The seed was sown in July 1960. With the first man in space nearly a year away, and the Mercury programme still with three years to run, Nasa’s Space Task Group (STG) set in motion an ambitious task – a spacecraft big enough and complex enough to carry three astronauts in orbit around the Earth.
It should, if needed, be able to carry out an even more impressive feat: fly in orbit around the Moon and launch a lander that would allow humanity to step on another celestial body for the first time.
Launched with historic fanfare in May 1961, the Apollo Program became Nasa’s most famous project – a multi-billion-dollar epic of industry and logistics, involving hundreds of thousands of workers and, at the sharp end, 33 astronauts chosen to leave behind the comforts of humanity’s only home.
Next month marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo’s greatest triumph – the landing of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon. From this week, BBC Future will be marking the passing of half a century since this crowning achievement through 50 different numbers that will illustrate the scope and ambition of the Apollo programme.
It will take in everything from the money the astronauts were paid, to the number of workers who helped make the entire operation possible; from the distance driven on the Moon, to the number of women in Launch Control as Armstrong and Aldrin left the Earth on behalf of all mankind.
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