THE LAST EMPTY SKY The development
of the rocket: 1920 to 1957
Robert Goddards underfunded,
largely ignored 1920s development of liquid-fueled rockets parallels
Werner Von Brauns civilian rocket club, which ultimately
created Hitlers V2 rockets. At wars end, Von Braun
and fellow captured scientists were invited to continue their
experiments at Americas White Sands Missile Range - using
their own left-over V2s. Von Braun and his engineers chaffed
under Eisenhowers orders to avoid launching their rockets
into space even as Russias Chief Designer, Sergei Korolev,
secretly prepared to launch Sputnik into orbit.
THE HIGH GROUND The race to
launch something anything into orbit
Reaction to Sputnik finally
spun the American program into high gear. The resulting race
between America and Russia and the even nastier competition
between the Army and the Navy for the first missile launch.
The Space Task Group is formed at Langley AFB to solve the
problem. Early Army/Navy rivalry led to a very public failure,
the Navys explosive Vanguard satellite attempt, followed
by Von Brauns successful launch of Explorer One aboard
a surplus Army missile. Missile Range Number One at Cape Canaveral
is slowly transformed into Americas first spaceport.
MERCURY RISING The race to launch
the first human into space
While Mercury astronaut-candidates
underwent historys most thorough series of physical
and mental tests at Albuquerques Lovelace Clinic, Soviet
Chief Designer Sergei Korolev was readying Yuri Gagarin for
the first launch to earth orbit - a flight he had to parachute
MISSILES TO THE MOON Kennedy
issues the challenge
With less than fifteen minutes
experience in space, America sets out on a program to land
on the moon within the decade. As their Mercury flights continue,
NASA starts figuring out how to achieve this impossible goal.
THE LEARNING CURVE NASA invents
space travel with Project Gemini
It was a program thrown
together out of surplus nuclear missile parts and re-designed
Mercury capsules to teach work and survival skills in space.
Buzz Aldrin, Jim Lovell, Neil Armstrong and others learned
long term zero-G endurance, rendezvous, docking and space-walking
skills, while living in pairs for up to two immobile weeks
at a time in a smaller space than the interior of a VW Beetle.
"GO FEVER!" The aftermath
of Apollo One puts NASA on track for the moon
In the wake of the pad fire
the astronauts assume more control over their missions as
a new Apollo program takes shape. NASA prepares to launch
Wally Schirras three man crew in Apollo 7.
TEN TIMES FASTER THAN A RIFLE BULLET
Von Braun and his team prepare
to launch their masterpiece, the 6 million pound, 25,000 MPH
Saturn Five moon rocket. The program takes a disastrous turn
as three astronauts are killed in a routine pre-launch test.
The causes and lessons of Apollo One.
"WE CHOOSE TO GO TO THE MOON
The slow and painful birth of the first true spaceship, and
a Christmas voyage around the moon
Work slowly progresses on
the Lunar Module, a two-man tinfoil spacecraft light enough
to carry men to the surface of the moon. Unexpected delays
in the completion of the LM prompt a radical and dangerous
change in NASA mission plans, as Apollo 8 a Command/Service
Module combination without the Lunar Module lifeboat is sent
into Lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, 1968. The LM is successfully
tested in low-earth orbit, the moon landing beckons.
"BEFORE THIS DECADE IS OUT"
Apollo 11 and the first steps on the moon
What it finally took - from
near-fatal crashes in the Lunar Lander Training Vehicle and
the Apollo 10 rehearsal flight to the disaster that prematurely
ended the Soviet lunar program - to bring Armstrong and Aldrin
to the surface of the moon - live on TV.
THE UNIVERSE STRIKES BACK Apollo
11 had been a near miss. 12 and 13 were near-disasters
Apollo 12 is struck by lightning
two minutes after lift-off. The crew manages to save their
powerless craft and laughs about it all the way to the moon.
Apollo 13 suffers an explosion and multiple system failure
that nobody anticipated, 200,000 miles from home and heading
in the wrong direction. Told from the perspective of the flight
and mission controllers who brought them back alive. Plus
- the return of Americas first astronaut, Alan Shepard,
the man who golfed on the moon.
THE LUNAR LAB The development,
deployment and results of the Apollo Lunar Experiments
challenge would be more than a walk on the moon, NASA, in
conjunction with teams from the U.S. Geological Survey and
numerous universities, set out to do real science in an incredibly
harsh laboratory. The story of the "J" missions,
Apollo 15 through 17, as told by Gene Cernan the last
men to walk on the moon.