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THE APOLLO PROGRAM AND LUNAR ARCHAEOLOGY
Two Classroom periods
By John Versluis and Ralph Gibson
Students will understand the following:
1. The history and importance of the Apollo Program.
2. How the Cold War helped to create and sustain the Apollo Program.
3. How and why archaeologists and historians are attempting to preserve Apollo landing sites on the moon.
A tutorial briefly describing the history
of the Apollo Program and lunar archaeology is provided below. Other materials
Up-to-date reference materials about the Apollo missions.
Visual reference materials that students can copy or adapt for their oral presentations.
Click here for a list of websites and suggested readings to assist with this exercise.
THE APOLLO PROGRAM AND LUNAR ARCHAEOLOGY
The Apollo Program began on May 25, 1961 when President John F. Kennedy announced the nation’s goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth before the end of the decade (to listen to his words and view the transcript of his speech, click here). At the time of President Kennedy’s speech, the United States had just begun its manned space program with the launch of Alan Shepard, Jr. in his Mercury spacecraft Freedom 7 on May 5, 1961 (figure 1). With Alan Shepard’s flight, the United States had only 15 minutes of manned experience in space while the Soviet Union had 108 minutes. More launches, more men, new technologies, and billions of dollars would be needed if the U.S. were to meet the national goal of landing a man on the moon. But it was not solely a matter of national pride. Since the Soviet Union had taken its early lead in the exploration of space, Premier Nikita Khrushchev began to propagandize their lofty achievements. The Soviet Union was selling their form of government to the world. The United States had fought a war in Korea to try to prevent the spread of communism; barely averted hostilities with the Soviet Union over Cuba to keep communism out of its own backyard; and was fighting a war in Vietnam during the moon race to keep communism from spreading there. President Kennedy, felt it was necessary to prove to the world that a democratic form of government was indeed superior to communism. He believed that if the U.S. succeeded in being the first to land a man on the moon, it would have a dramatic effect on people all around the world who were not yet sure which form of government was best.
The goal announced by President Kennedy was rooted in the Cold War, not in lofty ambitions of scientific endeavors and exploration. Overtime, however, this view would change as hundreds of millions of people worldwide clung to the ideas, hopes, and dreams of Apollo. Humans were walking on another world; we were exploring the surface of a celestial body that had been a complete mystery to us since we looked upward and contemplated the night’s sky. It was a historic moment, perhaps the most historic moment in the history of human kind. This is why archaeologists are working to preserve the Apollo lunar landing sites. The Cold War inspired the Apollo Program, and the historic achievements of the Apollo Program have inspired archaeologists and historians. This tutorial will briefly describe all three areas. At the end of this tutorial, there will be a link to classroom exercises associated with this section.
THE COLD WAR
The Cold War was a long, tense struggle between the western democracies, headed by the United States, and the Soviet Union. The Cold War began soon after the end of the Second World War. The Soviet Union had begun to spread its control over Eastern Europe with military force. The western democracies feared that the Soviet Union aimed to take control of Europe and eventually the world. One United States’ weapon kept the Soviet Union in check: the nuclear bomb. But in 1949, the Soviet Union came to possess the powerful weapon as well. This began a military and political standoff that came to define the Cold War. Each nation began to build up its own nuclear arsenal, amassing enough nuclear bombs and warheads to destroy the world. The United States fought to keep communism out of Korea and Vietnam and nearly fought a battle with the Soviet Union over communist Cuba. The Soviet Union aided the communist regimes in each of those countries. Each side was fighting a battle over which form of government was better. The Soviet Union believed that communism was the best form of government, and that it would inevitably sweep through the world. The United States and other western democracies began the Cold War by trying to fight against the idea of communism. It wasn’t until the space race had begun that the United States began to change tactics. With President Kennedy’s announcement, the United States was tasked with attempting to demonstrate to the world that a capitalist, democratic form of government was best. Below is an excerpt from President Kennedy’s speech:
“Finally, if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take.”
