Jason Ponic works in the exciting world of Hollywood film and television by day and writes by night.
The Apollo program brought the first humans to the moon. Its 17 missions each played a strategic significance in the advancement of the space program, technology and knowledge. 50 years later, these tiny spacecraft remain a testament to a generation's willpower to conquer the heavens. On display all over the globe, 16 of the 17 capsules are viewed by thousands of visitors each year.
Apollo 1 (AS 204)
Apollo 1, America's first space disaster. What was intended to be a routine test of the the launch procedures and protocol turned to tragedy when a first broke out in the command module, killing its three man crew. The fire drew attention to several fatal flaws in the capsule's design including its solid oxygen environment and inward opening door. Apollo 1 suspended man space missions by 20 months until the flaws were corrected. Today the Apollo 1 Capsule, CM-012, remains hidden from public view at Langley Research Center, Florida It has never been on public display.
"Apollo 2" (AS-201)
While never named 'Apollo 2', AS-201 was the first Apollo unmanned test flight that launched a full year before the tragic flight of Apollo 1. AS-201 tested the command and service module propulsion systems in suborbital altitudes. It also was the first flight to successfully use the heat shield system during reentry. Today the capsule, CS-009, is on display in at the Strategic Air and Space Museum in Nebraska.
"Apollo 3" (AS-202)
Launched, unmanned, in 1966, AS-202 concluded testing on the launch vehicles needed to carry man to the moon. In addition, the flight also tested the guidance and navigation systems and the first flight of the fuel cell power system. While it did not carry a crew, the CM-011 module was nearly fully equipped. Today, it is on display aboard the USS Hornet aircraft carrier museum.
Apollo 4 (AS-501)
The first officially named Apollo mission and test of the mighty Saturn V rocket in all its glory. Launched in 1967, this was NASA's first fully functioning test with the rocket and capsule fully functional and equipped for space. Only the Lunar Module was a dummy, meant for ballast. The mission lasted nine hours
The command module currently is on display at John C. Stennis Space Center at Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
Apollo 5 (LM-01)
The maiden voyage of the Lunar Module. Launched in 1968, the rocket carried no command module, only the lunar module in a specially designed shell blasted to low earth orbit. Both stages of the module were tested successfully and eventually fell into the atmosphere. The assent stage burned up. The remains of the decent stage fell into the Pacific ocean and were recovered in 1970.
The final unmanned flight of the Apollo program. Launched in 1968, the flight suffered several engine failures resulting in the command and service modules to be inserted in a less desirable orbit. The problems were later identified and corrected for the upcoming manned Apollo 7 mission.
News coverage of the launch was minimal as Martin Luther King Jr. was shot the same day.
The capsule is on display at Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta, GA.
The first manned spaceflight since the tragedy of Apollo 1, Apollo 7 lifted off in 1968 carrying a crew of three into space. As the first successful manned flight of Apollo, many issues arose that were not anticipated. 11 days in orbit took its toll on the crew resulting in a form of cabin fever. The crew came to hate the food provided, arguing that it was too sweet amongst other complaints. One crew member developed a bad head cold during the flight which made him irritable. Ultimately their attitudes resulted in the crew being rejected for future missions. None would fly in space again.
Today the capsule is on display at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Texas
The spacecraft that took that famous first ever photo of the earth from lunar orbit. Launched in December 21, 1968 and returned six days later, she was the first to leave Earth orbit. Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and William Anders became household names upon their return. While no lunar landing was achieved, Apollo 8 remains a milestone mission. Today the capsule is on display in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.
March 3, 1969 and Apollo 9 brought the first manned mission of both the the command module and lunar module. This mission tested all elements of a lunar mission: launch, extraction of the lunar module, docking and maneuvering. The ship lost to the Soviets the title of First Docking of Two Manned Spacecraft just two months earlier.
