Guernsey: Date of issue: 20 July 2019

The American objective to send astronauts to the moon followed an appeal by President John F. Kennedy, who, in an address to a joint session of Congress on 25 May 1961, said: “First I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

Competition with the Soviet Union (USSR) helped to drive President Kennedy’s ambitious programme in the so-called ‘Space Race’ and set the stage for an exciting period of development in the United States’ space programme.

 

The Apollo programme

In 1966, after several years of work by a team of scientists and engineers, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) carried out the first unmanned Apollo mission to test the structural integrity of the proposed launch vehicle and spacecraft combination.

However, tragedy struck on 27 January 1967, when a fire inside the command module of Apollo 1 claimed the lives of all three astronauts during pre-flight testing. It would take more than 18 months, and extensive redesigns, before NASA sent more people into space.

The following year, on 11 October 1968, the maiden voyage of an Apollo crew took place as Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walt Cunningham lifted off for the Apollo 7 Earth orbital mission.

Just two months later, the Apollo 8 astronauts flew the first lunar orbital mission abroad a Saturn V on 21 December 1968. A live broadcast of their mission showed the astronauts orbiting the moon with previously unseen images, including a view of the Earth rising above the lunar surface.

The lunar orbital missions of the Apollo programme had shown that it was possible to reach the moon and return, but all eyes would be on the Apollo 11 crew to prove that they could also land on the moon and return home.

At 9.32 a.m. EDT on 16 July 1969, Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. The eight-day mission took the crew on a 935,000-mile journey to another world. An estimated 530 million people watched the televised image and heard Armstrong’s words as he became the first human to set foot on the moon.

By the end of the decade, America’s Apollo space programme had successfully completed two moon landings and Kennedy Space Center was considered to be the launch capital of the world.

48p Stamp: Almost there, Step by Step

65p Stamp: Walking on the Moon

80p Stamp: Foot Print on the Moon

90p Stamp: View of Earth from the Moon

 

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