The Apollo Program was a set of space missions coordinated by NASA (United States Space Agency) between 1961 and 1972 with the objective of placing man on the Moon. The project had its most emblematic moment with the landing of Apollo 11 on the lunar ground in July 20, 1969. The mission included eleven manned flights (until Apollo 7, all missions were unmanned). This includes what became known as "Apollo 1," in honor of astronauts Virgil "Gus" Ivan Grissom, Edward Higgins White II, and Roger Bruce Chaffee, who died on the ground in a fire inside the cockpit.
The objective of exploring the Moon was abandoned in December 1972, with the flight of Apollo 17. The reasons for this decision were both the lack of funds, cut by Congress, and the lack of interest of American public opinion in the project. Although there were three manned Skylab missions that used the Apollo spacecraft and one Apollo 18 mission (Apollo-Soyuz), these were not aimed at reaching the Moon.
The Apollo spacecraft was abandoned in 1975, at the expense of using a reusable vehicle (the Space Shuttle; in Portugal: Space Shuttle), which would fly for the first time in 1981. In 2005, NASA announced plans to resume travel to the Moon using Apollo-like spacecraft to replace space shuttles.
The beginning of the project
The dream of reaching the Moon represented an ancient human ambition, fictionalized by many authors (cf. Jules Verne, 1865 "De la Terre à la Lune", where a giant cannon is used as a propulsion mechanism), but made possible in the 20th century, as a result of technological and scientific advances in both aeronautics and automatic computing. Much of the technology needed for the project was developed as a result of the war effort during World War II (eg digital computers for calculations of ballistics, among others), and for the development of intercontinental missiles - in part heirs of the technology of the primitive V-2 Nazi missiles - in the context of the Cold War between the United States and the USSR. The Mercury, Gemini and Apollo projects were a response by the States United with the USSR, for having placed the Sputnik 1 satellite into orbit and, shortly thereafter, for having placed the first human, Yuri Gagarin, in orbit. In a famous speech of May 25, 1961, John F. Kennedy issued the challenge to, before the decade was out, "send men to the moon and return them to safety."
In a famous speech at Rice University his words were: We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard ("We decided to go to the moon. We decided to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are difficult").
In July 1960, NASA announced that it would place astronauts in orbit around the Moon after Project Mercury. However, Kennedy's speech shifted the focus of the US space program to achieving the goal of landing a manned spacecraft on the Moon's surface before the decade was out.
Unlike the two previous projects designed to maneuver in Earth orbit (Mercury, with a spacecraft designed for one astronaut, and Gemini, designed for two astronauts), Apollo had a spacecraft with a capacity for three astronauts, making it possible to reach lunar orbit , and drop a Module (called the Lunar Module) onto the surface of the Moon and ensure its return to Earth (see comparative drawing of the three ships).
Apollo Project Objectives
The goals of the Apollo project were:
Establish the technology to enable US interests in outer space;
Achieve space prominence for the United States;
Develop a scientific exploration program for the Moon;
Develop man's abilities to work in the lunar environment.