53 yeras ago today; the words of Neil Armstrong, who took the first step on the moon, announced the magnificent achievement of mankind to the universe: "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind..."

On September 12, 1962, at the Rice University stadium in Texas, the following words of US President John F. Kennedy would mark the next 10 years, and humankind would set foot on the lunar surface for the first time: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”

This speech began to form the west side of breakthroughs in space in many ways. In the east, the Soviet Union sent the first human, Yuri Gagarin, to space nearly a year before this speech and took the lead in the space race. The studies on the subject began quickly. But everything was still very new. Some special situations, producing special clothes suitable for space, and docking with each other in the space environment, which is called rendezvous would be learned step by step. The project of taking the first American into space, called Mercury, had come to an end, and 6 American astronauts were sent into space. The studies began for a new program to learn about all these issues, to discover different subjects, and find solutions to problems. The name of the program was "Gemini".

Mercury Program Crew

Astronauts, who were sent into space one by one in the Mercury program, were sent into space in pairs in a capsule in the Gemini program. During this program, NASA gained experience in topics such as extravehicular activities, docking-undocking, living in space for a long time, and NASA was almost ready to go to the Moon by the end of the program.

Ed White - Gemini Program - First Space Walk

The influence of Wernher von Braun, a German rocket engineer, was incredible in the program, which was called the "Apollo Program". Braun was already working for NASA on powerful rocket engines and bodies. However, the height of the rocket he was going to make now would be exactly 110 meters, and after 4 days of the journey in outer space, the rocket would carry human beings to the Moon.

Dr. Wernher von Braun - İsmail Akbay (The first Turkish Engineer to work at NASA)

The Saturn rockets consisted of 3 different groups. These; Saturn I, which was used for test flights, Saturn IB, which was a modification of Saturn I for the Apollo program and which would later carry the first American space station Skylab to space, and Saturn V, the 110-meter-long rocket carrying human beings to the Moon.

Saturn V Rocket

On January 27, 1967, there was great excitement at Kennedy Space Center. There was a Saturn IB rocket standing on the launch pad and the Apollo capsule atop the rocket. Astronauts were making final preparations for Apollo 1 which was scheduled for February 21 as the first mission of the Apollo Program.

Three astronauts, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, entered the Apollo capsule and began their work. However, since it was the first flight of the program, there were some problems. Even, Gus Grissom said to his friends at ground control due to a malfunction caused by the microphone, "How are we going to get to the Moon if we can't communicate between two or three buildings?” he lamented. A much bigger problem awaited them a few minutes later.

Since the capsule was not yet on a real mission, the capsule was completely filled with oxygen instead mixed with nitrogen. Since the oxygen can cause other materials that burn to ignite more easily and to burn far more rapidly, a tiny spark inside the Apollo 1 capsule turned into a fire. Although there were those who tried to help, the inwardly opening cover of the capsule could not be opened due to the pressure created by the fire inside, unfortunately, 3 professional astronauts lost their lives.

Apollo 1 Crew

Deke Slayton, the executive of the space programs, announced after the event that the missions will be carried out unmanned until everything is sure. Afterwards, all missions were carried out unmanned until the Apollo 7 mission. Astronauts orbited the Earth with Apollo 7, orbited the Moon with Apollo 8, and tested the Moon landing module on Apollo 9. In Apollo 10, almost everything was completed except landing on the Moon, the astronauts returned back to Earth within 15 kilometers of the Moon's surface as a part of the mission.

Apollo Mission Patches

On July 16, 1969, three astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Michael Collins took their places in the Command Service Module. When the clock hit 13:32 (GMT), the countdown was completed and the 110-meter Saturn V rocket started the journey of 384,000 km with all its glory and roar. They reached lunar orbit on July 19. Soon after, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin moved on to the Lunar Landing Module, which was called "Eagle" for that mission, to become the first humans on the lunar surface. On July 20, 1969, at 20:17 GMT, the Eagle landed on the Moon's surface.

The words of Neil Armstrong, who took the first step on the moon, announced the magnificent achievement of mankind to the universe: "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind..."

Happy 53rd anniversary of this giant leap of mankind.

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