The United Space Program run by NASA sent men to the moon a total of six times. The flights were:

  • Apollo 11 with a crew consisting of Neil A. Armstrong (commander), Michael Collins (CM pilot), Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin Jr. (LM pilot)
  • Apollo 12 with a crew consisting of Charles Conrad Jr. (commander), Richard F. Gordon Jr. (CM pilot), Alan L. Bean (LM pilot)
  • Apollo 14 with a crew consisting of Alan B. Shepard Jr. (commander), Stuart A. Roosa (CM pilot), Edgar D. Mitchell (LM pilot)
  • Apollo 15 with a crew consisting of David R. Scott (commander), Alfred M. Worden (CM pilot), James B. Irwin (LM pilot)
  • Apollo 16 with a crew consisting of John W. Young (commander), Thomas K. Mattingly II (CM pilot), Charles M. Duke Jr. (LM pilot) Apollo 17 with a crew consisting of Eugene A. Cernan (commander), Ronald E. Evans (CM pilot), Harrison H. Schmitt (LM pilot)

Each mission was targeted to a different part of the lunar surface and had its own set of technical and scientific objectives. Some details about each mission are explained below.

Apollo 11

Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to land on the Moon. They landed at the Sea of Tranquility. The first steps by humans on the moon were taken by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969. The astronauts also returned to Earth with the firs samples ever gathered from the Moons surface. Apollo 11 achieved its primary mission – to perform a manned lunar landing and return the mission safely to Earth – and paved the way for the Apollo lunar landing missions to follow.

Apollo 11 consisted of a single EVA lasting 02 hours, 31 minutes. The U.S. flag and various instruments were deployed. The astronauts unveiled a plaque on the LM descent stage with the inscription: “Here Men From Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon. July 1969 A.D. We Came In Peace For All Mankind.” The lunar surface stay time was 21.6 hours; 59.5 hours were spent in lunar orbit, comprising of 30 orbits. LM ascent stage was left in lunar orbit after the mission was completed. Twenty kilograms (44 lbs) of material was gathered from the lunar surface.

Apollo 12

Apollo 12 was the second manned mission to land on the Moon. The primary goag was to plan and execute a precision landing on the lunar surface. The landing site was in the Ocean of Storms and met its goal of being within walking distance of the Surveyor III spacecraft which had landed on the Moon in April of 1967. The astronauts brought instruments from Surveyor III back to Earth to examine the effects of long-term exposure to the lunar environment.

The primary goals of Apollo 12 were to retrieve parts of the unmanned Surveyor 3, which had landed on the Moon in April 1967. Also, the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) was deployed. The lunar surface stay-time was 31.5 hours; they were in lunar orbit 89 hours, with a total of 45 lunar orbits. The LM descent stage impacted on the Moon after its function was completed. Thirty four kilograms (75 lbs) of material was gathered.

Apollo 14

Apollo 14 mission took it to the Fra Mauro region of the Moon, the intended landing site of the aborted Apollo 13 mission. The astronauts used the Modularized Equipment Transporter (MET) to haul equipment during two EVAs. They collected samples, took photographs, and visited the nearby Cone crater. One of the more memorable moments of the mission came at the end of the second EVA when Apollo 14 commander Alan Shepard hit 2 golf balls on the Moon.

Highlights of the Apollo 14 mission include deploying the ALSEP and other instruments. The lunar surface stay-time for this mission was 33.5 hours. It spent 67 hours in lunar orbit, with 34 orbits. Two EVAs were conducted, lasting a total of of 9 hours, 25 minutes. The third stage module impacted on the Moon. Fourty two kilograms (94 lbs) of materials were gathered from the lunar surface, using hand cart to transport the samples to the return module.

Apollo 15

Apollo 15 was the fourth mission to successfully land men on the Moon. This mission was the first flight of the Lunar Roving Vehicle. Astronauts used this vehicle to explore the geology of the Hadley Rille/Apennine region. The LRV allowed Apollo 15, 16 and 17 astronauts to venture further from the Lunar Module than in previous missions and was a major advancement in the exploration of the lunar surface. Total surface traverses increased from hundreds of meters during earlier missions to tens of kilometers during Apollo 15 and 16 and just over 100 kilometers during Apollo 17.

The Apollo 15 mission consisted of three EVAs for a total time of 10 hours, 36 minutes. Worden also performed a 38 minutes EVA on way back to Earth. Apollo 15 was the first to carry orbital sensors in the service module of the CSM. ALSEP was deployed. The scientific payload landed on Moon doubled in size from the previous missions. Improved spacesuits gave increased mobility and stay-time to the astronauts. The lunar surface staytime was 66.9 hours. The Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), an electric-powered, 4-wheel drive car, traversed a total 27.9 km (17 mi) across the surface of the moon. The astronauts spent 145 hours in lunar orbit, with 74 orbits. A small sub-satellite was left in lunar orbit for first time. Seventy Six point seven kilograms (169 lbs) of material was gathered from the moon during this mission.

Apollo 16

Apollo 16 was the fifth mission to land men on the moon. It was also the second flight of the Lunar Roving Vehicle. Apollo 16 landed in the Descartes Highlands area, a previously unexplored region of the Moon. Astronauts collected samples, took photographs and conducted experiments that included the first use of an ultraviolet camera/spectrograph on the Moon.

Apollo 16 represented the first study of the highlands area of the Moon. Selected surface experiments were deployed and a variety of ultraviolet camera/spectrograph images were gathered. The LRV was effectively used for second time allowing a traversal of 27 kilometers of the lunar surface. The lunar surface stay-time was 71 hours. The astronauts were in lunar orbit for 126 hours, with 64 orbits. Mattingly performed a one hour in-flight EVA during this mission. Ninety Five kilograms (209 lbs) of lunar samples were collected.

Apollo 17
Apollo 17 was the last Apollo mission to land men on the Moon. It carried the only trained geologist to walk on the lunar surface, pilot Harrison Schmitt. Apollo 17 astronauts traversed the greatest distance using the Lunar Roving Vehicle and returned the greatest amount of rock and soil samples of all the missions. Eugene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17, still holds the distinction of being the last man to walk on the Moon.

The Apollo 17 mission consisted of three EVAs for a total of 22 hours, 04 minutes spent on the lunar surface. Evans performed trans-Earth EVA lasting 01 hour, 06 minutes. This mission also marked the first and last time that a scientist landed on the moon – geologist Harrison Schmitt. The sixth automated research station set up during this mission. LRV travelled a total of 30.5 km. Lunar surface stay-time for this mission was 75 hours. Lunar orbit time was 148 hours, with 75 orbits completed. One Hundred Ten point four kilograms (243 lbs) of material was gathered during the mission.

The end of the Apollo Manned Moon Mission program marked the end of the era of brave manned exploration of space. No missions as bold in scope and planning have been conducted since that point.

For space buffs, Apollo was an exciting time. Relive that time with this collection of NASA Space videos at The Historical Archive.

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