The Moon Guide
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The phase of the Moon right now

Phase
 
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Kennedy at Rice
President Kennedy made a
stirring speech at Rice
University, Houston, in 1962
Apollo To The Moon!

Without the political rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States, the history of space exploration would have been very different.

Having seen the USSR put the first satellite into orbit, followed by the first animal and then the first human, President John F. Kennedy looked for the most impressive way in which the United States could beat its Cold War adversaries.

Among the alternatives considered were a space station, a circumlunar trip, and an unmanned landing. In the end, it was decided that only a manned lunar landing would capture the public imagination, and be so far beyond the ability of the Soviet Union at that time that the USA could do it first.

In a now-famous speech to the US Congress on 1961 May 25, President Kennedy announced this goal... to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth "before this decade is out".

It was a breathtakingly ambitious commitment, coming at a time when the only US manned spaceflight experience was a modest 15-minute hop above the atmosphere by Alan Shepard in a single-seater Mercury capsule.

Kennedy and von Braun
Kennedy (right) with
rocket engineer
Wernher von Braun

Thus the primary impetus for Apollo was political, not scientific or technical, and it rapidly accelerated developments in space exploration that might otherwise have taken decades to achieve.

Left to follow a logical course, NASA might well have chosen first to develop a reusable space carrier and a space station in orbit around the Earth before eventually striking out for the Moon sometime around the end of the 20th century.

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Aldrin on the Moon

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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