Text Size
What Was the Apollo Program?
July 14, 2009

Apollo was a NASA program that sent people to the moon. There were 11 Apollo flights. The first Apollo flight was in 1968.

The first four flights tested the spacecraft. Six of the other seven flights landed on the moon. The first moon landing took place in 1969. The last moon landing was in 1972.

Twelve astronauts walked on the moon. They studied the lunar surface. They collected moon rocks and brought them back to Earth.

What Spacecraft Were Used for the Apollo Program?
NASA built the Apollo Command Module for this program. It had room for three astronauts. The crew area had about as much room as a car. They rode in it on the way to the moon and back.

Another spacecraft, the Lunar Module, was used for landing on the moon. This spacecraft carried two astronauts. It took them from orbit around the moon to the moon's surface. The Lunar Module also carried them back into the moon's orbit to the Command Module.

Two types of rockets were used for Apollo, the Saturn IB and the Saturn V (5).

The first Apollo flight used the smaller Saturn IB rocket. This rocket had two stages. That means it was made of two parts. When the first part ran out of fuel, it dropped away from the other. It burned up in Earth's atmosphere. The second part kept flying. The Saturn IB rocket was used to test the Apollo capsule in Earth orbit. It was about the size of a 22-story building.

The other 10 flights used the more powerful Saturn V rocket. This three-stage rocket could send the Apollo spacecraft to the moon. The Saturn V was as tall as a 36-story building.

The following missions flew humans during Apollo:

Apollo Flight Date Mission Crew
7 Oct. 11-22, 1968 Tested the Command Module Schirra, Eisele, Cunningham
8 Dec. 21-27, 1968 First to orbit the moon Borman, Lovell, Anders
9 March 3-13, 1969 Tested the Lunar Module McDivitt, Scott, Schweickart
10 May 18-26, 1969 Tested the Lunar Module around the moon Cernan, Young, Stafford
11 July 16-24, 1969 First to land on the moon Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins
12 Nov. 14-24, 1969 Landed on the moon Conrad, Bean, Gordon
13 April 11-17, 1970 Was supposed to land on the moon but had a malfunction Lovell, Swigert, Haise
14 Jan. 31-Feb. 9, 1971 Landed on the moon Shepard, Mitchell, Roosa
15 July 26-Aug. 7, 1971 Landed on the moon Scott, Irwin, Worden
16 April 16-27, 1972 Landed on the moon Young, Duke, Mattingly
17 Dec. 7-19, 1972 Landed on the moon Cernan, Schmitt, Evans


When Did Humans First Visit the Moon?
Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to go to the moon. This mission did not land on the moon. It orbited the moon, then came back to Earth. Apollo 8 circled around the moon on Christmas Eve 1968. The crew was Frank Borman, Bill Anders and Jim Lovell.

The first moon landing was Apollo 11. It landed on July 20, 1969. The crew of Apollo 11 was Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon. Collins stayed in orbit around the moon. Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon. He said, "That's one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind."

Apollo 13 is one of the more famous missions to the moon. A movie was made about this flight. Apollo 13 was going to land on the moon. On the way there, the spacecraft had a problem. NASA had to figure out how to bring the astronauts home safely. They flew all the way around the moon before returning home. The crew was able to land safely on Earth.

How Did Astronauts Land on the Moon?
The Apollo spacecraft that went to the moon were launched on top of a three-stage Saturn V rocket. The first two stages used all their fuel to get to orbit. The third stage pushed the spacecraft to the moon.

Once the spacecraft reached the moon, the Lunar Module and the Command Module split from each other. The two astronauts in the Lunar Module landed on the moon. The third astronaut stayed in the Command Module in orbit around the moon. On the last three missions, the Lunar Module carried a car called the lunar rover. Astronauts drove the lunar rover around on the moon to explore farther. The lunar rovers were made so they could be folded to fit in a box on the Lunar Module. The lunar rovers were left on the moon.

When the two astronauts finished their work on the moon, they got back in the Lunar Module and launched. It went back into orbit around the moon. It connected with the Command Module. The two astronauts from the Lunar Module got back into the Command Module with the other astronaut. They left the Lunar Module behind. It crashed into the moon. Then they flew back to Earth. The Command Module landed in the ocean. A ship picked up the astronauts.

Why Was the Apollo Program Important?
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy said he wanted America to land astronauts on the moon. He wanted it to happen during the 1960s. NASA did this with the Apollo program. It was the first time people had left Earth orbit and visited another world. These trips will help NASA explore other worlds later.

More About Apollo
› Apollo
› Who Was Neil Armstrong?
› What Is Orion?
› What Was Project Mercury?
› Apollo 11 Interactive
› NASA History - The Apollo Program   →
› Apollo 45th Anniversary

Read What Was the Apollo Program? Grades 5-8

Return to Homework Topics Grades K-4

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services

Image Token: 
Buzz Aldrin wears a white spacesuit on the moon
Buzz Aldrin was part of the first crew to land on the moon.
Image Credit: 
Image Token: 
The Apollo 11 Saturn V (5) takes off
The Saturn V (5) rocket was used for the moon landing missions.
Image Credit: 
Image Token: 
An astronaut drives a lunar rover on the moon
On the last three Apollo missions, astronauts drove a lunar rover on the moon.
Image Credit: 
Image Token: 
Image Token: 
Page Last Updated: July 15th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Education