Voice of America answers the most important questions about the American lunar program

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Voice of America answers the most important questions about the American lunar program

Voice of America answers the most important questions about the American lunar program

Exactly 50 years ago, on July 20, 1969, a rocket was launched at the Manned Space Flight Center in Houston. «Apollo 11». For the first time in human history, humans went to the moon. «Voice of America» in honor of the round date presented the premiere of the special project today «Footprints on the moon», which includes unique interviews with the participants of the lunar program, «lunar» chronicle from the archives of NASA, TV reports of the 1960s – everything about how the lunar project was prepared and carried out.

We have prepared a list of the main questions about the lunar program, which the United States carried out from 1961 to 1972. – from the famous John F. Kennedy speech to the flight «Apollo 17».

Why did Americans even decide to fly to the moon?

The most obvious reason for the launch of the lunar program is the desire of the US leadership to bypass the Soviet Union in space exploration. In fact, as one of the heroes of the special project says «Footprints on the moon», John Logsdon, professor at the Institute for Space Policy at George Washington University, President John F. Kennedy, who came to power in January 1961, initially had little interest in space. Kennedy even turned over space matters to his vice president, Lyndon Johnson..

«We have made the decision to go to the moon, and we must do so in this decade. We take on this task not because it is simple, but because it is difficult … We intend to win» John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States.

However, just four months after the inauguration of the 35th President of the United States, the unexpected happened: the Soviets launched the first man into space. – On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth. Kennedy simply could not allow the United States to tacitly cede space leadership to the USSR..

In 1962, President Kennedy delivered a historic speech about the launch of the American lunar program to students at Rice University in Houston.

Is it true that in the early 1960s, the United States seriously lagged behind the Soviet Union in terms of space exploration??

Yes, that is right. It’s hard to say what caused – perhaps initially not a very serious attitude to the issue, which changed dramatically after the launch of the Soviet satellite and especially after the flight of Yuri Gagarin.

Propaganda Triumph: The Soviets will use the satellite to reinforce claims of military superiority. After the USSR launched the first artificial Earth satellite, the United States began to work more actively on its own space program.

In fact, the Americans began to develop the satellite simultaneously with the USSR. – in 1954. However, the first launch attempt, which took place in December 1957, ended in a massive failure. – flight time of the first American satellite «Avangard TV3» was only two seconds – during the launch of the rocket, fuel tanks exploded, which led to the destruction of the launch vehicle itself and the launch pad at Cape Canaveral.

Explosion during the launch of the first American satellite &# 171; Avangard TV3&# 187;

Before the first successful satellite launch – «Explorer-1» started on February 1, 1958 – the Americans suffered several more failures. For example, in June 1957, the very first test of an intercontinental missile «Atlas» ended in an explosion.

A headline in an article published in the Lodi News-Sentinel on August 18, 1958: "In Russia, the lunar failure of the Americans was called "slapstick"

The first attempt to send a rocket to the Moon ended unsuccessfully. – 17 August 1958 launch vehicle «Thor-Able» with spacecraft «Able-1» on board exploded on the 77th second of the flight. In the USSR, according to contemporaries, an explosion «Thor-Abla» contemptuously named «another american spanker».

Is it true that the Americans used the developments of Nazi Germany when creating their space program??

Yes it’s true – however, the USSR just as actively used the legacy of Nazi scientists, who in the 1940s achieved outstanding, for those times, successes in rocketry. After the end of World War II, American intelligence services conducted operations «Paper clips» and «Overcast», as a result of which in 1947 more than 1,800 German scientists and engineers moved to the United States, including – author of the German V-2 rocket Werner von Braun.

President John F. Kennedy and Werner von Braun

The Soviet Union tried to keep up with the West – more than 2000 German scientists and technical specialists were sent to the USSR after the defeat of the Nazis. For example, Helmut Grettrup, von Braun’s deputy for radio control and electrical engineering, worked for Soviet rocketry. As a result, the first large ballistic missile R-1, created by the USSR from 1946 to 1948, was designed on the model and likeness of the V-2.

However, we must pay tribute to the Soviet designer Sergei Korolev – «his work on the creation of the R-7 rocket was not too dependent on German technology», John Lagsdon told the authors of the special project «Voices of America».

