Space Ships and Astronauts: History of Manned Space Flight Part 2

About the history of the United States manned space flights, NASA, the Apollo space ships, and the astronauts.


Seven months later, on July 20, 1969, after a cliff-hanging, manually controlled landing with only a few seconds of fuel remaining, a quietly jubilant voice announced across a quarter-million miles, "Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed." Man was on the moon.

Several hours later millions watched on TV that cautious "giant leap for mankind," and we all stood with Neil Armstrong on a new world.

With one exception, the rest of the Apollo flights seemed prosaic to all except the astronauts, scientists, and ground-support people involved. Apollo 13 was the exception. An explosion on board crippled the ship far out in space. After a desperate journey around the moon and back to earth in their lunar lander, Aquarius, the men returned to the Apollo capsule for a hair-raising, but successful, reentry.

Apollo 17 was the last manned lunar flight, the last chapter of the lunar epic--originally politically inspired--which became the greatest engineering feat in the history of mankind.

Attention now turned to the earth-orbiting space station, Skylab, launched in 1973. Skylab restated man's adaptability wherever he may be, proving that man can work, eat, sleep, spend months in a weightless workshop high above earth's protective atmosphere, and suffer no known permanent ill effects. The 3 Skylab crews repaired damaged equipment and replaced film packets in cameras located outside their ship. They demonstrated manufacturing techniques by growing semiconductor crystals for transistors with perfection unattainable on earth, and making alloys that can't be made here because of gravity. They used the vacuum of space, impossible to achieve in our air-locked world.

They studied Comet Kohoutek and the sun, about which we understand so little. Their solar pictures were priceless long-term photographic studies above the ocean of air, which blocks much of the radiation. Then they returned to earth, telling us space wasn't so hostile--just new and unexplored, with much to give those who accept its challenge.

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