Apollo 17 left the moon on the final lunar mission in December 1972. Since then, the Space Shuttle has been America’s manned space program and it is slated to end in September 2010. NASA is in the early stages of a program called “Constellation” that will borrow heavily from the Apollo experience to return America to the moon for extended stays.
Few people knew much about Cape Canaveral prior to Alan Shepard’s sub-orbital spaceflight in May, 1961. Prior to that flight, Cape Canaveral went about its business as a U.S. Air Force installation engaged in the development and testing of missiles for the purpose of delivering nuclear warheads. But the U.S. manned space program, and the huge undertaking of going to the moon, made Cape Canaveral a household name.
Many people who were around during the days of the Apollo lunar missions don’t recall the NASA manned space project that preceded the lunar landing effort. But without Project Gemini, the two-man missions that flew in 1965 and 1966, America would not have been able to fulfill Kennedy’s commitment to get to the moon by the end of the decade.
The young president Kennedy was getting beat by the Russians. The Bay of Pigs had been a fiasco, as had a summit with Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev in Vienna. And now, the Soviet Union was clearly ahead in space. Kennedy committed the U.S. to getting a man on the moon. It’s probably that commitment, and his subsequent tragic death, that made it possible for the goal to be accomplished.
If you were alive and over the age of about five or six, chances are you remember where you were on the afternoon and evening of July 20, 1969. Part one recalls what happened when two American astronauts landed on the moon.