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Transcript of Apollo Program
Please proceed to take Unit 7 - Quiz 1
Following the very successful Gemini program, NASA was full of confidence as the Apollo program was initiated. The Apollo program’s goals were to land men on the moon and return them safely to Earth. There was plenty of reason for optimism that this ambitious goal would be carried out before the end of the decade. After all, to the American public and much of the world, it seemed as if space flight, with its docking missions and exciting spacewalks, was almost routine. However, the Apollo program got off to a tragic beginning with the Apollo 1 fire in which three crewman lost their lives during ground based testing of the Apollo capsule. It was over one and a half years after the Apollo fire before NASA put another astronaut in space.
However, once the US space program regained its bearings, the missions leading up to the moon landing mission went relatively smoothly. On July 20, 1969 the crew of Apollo walked on the moon. There were six additional Apollo missions to the moon although the crew of Apollo 13 never landed on the moon due to an oxygen tank exploding and severely damaged the space craft. Many scientific experiments were conducted during the Apollo missions including Earth observation and the returning of moon rocks by the crews. The public enjoyed watching the astronauts hop across the moon surface in the space suits and drive the moon buggy over the dusty terrain. However, having won the ‘space race’ against the Russians and with seemingly no tangible Earth-based benefits resulting from the moon missions, the American public and politicians eventually lost interest in supporting the Apollo program and planned flights after Apollo 17 were canceled. Thus, the last man on the moon left on December 14, 1972. No human has set foot on the moon since.
This unit covers the Apollo program with the exception of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission. That mission is covered in Unit 7. Unit 14 titled Space Flight Disasters, which is part of the second half of this course, provides more in depth coverage than this unit of the Apollo 1 and Apollo 13 disasters.
Project Apollo's goals went beyond landing Americans on the Moon and returning them safely to Earth. They included:
•Establishing the technology to meet other national interests in space.
•Achieving preeminence in space for the United States.
•Carrying out a program of scientific exploration of the Moon.
•Developing man's capability to work in the lunar environment.
Apollo was a three-part spacecraft: the command module (CM), the crew's quarters and flight control section; the service module (SM) for the propulsion and spacecraft support systems (when together, the two modules are called CSM); and the lunar module (LM), to take two of the crew to the lunar surface, support them on the Moon, and return them to the CSM in lunar orbit. The Apollo craft used for lunar missions was launched using the Saturn V rocket.
The Apollo 1 fire
At 6:31 pm on January 27th, 1967 during a routine testing session inside the Apollo 1 capsule, a fire was reported. Within moments, crew members Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee were dead of smoke inhalation. The fire had started by an arcing wire over the piping from the urine collection system located below the crews’ feet. Since at that time NASA used 100% oxygen for the environment, the fire quickly moved through the capsule and the crew was dead within a minute. An extensive investigation was conducted and several important changes were made to the capsule. Flammable materials were replaced by safer ones, the redesigned hatch could be opened from the inside and nitrogen was added to the environment prior to the continuation of the Apollo program.
The outside of the Apollo 1 capsule after the tragic fire
The outside of the Apollo 1 capsule after the tragic fire
A segment ABC’s original TV report by Jules Bergman on the night of the disaster – the detail that Mr. Bergman provides relative to today’s news report is fascinating.
After the Apollo 1 fire there were a series of six unmanned Apollo flights designed to assess the functionality and safety of the technology being built to achieve a moon landing. The Apollo 4 mission was significant in that it saw the first launching of the giant Saturn V rocket. This mission demonstrated the structural integrity of the rocket and its ability to achieve a translunar trajectory which is necessary to fly to the Moon.
Unmanned Apollo flights - Apollo 2-7
Apollo 4 - Saturn V rocket on the launch pad
Earth from Apollo 4 cameras
In some ways, the successful launch of the Saturn V rocket was the culminating event of Operation Paperclip. Operation Paperclip was a United Sates government clandestine program that brought German scientists and technicians to America after World War II. In some cases, these people had to have the records of their relationship with the Nazi party destroyed and be provided new identities. This program was designed to provide the US with highly skilled individuals who were immediately put to work on military projects as was as to ensure these people were not captured by the Soviets for use in their military programs. The chief designer of the Saturn V rocket, Wernher von Braun entered the United States through Operation Paperclip.
Apollo 5 and 6
Apollo missions 5 (1/22/1968) and 6 (4/4/1968) were unmanned missions designed to assess the lunar module, or LM, ascent and descent propulsion systems and demonstrate separation of launch vehicle stages. Apollo 5 accomplished all of its objects, however, due to an early cutoff of S-II rocket engines engines and overburn of the S-IVB engine the flight did not achieve the planned verification of Saturn V propulsion, guidance and control, and electrical systems.
