| Apollo Expeditions to the Moon|
A Perspective on Apollo
By JAMES E. WEBB
After hundreds of thousands of years of occupancy, and several thousand years of recorded history, man quite suddenly left the planet Earth in 1969 to fly to its nearest neighbor, the Moon. The ten-year span it took to accomplish this task was but a blink of an eye on an evolutionary scale, but the impact of the event will permanently affect man's destiny.
In reflecting on the Apollo program, I am sometimes overwhelmed at the sheer magnitude of the task and the temerity of its undertaking. When Apollo was conceived, a lunar landing was considered so difficult that it could only be accomplished through exceptional large-scale efforts in science, in engineering, and in the development of operational and training systems for long-duration manned flights. These clearly required the application of large resources over a decade.
Industry, universities, and government elements had to be melded into a team of teams. Apollo involved competition for world leadership in the understanding and mastery of rocketry, of spacecraft development and use, and of new departures of international cooperation in science and technology. Like the Bretton Woods monetary agreement, President Truman's Point Four Program, and the Marshall Plan, the Apollo program was a further attempt toward world stability - but with a new thrust.
This chapter will review the origins of this policy and how it was successfully implemented. Subsequent chapters describe how particular problems were solved, how the astronauts and other teams of specialists were trained and performed, how the giant spaceboosters were built and flown, and how all this was joined together in a fully integrated effort. In many of these essays you will find indications of the meaning of the Apollo program to those who devoted much of their lives to it.
In the pre-space years the main defensive shield of the free world against Communist expansion was the preeminence of the United States in aeronautical technology and nuclear weaponry. These were an integral part of a system of mutual-defense treaties with other non-Communist nations.