A lunar rocket for the United States was developed by a group of engineers led by von Braun. Project «lunar rocket» he invented at the end of the war. When he moved to the USA, he had no blueprints, but Werner reconstructed everything from memory..

Rocket launch &# 171; Saturn-5&# 187;

This is how a series of launch vehicles was born «Saturn», without which the Americans would hardly have been able to implement the lunar program. Chief designer «Saturnov» became the same Wernher von Braun.

By the way – more than 50 years later, none of the launch vehicle manufacturers around the world have succeeded in repeating the success «Saturn-5». This rocket, which was used for manned flights to the moon, remains the most powerful, payload, heavy and largest rockets ever created by mankind. For all indicators «Saturn-5» surpasses and «Space shuttle», and Falcon Heavy Ilona Mask, and the Soviet rocket «Energy».

How many rockets were launched and built by the Americans as part of the lunar program?

It depends on how you count. If by the lunar program we mean only the project «Apollo», then in total, within the framework of this project, 9 launch vehicles were built «Saturn-1B» and 13 launch vehicles «Saturn-5», and many more models of spaceships of the series «Apollo»: from 1964 to 1972 more than 20 launches took place «Apollo».

However, many researchers include in the lunar program not only «Apollo», but also the previous series of manned ships – «Mercury» and «Gemini».

“Mercury” and “Gemini” were testing grounds for “Apollo”, and all three programs were one comprehensive “package” Jim Slade, journalist

In the meantime, there is no need to know about it. ”«Single room “Mercury” possessed very limited control capabilities, but he proved that man can survive in space. Double room “Gemini” learned to maneuver – skill required in the implementation of the lunar mission. And all the results obtained during these programs ultimately helped to create a rocket that took us to the moon.…», – says one of the commentators «lunar» special project «Voices of America», journalist Jim Slade.

Within the framework of «Mercury» six manned flights were performed, as part of «Gemini» – ten.

And who were the first astronauts? What were the selection criteria? How many astronauts participated in the program «Apollo»?

Since people did not fly into space until 1961, the profession of an astronaut or cosmonaut could not be learned anywhere. First, the astronauts took test pilots – about it «Voice of America» in an interview for a special project «Footprints on the moon» told by Al Warden, astronaut «Apollo 15».

«For “Apollo” began to look for people working in the field of science, versed in geology and aeronautics… But above all, pilots were required. Initially for programs “Gemini” and “Apollo” test pilots with a university degree were needed», – told Warden.

The selection criteria were as follows: age less than 40 years, height less than 180 cm, «perfect health», higher technical education, qualification of a jet pilot, study at a test pilot school and flight experience of at least 1500 hours.

In 1959, recruitment was announced for the first astronauts. The Pentagon found 110 candidates who formally met the requirements. As a result of tough selection, the first squad included seven people: Gordon Cooper, Virgil Grissom, Donald Slayton, Scott Carpenter, Alan Shepard, Walter Schirra and John Glenn.

Some members of the first squad were involved in the manned flight program «Apollo». A total of 33 astronauts took part in the flights..

Three program participants «Apollo» died on January 27, 1967 while preparing for a mission «Apollo 1».

Crew &# 171; Apollo 1&# 187; – Virgil Griss, Edward White and Roger Chaffee – tragically killed in a fire during a rocket launch rehearsal

A fire broke out aboard the ship, killing astronauts Virgil Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee..

In general, how many people have visited the moon?

For three and a half years – from 1969 to 1972 – 12 NASA astronauts visited the moon on six missions «Apollo». Another expedition – «Apollo 13» – was completed in emergency mode without landing on the moon. Astronauts were last on the moon «Apollo 17».

Another 13 astronauts did not go down to the moon, but made it to its orbit. James Lovell has twice been in the orbit of the moon and never landed on it..

Why the crew «Apollo 11» it was Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins who were selected?

Apparently, the main selection criterion was the experience of previous flights. As told to the authors of the special project «Voices of America» Rod Pyle, author of the book «First on the moon», NASA wanted the astronauts on this mission to already have experience of flying into space.

Astronauts, Pyle says, had a rotation. – one crew became a reserve crew while the main crew was preparing, and after several flights it became the main one. The project manager tried to make sure that at any time it was possible to select each of them in the main crew, and these people in any combination could work like a well-oiled mechanism..

