Apollo 11 Mission: How NASA Broke The Space Barrier

July 20th, 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of humanity’s first landing on the moon. This was a victory for America against the Soviet Union, however, there are not many people who know the story of how a small group of extraordinary people, with their enthusiasm, bravery, courage, and intelligence, broke the space barrier and propelled us to the moon and back.

While America was the first to achieve the feat of landing on the moon, humanity had been dreaming of this for many years. By ancient civilizations, the celestial bodies in the sky were considered untouchable gods; but near the beginning of the 20th century, technology began to show that it might be possible to actually reach them.

In 1903, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky discovered a way to propulse an object into orbit around Earth, by developing the first design for the rocket, which used hydrogen and oxygen fuels to push itself through the void of space. He also developed the “rocket equation”, which describes the motion of a rocket given variables and is the basis of modern rocket science. While this was a great step forward, no more major progress was made until World War II.

The Nazi regime wanted to use rockets as long-range weapons, and production of the V-2 rocket began in 1943. At the end of the war, Nazi factories and research facilities were captured, and this information was used to advance both the United States and the Soviet space programs. These superpowers went head to head in a large altercation which was known as the Cold War. The Cold War sparked many things, a huge arms race, fear of nuclear weaponry on both sides, and the space race.

Sparked by the fear of the other’s military capabilities if they got ahead, the Space Race was a competition between the Soviet Union and the United States to gain more spaceflight capabilities than the other.

The Soviets beat the US to space with the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4th, 1957. A year later the US made it to space with its own satellite Explorer. Soon after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was signed in by President Eisenhower.

By 1961, both the US and the Soviet Union had made significant advancements in space travel. Russia had launched the first artificial satellites to orbit, and had crashed a rocket into the Moon, and the US had trained a chimpanzee to pull levers in orbit.

The tides began to shift toward the Soviets, however, when Yuri Gagarin traveled aboard the space capsule Vostok 1 and became the first human in space in April of that year. This advancement induced President Kennedy to commit America to landing someone on the moon before the end of the 1960’s. This spurred both the US and the Soviets to work harder than ever to be the first on the moon.

The Soviets began to get in the lead. By 1966, they had launched Luna 9, which took photos of the surface of the Moon, and Luna 10, which became the first artificial satellite to orbit it. But the US weren’t far behind, and Apollo 8 was launched in 1968, which sent a manned spacecraft to orbit the moon. The people in this spacecraft became the first to see the far side of the moon.

Finally, on July 21st, 1969, America achieved both the space race goal and the time limit set by President Kennedy, by launching Apollo 11 into space and landing it on the moon. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

After the Space Race ended, both the Soviets and the Americans began to shift their focus to from exploring space, to researching and experimenting within it. The two nations developed space stations, which allowed scientists and biologists to run long-running experiments. The two later collaborated in the late 1990’s to create the International Space Station, which is still functioning today.

NASA’s heroic journey to the moon was an extremely great achievement not only for America, but for the entirety of humanity. It advanced our knowledge in space travel and gave us hope for a possible moon base or a journey to Mars. Humanity’s first landing on the moon was truly a momentous occasion, and in the words of the Apollo 11 plaque that was left behind on the moon: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July 1969, A. D. We came in peace for all mankind.” 

09 March 2021
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