Tuesday October 30, 2012 (The Race to the Moon: Project Apollo: Apollo 1 – Apollo 8)

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TuesdayOctober 30, 2012(The Race to the Moon: Project Apollo: Apollo 1 Apollo 8)The Launch PadTuesday, 10/30/12Why was there a race to the Moon in the 1960s?

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The Race to the MoonHighlands

The Race to the MoonAt the end of 1966, Americas hopes were high concerning the Race to the Moon.After six Mercury flights and 10 Gemini missions, the US was feeling confident in their goal to get to the Moon ahead of the USSR.Russia had, of course, now declared that they were going to be the first to land a human being on the lunar surface.It was now time to begin flying Apollo, the three-man spacecraft that would fulfill Kennedys goal.

The Race to the MoonOn the Friday evening of January 24, 1967, a Saturn 1 launch vehicle with Apollo 1 on top stood at Cape Kennedy.A test of spacecraft systems was scheduled for that evening, and the three astronaut inside Apollo 1 were having trouble communicating with the controllers in the Mission Control Center a mile or so away.How are we supposed to go to the Moon if we cant talk to you guys only a small distance away?, asked Gus Grissom, as he sat next to his two crew mates, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

The Race to the MoonGrissom, White, and Chaffee had been in the spacecraft since 1:00 PM that afternoon, and the test was not going smoothly, much to the frustration of Gus.This was an plugs-out test, meaning the spacecraft was fully pressurized with 100% oxygen and was under its own internal power.The scheduled launch date for Apollo 1 was only about three weeks away, and much had yet to be tested.Some people at NASA wondered if things were moving too fast, if we were rushing to fulfill the goal, if safety was becoming secondary to speed.

The Race to the MoonThen, at 6:31:04, Roger Chaffee was heard to say the word, Hey!For the next three seconds, mission controllers heard scuffling sounds in the cockpit.Grissom was heard to say, Fire!, then Chaffee said, Weve got a fire in the cockpit!Just 17 seconds after the first report of a problem, the hull of Apollo 1 ruptured.America had lost its first astronauts in a spacecraft, and it had not even left the ground.

The Race to the MoonThree brave Americans were dead.Ironically, the Apollo hatch had been redesigned to be harder to open due to Grissoms problems on the second Mercury flight.The more difficult hatch prevented the astronauts from opening the hatch from the inside and escaping quickly.Beside Grissom, Americas first space-walker, Ed White was also killed.Space rookie Roger Chaffee was going to make his first flight.America was in shock, and Kennedys goal was now in major jeopardy.

The Race to the MoonThe cause of the Apollo 1 fire was attributed to these issues:The pure oxygen atmosphere of the spacecraft was pressurized to 16.7 pounds per square inch, 2 psi above standard sea level atmospheric pressure. This makes the environment highly flammable.There were many combustible materials inside the spacecraft.

The Race to the MoonThe cause of the Apollo 1 fire was attributed to these issues:Careless wiring work has left bare wires exposed, providing an ignition source.The spacecraft hatch was not deigned to allow the astronauts an easy method of escape in the event of an emergency.

The Race to the MoonAs a result of the fire, Project Apollo was grounded and no one knew how long it would be until it flew again, if ever.One thing was certain, the Apollo Command Module would have to be completely redesigned.Less than three years were left to meet the national goal.

The Race to the MoonAfter it was decided that the program would continue, the following major changes were made to the spacecraft, as well as many minor ones:The cabin atmosphere at launch was changed to 60% oxygen and 40% nitrogen at sea-level pressure.Nylon used in theold spacesuitswas replaced with Beta cloth, a non-flammable, highly melt-resistant fabric woven fromfiberglass and coated withTeflon.

The Race to the MoonThe hatch was completely redesigned to open outward, and could be opened in less than ten seconds.Flammablematerials in the cabin were replaced with self-extinguishing versions.Plumbingand wiring were covered with protectiveinsulation.1,407 wiring problems were corrected.

The Race to the MoonIt took 18 months to get the Apollo spacecraft redesigned, tested, and approved for manned flight.Finally, on October 11, 1968, Apollo 7 (Apollos 2-6 had been unmanned) left Cape Kennedy for an 11-day mission to test the spacecraft in Earth orbit.It was a highly successful first flight, but only14 months remained until the end of the decade and the deadline to meet Kennedys goal.

The Race to the MoonThe second manned Apollo flight was one that truly made history, and one that some believe was the greatest hour of the Apollo program.NASA had heard a rumor that the Soviets were planning to send an unmanned probe to land on the Moon, scoop up some soil, and return to Earth with the first lunar samples.This caused great concern that the US might be beaten again in a major step in the Race to the Moon.Probably the biggest decision of the Apollo program came next, a bold step that was full of risk, but one that would yield a great reward if successful

The Race to the MoonApollo 8 left the Kennedy spaceport on December 21, 1968 on a truly historic mission.Frank Borman and Jim Lovell (who spent 14 days in the front seat of a Volkswagen on Gemini VII) and their crewmate Bill Anders were the first men to ride the giant Saturn V launch vehicle, the only booster in the world that was powerful enough to send a spacecraft out of Earth orbit and on to the Moon.

The Race to the MoonThe mission was bold because in only the second manned Apollo mission, Apollo 8 would go to the Moon and insert into lunar orbit.This would be the first time in history that mankind would leave the gravitational influence of Earth and travel to another world.After a three-day journey of approximately 230, 000 miles Apollo 8 reached the Moon and went into lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, 1968.

The Race to the MoonAs Christmas presents were being exchanged and families settled down to holiday dinners, TVs were on as people from Earth watched their fellow humans orbit another celestial object for the first time.The three astronauts were eloquent as they described the Earth as a grand oasis in the blackness of space, read passages from the Bible, and gave thanks that they were fortunate enough to be a part of such a truly historic occasion.

The Race to the MoonApollo 8 took one of the most recognizable pictures in history that night, which shows Earthrise from lunar orbit.The Race to the MoonApollo 8 broke lunar orbit on Christmas Day, and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean 3 days later.The rumored manned Russian craft ever made it to the Moon and back carrying soil samples.The US was back in the race.But, the lunar lander had not yet flown, and the clock was ticking on Kennedys goal one year remained until the end of the decade.