Lunar module (LM) on Apollo 5
Apollo 5 spacecraft on the launch pad
Apollo 6 rocket separation stage
Apollo 6 rocket assembly - this picture provides a sense of the enormous size of the Saturn V rocket
The first manned mission of the Apollo program. The mission objectives were he to demonstrate command and service module, or CSM, and crew performance; demonstrate crew, space vehicle and mission support facilities performance during a crewed CSM mission; and demonstrate CSM rendezvous capability. All of the mission’s objectives were successfully accomplished. In addition to the above goals, Apollo 7 sent the first real time television pictures into the homes of the viewing audience.
The CSM and LM are erected for mating
to the Saturn booster prior to Apollo 7
Apollo 7 and the Saturn-IVB rendezvous
Sinai Peninsula from Apollo 7
Apollo 7 - First live American television broadcast from space (CBS)
This CBS news clip, while rough, is interesting. The quality of the television pictures is extremely poor by today’s standards. What I found interesting and something you would never hear today is the broadcaster talking about how Wally Schirra complained about having to operate the cameras and the admission the RCA employee did not know how to operate the camera. Additionally, listen for the comment about Wally Schirra’s wife lighting her second cigarette.
This is a highly edited version of a NASA movie about the flight of Apollo 7. I love the beginning where they are wearing their launch suits and look like ‘super heros’. Be sure to look for the commentary about the crewmembers coming down with the common cold. It was this incident that served as the inspiration for the advertisements below. Additionally, watch the crew walk across the rescue ship’s deck only an hour after flight. You can just barely perceive their slight unsteadiness. Overall, the flight doctors had to feel very good about the condition the crew was in after 11 days of weightlessness.
Wally Schirra advertising Actifed, 1985
Actifed advertisement with Wally Schirra and Donn Eisele, 1987
The mission objectives for Apollo 8 included a coordinated performance of the crew, the command and service module, or CSM, and the support facilities. The mission also was also the first to orbit the moon making the crew the first humans to see the dark side of the moon. This flight may be best well known for its 1968 Christmas Eve broadcast to five continents which contained readings from the Bible’s Book of Genesis and wished viewers, "Good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you - all of you on the good Earth."
This is a highly edited version of a NASA movie about the flight of Apollo 8. Note the striking improvement in the quality of the live television broadcast compared to Apollo 7. I found it interesting that Jim Lovell was actively navigating using the stars are reference points like the sailors of old as the spacecraft traveled to the moon. There is also some nice video of the return module taken from a plane as the return module travels through the atmosphere.
The original CBS news report featuring the live ‘Christmas Eve’ broadcast. Listen for Walter Cronkite mention that the television show 60 Minutes will feature a talk with Correta King and Ethel Kennedy, both of whom lost their husbands as a result of assassination in 1968.
Apollo 8 is also remembered for the iconic photograph of the Earth rising has they came out from the dark side of the moon. Discovering the scene from their space capsule, one astronaut exclaimed, “Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty.” The crew scrambled for a camera. The photographs first appeared in print in January, 1969. Earthrise and images like it are widely credited with inspiring the environmental movement and indirectly the start of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.
The primary objective of Apollo 9 was an engineering test of the first crewed lunar module, or LM, as well as assessing the overall checkout of launch vehicle and spacecraft systems, the crew, and procedures. The LM was to be tested as a self-sufficient spacecraft, and was also to perform active rendezvous and docking maneuvers paralleling those scheduled for the following Apollo 10 lunar-orbit mission. The flight plan's top priority was the CSM and LM rendezvous and docking and all mission objectives we successfully accomplished. The portable life support system that would be used on the Moon was also tested during an EVA by Russ Schweickart.
This video was captured during the Apollo 9 mission. I liked that the crew was having fun and I thought it was a good reminder of how small the spacecraft were during that time.
On May 18, 1969 astronauts Tom Stafford, Gene Cernan and John Young blasted off on the Apollo 10 mission. The Apollo 10 mission encompassed all aspects of an actual crewed lunar landing, except the landing. It was the first flight of a complete, crewed Apollo spacecraft to operate around the moon. Objectives included a scheduled eight-hour lunar orbit of the separated lunar module and descent to about nine miles off the moon's surface before ascending for rendezvous and docking with the command and service module, or CSM, in about a 70-mile circular lunar orbit. For the viewing public, this mission featured the first live color pictures broadcast from space.
Apollo 12 - The primary mission objectives of the second crewed lunar landing included an extensive series of lunar exploration tasks, as well as the deployment of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package, or ALSEP, which was to be left on the moon's surface to gather seismic, scientific and engineering data throughout a long period of time. Astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean performed two successful EVA’s gathering rocks and retrieving parts of the Surveyor III spacecraft, which had soft-landed on the moon April 20, 1967, a short distance from where of Apollo 12 landed. The mission ended on November 23, 1969, after a flight of 244 hours, 36 minutes, 25 seconds. Remarkably this was just 62 seconds longer than planned.
