Apollo program facts for kids

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Apollo Program insignia

The Apollo program (or Project Apollo) was a project by the United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The goal was to send a human to explore the Moon and bring him home to earth safely. It was started by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1961. The first person to walk on the Moon was Neil Armstrong of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969.

One reason the program started was that the Soviet Union was the first country to send a person into outer space. Since this was during the Cold War, many in the U.S. thought that the U.S. needed to stay ahead of the USSR in space exploration.

The Apollo program ended in 1972. After that, NASA began to work on the Space Shuttle program, the International Space Station, and many unmanned space exploration projects.

There was a movie made about the problems that happened on the Apollo 13 mission.


In September 1967, Owen Maynard of the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas came up with a series of Apollo missions that would lead to landing a person on the Moon. There were seven types of mission, each testing a specific set of parts and tasks. Each step would need to be completed successfully before the next mission type could begin. These were:

  • A - Unmanned Saturn V and Command/Service Module (CSM) development (Apollo 4, Apollo 6)
  • B - Unmanned Lunar Module (LM) development (Apollo 5)
  • C - Manned CSM evaluation in low Earth orbit (Apollo 7)
  • D - Manned CSM and LM development in low Earth orbit (originally planned for Apollo 8; flown as Apollo 9)
  • E - Manned CSM and LM operations, a practice lunar mission in a medium Earth orbit with an apogee of 4600 mi (7400 km), but never flew
  • F - Manned CSM and LM operations in lunar orbit, a "dress rehearsal" for the first landing (Apollo 10)
  • G - First manned lunar landing (Apollo 11)

The first manned Lunar Module, LM-3, was not ready for the December 1968 launch date of Apollo 8. It was flown as a lunar orbital mission using just the CSM and the E mission was cancelled.

The first landing would be followed by more advanced lunar missions:

  • H - precision landings with up to two-day stays on the Moon, with two lunar Extra-Vehicular Activities or "moonwalks" (Apollo 12, Apollo 13 (planned), Apollo 14)
  • I - long duration CSM lunar orbital surveys using a Scientific Instrument Module mounted in an empty Service Module bay. These were added into the J missions.
  • J - longer three-day stays using an Extended LM, with three LEVAs and a Lunar Roving Vehicle (Apollo 15, Apollo 16, Apollo 17). Apollo 18 to 20 would have been J missions. Apollo 15 was originally an H mission but was changed to J as the program was cut short.

Apollo flights

Apollo 11
Apollo 11 crew, who made the first manned landing: commander Neil Armstrong, CM pilot Michael Collins, and LM pilot Buzz Aldrin

The Apollo flights were carried into space by the huge Saturn V rockets. Details of the flights are:

  • Apollo 1 caught fire during pre-flight training on January 27, 1967, killing three astronauts, Edward Higgins White, Gus Grissom, and Roger B. Chaffee.
  • There was no Apollo 2 or Apollo 3
  • Apollo 4 was launched on November 9, 1967. The flight was designed to test the Command Module. It did not carry a crew.
  • Apollo 5 was launched on January 22, 1968. The flight was designed to test the Lunar Module. It did not carry a crew.
  • Apollo 6 was launched on April 4, 1968. The flight which did not carry a crew was the final check for all the systems.
  • Apollo 7 was launched on October 11, 1968. This was the first flight with a crew, Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham. The flight, which orbited the Earth for several days, tested the command Module.
  • Apollo 8 was launched December 21, 1968. The crew, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders, were the first astronauts to go into orbit around the Moon.
  • Apollo 9 was launched March 9, 1969. The crew, James McDivitt, David Scott, and Russell Schweickart, tested the Lunar Module in orbit around the Earth and practised docking with the Command Module.
  • Apollo 10 was launched on May 18, 1969. This was the first complete Apollo rocket carrying all the equipment. The crew, Thomas Patten Stafford, John Young, and Eugene Cernan, studied possible landing sites while in orbit around the Moon.
  • Apollo 11 was launched on July 16, 1969. This was the first spacecraft to land on the Moon with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969. Michael Collins was in control of the Command Module which stayed in orbit around the moon.
  • Apollo 12 was launched on November 14, 1969. The crew Pete Conrad and Alan Bean were the second team to land on the Moon on November 19, 1969. They collected moon rocks and examined the Surveyor 3 spacecraft that had landed on the Moon in 1967. Richard F. Gordon Jr. stayed in the Command Module
  • Apollo 13 was launched on April 11, 1970. An explosion in one of the oxygen tanks nearly caused the death of the three astronauts, Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise. Emergency repairs were made and the they were able to return safely to Earth.
  • Apollo 14 was launched on January 31, 1971. On February 5, 1971 astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell became the third group to land on the Moon. They collected rocks and carried out experiments while Stuart Roosa stayed in orbit in the Command Module.
  • Apollo 15 was launched on July 26, 1971. It continued the collecting and experiments of earlier landings. David Scott and James Irwin landed on the Moon on July 30, 1971, while Alfred Worden stayed in orbit.
  • Apollo 16 was launched on April 16, 1972. John Young and Charles Duke landed on the Moon on April 21, 1972, while Ken Mattingly stayed in orbit.
  • Apollo 17 was launched on December 7, 1972. This was the final Moon visit, landing on December 11, 1972, and was the first to take a scientist, Harrison Schmitt with astronaut Eugene Cernan. Ronald Evans stayed in orbit.
  • Apollo-Soyuz was the last mission of Apollo.

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