Project Apollo

The missions that sent 12 humans to the lunar surface

Apollo was the NASA program that sent the first humans to the Moon. From 1969 to 1972, a total of 6 spacecraft carrying 12 astronauts landed on the lunar surface. It was the only time humans have ever walked on another celestial body, and none have left Earth orbit since.

On 25 May 1961, just 20 days after Alan Shepard became the first American to fly into space, President John F. Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress to ask for funding to start the ambitious program: "I believe that this nation should commit itself, to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth," Kennedy said. NASA met the goal on 20 July 1969, when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface during Apollo 11.

The program culminated in 1972 with Apollo 17. The entire lunar effort cost roughly $288 billion in 2019 dollars, and employed 400,000 Americans at its peak. In total, Apollo astronauts returned 382 kilograms of lunar rocks, core samples, and regolith from the lunar surface. The samples showed the Moon is a lifeless world that formed roughly 4.5 billion years ago, experienced catastrophic change 3.8 billion years ago, and has been relatively (though not completely) inactive since. Its rocks are chemically related to Earth, supporting the theory that the Moon was created when another large world impacted early Earth.