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NASA Langley Research Center's Contributions to the Apollo Program

NASA Langley Research Center's Contributions to the Apollo Program

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Published by Bob Andrepont
NASA booklet describes Langley Research Center's role in Apollo.
NASA booklet describes Langley Research Center's role in Apollo.

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Published by: Bob Andrepont on Jan 07, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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National Aeronautics andSpace Administration
  �
Hampton, Virginia 23681-2199
More than twenty years after the rst manned land-ing on the moon, President Kennedy’s commitmentto the lunar mission sounds as bold as it ever did:American astronauts should y a quarter of a millionmiles, make a pinpoint landing on a strange planet,blast off it and return home safely after an eight-dayvoyage through space. When Kennedy challengedthe nation to risk this incredible journey, the onlyUnited States manned spaceight up to that time hadbeen Alan B. Shepard’s 15-minute suborbital excur-sion in Mercury capsule, Freedom 7. NASA was notexactly sure how the lunar mission should be made atall, let alone achieved in less than ten years’ time.
NASA Langley Research Center’sContributions to the Apollo Program
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Lunar Module pilot, photographed on the lunar surface by Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong,commander of the Apollo 11 mission, 1969.
Information Summary
2Answering President Kennedy’s challenge andlanding men on the moon by 1969 required themost sudden burst of technological creativity andthe largest commitment of resources ($2 billion),ever made by any nation in peacetime. At its peak,the Apollo program employed 400,000 Americansand required the support of over 20,000 industrialrms and universities.Langley gave birth to key components of the U.S.space program. As early as 1952, Langley research-ers explored seriously the possibilities of mannedight into space. Out of these pioneering studiesgrew the NASA Space Task Group that conceivedand directed Project Mercury, America’s originalman-in-space program. Langley provided much of the knowledge and know-how basic to the devel-opment of the Mercury spacecraft and its relatedsystems, as well as to the creation of the worldwidetracking network that monitored the rst space shots.Furthermore, it was at Langley where the originalteam of NASA astronauts (Alan Shepard, Virgil“Gus” Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Donald“Deke” Slayton, Walter Schirra and Gordon Cooper)received their basic training.
How to Get to the Moon?
When President Kennedy made his historic deci-sion in May 1961, NASA had already studied vari-ous ways by which to land men on the moon but theagency was still uncertain which one was best. Mis-sion planners quickly narrowed the options down tothree: direct ascent, Earth-Orbit Rendezvous (EOR)and Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous (LOR).
The crew of Apollo 11 included, from left to right;Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins,Command Module pilot; and Buzz Aldrin, LunarModule pilot.NASA’s seven original astronauts, who trained atLangley for Project Mercury were, from left to right;(top) Alan Shepard, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, GordonCooper, (bottom) Walter Schirra, Donald Slayton,John Glenn, and Scott Carpenter.
This NASA Information Summary tribute to the con-tributions NASA Langley Research Center made tothe rst manned lunar landing, made July 20, 1969,by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, com-mander; Michael Collins, Command Module pilot;and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Lunar Module pilot.
The Langley Research Center, established in 1917,was the rst U.S. national laboratory devoted to theadvancement of the science of ight. Long beforethe space program, scientists and engineers at Lang-ley incubated the ideas and hatched the technologythat made American aviation take off and y. For85 years now, information from the laboratory’swind tunnels and other unique research facilities hasplayed a vital role in advancing American perfor-mance in the air.
Apollo 11 rises past the launch tower at Pad 39A tobegin man’s rst lunar landing mission. Liftoff oc-curred at 9:32 a.m., July 16, 1969. The launch vehiclewas a Saturn V developed for the Apollo lunar mis-sions. With the Apollo spacecraft, the Saturn V stood363 feet tall. Space Shuttle missions are still launchedfrom venerable Pad 39A.John C. Houbolt explains the Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous(LOR) concept. Without this successful missionconcept, the United States may have still landedmen on the moon, but it probably would not havehappened by the end of the 1960s as directed byKennedy. The basic premise of LOR was to re anassembly of three spacecraft into Earth orbit on topof a single powerful rocket.
Of the three, LOR was initially the least popular in-side of NASA due to what was then considered itsgreater complexity and risks.In July 1962, however, after months of evaluationand intense debate, NASA selected LOR as the pri-mary mission mode by which to land Americans onthe moon “before the decade is out.”Direct ascent, the rst choice of many NASA of-cials, was ruled out because the huge new launchvehicle required to accomplish the mission -- theproposed Nova rocket -- would take too much timeto develop. The EOR concept was ruled out becauseit required two separate launch vehicles.NASA selected LOR only after Langley researchersproved the feasibility of rendezvous in space and re-vealed the important engineering and economicadvantages of a manned moon landing throughLunar-Orbit Rendezvous. Advocates of LOR atLangley played vital roles in convincing NASA lead-ership that LOR was not only as safe as either directascent and orbit rendezvous but also it promised mis-sion success some months earlier.

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