Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera

The Apollo Adventure

Building on the Successes of Mercury and Gemini, the Apollo Program Put Americans on the Moon

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space..."
-President John F. Kennedy, 1961.

The Apollo Program of Lunar Exploration Is Considered One of the Greatest Achievements in Human History

Apollo's goals went beyond landing Americans on the Moon and returning them safely to Earth, and included achieving preeminence in space for the United States, establishing the technology to meet other national interests in space, and carrying out a program of scientific exploration of the Moon.

The Saturn V: The three-stage Saturn V rocket, used for the Apollo lunar missions, was 365 feet tall. Powered by a cluster of five liquid-fuel engines, it is one of the largest and most powerful rockets ever launched.

Apollo Missions (1967-1972)

  • Apollo 1, Launch pad accident.
  • Apollo 7, Test of Apollo spacecraft in Earth orbit.
  • Apollo 8, First circumlunar mission; first human voyage beyond low-Earth orbit.
  • Apollo 9, Test of lunar module in Earth orbit.
  • Apollo 10, Test of lunar module in lunar orbit.
  • Apollo 11, First lunar landing. Landing Site: Mare Tranquillitatis.
    • Surface Time: 21 h 36 min 20 s
  • Apollo 12, Lunar landing at Oceanus Procellarum/Mare Cognitium.
    • Surface Time: 31 h 31 min 11.6 s
  • Apollo 13, Circumlunar mission. Safe return of spacecraft following in-flight spacecraft anomaly.
  • Apollo 14, Lunar landing at Fra Mauro
    • Surface time: 33 h 30 min 29 s
  • Apollo 15, Lunar landing at Hadley Rille; first mission with lunar rover.
    • Surface time: 66 h 54 min 53.9 s
  • Apollo 16, Lunar landing in the Descartes Highlands.
    • Surface time: 71 h 2 min 13 s
  • Apollo 17, Lunar landing in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, last human lunar landing to date.
    • Surface time: 74 h 59 min 40 s
Apollo 11: Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin climbs down the ladder to the Moon's surface as Neil Armstrong photographs his descent on 20 July 1969.

Rocks from the Moon

A total of 382 kg of lunar rocks were returned from the Moon by the Apollo lunar surface exploration missions. The fieldwork and sampling performed by the Apollo astronauts fundamentally revolutionized our understanding of the Solar System. For example, before the Apollo missions, it was thought that the Moon was an undifferentiated primordial body left over from the formation of the Solar System, but analysis of the lunar samples revealed that the Moon is an evolved planet, with internal zoning similar to that of the Earth.

Image of Apollo 16 Lunar Module (LM) with John Young saluting the flag. Taken by fellow astronaut Charlie Duke in April 1972.
The Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) transported astronauts during Apollo 15, 16, and 17, carrying tools, scientific equipment, navigation aids, communications gear, and lunar samples.
Apollo sample 15555
Basaltic rock, typical of the surface rock of the dark maria ("seas") on the Moon.

Naming lunar landmarks

During their original explorations of the Moon, U.S. Astronauts gave informal names to lunar landmarks as navigational aids while they maneuvered the first human explorations of the lunar frontier. Visual navigation was a critical check for the Apollo astronauts as they descended upon the lunar surface, and these landmarks played a key role in the success of their missions. Many of the Apollo-era landmarks appear in radio transmissions, transcripts, historical records, technical reports, pre and post-mission documentation, and maps, but a majority of the names are not officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union.

In order to further aid researchers and historians, these informal names have been merged with the official IAU nomenclature and are included in Lunaserv Global Explorer, Quickmap, and the merged shapefile is available for download here.