The Eagle Has Landed




The Eagle Has Landed

The Apollo missions sponsored by the National Aeronautics Space Administration, hereafter referred to as NASA, has had a huge impact on our nation as well as our world. The Apollo missions sent humans to orbit, study, research and even walk on Earth’s only natural satellite, the Moon. The desire to get to the Moon sprouted from a fierce and scary time in our nations history, the Cold War with Russia. The “Race for Space”, as it came to be known, was of dire importance to the United States and forever changed and strengthened our nation.
After World War 2 the United States came into a bitter Cold War with Communist Russia. The Cold War was an intense period of unrest and political warfare between two powerful nations, the U.S. and Russia. After the real war the US and Russia were in a bitter struggle with each other for world power. Each nation began racing to arms, including nuclear weapons, and racing to gain technology. Each country had hopes of ‘breaking’ the others bank and securing the position of power over the other country. The space race was a big part of the Cold War. “It was a race to dominate the world, to decide whether American style democracy or Russian style communism would be Earth’s predominate political philosophy,” (Schefter 12).
On Friday October 4, 1957 the Soviet Union launched an artificial satellite, Sputnik, into orbit around the Earth (Schefter 21). Many Americans feared that the Soviets were winning the ‘race for space’ and pushed for the United States to do something fast, before it was too late. “The impact of a Russian conquest in space was cataclysmic,” (Schefter 6). The U.S. had to get the moon, and they had to get it quick.


“In 1961, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed that it would be a U.S. national goal to put a man on the Moon, and bring him safely back to Earth by 1970,” (Pasachoff 139). And so the Apollo missions began. The overall goal of the NASA sponsored missions was to provide data about the geography and physical make-up of the moon as well as to have a human being walk on the moon. There were a total of seventeen different missions to orbit or land on the moon, Apollo 1 through Apollo 17. “On the night of July 20, 1969, two Americans walked on the moon,” (Chaikin vii).
The first Apollo mission, Apollo 1 was attempted in on January 27 of 1967. It was meant to be an engine test for the Apollo type spacecraft. The cabin of the spacecraft was filled with pure oxygen, proving to be disastrous for the astronauts aboard. There was a flash fire in the cockpit of the command module and the oxygen caused an explosion (Chaikin 13-18). The veteran astronauts killed were Gus Grissom, Edward White, and Roger B. Chaffee. It was the first set of tragic deaths experienced by NASA.
Apollo 2-7 were manned space flights that orbited the Earth. Their primary objective was to test the Apollo type spacecraft for future lunar projects.
The Apollo 8 was the first manned orbit of the moon. The Apollo 8, 9, and Apollo 10 missions had a goal to orbit the moon and photograph possible landing sites for later missions. It is also important to realize that nobody on Earth even knew what the surface of the moon would be like. “The surface properties of the moon were largely unknown in 1958, a matter which assumed great practical importance when man’s first journeys to the Moon began to take shape,” (Cortright 81). With the help of the Apollo 8 and 10 missions NASA was able to predict a proper landing site, providing that the moon wouldn’t swallow up the spacecraft.
The Apollo 10 mission “simulated lunar landing with the lunar module,” (Apollo 10 3). The main objective of the two missions were to locate a safe landing destination and provide important information about tracking systems for the Apollo type spacecraft. The Apollo 10 mission “was a ‘dress-rehearsal’ for the first lunar landing,” (Apollo 10 4).
The Apollo 11 spacecraft named The Eagle landed on the moon one evening in July. Chaikin writes the famed words of Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The