This passage clearly illustrates that the spectacles of space achievement provided powerful images. If a communist country could successfully lead the world into space exploration, then communism must be the best form of government. This was the tone of the space race and the moon race that followed it. Each country was trying to demonstrate who had better engineers, better scientists, better rockets, better technology, better personnel, and, most importantly, who had the better form of government. This is what fueled the Apollo Program. The United States was well behind the Soviet Union in space activities. Getting to the moon first would make up for being second in every other space contest.
THE APOLLO PROGRAM
The classroom exercises that follow this tutorial will require that students perform their own independent research on various Apollo missions. To assist in this endeavor, a brief discussion of the beginning of the Apollo Program followed by a timeline of Apollo missions, from Apollo 1 to Apollo 10, will be included here. Students will have to perform their own research for Apollo missions 11 through 17.
From July 18 to July 20, 1961, NASA held a NASA-Industry Apollo Technical Conference in Washington, DC in which fourteen firms were invited to participate. These companies were competing for the huge cash prize of being awarded the contract of building the Apollo command and service modules. In the end, North American Aviation won the contract. North American was also awarded the contract for building the Saturn V’s second stage. Harrison Storms, a senior Vice President at North American, had convinced its President, J.H. “Dutch” Kindelberger, to go after the contract. When North American was awarded the Apollo Command and Service Module contract, Harrison Storms would become the lead engineer in charge of their design and manufacture. Incidentally, North American won the contract with a bid of 400 million dollars, a number that would climb to 4.4 billion dollars by 1970.
Similarly, Tom Kelly, the chief engineer at Grumman who had been awarded the contract for building the Lunar Module, found cost over-runs to be enormously underestimated. But this came as no surprise to many engineers. No one had ever built such ships before. And the United States was not only in a race with the Soviet Union, but also in a race with itself. Design and construction had to be accelerated at a high rate if the ships that were to successfully take men to the moon and back were to be finished in time to make the journey before the end of the decade. This goal seemed attainable in 1967 when the United States finally unveiled its new manned space program: Apollo.
Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee were fully suited up and inside their Apollo 1 command capsule on January 25, 1967 for a full plugs out test. This test required that the Apollo command and service module be under its own power to fully test the operations of its various systems and subsystems. A necessary element of the test was pressurizing the capsule with oxygen to simulate the pressure differential that the capsule would be exposed to in the vacuum of space. This required pressurizing the compartment where the astronauts were seated with pure oxygen at 16 pounds per square inch (psi). Inside the capsule was various swatches of Velcro and a nylon netting used to catch falling items. These facts, coupled with an ignition source, most likely a short near Gus Grissom’s left foot, led to an explosion of fire and toxic fumes within the capsule. Within fifteen seconds, the astronauts were most likely unconscious due to the toxic fumes. Without escape from the poisonous air, the astronauts perished amid the flames within the Apollo command module. The nation mourned the loss of the three astronauts, and some secretly mourned the loss of the moon.
The Apollo 1 tragedy fed the passions of politicians who thought that the Apollo Program was eating billions of dollars that could be spent on better programs to directly benefit the American public. NASA appointed an Apollo Review Board to investigate the accident, and on Capitol Hill, subcommittee investigations in both houses of Congress began to delve deep into the heart of NASA and North American Aviation. In the end, NASA and Congress shifted the blame of the Apollo 1 accident to North American Aviation. Though NASA should have shouldered more of the blame, to do so would have risked the Apollo Program, and the moon would be lost. North American Aviation’s Lee Atwood accepted this fact and kept his personnel quiet about what they perceived to be NASA oversights that may have contributed to the accident. Lee Atwood was also forced into offering up a sacrificial lamb in the person of Harrison Storms. Though not fired, Harrison Storms was transferred out of North American Aviation’s Space Division.
