was usually a success (there were concerns about the temperature of the water boiler). Apollo 6 was also unmanned, but had many more problems. For 30 seconds it experienced something called the "pogo effect" (what Popular science explains "almost as if the rocket bounces on a pogo stick") – something brought forward by NASA "would have been very uncomfortable for any crew." Then two of the engines stopped and the third phase would not start again. Despite all these setbacks, Apollo 6 has never reached the national headlines. On the day of the disastrous flight, Martin Luther King. Jr. was murdered in Tennessee. "The only explanation that NASA had to give was therefore to the congressional committees on space activities, which seemed content with what they heard," NASA explains.
6. THE PROGRAM RECEIVED AN EMMY.
Apollo 7 was a mission of firsts: it marked the first Apollo mission that sent people to space, as well as the first live television broadcasts from space. During the broadcasts – called the "Wally, Walt and Donn Show" – Walter Schirra, R. Walter Cunningham and Donn Eisele took a tour of the vehicle and made a few jokes. Schirra even commented that he was "going to try an Emmy for the best weekly series," which ground staff replied: "I thought you were going to try a Hammy" [PDF].
In a sense, Schirra got his wish: in 1969, Apollos received 7, 8, 9 and 10 – all of whom made broadcasts to earth – a special Trustees Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
7. APOLLO 8 GOT NASA SUED.
On Christmas Eve 1968, Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders circled the moon and cut the famous Earthrise photo. They were also told to do "something appropriate" to honor the event for the millions who listened to them. They decided to recite Genesis. "It is a foundation of Christianity, Judaism and Islam," Lovell said about the choice. "They all had that basis of the Old Testament."
Famous atheist Madalyn Murray O & # 39; Hair – sometimes referred to as "the most hated woman in America" - died, claiming that her rights to the first amendment had been violated. Eventually the judge rejected the case and the Supreme Court refused to hear it because of lack of competence. But it did have an effect on later missions – according to Buzz Aldrin's memoirs, he had intended to read an communion passage back to Earth during Apollo 11, but at the last minute he was asked not because of the legal challenges of Apollo 8 .
8. THE FLAGS ON THE MOON HAVE A COMPLEX STORY.
Raising the American flag on the Moon turned out to be a controversial move. In his inaugural speech in 1969, President Nixon had proclaimed that we ought to go together to the new worlds, not as new worlds to be conquered, but as a new adventure to be shared. & # 39; That spirit of shared exploration led some to discuss a flag of the United Nations on the moon. At the same time, some worried about the visual effect of planting an American flag on the moon, which they believed meant that the Americans were in control of the moon (which would have been a violation of the Outer Space Treaty). In the end, however, the committee decided to plant the American flag and also leave a plaque to emphasize that they "came in peace for all mankind".
The flag debate would be resolved in uncertain terms later in 1969, when NASA's appropriation bill "the flag of the United States, and no other flag, was implanted or placed on the surface of the moon in any other way, or the surface of the moon, each planet, by the crew of a spacecraft that makes a lunar or planetary landing as part of a mission under the Apollo program or as part of a mission under a subsequent program, the resources of which fully provided by the government of the United States. "Aware of the Outer Space Treaty, the bill noted:" This act is intended as a symbolic gesture of national pride in achievement and should not be construed as a declaration of national appropriation. through a claim of sovereignty. "
9. IT IS DESPITE WHERE IT IS APOLLO 11 VLAG CAME FROM.
There are two possible sources for the Apollo 11 flag – and there is not anything high-tech in either of them. Originally, NASA announced that the "Stars and Stripes to be used on the moon, along with a number of other items made by different manufacturers" were purchased in Houston stores. When it was placed on the pile and cross beam that would be planted in the moon dust, all labels and identification data were removed.
Not long after the moon landing, the head of flag manufacturer Annin & Co. asked. according to a report from the NASA contractor about the Lunar flag or the flag was one of them. He was told that "three secretaries were sent to buy 3 x 5 foot nylon flags during their lunch hours, after they returned, it turned out they had all bought their flags from Sears."
