Introduction   Page 2(2)

Timelines of the Soviet Russian and the American programs for manned spaceflight

Timeline Soviet Program for manned spaceflight

Timeline NASA Program for manned spaceflight

History of funding for the NASA manned spaceflight programs.
The NASA budget was increased substantially in favor of the Apollo program. In the mid 60's this budget took about 0.3% of the Gross Domesting Product of the USA.
Fundings were cut in 1962, when political tensions were building up between Cuba and the USA. In October 1962 these tensions culminated in what became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. It became apparent that the Soviet Union was deploying an arsenal of nuclear missiles on Cuban soil and therefore imposing a severe threat upon the USA. This was unacceptable for the Kennedy administration and counter-measures in the range from diplomatic negotiation to military confrontation were discussed openly. The World held its breath because we found ourselves on the brink of a nuclear war.

The Race to the Moon

The Race to the Moon
The pictures at the top of this page, show the time lines of both the Soviet Russian and the American manned space program. The striking resemblance between both programs illustrates the competition between the two super powers. The USA was suprised and embarrassed by a couple of "firsts" by the Soviets in the late fifties and early sixties. The USA had to organise herself quickly to be able to catch up in what became known as the Space Race between the super powers.

It was late president J.F. Kennedy who became fully aware of the strategic importance of this brand new science and technology. With a sense of urgency, invoked by the impressive achievements of the Russians, he began to set a clear goal which would challenge everybody's imagination :   a manned landing on the Moon before 1970. Kennedy announced this goal in a speech addressed to the Congress on 25 May 1961. This highly ambitious goal made sense however. Both the Soviet Union and the USA had plans for manned missions to other planets. It was evident that a manned moon landing was an essential first step. Kennedy's announcement was nevertheless bold, at that time, the USA was not able to put a manned spacecraft into orbit. A manned moon landing seemed to be ages away. But scientists he had consulted first before he made his announcement, assured him that it can be done within a time frame of 10 years. The new born space program, which was meant to reach Kennedy's goal, was named program Apollo.

The Apollo Program
The Apollo program really took off around 1963, the available financial resources were immense and could not be matched by the Soviet Union. It must therefore be said, that the Russian achievements were impressive regarding the limited available resources. However the general opinion is, that the space race to the Moon was lost by the Russians, partly because they tried to work out in parallel two strategies for moon missions. Valuable resources were waisted because of that. For NASA in contrary, it was a prerequisite to reach a decision first on which way to fly to the Moon.

The strategy which was chosen by NASA became known as the Lunar Orbit Rendez-vous (LOR). It implied the use of two spacecrafts, which could be docked to each other in space for the trip to the Moon. The two spacecrafts would be launched as a combined payload with one launch vehicle. One was called the mothership and the other one the Lunar Module. The mothership was meant for the journey to the Moon. The Lunar Module attached to it, would be used as a separate independant spacecraft, specially designed for a round-trip to the surface of the Moon from an orbiting mothership. This strategy was the most efficient way for a manned moonlanding. A spacecraft like the Lunar Module was not only very light, but it was supposed to be disposed of when it had fullfilled its mission, which saved a lot of weight on the journey back to Earth. This approach of modular spacecraft design, saved a lot of fuel and therefore mass in comparison with the strategy in which a single spacecraft would fly to the Moon, land on it and return to Earth. Initially this "direct flight method" seemed to be a logical choice. It was a simple strategy without the otherwise necessary docking manoeuvres, which were considered to be complicated and risky. However calculations soon learned NASA that the booster, which was required to carry the necessary payload to the Moon for a direct flight to the Moon's surface, would be huge and could not be developed within ten years. A development schedule for the "direct flight method" would have put Kennedy's goal beyond reach.

The Mercury Program
The Mercury Program was America's first manned space program. It was meant to put the USA in the race. It provided America the necessary experience and knowledge to pursue manned spaceflight. However the gap between the Mercury program and the ambitious Apollo program was too large. A lot of research and development had still to be done which could not be incorporated into the Mercury program. The scope of the program and its space hardware were just not adequate.

The Gemini Program
The Gemini program was meant to bridge the gap between the Mercury and the Apollo program. With this program the necessary techniques and technology could be developed. The techniques would involve rendez-vous and docking techniques in space, spacewalks, navigating and orbital maneuvering. Adjacent to these developments one part of the Apollo program was in fact already in execution. It concerned the development of powerful boosters (Saturn family) to lift, according to global designs, the undoubtedly heavy moonbound payload.

Credit to NASA
From: Press Kit Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Mission
The Moon Rendez-vous strategy
Phase 1: Launch, Boostphase and insertion into a parking orbit
Phase 2: Translunar injection
Phase 3: Translunar coast with transposition of mothership, docking with and extraction of lunar module
Phase 4: Insertion into lunar parking orbit
Phase 5: Separation of mothership and lunar module, Landing on Moon's surface
Phase 6: Lift-off of lunar module, insertion into lunar orbit and re-docking with mothership
Phase 7: Final separation of mothership and lunar module, Transearth injection
Phase 8: Transearth coast
Phase 9: Separation of re-entry module, Re-entry into Earth's atmosphere
Phase 10: Landing (splash down into Pacific Ocean)

NASA Mannned Space Programs NASA Launch Vehicles
The Mercury Program (October 1958 - May 1963)

The Gemini Program (January 1962 - December 1966)

Apollo Program (January 1960 - December 1972)

The Skylab Program (August 1965 - July 1979)

The Apollo Soyuz test project (- July 1975)

Redstone - Mercury

Atlas - Mercury

Titan II - Gemini

Saturn IB family

Saturn V family

Overview Saturn IB and Saturn V Flight Hardware

Launch vehicles as used for the NASA manned space program

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Copyright 2005 by Sander Panhuyzen
Comments and questions are welcome. All pictures and drawings contained on and through these pages are the author's, unless otherwise noted. No unauthorized reproduction without permission.