Apollo 10 movie
Apollo 12 mission movie
Original voice recordings between ground control and the Apollo 12 crew
Apollo 12’s launch was filled with drama as 36 seconds into the mission the Saturn rocket was hit by lightning. This caused all sorts of systems on the spacecraft to send all sorts of error messages to the crew. This led to two memorable lines from Commander Pete Conrad – at the moment of the lightning strike he says ‘what the hell was that?’ and later once the situation has stabilized he remarks ‘I think we need to do a little more all-weather testing.’ What I find fascinating is that despite remaining very calm given the circumstances you can hear the fear begin to creep into both the crewmembers and the ground controller’s voices as they go through the various systems trying to figure out what is going wrong. Note that in the previous video they don’t use the ‘what the hell was that?’ and the sound loop was edited such that it appears Conrad says ‘I’m not sure we didn’t get hit by lighting’ shortly after the lightning strike although you can hear on this video that he says that almost 2.5 minutes after the initial strike.
I included this video for those interested in a detailed look at a moon landing. The excitement that Pete Conrad expressed when he realizes the Apollo 12 lunar landing module is on target is infectious. Since the moon landings are now history and there were no disasters, we may take for granted these accomplishments. However, listening to the astronauts and ground controllers is a great reminder that landing on the Moon is anything but routine.
The aborted Apollo 13 mission is covered in a future unit on Spaceflight Disasters.
Please proceed to take Unit 7 - Quiz 2
Apollo 14 was launched on January 31, 1971 with the primary objectives being to explore the Fra Mauro region centered around deployment of the Apollo Lunar Surface Scientific Experiments Package, or ALSEP; lunar field geology investigations; collection of surface material samples for return to Earth; orbital science involving high-resolution photography of candidate future landing sites; photography of deep-space phenomena, and communications tests using S-band and VHF signals to determine reflective properties of the lunar surface. Early in the mission, the crew had some difficulty with the lunar module despite all indications that the all of the involved systems were working properly. Once on the Moon, two successful EVA’s were accomplished by Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell while Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa, orbited above the lunar surface. The crew returned safely to Earth on February 9th, bringing with them 94 pounds of rocks and lunar soil.
This video contains some very nice quality video of the crew moving on the lunar surface and includes what I think is a very poignant piece of video, that of Alan Shepard chasing after Ed Mitchell on their second EVA. For me, the clip captures the utter isolation and loneliness of humans in outer space. You can also hear how the crew is physically laboring as they worked on Moon and the decision to stop their journey only 150 feet from the top of the crater they were exploring.
Apollo 14 mission movie
Alan Shepard’s famous Apollo 14 golf shot.
The text of conversations between Mission Control and the crew during the famous 'golf shot' and 'javelin' throw
Supplemental Reading and Listening
An mp3 audio file of conversations between Mission Control and the crew during the famous 'golf shot' and 'javelin' throw
If you look closely, you can see the 'javelin' and one of the golf balls
See Supplemental Reading to learn where to go in the mp3 file to hear the pertinent conversations.
Apollo 15 was the first of the Apollo "J" missions capable of a longer stay time on the moon and greater surface mobility. The mission objectives were to explore the Hadley-Apennine region, set up and activate lunar surface scientific experiments, make engineering evaluations of new Apollo equipment, and conduct lunar orbital experiments and photographic tasks. Exploration and geological investigations at the Hadley-Apennine landing site were enhanced by the addition of the Lunar Roving Vehicle. Another major mission objective involved the launching of a Particles and Fields subsatellite into lunar orbit by the command and service module shortly (see movie below). Apollo 15 launched on July 26, 1971 at 9:34 a.m. EDT, only 187 milliseconds off schedule. The crew was comprised of Dave Scott, Jim Irwin and Al Worden. This mission accomplished several ‘first’, including the lunar liftoff being seen on live television. Al Worden became the first human to carry out a deep space EVA (see movie below) and the maximum radial distance traveled on the lunar surface away from the spacecraft of about 17.5 miles thanks to the use of the new lunar rover. The previous high was 2.1 miles on Apollo 14.
