Florida and the Apollo Program
Test launches of the Saturn launch vehicle and the Apollo spacecraft began in 1961, seven years before the first manned Apollo mission actually blasted off from Cape Canaveral. More than 30 such test launches were conducted or planned, including the ill-fated Apollo-Saturn 204, which was destroyed by a fire on the launch pad during testing, killing the three-man crew inside. The astronauts had designed a patch for the mission calling it “Apollo 1,” although NASA had decided to hold off on giving it that title. After the accident, at the request of the fallen crew members’ families, the mission was permanently designated Apollo 1.
The following list includes the 12 manned Apollo missions, including six successful lunar landings.
Launched: October 11, 1968
Crew: Wally Schirra, Donn F. Eisele and Walter Cunningham
Duration: 10 days, 20 hours, 9 minutes, 3 seconds
Details: Manned test of the command-service module. This flight also included the first ever live commercial television broadcast from space.
Launched: December 21, 1968
Crew: Frank Borman, James Lovell, William Anders
Duration: 6 days, 3 hours, 42 seconds
Details: Manned test of the Saturn V launch vehicle and first ever lunar orbit. The spacecraft orbited the Moon 10 times and transmitted the first ever live television images of the lunar surface.
Launched: March 3, 1969
Crew: James McDivitt, David Scott, Rusty Schweickart
Duration: 10 days, 1 hour, 54 seconds
Details: Manned test of the complete Apollo spacecraft, including the lunar module, in orbit around the Earth. Rusty Schweickart briefly left the vehicle to test the Portable Life Support System that later Apollo crew members would use on the Moon.
Launched: May 18, 1969
Crew: Thomas P. Stafford, John Young, Eugene Cernan
Duration: 8 days, 3 minutes, 23 seconds
Details: This was a dress rehearsal for the lunar landing that the crew of Apollo 11 would later conduct. Once the crew was in orbit around the Moon, astronauts Stafford and Cernan entered the lunar module, detached it from the command-service module and descended to within about 9 miles of the lunar surface. After about 8 hours of testing, the two astronauts reconnected the lunar module to the command-service module and reunited with John Young before returning to Earth.
Launched: July 16, 1969
Crew: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin
Duration: 8 days, 3 hours, 18 minutes, 35 seconds
Details: This was the first manned mission to land on the Moon. The lunar module successfully touched down in the region of the Moon known as the Sea of Tranquility at 4:18 p.m. Cape Canaveral time on July 20. A few hours later, Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the lunar surface; Buzz Aldrin soon followed. The two collected samples and set up experiments, and then returned to the lunar module, which lifted off on July 21. The astronauts successfully rejoined the command-service module and returned to Earth.
Launched: November 14, 1969
Crew: Charles (Pete) Conrad, Richard F. Gordon, Jr., Alan Bean
Duration: 10 days, 4 hours, 36 minutes, 24 seconds
Details: Second lunar landing achieved, this time in the region of the Moon known as the Ocean of Storms. Astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean left the lunar module on two separate occasions with a rest break in between, spending a total of 31 hours and 31 minutes on the Moon. They took samples, set up more experiments and retrieved samples taken by Surveyor 3, an unmanned spacecraft that had landed nearby. The crew returned safely to Earth on November 24.
Launched: April 11, 1970
Crew: James Lovell, Jack Swigert, Fred Haise
Duration: 5 days, 22 hours, 54 minutes, 41 seconds
Details: This mission was intended to include a third lunar landing, but two days into the mission an oxygen tank attached to the service module exploded. With the service module no longer usable, the crew was forced to use the lunar module as a life raft to return to Earth. NASA considered several options for getting the spacecraft home, finally directing the astronauts to follow a trajectory that would take them around the far side of the Moon and use its gravitational pull to swing them back toward Earth. In the process, they took their spacecraft farther from Earth than any human had ever traveled. The crew splashed down safely on April 17.
Launched: January 31, 1971
Crew: Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa, Edgar Mitchell
Duration: 9 days, 1 minute, 58 seconds
Details: This mission completed the tasks originally scheduled for Apollo 13. Astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell landed on the Moon and collected 43 kilograms of samples for scientific study before returning to the service-command module and heading back to Earth.
Launched: July 26, 1971
Crew: David Scott, Alfred Worden, James Irwin
Duration: 12 days, 7 hours, 11 minutes, 53 seconds
Details: This crew achieved the fourth lunar landing and stayed on the surface of the Moon for longer than any previous mission. Astronauts David Scott and James Irwin touched down in the Hadley-Apennine region of the Moon and stayed for three days. They collected 77 kilograms of samples, took photographs and drove the lunar rover for the first time. As they departed, they launched a small satellite designed to orbit the Moon and send data back to Earth.
Launched: April 16, 1972
Crew: John Young, Ken Mattingly, Charles Duke
Duration: 11 days, 1 hour, 51 minutes, 5 seconds
Details: This mission achieved a lunar landing in the Descartes Highlands region of the Moon. Astronauts John Young and Charles Duke remained on the lunar surface for more than 71 hours and did extensive exploring, transmitting live color video as they went. The crew returned to Earth with just over 96 kilograms of samples from the Moon.
Launched: December 7, 1972
Crew: Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans, Harrison Schmitt
Duration: 12 days, 13 hours, 51 minutes, 59 seconds
Details: The last of the manned Apollo missions, this crew included the first professional geologist ever to set foot on the Moon. The lunar module landed in the Taurus-Littrow region of the lunar surface, and astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt remained there for nearly 75 hours. While there, they drove the lunar rover about 35 kilometers, visited Sterno Crater and collected 115 kilograms of samples.
Three more Apollo missions (18, 19 and 20) were cancelled. The first two were scrapped because of budget cuts. Apollo 20 was canceled because NASA needed to use its Saturn V rocket to launch the Skylab space station.