Annin was the official flag supplier to Sears, but did not want "other Tang" – a reference to the free publicity that Tang received from NASA after John Glenn had drunk an orange liquid from a bag Friendship 7– they refused to confirm the manufacturer.
However, Jack Kinzler, a NASA manager, was unable to verify this information; his notes suggest that the flag was purchased from the Government Stock Catalog for $ 5.50.
10. BUZZ ALDRIN HAD TO HAVE A COST REPORTS EXPENDITURE FOR HIS TRAVEL.
Even a man on the work trip of his life had to fill in some paperwork afterwards: once after his return to earth, after a successful moon walk, Aldrin filed a travel voucher totaling $ 33.31. "To: Cape Kennedy, Fla. Moon Pacific Ocean (USN Hornet)", stood there.
11. APOLLO 12 WAS WRITTEN BY LIGHTNING – TWOELS – AFTER LIFTOFF.
Only 36 seconds after the launch on November 14, 1969, the astronauts continued Apollo 12– Alan Bean, Charles & Pete & # 39; Conrad and Richard Gordon, Jr. – felt something strange. Then things started to go wrong. The vessel was hit twice by lightning, 36 seconds after taking off and again 52 seconds. Although no one in the crew or on the ground realized what had happened, the three men were calm and waited. Bean would later say, "One of the rules of the space flight is that you do not make a switch-a-rose with that electrical system, unless you have a good idea of why you do it, I knew we had the power, so I wanted to do not make any changes, I thought we could just fly around the earth in orbit. "In the end, he reintroduced the electrical systems and after 25 minutes those systems and the fuel cells were operational again. But the crew still had to fire its main engine to leave the earth's orbit and set off for the moon – and the automatic navigation was aborted. Gordon used a sextant, and Bean broke a star chart to help them figure out where to go. And they made it.
The next Apollo mission is probably the most famous, next to 11, because of its own problems – and an oxygen tank Apollo 10 (Apollo 13& # 39; S Jim Lovell would later congratulate Apollo 10 crew for getting rid of it). The tank, 10024X-TA0009, was one of two sets for the earlier Apollo mission, but problems with pumps meant that all tanks had to be modified. When removing this tank, it was caught on a bolt and dropped two centimeters in the air, but because it was thought that no damage had occurred, everyone went ahead and the tank was installed in the spacecraft that would soon be known as Apollo 13.
During the pre-flight tests, technicians noticed that the tank had problems with emptying. To extract the remaining liquid oxygen, the electric heater in the tank was connected to 65 volts for eight hours, with the nearby wires exposed to temperatures of 1000 ° F. Later, it would be discovered that the use of 65-volt power would thermostatic switches of the tank severely damaged, which were designed for 28 volts (NASA explains that in 1965 the permissible voltage to the heaters has been increased to 65 volts, but the manufacturer of the thermostatic switch never has the memo). This internal damage probably led to a spark that destroyed the tank, which led to the legendary saying "Houston, we had a problem" [PDF] and, in 1995, an award-winning film.
12. APOLLO 12 MAY HAVE FOUND MICROBES ON THE MOON … OR NO MORE.
When Apollo 12 He landed on the moon and lay right next to the lander from Surveyor 3 of 1967. The astronauts took parts of the vehicle – including a camera – to study the effects of years on the lunar surface.
Researchers had not sterilized Surveyor 3 and when the camera was opened in a clean room on earth, a small colony Streptococcus mitis was discovered. These bacteria had apparently survived for almost three years without nutrients in the freezer room and the finding, which is often discussed on the internet, was praised as a remarkable discovery.
Unfortunately, researchers recently returned to the Surveyor 3 camera and learned that the claim was at least not convincing. One problem was that the people who studied the camera wore short sleeves, which means that contamination after the repair was a very real possibility, although the researchers warn that "proving the truth in such a situation is difficult, if not impossible" [PDF].
Microbes or not, there is still an important consideration of the situation: it showed the potential problems that could arise with future samples returning from places such as Mars.