Crew &# 171; Apollo 11&# 187;

Is it true that Neil Armstrong was pre-selected for the role of the first person to set foot on the lunar surface??

Many believe that Armstrong was specially chosen to play the role of the first person to set foot on the moon even before the flight. – however, this is not the case, says astronaut Al Warden.

Armstrong led the crew «Apollo 11» «within the normal rotational cycle, because he was an understudy for “Apollo 8”. It just so happened that he was the first», – says Warden.

How much did the conquest of the moon cost the US budget??

Information about the total cost of the program «Apollo» was disclosed during a hearing in the United States Congress in 1974 – in 50-year-old prices, the lunar program cost US taxpayers $ 25.4 billion. Adjusted for inflation, this amount in 2008 was equivalent to $ 163 billion..

Why are Americans now – and indeed no one in the world – no longer fly to the moon?

Indeed, man has not set foot on the moon since December 14, 1972. – the last were the astronauts «Apollo 17». The lunar program was canceled for many reasons. – and the heroes of the special project tell about them «Footprints on the moon».

Thus, more and more Americans in the early 1970s began to believe that the state wasted such huge funds on the space program. – they say, why do we need to fly to the moon, if we have a whole bunch of problems on Earth?

View of the Earth from the orbit of the Moon

According to journalist Jim Slade, the implementation «Apollo» coincided with the Vietnam War. «Apollo» turned out to be an unbearable burden on the budget. «As a result, President Nixon canceled the program “Apollo” two or three flights early. There are still three rockets in museums. “Saturn-5”, who were supposed to fly to the moon», – says Slade.

One more reason – after the first successful flights, the Americans stopped paying attention to expeditions to the moon. Society lost interest in flying, initial enthusiasm was lost – and this also influenced the decision to close the lunar program, says John Logsdon

Logsdon recalls one more fact: most of the spacecraft created for the lunar program ended up unclaimed in the creation of subsequent generations of rockets..

When the program was approved in the mid-1970s «Space shuttle», its developers had to do everything «start from scratch». John Logsdon, professor at the Space Policy Institute

By the beginning of 1970, they stopped producing rockets. «Saturn-5», soon the turn came «Apollo». As a result, according to Logsdon, when the program was approved in the mid-1970s «Space shuttle», everything had to «start from scratch».

Space historian Ted Hutter has a feeling that now, after private business drew attention to space, something could change..

«Various corporations are already competing in this area, and maybe one of them will come up with something better, because they are not under pressure from this giant machine, the space program of NASA or the Soviet Union.», – suggested Hutter in an interview with the creators of the special project «Footprints on the moon».

Maybe there weren’t any people on the moon at all – and this whole story is a grandiose fiction?

Indeed, since the time of the first flights, among conspiracy theorists arose «lunar conspiracy theory», whose supporters claim that all the landings of people on the moon were actually filmed in a film studio. Almost every argument put forward by the proponents of the theory has been repeatedly refuted by experts and scientists..

Voice of America answers the most important questions about the American lunar program

Director of the Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yuri Kostitsyn in 2018 in an interview with RIA Novosti said: «You will not hear from a single astronaut that the Americans did not land on the moon. For the development and implementation of the US program “Apollo” the manned landing on the moon, launched in 1961, was followed all over the world, including in the USSR… It is impossible to fake lunar soil. For seven lunar missions, the Americans brought to Earth about 300 kilograms of soil, mainly basalt. It has been studied in laboratories by scientists from different countries. — Germany, France, USSR».

  • Artem Gurevich

    In journalism – since 2001. From 2005 to 2009, he was responsible for public relations at Nokia in the Russian Far East. He worked in Singapore, Thailand, Brazil and Argentina, developing corporate publications for Coca-Cola and Kaspersky Lab companies. In 2017, he participated in the restart of RTVI, worked as an Internet news editor at the channel’s New York office. On «Voice of America» – since 2018.


  • Ales Kruglyakov

    Correspondent of the Russian service «Voices of America» since 2015. Presenter «Present time. America». In the 1990s and 2000s, he was the author and host of various projects on Belarusian television, including an information and publicistic program «Croc», TV News Agency and «Good morning Belarus!»

    [email protected] Subscription

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