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Apollo Expeditions to the Moon


No nation ever demonstrated its aspirations and abilities as dramatically as did the United States when it landed the first men on the Moon, or as much in public: More people on Earth watched that first small step on a foreign planet than had witnessed any prior event in the ascent of man. While it is still too early to assess the full significance of that remarkable undertaking, I think it is a good time to look back on the total enterprise, while the images are still sharp, and while those concerned are available to give testimony. Historians have observed that ventures into uncharted waters are often illuminated most vividly in the words of those who were there; one thinks of Caesar's Commentaries, Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation, Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle. An interesting parallel exists between the voyages of H.M.S. Beagle and the missions of Apollo: One changed the course of the biological sciences, and the others are reshaping planetary and Earth sciences. In this volume you will find the personal accounts of eighteen men who, like Darwin, were much involved in long and influential voyages.

New scientific insights are an important part of the legacy of Apollo, as well as the worldwide lift to the human spirit that the achievement generated. But there is a third legacy of Apollo that is particularly germane today. This was the demonstration that great and difficult endeavors can be conducted successfully by a steadfast mobilization of national will and resources. Today we face seemingly intractable problems whose resolution may call for similar mobilization of resources and will. Husbanding the planet's finite resources, developing its energy supplies, feeding its billions, protecting its environment, and shackling its weapons are some of these problems. If the zest, drive, and dedication that made Apollo a success can be brought to bear, that may be the most priceless legacy of Apollo.

National Aeronautics and
Space Administration
July 30, 1975