13. APOLLO 15 RETURN A VEHICLE TO THE MOON.
Apollo 15, the fourth mission to put human boots on the moon, brought a first-of-its-kind, 460-earth-pound Lunar Rover Vehicle (LRV) that was about the size of a dune buggy. Astronauts David Scott and James Irwin became the first people on the surface of another world, and the LRV – which had a top speed of 8 mph – allowed them to travel further from their landing site than any previous astronauts. "The LRV on Apollo met a very important need, namely to be able to make big traverses, to take more samples and to do more scientific research", Mike Neufeld, senior curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, told SPACE.com in 2011. "It was a very important part of why Apollo 15, 16, and 17 were so much more scientifically advanced and productive. "Scott and Irwin traveled about 17 miles in the LRV and the design of the vehicles – and their experiences on the moon – helped inform the design of the robbers who went to Mars.
14. AN APOLLO ASTRONAUT HAD A RESPONSE TO LUNAR REGOLITH.
Of the 12 men who walked on the moon, geologist Harrison Schmitt was the only scientist. He responded to moon regolith, or moon dust. Schmitt said that the dust "soon after switching off the helmet" caused irritation to my sinuses and nostrils. The dust really bothered my eyes and throat. I tasted it and ate it. "He joked that he had" moon dust hay fever ". " Apollo 17 would continue to collect 741 rock and soil samples – more than any other Apollo mission.
15. THE APOLLO ASTRONAUTS HAD BOXES BACKED IN THE HOME.
The post-space careers of the Apollo astronauts are varied – for example, Michael Collins was the first director of the National Air and Space Museum. Harrison Schmitt became a senator from New Mexico. James B. Irwin founded an evangelical organization, while Edgar Mitchell examined a psychological phenomenon.
But the astronaut who has the most interesting job after the lunar walk may be Buzz Aldrin, who told CNN: "Most people who have received a degree of public recognition are financially in trouble – this is not the case with astronauts. . "And so he noticed that he worked for a Cadillac dealer in Beverly Hills, although he was not very good at it himself. He explained it in his memoirs Wonderful devastation"I was a terrible salesman … People came looking for a car in the area, and as soon as I started a conversation with them, the subject immediately changed from the comfort and convenience of a new or used luxury car to space travel. I spent more time signing signatures than anything else … Actually, I did not sell any car the whole time I worked [the dealer]. "
16. AN EXPERIMENT LINKS ON THE MOON DURING THE APOLLO MISSIONS IS STILL PRESENT.
One of the most sustainable contributions from Apollo 11 was a 2-foot wide panel consisting of 100 mirrors. Similar objects were left behind Apollos 14 and 15, as well as Soviet robbers. Call it the Lunar Laser Ranging Retroreflector experiment, it is "the only Apollo experiment that still returns data from the moon," according to the Lunar and Planetary Institute. The experiment works by shooting a laser in the mirror and waiting for the reflection, but as anyone who has seen a laser pointer know, while they do not spread as much as other light sources, the lasers still spread. In the case of the moon, the laser is 4.9 km in diameter when it is the moon. touches, and 12.4 miles wide when it returns to Earth. But thanks to the program, we have learned that the Moon moves about 1.5 inches from Earth each year and gain new insights into Einstein's theory of general relativity.
17. ALMOST HALF OF THE CENTURY AFTER THE DEFINITIVE APOLLO MISSION, HUMAN EXPLORATION IS STILL STANDING.
It is often said that we never returned to the moon after Apollo. That is not entirely true – in 2016 the Yutu rover stopped working in China after 31 months on the moon. But people have not returned, and that can be a problem.
In 2012, Ian Crawford of the Birkbeck College in London wrote a paper in which he claimed that human space travel has its advantages over robotic exploration. Firstly: "human missions such as Apollo are between two and three orders of magnitude more efficient in carrying out exploration tasks than robotic missions, whereas they are only one to two orders of magnitude more expensive" [PDF]. The newspaper also points out that missions such as Apollo are funded and undertaken for a wide range of socio-political reasons, and that humanity can benefit in many ways.
Not everyone is convinced. Some critics argue that autonomous robots, with their rapidly improving capacities, are the better option. It is a question with serious implications for the future of space exploration.