Florida had Cape Canaveral, Launch Pad 39A, the countdown and the launch. Houston had Mission Control and the astronauts.
But America's historic lunar landing program would not have begun and the landing would not have happened 50 years ago without another key place and the very big thing built there.
Full coverage of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11
The place was Alabama, the city was Huntsville and the big thing was the Saturn V rocket. Alabama will be focusing on celebrating Apollo 11's Golden Jubilee, and much of the celebration will take place at the US Space & Rocket Center under one of the three Saturn V's that date back to these glory days.
The Saturn V was one of the most complex and important things that America built in the 20th century. His sponsored Apollo program created 400,000 jobs in 20,000 companies and universities before it was completed.
The rocket itself can compete in terms of impact with the car, the phone and the computer. And that would not have been possible without Wernher von Braun's German missile team on Redstone Arsenal. Without the thousands of young engineers, technicians, and craftsmen pouring into the Tennessee Valley to work at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and its contractors, it would not have been built.
"As Kennedy said, 'Can we do that? "It was really this group of people who gave it the opportunity to say it was possible," NASA Marshall historian Brian Odom said recently.
Huntsville had been building rockets for the army in Redstone since 1
When Kennedy made his commitment, the German team and his army colleagues had fired enough rockets to spot the imminent problems. Some of them had already been solved.
"I think that's really the key," Odom said. "By the time you get to Saturn V, you've already learned many of these things."
But how critical was what happened in Huntsville? The first stage of the Saturn V "was basically an in-house development," said Odom. "Many people forget that. They think it was just Boeing, but it was in-house. The first three steps were built here in Marshall, before the first is handed over to New Orleans. "
" All of these early developments are critical, "Odom said. "Without the success of this team, Kennedy would not even have made the statement, he talked to the people here and saw what was possible, and it was possible to land on the moon, because at that point they knew where to go Saturn V wanted. "
It pays to briefly pause the story to remember some of the numbers that describe the rocket – it was 363 feet tall and weighed 6 million pounds – its five F-1 main engines could It was massive and massively powerful.
There are three Saturn Vs on display in the world today, and one of them is located at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville It was not built to fly, but it is a "true" Saturn V built to test the rocket's strength, and all three stages were assembled at Marshall's Saturn V Dynamic Test Stand – the tallest building in Alabama at the time – and more than 400 hours Shaken and shaken for a long time to obtain data on shelf life.
The rocket was changed during the Apollo program. The Apollo 1 launch launcher, which killed astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom II, Ed White II, and Roger Chaffee, was due to a spark in the capsule's pure oxygen atmosphere. That meant that pure oxygen had to disappear. "But fixing (that) caused a weight problem," said Odom. "It made the rocket heavier. It has made it more complex. "
" You could swing a cat and have a problem with the Saturn V, "said Odom.
The first stage of Saturn V blew everything up, and Odom said that's the hardest part. Getting the impetus to put it into orbit was the second stage task.
There were problems with the instability of the engine during ignition. There have been problems isolating the liquid hydrogen fuel tanks and stabilizing the engines. The people who dealt with these issues were subject matter experts in areas that did not exist before.
"You have not learned it from your teacher," said Odom. "They learned it because there was a specific problem and they needed to solve a specific problem. And they did that.
The German management approach was to express a high opinion and trust these new experts. "If you can explain it to me and assure me that you know what you're doing, I'll trust you to know what you're doing," Odom said.
Even with these first-stage problems, Odom The second stage of Saturn V is "what the Russians could never do. They never could find out. They were not afraid of liquid hydrogen; To some extent they had worked with it. But they did not know how to get the kick they needed.
Everyone knows how the story ended: The Saturn V twice successfully flew around the Earth to test their systems, then flew six crews to the moon – no one had ever run on any other world, and no one has since more done.
Today, the lunar missions are history, "a dramatic plot" in the words of an author intertwined with the other great narratives of the 1960s, symbolizing what Americans can do but recalling strange ones Wise on what we have not done yet, Apollo has been a linchpin and is forever an example.
"People say, 'We can land a man on the moon, but we can not make a pen, the does not run out of ink, "said Odom. "Something is almost scary about the power of this rethinking: if we could accomplish this feat, why could not we do other things with technology?"
"During the Saturn program, during the turmoil This feeling was felt in the 1960s, not why we do it by comparison, but if we can, why can not we solve civil rights issues? that we can not feed the hungry? "Odom said. It can be an inspiration that makes young people think about their own possibilities.
"Without such an inspirational program, they will go into finance or accounting or whatever," said Odom. "And that's cool too, but to inspire people to solve these difficult issues Someone in school is about to solve a problem that will affect their lives because they inspired NASA to do something tough and being invested in such a thing.
"These are the cool things for me, Odom said.
We celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 with stories throughout the month of July from stories by employees of AL.com and others, click here: Apollo 11 Anniversary.