One of the most critical aspects of each Apollo mission in the context of leading up to Apollo 11, is that each mission had certain objectives that must have been met before the next set of mission objectives could be undertaken. Another important aspect is that of crew assignments. Crew assignments were based on a three-mission rotation of backup crew to prime crew. For the Apollo 7 mission, astronauts Donn Eisele, Wally Schirra, and Walt Cunningham (figure 2) were backed up by astronauts Tom Stafford, John Young, and Gene Cernan. This meant that Stafford, Young, and Cernan would be the prime crew of Apollo 10.
On October 1, 1968, Apollo 7 was successfully launched into Earth orbit. The mission objectives for this flight were straight-forward: test the command module support systems, test the main engines, and test the navigational systems in order to demonstrate the vehicle’s rendezvous capabilities. Though the odds were against it, Apollo 7 met each test and proved the Apollo Command Module (CM) and Command Service Module (CSM) capable and ready for the next set of mission objectives.
The mission objectives for Apollo 8, which launched on December 21, 1968, were actually simple when compared to the Apollo 9 mission that followed it. But what made the objectives more complex and hazardous for astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovel, and Bill Anders was the fact that these objectives would be taking place over a quarter of a million miles from Earth. Apollo 8 would travel to the moon where it would orbit ten times before returning home to Earth. Its objectives were to demonstrate translunar injection, test CSM navigation, test mid-course corrections, test CSM performance in lunar orbit, demonstrate that tracking and communications could still be achieved while in lunar orbit, and to take many high resolution photographs of potential Apollo landing sites. Like the mission that preceded it, Apollo 8 achieved all of its mission objectives. There would be no need for a duplicate mission. The backup crew for Apollo 8 was Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, Jr.
The Apollo 9 mission, which launched on March 3, 1969, was filled with challenges. The crew would be testing two different spacecraft. They would have to rendezvous with each craft twice in Earth orbit, and for a period of time, two astronauts would have to test a space vehicle that had no heat shield. Apollo 9 was to test the docking of the two ships and test crew transfer from one craft to another. One of the other critical aspects of the Apollo 9 mission was that astronaut Rusty Schweickart would have to test the Portable Life Support System (PLSS) backpacks that Apollo astronauts would wear on the moon by conducting an EVA. Unfortunately, Schweickart was subdued by motions sickness. For a time, it looked as though some of the mission objectives, including the PLSS test would have to be scrubbed until a later mission. But Schweickart recovered from his bout of sickness in time to test the PLSS backpacks for 38 minutes and to take his station as Lunar Module pilot for the LM tests (figure 3). Apollo 9 met all the critical mission objectives.
Apollo 10, which launched on May 18, 1969, was referred to as the dress rehearsal for the big show (figure 4). But again, any failure to accomplish the mission objectives would mean that the following mission, Apollo 11, would simply be a replay of the dress rehearsal. The mission objectives for Apollo 10 were to demonstrate the performance of the CSM and LM while in the lunar gravitational field; test CSM and LM lunar navigation, test the LM landing radar by flying the vehicle within 50,000 feet of the lunar surface, and test docking and undocking within the lunar gravity field. Like the Apollo missions that preceded it, Apollo 10 was a success. The stage was now set for the world’s most dramatic voyage to get underway.
With the success of the Apollo 11 mission, one of the humankind’s most historic sites was created. It wasn’t created on the plains of the American Midwest, on the shores of Great Britain, nor within the crumbling walls of ancient Rome. It was created on the moon. Humans were actually on another planet. Because this site is so historic and because some private companies have recently published plans to return to the Apollo lunar landing sites, archaeologists and historians have begun to research the possibility of applying federal historic preservation laws to those sites. Archaeologists and historians frequently use federal historic preservation laws to preserve and protect historic properties. This is called cultural resource management (CRM). In other words, archaeologists and historians manage our nation’s cultural resources, the material remains of prehistoric or historic peoples that are either found in the United States, or within the jurisdiction of the United States. The United Nation’s Outer Space Treaty clearly states that a country that sends objects into space, onto the moon, or onto other celestial bodies does not lose jurisdiction or ownership over those objects. This means that the United States still owns and had jurisdiction over the objects left at each of the Apollo lunar landing sites.
