Apollo launched its first flight of Saturn I, the launch vehicle for the Apollo spacecraft, on October 27, 1961. Years of preparation went into the rocketry development before the first Saturn ever left the launch pad.
While the Apollo program was launching it research and development of the first stage launch vehicles, the Mercury program was sending men into space in capsules launched by the Titan, Redstone MR, and Atlas rockets. Alan Shepherd made the first sub orbital flight on May 5, 1961, just a few short months prior to the first Saturn launch in the Apollo program.
The Mercury space program had as its objectives for reaching earth orbit. The objectives were: "to orbit a manned spacecraft around the earth, to investigate man's ability to function in space, and to recover both man and spacecraft safely.
Gemini was a "transitional program where men would learn how to fly a spacecraft, maneuver in orbit, and rendezvous and dock with other spacecraft".
What NASA had, was one great objective with three program components, all with specific pieces of the puzzle to complete. In the first stages, Apollo progressed along side of the Mercury and Gemini in preparation of the Saturn launch vehicle.
Apollo had as its objective: to send a man to the moon.
Apollo sent 33 Saturn launch vehicles into space starting in October of 1961; 11 of these, were manned and 22 unmanned. The first 10 launches were for research and development. During these launches, 3 Pegasus satellites were inserted into orbit and two payloads of 22,900 gallons of water were released into space for study by NASA scientists.
The first 4 launches consisted of a Saturn launch vehicle, a dummy second stage and a Jupiter missile nose cone. Capabilities of the booster, propellant tank structure, control systems, performance measurements and flight trajectory were tested and measured. All objectives were met.
A live second stage was added and the Jupiter missile nose cone was replaced by the Apollo spacecraft that sat atop the Saturn. There were 6 unmanned Apollo launches.
The AS-204 launch of January 27, 1967 brought tragedy with a flash fire in command module 012. This was to be the first initiated Apollo program. Astronauts, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Lt. Col., USAF; Edward H White, Lt. Col., USAF; and Roger B. Chaffee, Lt. Commander, USN died in the accident. The mission was renamed, Apollo I, in their honor.
Apollo 4: launched Nov. 9, 1967, unmanned.
Apollo 5: launched Jan. 22, 1968, carried the first lunar module into space.
Apollo 6: launched April 4, 1968
Apollo 7: was the first manned mission, Oct. 11, 1968 - Oct. 22, 1968
Apollo 8: Dec. 21, 1968-Dec. 27, 1968 Looped around the moon on Christmas Eve.
Apollo 9: March3-March 13, 1969
Apollo 10: May 18, 1969 orbited the moon, Lunar module dropped to within 9 miles of lunar surface.
Apollo 11: July 16 -July 24, 1969 The first Lunar landing, July 20, 1069. Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon.
Apollo 12: Nov. 14 Nov. 24, 1969 Struck by lightning. They continued their flight, landed on the moon and returned safely.
Apollo 13: April 11-April 17, 1970 "Houston, we have a problem." (Paraphrased) The O2 tank blew up; the crew used the LM (Lunar Module) to take them around the moon and home.
Apollo 14: Jan. 31, 1970-Feb. 9, 1971 Extensive experiments; astronauts got lost on moon when landscape became disorienting.
Apollo 15: Jul. 26-Aug. 7, 1971 First use of Lunar Rover - First Apollo space walk.
Apollo 16: Apr. 16-Apr. 27, 1972 Malfunction almost scrubbed the lunar landing.
Apollo 17: Dec. 7-Dec. 19, 1972 Last Apollo flight.
The Apollo space program was brilliant in its design with integration of testing and training of Astronauts from the Mercury and Gemini projects. It all came together in history, when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Apollo mission accomplished.