The Moon Guide
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The phase of the Moon right now

Phase
 
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lunar eclipse
Cutaway of the Saturn V
Apollo's Chariots
< Apollo to the Moon!

To send humans to the Moon, the United States first had to build the world's largest and most powerful rocket. They called it Saturn V (for “five”).

Standing 111 m tall, the three-stage Saturn V, designed by Wernher von Braun and his group at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, was able to put over 100 tonnes into Earth orbit, or send over 40 tonnes to the Moon.

Three astronauts rode in a conical Command Module, 3.9 m wide at the base and 3.8 m tall. Behind this was the Service Module, a cylinder 7.5 m long containing air, water, and power supplies as well as a large engine called the Service Propulsion System (SPS) which was used for making course changes and entering and leaving lunar orbit.

Electrical power was supplied not by solar cells but by a type of battery known as a Fuel Cell, now used on the Space Shuttle, which produces drinkable water as a by-product.

Atop its launch rocket the Apollo spacecraft was surmounted by an escape tower which would have pulled it clear in case of an emergency. This tower was jettisoned once the Saturn rocket was safely in flight.

Tucked away under the Command and Service Module (CSM) during launch was the craft that would actually make the lunar landing, the spidery Lunar Module (LM). Once the third stage of the Saturn V had fired to put them safely on their way to the Moon, the astronauts turned the CSM to dock with the LM and extract it.

When in orbit around the Moon, the two astronauts who were to make the landing entered the LM through a docking tunnel in the Command Module’s nose, leaving their companion in charge of the CSM.

The LM consisted of two halves: the four-legged descent stage, with a large engine for controlling descent to the Moon, and the upper stage containing the two astronauts. The two astronauts took off again from the Moon in this top half (also called the ascent stage), using the lower stage as a launch pad.

After a series of four manned test flights, including a dress rehearsal in lunar orbit by Apollo 10 which simulated a full mission in all but the landing, the stage was set for the final fulfilment of President Kennedy’s challenge. Apollo 11 would land men on the Moon in July 1969.

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The first explorers

Landers and orbiters

Sample returns and lunar rovers

Map of lunar landings

Timeline 1

Apollo To The Moon!

Apollo's Chariots

Meeting The Challenge

Repeating The Feat

Driving on the Moon

Heading for the Hills

Apollo landing chronology

 
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