In the years immediately following President John F. Kennedy’s bold proposition to land a man on the moon, a young National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) worked to fulfill his words. But a seemingly insurmountable vacuum of knowledge and technical skill lay between the President’s announcement and an American standing on the lunar surface.
NASA decided to tackle these obstacles in three stages. NASA administrator James E. Webb submitted this statement to the Senate Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee, outlining the approach. First, project Mercury would send Americans into the unknown in order to “determine men’s capabilities in the space environment and to develop the technology required for manned space flight.” Second, project Gemini would test the rendezvous techniques necessary to achieve a round-trip from earth to the lunar surface and back. Third, project Apollo would emerge from “the data developed in those earlier projects,” and ultimately land an American on the moon. Today marks the anniversary of the launch of Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission.
Advanced Manned Space Flight, undated, Records of the U.S. Senate