Apollo 15 mission movie
This movie contains some excellent footage of the crew riding across the terrain in their moon rover. Watching this footage with the moon in the foreground and the black night in the background is surreal to me. I have also included a good deal of footage of the crew collecting rock and soil samples. The excitement in their voices as they work on the moon is palpable. As a movement specialist, I am also fascinated by how the astronauts moved while on the moon so there I have included some video of them ‘hopping’ from place to place including a fall of one of the crewmembers. The launch of the craft that took them back to the command module is also shown. This sequence includes their homemade version of the US Air Force’s official song ‘Off we go into the wild blue yonder’. I have often wondered what it must have been like as they sat on the moon waiting for the rockets to launch their craft up to the command module. A failure of that launch system would have left them stranded on the moon creating one of the most compelling events in human history to be watched by billions of people the world over. Fortunately, no crew members were lost during the Apollo moon landing missions. Note the failure of one of the landing parachutes and the astronauts paying tribute to those astronauts and cosmonauts who gave their lives in the exploration of space.
A most famous demonstration of Galileo conclusion that all objects released together fall at the same rate regardless of mass.
Apollo 16 launched on April 16, 1972, with the crew of John Young, Charles Duke Jr. and Tom Mattingly II. Three primary objectives were (1) to inspect, survey, and sample materials and surface features at a selected landing site in the Descartes region; (2) emplace and activate surface experiments; and (3) conduct in-flight experiments and photographic tasks from lunar orbit. Two significant command and service module problems – one en route to the moon and one in lunar orbit – contributed to a delay in landing and a subsequent early termination of the mission by one day. Real-time flight planners deleted four stops from the third and final EVA because of time constraint in meeting ascent schedule. Astronauts drove north to North Ray Crater where "House Rock," inside the crater rim, was sampled (see movie below). A second Particles and Fields, subsatellite was launched at on April 24 but the orbital shaping maneuver was deleted. This resulted in the satellite having a highly elliptical orbit around the Moon, cutting its lifetime from one year to about one month. It crashed into the Moon on May, 29th, 1972.
Apollo 16 mission movie
This movie focuses on the crew gathering rocks and moving about the surface of the moon. There is an interesting sequence in which both the crew and the people in mission control badly misestimate the distances on the moon. There is also a nice sequence of an EVA retrieval of some cameras on the outside of the command module.
For movement scientists and space suit developers, this is an extremely important piece of footage showing the difficulties the Apollo crew experienced if they fell down on the Moon.
Apollo 17 was the last of the manned missions to the Moon and was launched on Dec. 7, 1972 with the crew of Eugene Cernan, Harrison Schmitt and Ron Evans. Mission objectives included, geological surveying and sampling of lunar materials and surface features; deploying and activating surface experiments; and conducting in-flight experiments and photographic tasks during lunar orbit. A range of biomedical experiments were also conducted included the Biostack II experiment and the BIOCORE experiment. The objective of the BIOCORE experiments were to determine whether a specific portion of the high Z energy galactic cosmic ray particle spectrum produced microscopically visible injuries in the brain, eye, and other tissues. Apollo 17 hosted the first scientist-astronaut to land on moon: Harrison Schmitt, a Harvard trained geologist. The crew left a plaque on the Moon, a replica of which can be seen below.
Apollo 17 mission movie
In some ways this is a difficult movie to watch as it contains footage of the last moments that humans were on the Moon. For me, it is almost impossible to believe that it has been a half century since we as a species set foot on an extraterrestrial surface. At the time, it seemed inevitable that we would be on our way to Mars by the end of the 20th century. Like the Apollo 16 movie, this movie contains some fascinating sequences of the two crewmembers working together as a team to accomplish some of their assigned tasks but also displaying how difficult it was to coordinate their movements in the 1/6 gravity of the Moon. There is a great sequence where the ground crew is having a good laugh as the expense of an astronaut who has fallen and can’t get up. The sound bite from the director of Johnson Space Center, Chris Kraft reflects the heartfelt believe that the moon landings were, in some way, fundamental humankind’s world view.
By any measure the Apollo program was an incredible success. From its disastrous beginning with the Apollo 1 fire and loss of three crewmembers, the program recovered to achieve six successful Moon landings, placing 12 men on the Moon. Gene Cernan was the last human to step off of the lunar surface on December 14th, 1972. The technology developed to perform the Apollo program has made its way into the commercial market place and continues to positively influence literally billions of people’s lives each day. From microwave ovens, improved cameras and television, satellites, packaged food, sophisticated medical equipment and the list goes on and on; the Earth-based benefits of the Apollo program have shaped how we live our lives. Thousands of young people continue to look towards the heavens and be inspired to study science, mathematics and social sciences in the hopes that someday they can contribute to the continued exploration of space. As Dave Scott, commander of the Apollo 15 mission said as he stepped onto the Moon for the first time “as I stand out here in the wonders of the unknown . . . I realize there’s a fundamental truth to our nature, man must explore”.
Link to Apollo 14 ‘lunar sports chatter’
https://d396qusza40orc.cloudfront.net/humanspaceflight/Commentary between the crew on the Moon and the ground controllers around Alan Shepard.pdf