This animation from Moonwalk One shows all the stages of the Apollo 11 mission, which launched 45 years ago on July 16, 1969. As designed, the only component to return to Earth was the Command Module Columbia.
From the series: Headquarters’ Films Relating to Aeronautics, 1962 - 1981. Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1903 - 2006
A Saturn V rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16, 1969, carrying the crew of Apollo 11 on their historic mission to the surface of the Moon.
From the series: Headquarters’ Films Relating to Aeronautics, compiled 1962 - 1981. Record Group 255: Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1903 - 2006
Today is the anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, the fifth manned mission in NASA’s Apollo program, and the first to land humans on the surface of the Moon. Apollo 11 was the culmination of a decade of work to develop the technology necessary to meet President Kennedy’s goal of “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” As it undertook each mission that would act as a building block for Apollo, NASA recorded its growing body of knowledge in many formats, including motion picture film. Many of these films are available to researchers through the National Archives and Records Administration.
NASA launched five Lunar Orbiter missions between August 1966 and August 1967 with the intention of photographing the surface of the Moon and identifying potential Apollo landing sites. Described as an “orbiting photographic laboratory,” each Lunar Orbiter spacecraft used a camera to shoot high-resolution and wide-angle images onto 70mm film. The film was developed with an onboard processor and then scanned line-by-line for transmission back to Earth. Altogether, the Lunar Orbiter missions photographed 99% of the surface of the Moon.*
*For more about the Lunar Orbiter images, check out the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project! LOIRP, funded by NASA and private partners, is successfully digitizing and recovering images from analog tapes holding the data sent back to Earth by the Lunar Orbiter spacecraft.
From the series: Black and White Photograph Files, compiled 1965 - 1991. Record Group 255: Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1903 - 2006
Preparing to go to the Moon…Just Another Day at the Office
Astronaut Ed White performs the first spacewalk by an American during Gemini IV on June 3, 1965.
Astronaut Scott Carpenter explains a phase of his Aurora 7 flight to Astronaut John Glenn on May 24, 1962. Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth and Carpenter was the second. This photograph was submitted to the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences.
Photograph of Astronaut Scott Carpenter explaining Phases of his Flight to Astronaut John Glenn, 5/24/1962, Records of the U.S. Senate
Mercury Atlas VII - Orbital sunset, 05/24/1962
International Day of Human Space Flight
An outer space view of the Colorado River, surrounded by part of Arizona and Utah. The photo was taken from the space shuttle orbiter Columbia during the first space transportation system test mission, 04/12/1981
April 12 is the anniversary of two milestones in space exploration, Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's voyage as the first human into space on 4/12/1961 and the first Space Shuttle mission, by the Space Shuttle Orbiter Columbiaon 4/12/1981 (STS-1). This photograph was taken taken on the first day of the mission.
In recognition of Gagarins’ historic first mission, April 12 is now commemorated as the International Day of Human Space Flight.
Gemini VIII Mission Image - Agena, 03/16/1966
File Unit: Gemini VIII, 03/16/1966 - 03/16/1966. Photographs of the Mercury and Gemini Space Programs. Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Gemini VIII, launched on March 16, 1966, was the twelfth manned American space flight and the first involving the docking of two spacecraft in orbit*, the other being the Agena target vehicle. It was also the first space flight of Neil Armstrong, who would later claim the distinction of being the first man on the moon. However, it was also the first U.S. spacecraft to experience a critical in-space system failure that threatened the lives of the astronauts and required an immediate abort of the mission. This photo, taken from the Gemini capsule, shows the Agena and the west coast of Mexico.
(*Gemini VI and VII had earlier achieved an “orbital rendezvous," maneuvering to within 1 foot of each other while in orbit.)
More at the NASA Gemini Mission Page
Astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr. became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962. With the world watching the historic and live-televised event, Glenn orbited the Earth three times in his space capsule, Friendship 7. Four hours and 55 minutes after ignition, John Glenn and Friendship 7 returned to Earth and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean.
The John Glenn Story, 1963
From the series: Headquarters’ Films Relating to Aeronautics, 1962 - 1981,Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The Project Gemini Space Rendezvous
The first orbital “rendezvous” of two manned spacecraft occurred on December 15, 1965 when the Gemini VI (Wally Schirra and Thomas Stafford) and Gemini VII (Frank Borman and Jim Lovell) spacecraft were maneuvered to within 1 foot of each other while in orbit.
"Photograph of the Gemini VII spacecraft - side view turning adapter section toward camera - was taken from the Gemini VI spacecraft during rendezvous and station keeping maneuvers at an altitude of 161 nautical miles during orbit no. 6,on December 15,1965. G.E.T. time was 9:09/GMT time was 22.46. The two spacecrafts are approximately 40 feet apart."
From the file: Gemini VI, 12/15/1965 - 12/16/1965
More at the NASA Gemini Mission Page
Subject: STS-95 Downlink Mail
Dear Mr. President,
This is certainly a first for me, writing to a President from space, and it may be a first for you in receiving an E mail direct from an orbiting spacecraft…
Writing from space
On February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. In 1998, he returned to space at the age of 77, aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-95) on October 29, 1998. In the 36 years since his first orbit, both spacecraft and communication technology had advanced significantly – Senator Glenn could now communicate with the president via email directly from space.
John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, became the oldest human to venture into space on October 29, 1998 as a crew member of Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-95).
John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth aboard the Mercury capsule Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962. This photo was taken of Glenn exiting Friendship 7, and was collected by the Senate Committee on Aeronautical Space and Science in 1965, who oversaw the operation of NASA at the time. After becoming a Senator in 1973, Glenn was invited by NASA to return to space over three decades after his first flight. Glenn became the oldest man to travel into space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery on October 29, 1998.
Photo of John H. Glenn in Friendship 7, SEN 89A-F1, Records of the U.S. Senate
(Ed. Note: corrected first sentence to clarify that John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth. Alan Shepard was the first American in space. Thanks Twitter user @imillis for the catch.)