Apollo program

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The Apollo program was the United States spaceflight effort which landed the first humans on Earth's Moon. Conceived during the Eisenhower administration and conducted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Apollo began in earnest after President John F. Kennedy's 1961 address to Congress declaring a national goal of "landing a man on the Moon" by the end of the decade[1][2] in a competition with the Soviet Union for supremacy in space.

This goal was first accomplished during the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969 when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed, while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit. Five subsequent Apollo missions also landed astronauts on the Moon, the last in December 1972. In these six Apollo spaceflights, 12 men walked on the Moon. These are the only times humans have landed on another celestial body.[3]

The Apollo program ran from 1961 until 1975, and was America's third human spaceflight program (following Mercury and Gemini). It used Apollo spacecraft and Saturn launch vehicles, which were also used for the Skylab program in 1973–74, and a joint U.S.–Soviet mission in 1975. These subsequent programs are thus often considered part of the Apollo program.

The program was successfully carried out despite two major setbacks: the 1967 Apollo 1 launch pad fire that killed three astronauts; and an oxygen tank rupture during the 1970 Apollo 13 flight which disabled the Command Module. Using the Lunar Excursion Module as a "lifeboat", the three crewmen narrowly escaped with their lives, thanks to their skills and the efforts of flight controllers, project engineers, and backup crew members.

Apollo set major milestones in human spaceflight. It stands alone in sending manned missions beyond low Earth orbit; Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to orbit another celestial body, while Apollo 17 marked the last moonwalk and the last manned mission beyond low Earth orbit. The program spurred advances in many areas of technology incidental to rocketry and manned spaceflight, including avionics, telecommunications, and computers. Apollo also sparked interest in many fields of engineering and left many physical facilities and machines developed for the program as landmarks. Its command modules and other objects and artifacts are displayed throughout the world, notably in the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museums in Washington, DC and at NASA's centers in Florida, Texas and Alabama.

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