Apollo 11 Mission to the Moon

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NASA’s Apollo 11 mission to the Moon is still today one of our most important breakthroughs for space exploration studies. As we are currently booking flights for civilian passengers to orbit the Moon many questions still remain; when can a mission to land a human on Mars be realized, what will this mean for colonization on other planets, and when will we find another planet suitable to sustain life? The importance of all the Apollo missions are critical in the field of astronomy in our discoveries for the future survival of our species. Current knowledge in the field of space exploration is NASA’s Twin Study of the Kelly brothers and what researchers observed on how our bodies react to other environments besides Earths. As a species we are unaware of the existence of other life in the Universe and future missions to the Moon will attempt to begin the process of deep space exploration. In preparation for deep space exploration NASA with the help of international affiliates/companies, are journeying back to the Moon to discover the complexities required for human missions to Mars.

At the time of the Apollo Missions, President John F. Kennedy felt great pressure from the Soviet Union after they sent Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin to successfully 'become the first human in space on April 12, 1961” (NASA). Along with Vice President Johnson and NASA Administrator James Webb, President Kennedy announced that American would be the first nation to have a man on the Moon. Although President Kennedy wasn’t alive to see it, President Johnson and President Nixon were fully committed to seeing his vision as a reality.

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All the Apollo Missions had importance in preparing for Apollo 11 in July 16, 1969. In 1967, Apollo 1 never took off because during the preflight test there was a fire in the command module and Astronauts Virgil Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee lost their lives. In 1968 Apollo 7 was the first to get to space with an 11-day flight with a number of test taken, during the same year Apollo 8 crewed Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders where they orbited the Moon for 10 hours. In 1969 Apollo 9 Commander James McDivitt and Lunar Module Pilot Rusty Schweickart “the lunar module from the command module and flew independently for six hours, testing the lunar module’s systems” (NASA: Loff, Sarah) and Apollo 10 was a dress rehearsal for the first lunar landing.

Apollo 11 spacecraft was launched on July 16, 1969 where astronauts first orbited the Earth, orbited the Moon, and then descended to the lunar surface. Astronaut Lance Armstrong was the first man on the Moon followed by Gus Aldrin where they a camera recorded humankind’s first steps on the lunar surface. They collected moon rocks, took panoramic photos of the landing region, and deployed a Laser-Ranging Retroreflector and a Passive Seismic Experiment Package a moonquake detector. Moon rock samples that were collected were breccias which told us that the Moon has been hit countless times by meteorites, and basalt rocks which are a type of volcanic rock and were aged 3.6 to 3.9 billion years old. The Passive Seismic Experiment is a seismometer that detailed the internal structure of the Moon and recorded meteorite strikes during the lifetime of its power.

Decades after the famous Apollo missions it has become a cultural benchmark for scientists, Americans, and conspiracy theorists alike. NASA, with the partnership of commercial and international leaders, will return to the Moon in 2024 and explore more than previous missions before it. These missions will help us build technologies such as a lunar outpost and other resources to take us to Mars and beyond. These contracts that have been awarded to different companies will provide services for decades to the “Commercial Lunar Payload Services and these efforts will expand partnership opportunities on the lunar surface” (NASA; Cheryl Warner). Five companies - Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space System, and Space Systems/Loral, - were awarded $2.4 million to develop “potential commercial synergies to support development of a power and propulsion element” (NASA, Jimi Russell, Cheryl Warner). These propulsion studies and building of technologies will provide information necessary to put together a future mission for deep space travel. The second flight, Artemis 2, will take humans on board beyond low earth orbit with a ten part series; launch, enter Earth’s orbit, Apogee raise burn to High Earth Orbit, a trans-lunar injection by Orion’s main engine, a 4 day outbound trajectory trans-lunar, the lunar fly-by, a Trans-Earth return, service module separation, entry/descent/landing, and the crew capsule recovery on Earth.

From March 2015 to March 2016 Scott Kelly, a US Astronaut, and Mikhail Korniyenko, a Russian cosmonaut, were selected to participate in a year long Twin Study to observe physiological changes long term exposure to deep space flight would have. There findings were categorized into 6 subjects: biochemical, microbiome, epigenomic, metabolomics, proteomics, and integrative omics. Some hazards included; vision problems, genome deviations only during the mission, and poor gut flora due to freeze-dried or thermo-stabilized prepackaged foods. There was also decreased body mass, and poor cognition changed upon return to earth for 6 months. There were some changes in gene expression from radiation exposure, and DNA telomere elevated exposure risks.

A Mars expedition would take 3 years round trip and these twin studies findings will help NASA to prepare or this voyage. Mars is considered a natural laboratory to study the solar system's planets. This red planet has less active tectonic plates compared to Earth and it can help us understand what our planet was like prior to erosion. In comparison the Moon has a weak atmosphere compared to earth and can not properly form oxygen and water on the surface which makes it lifeless, and consequently Mars also has a chaotic atmosphere which is primarily carbon dioxide. Mars’ atmosphere is also thinner, it is colder and can be comparable to Antarctica, all of which makes our more recent missions of SLS and Orion important for deep space exploration to Mars which is targeted for 2030. The SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft, are a system of complex missions with its first mission called Artemis 1. This SLS rocket will launch 280,000 miles from Earth, farther than any other spacecraft meant for humans before. The Orion will launch the most powerful rocket for a spacecraft built and will stay in space the longest ever for any ship without docking to a space station.

There are many questions that remain unanswered. Can we colonize on Mars? What will civilian missions to the Moon help us discover about non-astronaut preparations would be necessary to prepare others for space exploration? Will we discover any signs of life on Mars.

The ultimate question is whether or not there is other sentient life beyond our galaxy and what can we discover about colonizing another planet before we destroy Earth. Apollo 11 was the catalyst for all deep space exploration and with its 50 anniversary just passing it is a testament to our determination prove we aren’t alone in the universe.

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