The Apollo program placed humans on the moon for the first time. The effort famously began with President John F. Kennedy's speech on May 25, 1961, announcing the goal of sending astronauts to the moon. <p>The rocket technology necessary for such a feat underwent testing during 1961-1966. In 1966, the unmanned flights of Apollo-Saturn AS-201, AS-203 and AS-202 (in order of launch) showed the readiness of the Saturn IB launch vehicle to carry astronauts into space.
From left, Apollo 1 astronauts Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee pose in front of their Saturn 1 launch vehicle at Launch Complex 34 at the Kennedy Space Center. <p>The astronauts were in training for AS-204, the first manned test of the Apollo Command/Service Module. However, on January 27, 1967, a fire on the launch pad claimed the lives of the three astronauts during a preflight test. NASA retroactively named the unflown mission Apollo 1, as the agency redesigned the Apollo command module and returned to unmanned test flights.
Prior to the Apollo 1 disaster, three unmanned test flights of Apollo-Saturn rockets took place. AS-201 (seen here), AS-203 and AS-202 missions took place in 1966, testing the Saturn 1B launch vehicle. They set the stage for AS-204, planned to have been the first manned mission, but which ended with fire killing three astronauts during training. That mission was later renamed Apollo 1. Apollo 4 then continued the unmanned test flights as NASA redesigned the command module.
The giant Saturn V rocket for the Apollo 4 mission at the Kennedy Space Center's launch complex 39A stands at the dawn of November 8, 1967, during the pre-launch alert. The uncrewed Apollo 4 (AS-501) mission was the first "all-up" test of the three-stage Saturn V rocket, meaning all stages were functioning. (The seemingly confusing Apollo 4 designation followed from the first three unmanned launches, AS-201, AS-203 and AS-202.)
AS-204, the fourth Saturn IB launch vehicle, sits on the launch pad before its January 22, 1968 liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida of the unmanned Apollo 5 mission. The mission successfully tested the Lunar Module in a space environment
The Apollo 6 mission provided the final test of the Saturn V launch vehicle and Apollo spacecraft for use in crewed Apollo missions. It launched on April 4, 1968, but was overshadowed by the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. the same day.
Walter Schirra, Apollo 7 commander, sports nine days of space beard while looking out the rendezvous window during the Earth orbital mission. Apollo 7 was also crewed by Donn Eisele and Walter Cunningham. The mission launched on October 11, 1968, and was an engineering flight to test space vehicle and mission support facilities performance during a manned mission.
This picture of the Earth from near the moon was taken by Apollo 8 astronauts in December 1968. Apollo 8 launched from Cape Kennedy on Dec. 21, 1968, carrying astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell Jr. and William Anders. The three astronauts gained the distinction of seeing the moon's far side for the first time in human history.
Astronaut Russell Schweickart, lunar module pilot, stands on the module's deck during his spacewalk on the fourth day of the Apollo 9 mission. This photograph was taken from inside the lunar module "Spider" by mission commander James McDivitt. Apollo 9 was the first manned flight of the command/service module along with the lunar module. The mission's three-person crew, which also included command module pilot Dave Scott, tested several aspects critical to landing on the moon including the lunar module's engines, backpack life support systems, navigation systems and docking maneuvers. The mission was the second manned launch of a Saturn V rocket and was the third manned mission of the Apollo Program. After launching on March 3, 1969, the crew spent 10 days in low Earth orbit.
The Apollo 10 Command and Service Modules (CSM) are photographed from the Lunar Module (LM) after CSM/LM separation in lunar orbit. Apollo 10 launched from Cape Kennedy on May 18, 1969 with astronauts Thomas Stafford, John Young and Eugene Cernan. The mission served as a "dress rehearsal" for the actual moon landing.
Buzz Aldrin stands near the leg of the Lunar Module (LM) "Eagle" during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity (EVA). Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Armstrong, Aldrin, and Command Module Pilot Michael Collins. Armstrong and Aldrin forever changed the course of history by walking on the face of the moon.
A television camera and other pieces of unmanned robotic lander Surveyor 3 were brought back from the moon for scientific examination. Here, Apollo 12 moonwalker, Pete Conrad, examines the Surveyor's TV camera. Apollo 12 launched from Cape Kennedy on Nov. 14, 1969 crewed by Charles Conrad, Jr., Alan L. Bean and Richard F. Gordon Jr.
On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13 lifted off for the Moon with Commander Jim Lovell, Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert and Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise aboard. Two days later, with the spacecraft well on its way to the Moon, an oxygen tank exploded, scrubbing the lunar landing and putting the crew in jeopardy. Working with Mission Control in Houston, the crew used their lunar module as a "lifeboat," and even rigged an adapter so than a command module "air scrubber" would work in the lunar module, preventing a dangerous buildup of carbon dioxide. The mission ended safely when the crew splashed down on April 17, 1970.
On February 5, 1971, the Apollo 14 Lunar Module touched down on the moon's Fra Mauro highlands, with Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell onboard. (Stuart Roosa piloted the command module.) Liftoff occurred 33 hours later. Famously, Alan Shepard hit two golf balls on the moon at the end of the last EVA.
Apollo 15 launched on July 26, 1971. In this photograph, Apollo 15 lunar module pilot Jim Irwin loads the first lunar rover in preparation for the first lunar spacewalk at the Hadley-Apennine landing site. The lunar module "Falcon" stands at the left in this image. The undeployed Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector lies on top of Falcon's Modular Equipment Stowage Assembly. David R. Scott and Alfred M. Worden made up the remainder of the crew.
During the Apollo 16 mission, Charles M. Duke, Jr. collects rock samples at the Descartes landing site on the moon. Apollo 16 lifted off on April 16, 1972, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. John W. Young and Thomas K. Mattingly II also flew on the mission.
Apollo 17 mission commander Eugene A. Cernan makes a short checkout of the Lunar Roving Vehicle during the early part of the first Apollo 17 extravehicular activity at the Taurus-Littrow landing site in 1972. Harrison H. Schmitt and Ronald E. Evans rounded out the crew, the last humans to set foot on the moon (to date). <p>Following Apollo 17, three more missions, 18, 19 and 20, were planned, but cancelled owing to budget constraints. Apollo-Saturn technology was used for four Skylab missions and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975 before NASA ended the program.