History of Flight - TO THE MOON

TO THE MOON (Illustration) Russian Studies American History Biographies Famous Historical Events Famous People History Social Studies STEM Tragedies and Triumphs Aviation & Space Exploration

To reach the Moon, America needed to develop a powerful rocket:  the Saturn V. This NASA image compares the size of the mighty Saturn V with the other rockets which NASA used in earlier space flights.


One major triumph brought a moon flight much closer to reality. The United States developed, and successfully launched, the mighty Saturn V. Taller than a 36-story building, it was the largest and most powerful three-stage rocket ever built.

With three million parts, it was a giant just waiting for the right time to send a crew to the moon. Not one was ever lost, but not one would have ever flown had engineers (at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama) not solved combustion-instability problems with the F-1 engine (which powered the Saturn V rocket).

Several Apollo missions were flown to lessen anxieties about a safe lunar landing (and return) while astronauts were preparing (in Arizona) to walk on the moon. Crew members of Apollo 8 were the first people to see an "earthrise" as their spacecraft made the first loop around the moon.

Five months later, Apollo 10 was the first mission to go into lunar orbit. Partially descending to the moon - which can, on rare occasions, appear as a "SuperMoon" to people on Earth - the crew tested the lunar module that would be critical to a safe moon landing.

The Soviets, meanwhile, were also rushing ahead with plans for a moon landing. They even had lunar suits ready. An insurmountable problem blocked their way, however. They did not have a rocket comparable to the Saturn V. Prior rockets, sending cosmonauts into space, did not have sufficient power for a moon launch.

The N-1, Russia's best effort to successfully build a moon-launch rocket, was a failure. During the first launch attempt (in February, 1969), an engine fire caused the rocket to shut down and crash one minute after take-off. In July, 1969 the test rocket shut down seconds after lift-off, falling onto the launch pad where it exploded.

When the launch site was destroyed, so were all Soviet hopes that their crew could reach the moon before Apollo 11's flight. (Follow the link to a U.S. Corona reconnaissance satellite photo of the destroyed launch site.)

In a final attempt to at least retrieve lunar surface materials before the Americans, the Soviet Union sent an unmanned robot to the moon. It crash-landed on the moon's surface shortly after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first human beings to step foot on the moon.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5123stories and lessons created

Original Release: Nov 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Dec 08, 2014

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"TO THE MOON" AwesomeStories.com. Nov 01, 2002. Oct 18, 2017.
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