Shoot for the Moon

January 10, 1962 – The modern rocket can be traced to Nazi Germany in the 1930s.  The Treaty of Versailles put restrictions on Germany’s artillery.  The Nazis saw the rocket as a way around these restrictions, and by 1943 had produced the V-2 which reigned down upon London in retaliation for Allied bombing of German cities.  After the war, the U.S. launched Operation Overcast and Operation Paperclip to recruit German scientists like Wernher von Braun and bring them to the United States to continue their work in rocketry.  If this meant covering up their Nazi party affiliations, then so be it. Simultaneously, the Soviet Union had begun its own rocket program and the Space Race was on.  In 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite.  In April, 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first man in outer space and clearly the Russians were ahead.  In May, President Kennedy called on America to achieve “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth”.  This quest to reach the Moon was still in its infancy when, on this date, NASA first announced its plan to build the C-5 (later known as the Saturn V) rocket to achieve this goal.  In roughly 7½ years later, this would be accomplished;  Niel Armstrong first touched the lunar surface on July 21, 1969.  But the process took time.   First the Mercury program (1959 – 1963) launched an American, Alan Shepard, into outer space and then John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth.  The Gemini Program (1962 – 1966) developed the technologies needed for a lunar landing.  The Apollo program (1967 – 1972) used the massive 363 foot Saturn V to reach for the moon and return to Earth safely. 

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