How We Remember Apollo

Roger D. Launius

Curator, Planetary Exploration Programs, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Videography by Nerine & Robert Clemenzi, Edited by Nerine Clemenzi
Copyright © Philosophical Society of Washington.  All rights reserved.

Roger D. Launius


What is it about the Moon that captures the fancy of humankind? A silvery disk hanging in the night sky, it conjures up images of romance and magic. It has been counted upon to foreshadow important events, both of good and ill, and its phases for eons served humanity as its most accurate measure of time. John F. Kennedy did not fully understand the forces he unleashed when he announced his decision on May 25, 1961 that the United States would reach for the Moon and land there with astronauts before the end of the decade of the 1960s. This presentation will discuss the Moon as a target for Human exploration and eventual settlement. It will explore the more than 50-year effort to reach the Moon, eventually succeeded first with space probes and then with humans in Project Apollo in the 1960s and early 1970s. It also will analyze how humanity has responded to the experience of the Moon landings in the more than forty years since the first one took places. Especially it will analyze how Americans have responded to the experience of Apollo and efforts to make the Moon a second home, including problems and opportunities in efforts to return to the Moon in the twenty-first century.

About the Author:

Roger D. Launius is senior curator in the Division of Space History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Between 1990 and 2002 he served as chief historian of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. A graduate of Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa, he received his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, in 1982. He has written or edited more than twenty books on aerospace history, most recently He has written or edited more than twenty books on aerospace history, most recently Globalizing Polar Science: Reconsidering the International Polar and Geophysical Years (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010); Smithsonian Atlas of Space Exploration (HarperCollins, 2009); Robots in Space: Technology, Evolution, and Interplanetary Travel (Johns Hopkins, 2008); Societal Impact of Spaceflight (NASA, 2007); Critical Issues in the History of Spaceflight (NASA, 2006); Space Stations: Base Camps to the Stars (Smithsonian Books, 2003; 2nd ed. 2009), which received the AIAA’s history manuscript prize; Reconsidering a Century of Flight (North Carolina, 2003); To Reach the High Frontier: A History of U.S. Launch Vehicles (Kentucky, 2002); Imagining Space: Achievements, Possibilities, Projections, 1950-2050 (Chronicle Books, 2001); Reconsidering Sputnik: Forty Years Since the Soviet Satellite (Harwood Academic, 2000); Innovation and the Development of Flight (Texas A&M, 1999); Frontiers of Space Exploration (Greenwood Press, 1998, rev. ed. 2004); Spaceflight and the Myth of Presidential Leadership (Illinois, 1997); NASA: A History of the U.S. Civil Space Program (Krieger, 1994, rev. ed. 2001); and others. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Academy of Astronautics, and the American Astronautical Society, and associate fellow of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics. He also served as a consultant to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in 2003. He is frequently consulted by the electronic and print media for his views on space issues.

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