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Apollo Expeditions to the Moon



The Apollo requirement was to take off from a point on the surface of the Earth that was traveling 1000 miles per hour as the Earth rotated, to go into orbit at 18,000 miles an hour, to speed up at the proper time to 25,000 miles an hour, to travel to a body in space 240,000 miles distant which was itself traveling 2000 miles per hour relative to the Earth, to go into orbit around this body, and to drop a specialized landing vehicle to its surface. There men were to make observations and measurements, collect specimens, leave instruments that would send back data on what was found, and then repeat much of the outward-bound process to get back home. One such expedition would not do the job. NASA had to develop a reliable system capable of doing this time after time.

John W. McCoy II, FIRST LIGHT, watercolor on paper

At the time the decision was made, how to do most of this was not known. But there were people in NASA, in the Department of Defense, in American universities, and in American industry who had the basic scientific knowledge and technical know-how needed to predict realistically that it could be done.

Paul Calle,
pen and ink on paper

Apollo was based on the accumulation of knowledge from years of work in military and civil aviation, on work done to meet our urgent military needs in rocketry, and on a basic pattern of cooperation between government, industry, and universities that had proven successful in NASA's parent organization, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. The space agency built on and expanded the pattern that had yielded success in the past.

Nicholas Solovioff,
watercolor on paper

Systems engineering and systems management were developed to high efficiency. So was project management. New ways to achieve high reliability in complex machines were worked out. New ways to conduct nondestructive testing were developed. The best of large-scale management theory and doctrine was used to bring together both organizational (or administrative) optimization and join it to responsibility to work within the constraints of accepted organizational behavior.