Today, the vessel is on display at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
Following in Apollo 8's footsteps in orbiting the moon, Apollo 10 was NASA's final tech rehearsal before the landing on the moon. The mission took the lander less than nine nautical miles from the lunar surface before returning to earth. Today the capsule is on display at the London Science Museum, the only Apollo capsule on display outside the United States.
The capsule that made history with the calumniation of every manned NASA mission before it. On July 20, 1969 the Eagle Lunar module touched down on the surface of the moon making Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin the first humans to ever walk its surface. A little over two hours later, the ascent stage would return the two men to the Columbia command module. The space race was over. Broadcast worldwide, the landing was one of the most heavily watched events in human history.
Rightfully so, the capsule is on display at the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum.
Just four months later, humans would return to the moon with Apollo 12. Amongst other breakthroughs, Apollo 12 carried the first color television camera to the surface. Unfortunately it was destroyed when Astronaut Alan Bean pointed it directly at the sun. The mission's landing site was the Surveyor 3 unmanned probe. Launched in 1967, the probe gathered soil samples (a space first) just prior to shutting down. The astronauts removed the probe's camera and returned it to earth at the conclusion of their mission.
Today the capsule is on display at the Virginia Air and Space Museum.
The Successful Failure. As the public began to consider trips to the moon routine, Apollo 13 inadvertently recaptured the public's attention. An exploding oxygen tank two days into the mission crippled the command module aborting the landing. The remainder of the mission focused entirely on bringing the astronauts back alive. Using the lunar module as a 'lifeboat' the astronauts were able to successfully conserve enough power to bring them back to Earth.
After successfully returning to Earth, the capsule was disassembled as part of the investigation into what caused the explosion. The exterior shell was put on display in Paris while the interior components were reassembled into one of NASA's boilerplate test modules and put on display at the Museum of Natural History and Science in Louisville, Kentucky until 2000. The shell and interior were reunited and placed on display for the first time together at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, Hutchinson, Kansas.
Landing at Apollo 13's landing site, Apollo 14 restored confidence in the Apollo program after 13's disaster. The astronauts spent nearly two days on the lunar surface. In addition to conducting experiments and collecting moonrocks, the astronauts had successfully smuggled two golfballs to the surface. Using a makeshift golf club, Alan Shepard remains the only human to hit a golf ball on the moon. It traveled 200-400 yards. Today, Apollo 14 is the first mission where all astronauts have since passed away. The capsule sits on display at the Apollo/Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space Center.
NASA's first of the J-Missions to the moon, longer stays and greater focus on science. Apollo 15 was the first ever to bring the lunar roving vehicle along. The astronauts enjoyed nearly 19 hours outside walking around on the surface of the moon over the course of three separate spacewalks. For decades, NASA consider Apollo 15 the most successful of all manned space flights.
Today the capsule is on display at the USAF Museum in Ohio.
21 hours of spacewalks and nearly three full days on the lunar surface highlighted NASA's penultimate mission to the moon. As the Apollo program began its downhill slide due to lack of public interest, 16s triumphs were considered largely routine. Astronaut Charlie Duke did leave a photograph of his family on the surface of the moon where it remains today.
Today the capsule is on display at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The end of an era in so many ways. The closing mission of the Apollo program. The last time humans ever walked the lunar surface. The final time a manned human spacecraft ventured beyond the pull of earth's gravity.
The mission marked the first and only of the Apollo missions to be launched at night. It also logged the most time on the surface of the moon, the longest tally of spacewalk time, and the biggest load of returning moon rocks.
The capsule sits on display at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
Halemane Muralikrishna from South India on August 26, 2019:
Very good insights on Apollo series of satellites.
Leonard Kelley on July 05, 2016:
Well written and layed out. Loved it!
Kaili Bisson from Canada on July 05, 2016:
Very interesting and informative hub Jason. The Apollo 7 Command Module was on display at the Canada Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, Canada for about 30 years. In 2003, the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum asked for it back, so I was interested to see it has a new home in Texas. Which seems to be news to NASA...their site says it is still in Canada :-)