Thomas Byrdsong Saturn 1B Wind Tunnel Test

NASA: Standing on the Shoulder of Giants

John Houbolt
John F. Kennedy Jr.
Dr. Charles Stark Draper

An estimated 400,000 Americans worked on Project Apollo at its peak in 1966.

NASA’s Apollo Program was a stunning demonstration of the United States’ strength of will and technological power that inspired generations up to today. Twelve humans walked on the Moon during six lunar landings from 1969 to 1972. Their voyages -- not to mention the first views of Earth from the Moon in 1966, also one of NASA’s crowning achievements— forever transformed how we see ourselves.

In the half-century since people visited the Moon, NASA has continued to push the boundaries of knowledge to deliver on the promise of American ingenuity and leadership in space. And NASA will continue that work by moving forward to the Moon with astronauts in the next five years and landing on the lunar South Pole by 2024.

NASA is implementing the President’s Space Policy Directive-1 to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system.”

NASA stands on the verge of commercializing low-Earth orbit. These experiences and partnerships will enable NASA to go back to the Moon in 2024 – this time to stay -- with the U.S. leading a coalition of nations and industry:

  • NASA's ambitious Commercial Resupply enables American companies to resupply the International Space Station.
  • NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will return spaceflight launches to U.S. soil, providing safe, reliable, and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit and the Space Station.
  • NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration is the biggest rocket ever built, the Space Launch System (SLS), the Orion spacecraft and the Gateway lunar command module. With its partners, NASA will use the Gateway lunar command module orbiting the Moon as a staging point for missions that allow astronauts to explore more parts of the lunar surface than ever before.

NASA is going to the Moon with commercial and international partners to explore faster and explore more together. This work will bring new knowledge and opportunities and inspire the next generation. In going to the Moon, NASA is laying the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars. The Moon will provide a proving ground to test technologies and resources that will take humans to Mars and beyond, including building a sustainable, reusable architecture.

The Apollo lunar flights ended in 1972, but the Moon remains of great interest to NASA and the world. When we return to the Moon, we will be building upon the work of the hundreds of thousands of people who worked on Apollo and have since advanced human spaceflight. As Isaac Newton wrote in the 17th century, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

NASA’s work at the Moon, which is pressing forward right now, is preparing us for the next giant leap: challenging missions to Mars and other deep-space destinations. As we approach the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 in July 2019, NASA is moving forward to the Moon and on to Mars – and wants the world to come along.