In 1961, President John F. Kennedy made a promise and a declaration to a then-anxious American public: "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving this goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."
NASA had only been in existence for a few years. The space technology we have in existence today was nonexistent at that time. We hadn't even figured out how to get an astronaut to orbit the Earth! This was a BIG promise to make in the absence of anything to back it up. The Soviet Union (Russia) was beating our doors off at virtually everything space-related: first artificial satellite, first live organism in orbit, first man in orbit. How could President Kennedy make such a claim, backed up by such dismal accomplishment on our side?
The purpose of the Apollo program, developed by NASA, was to deliver on President Kennedy's promise, to put a man on the moon, and safely return him to Earth. The Apollo program was not without disaster; one rocket burned on the launch pad, killing all three astronauts. The famed movie "Apollo 13" detailed the mishaps and triumph as the astronauts and ground crew struggled to correct what could have resulted in yet another failure. But the scientists and the astronauts endured; they learned from their mistakes, they improved the design of their vehicles. And on July 20, 1969, less than 10 years after President Kennedy made the announcement, NASA successfully landed Apollo 11 on the surface of the moon.
"The Eagle has landed," announced astronaut Neil Armstrong, as he and co-astronaut Buzz Aldrin landed on the surface of the moon. As he descended the ladder and took his first steps on the lunar surface, Armstrong recited the now-familiar quotation: "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."
The Apollo missions developed and spun off many technological applications in our everday lives. Teflon coated cookingware was one NASA development. The astronauts brought back many samples of lunar rocks and soil for scientific analysis, to see if the moon was like the Earth or not. Eventually, the Apollo missions were scrapped because they cost too much. NASA moved to the space shuttle program because the shuttles were more cost efficient.
they were curious about what exists other than earth