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October 11, 2018 - December 19, 2022 - The Apollo programme began 50 years ago with the first manned Apollo space flight which laid the groundwork for the missions that saw a dozen men land on the moon between 1969 and 1972.
Apollo was the third U.S. human spaceflight program carried out by NASA, which landed the first humans on the Moon between 1969 and 1972. First conceived of during Dwight Eisenhower's administration, Apollo was later dedicated to President John F. Kennedy's national goal of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" by the end of the 1960s, which he proposed in an address to Congress in 1961.
Kennedy's goal was met on July 20, 1969 (six years after his assassination) when the Apollo 11 Eagle lunar module, crewed by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, successfully landed on our celestial neighbour, allowing them to both walk upon the lunar surface. A third astronaught, Michael Collins, remained in lunar orbit in the Command/Service Module, necessary for retrieving the Eagle and returning them all safely to Earth, then some 400,000km away. Five subsequent Apollo missions landed more astronauts on the Moon, the last in December 1972. In all, six landings took place – putting 12 Americans on the Moon.
Apollo’s first manned flight was on October 11, 1968, the date NASA has chosen to mark as Apollo’s 50th anniversary. The space agency (founded in 1958) achieved its goal of a manned lunar landing, despite a major setback in 1967 when Apollo 1 caught fire on the launch pad and killed the entire crew.
After the first landing, sufficient rocket hardware remained for nine follow-up missions. However, budget cuts forced the cancellation of three of these. Five of the remaining six missions achieved successful landings, but Apollo 13 was prevented from doing so by a gas tank explosion en route to the Moon, which crippled the Command/Service Module's propulsion and life support systems. The crew limped back to Earth, using the Lunar Module as a "lifeboat".
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