When you look up at night at the stars, what do you see? Many now see the sky as the next commercial frontier. When John F. Kennedy gave his well known speech regarding space travel on September12, 1962, he stated “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”(The History Place, 2010). JFK had no idea that his speech would inspire a nation to be one of the leaders in space exploration.
The path of space exploration was supported by thousands of people. This backing would lead the United States to send John Glenn into space. As stated in Astronomy “When John Glenn launched into orbit February 20, 1963, he wasn’t just making history – he was paving the way for all those who would follow.”(Andrews, 2012). By then NASA was only a three-year-old program, taking baby steps to prevent accidents, but to still put a man on the moon within the decade. NASA’s first program was the legendary Mercury program. Mercury Seven was a one-man space capsule that set many records and put John Glenn and three others in orbit. After Glenn made his three orbits of earth, this feat was followed only seven years later by a team of astronauts successfully landing on the moon.
The next major step to make travel to the moon possible was the Gemini program. This was designed to test in-orbit space walks, docking techniques, and orbital maneuvers. These would be the key to sending a landing module to the surface of the moon. This allowed Edward White II to claim the title of the first American to ever walk in space on June 3, 1965. The Gemini project would make six more trips into space for a total of 12 before the project would be retired to make way for the Apollo program.
With the many so-called baby steps out of the way, it was time to put a man on the moon. With a clean track record of no deaths so far, confidence was high. This would all change when Apollo I had a cabin fire on February 21, 1967, which was caused by small electrical spark which snowballed in the pure oxygen environment. Although it never left the launch pad, the inferno killed all three of its crew onboard. NASA put flights on hold for days searching for a cause, determined not to let history repeat itself. After fixing the problem, flights continued, progressively reaching farther into space toward one of the most audacious goals in human history. On July 20, 1969, thousands of people were glued to their televisions, watching as Apollo 11’s crew set foot on the moon. NASA’s program to land a man on the moon is still the only program ever to put humans to set foot on a celestial body other than earth.
Although the United States space exploration program had reached the goal set by JFK, NASA wasn’t done yet. The now world-renowned organization would continue with six more Apollo missions, four of which took men to the moon. With NASA's confidence high once again, Apollo 13,after a successful launch, John “Jack” Swigert spoke the famous phrase, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”(Andrews, 2012). Although no one would be hurt during this tense time, the ability of NASA was put to the test when a few creative engineers had to design a CO2 scrubber, to remove CO2 from the air, with salvaged parts so the Apollo 13 crew could return home safely. Apollo set the bar high for any space program worldwide to follow. Apollo 17 left the moon on December 14, 1972, marking the last time humans set foot on the moon.
With one of the most audacious feats ever attempted now complete, NASA now looked at attempting something similar in capacity, if not more challenging. Their ultimate goal was to build and...