But the application of CRM on the moon is not so simple. The international community might feel as if the United States were trying to claim ownership over a part of the moon. There are many opinions regarding the use of federal historic preservation laws on the moon, and each has merit. For the time being, the project team responsible for this website has settled for preserving the site as best we can by creating the most complete inventory of objects left at the Apollo 11 landing site (Tranquility Base) and by creating an archaeological map of the site. Both of these can be found on the main page of this website. We are preserving the information of Apollo 11 as best we can without applying laws or regulations. Through this information, we hope to inspire people all over the world, young and old, to get involved with the future by remembering and preserving the past. Ultimately, this is what archaeologists and historians do.
Lunar archaeology is a new field of study for those who wish to use archaeological methods to study and preserve historic sites on the moon. Today, anyone wishing to practice lunar archaeology will have to do so from earth—studying and researching every ounce of material concerning the sites they are interested in. But tomorrow, lunar archaeologists might actually be on the moon, surveying and recording all of the historic Apollo sites. To learn more about this topic, please go to the Historic Context and Historic Preservation pages on this website.
ALSEP - Acronym for the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package. The precise makeup of the instruments for each ALSEP varied from mission to mission.
Archaeology - The study of past cultures, both historic and prehistoric, by analyzing material remains and features.
- An object made or modified by humans.
Celestial Body - Any large body in space such as a planet or moon.
Command Module - The Apollo capsule designed to safely transport three men from earth to lunar orbit, and to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere.
Command Service Module – Part of the Apollo spacecraft. This module contained electronic equipment, cameras, and housed the main engine for thrust.
Communism - A theory advocating elimination of private property; a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production with the professed aim of establishing a stateless society.
The customary beliefs, social forms, and traits of a social group.
EVA - Acronym for Extra-Vehicular Activity—any activity that takes an astronaut outside the spacecraft during the mission.
Excavate - To expose or uncover by digging.
Gibbous moon - The phase of the Moon during which more than half, but less than all, the visible hemisphere of the Moon is illuminated by sunlight.
Habitat - The
area or type of environment in which an organism or ecological community normally
lives or occurs.
Lunar Module - The spacecraft designed to transport two astronauts from the Command Module to the lunar surface, and to return them from the lunar surface back to the Command Module.
LVR - Acronym for Lunar Roving Vehicle or Rover.
Rendezvous - To bring together; in this case, the Command Module docks with the Lunar Module.
Saturn V - The powerful rocket designed to send three men to the moon.
Sputnik - This was the first satellite placed into earth orbit. On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into space.
Undertaking - Any project, activity, or program that can result in changes in the character or use of historic properties, if any such historic properties are located in the area of potential effects. The project, activity, or program must be under the direct or indirect jurisdiction of a Federal agency or licensed or assisted by a Federal agency.
Vacuum - Emptiness of space; a space completely devoid of matter.
Exploring the Moon: Apollo Missions
The Apollo Program
Index to Apollo Missions
The Apollo Program
The Apollo Program (1963 - 1972)
Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
Human Space Flight (HSF) - Apollo History
Title: Countdown: A History of Spaceflight
Author(s): T. Heppenheimer
Author(s): J. Harford
Title: A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts
Author(s): A. Chaikin, T. Hanks
Title: Spaceflight - A Smithsonian Guide
Author(s): V. Neal, C. Lewis, F. Winter
Title: Deke!: U.S. Manned Space From Mercury to the Shuttle
Author(s): D. Slayton, M. Cassutt, D. Slayton
Title: Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond
Author(s): G. Kranz
Title: NASA Space Vehicle: Capsules, Shuttles and Space Stations (Countdown to Space)
Title: Apollo 11 The NASA Mission Reports Volume one
Author(s): Robert Godwin
Title: Apollo 11 The NASA Mission Reports Volume two
Title: Full Moon
Author(s): Michael Light