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BBC – Future – Apollo in 50 numbers: The Workers



400,000: Total Apollo Workforce

Neil Armstrong was one of NASA's most successful pilots. As he descended to the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, the success or failure of the first moon landing depended on the abilities, reactions, and expertise of that one man. With a boulder field in front of him, alarms sounded and the fuel was running low, he led the spaceship to the ground.

However, in the few interviews and interviews Armstrong gave about the landing, he was always modest about the achievement. Instead, he pointed to the thousands of people who made the mission possible.

At its peak, NASA estimates that a total of 400,000 men and women in the United States participated in the Apollo program. The number includes everyone from astronauts to mission directors, contractors, caterers, engineers, scientists, nurses, doctors, mathematicians and programmers.

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To see how Nasa came to that number, consider a single aspect of Apollo 1

1 – the moon landing itself. Armstrong's right-hand man was Buzz Aldrin. On the floor was a room full of dispatchers. Behind this core team of 20 to 30 (per shift) stood hundreds of engineers in Houston and a team at MIT in Boston, which advised on computer alarms.

Mission Control has been supported by communications ground stations around the world, the engineering team of the Grumman Corporation that built the lander, and all their subcontractors. Add support staff – from senior executives to the people selling the coffee – and thousands are involved. Multiply that with all the different parts of the business – from rockets to space suits, communications to fuel, design to training, start-up to cumshot … and 400,000 seem like an almost modest number.

400,000 people support the actions of only one man. [19659003] 38: Mean age of the Apollo astronauts

Armstrong was not specifically selected for piloting the first moon landing, his crew was in the next flight rotation. If Apollo 11 could not have landed, Pete Conrad, commander of Apollo 12, would most likely have been the first man. Although representing the entire human race, Apollo's astronauts were remarkably similar in age, background, training, and ability.

"I think it's important to remember which unique and select group of people could participate in Project Apollo," says Teasel Muir-Harmony, curator for Apollo spacecraft at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington , DC. "Each of the [Apollo 11] crew members was born in 1930, they all have military experience, they are all pilots and I think they are all Christians – so they meet a very narrow set of criteria that was required at the time to be an astronaut.

At age 38, Armstrong was the joint youngest Apollo commander (with Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan). Charlie Duke, the 36-year-old Apollo 16-moon landing pilot, was the youngest Moonwalker. The oldest man who walked on the moon was the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard. At the time of his Apollo 14 mission in 1971, he was 47 years old.

The record for the oldest man in space is led by the same astronaut who was the first American to orbit the Earth. John Glenn was 77 when in 1998 he participated in a nine-day mission on the Space Shuttle Discovery.

12: Wanderer (and Driver) on the Moon

Thirty-three men flew 11 Apollo missions. Of these, 27 men reached the moon, 24 circled the moon – but only 12 went on the surface. They represented "humanity" and had the challenge of conveying the experience to a global audience.

Nobody knew what Neil Armstrong would say when he stepped on the lunar surface. He had not discussed it with anyone, though his words: "This is a small step for man, a giant leap for humanity." They could not have been more poetic or more appropriate if drafted by a committee of speechwriters.

But what do you say when you are the second man on the moon? Buzz Aldrin summed up the view of the barren lunar landscape perfectly in just two words: "Splendid Devastation."

The third man on the moon and one of the shorter astronauts, Pete Conrad, took a gag. "Whoopie!" Said Conrad. "Man, that may have been a small thing for Neil, but that's a long one for me."

Conrad sets the tone for future missions. While the transcripts of Armstrong's and Aldrin's landings are relatively calm during the missions, the moonwalkers have become more and more exuberant. When Charlie Duke came to the moon during Apollo 16, he could not hold back his excitement. "Hot Dog … that's great!" Throughout the mission, the enthusiasm of Duke and Commander John Young is unbound.

Gene Cernan's marriage split and Buzz Aldrin had to deal with depression and alcoholism.

But on his return – like many Moonwalkers – Herzog and his family found it difficult to adapt. What are you doing next after running on the moon?

"We have found that our marriage was really in trouble after the end of Apollo," says Duke. "We were close to divorce." The astronaut found a new meaning in God (you can hear more on this BBC radio show .

Others were facing similar struggles.) Gene Cernan's marriage broke apart and Buzz Aldrin had to deal with depression and alcoholism, Alan Bean interprets his experiences in art, Ed Mitchell experimented with mysticism.

It is no wonder that the moon has changed these 12 men, they are unique in human history.

8: NASA astronauts who died during Apollo

Before the first three-man crew of Apollo 7 launched in October 1968, eight Apollo astronauts lost their lives, the first to die in 1964 Theodore Freeman when his plane – a T-38 training jet – was hit by a bird that shattered the canopy and shut off the engine, and although it was ejected, it was too close on the ground and died on impact.

On February 28, 1966, the first crew members of Gemini 9, Elliot See, and Charles Bassett prepared to land their T-38 in St. Louis. With a low cloud covering the runway, Lake misjudged a curve and crashed into the building where her spaceship was built. The pilots were killed instantly, but it is noteworthy that nobody was seriously injured.

The accident brought Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan to the first crew for the Twin Mission, eventually causing Cernan to command Apollo 17 and becoming the last man on the Moon.

In 1967, Nasa prepared to fly her first Apollo mission. But the spaceship was plagued with problems and its commander, Gus Grissom, knew it. Disgusted, he hung a lemon in front of the Apollo simulator at Cape Canaveral.

On January 27, 1967, the crew – Grissom, Ed White (the first American on the spacewalk) and Roger Chaffee – lay in their sofas on the launch pad for a full spacecraft test. They were sealed behind a complex, multi-section hatch, and the spacecraft was filled with oxygen – as it would be in orbit.

The test went badly, the capsule smelled bad and the crew had difficulty speaking about mission control. "Jesus Christ," cried Grissom. "How do we get to the moon if we can not talk between two or three buildings?"

Then over the intercom: "Fire, I smell fire."

All eight astronauts – along with six Soviet cosmonauts – are commemorated by the crew of Apollo 15 with a commemorative plaque on the moon

Within seconds, the crew was burned by flames. They had no chance to come out alive.

The tragedy led to a complete rethinking of the Apollo program and to a greatly improved spacecraft. The death of the astronauts was not in vain. (For more on Apollo 1's history, click here.)

Later that year, Clifton Williams was killed in another T-38 crash and Edward Givens died in a traffic accident.

All eight astronauts – along with Six Soviet Cosmonauts – are remembered by the crew of Apollo 15 with a plaque on the moon.

However, there is an astronaut that is not listed. Robert Lawrence should have been the first African American astronaut. Destined to a secret military space station project, he was killed in December 1967 when he instructed another pilot to practice landing techniques. These were later used in the Space Shuttle program.

1: Women in the Apollo 11 Launch Control Room

If you look at the coverage of Apollo, you may be forgiven for being a pure (white) male endeavor. The astronauts were all men, the mission leaders were all men, even the television anchors were men. The only women on television were the women of the astronauts.

As we know today, however, there were thousands of women behind the scenes who supported Apollo and were essential to his success. There were secretaries and nurses, mathematicians and programmers; Women sewed the spacesuits together and wrapped the wires for the Apollo control computers.

JoAnn Morgan was the only woman in the Apollo 11 take-off control at Cape Canaveral. As an engineer, she was responsible for 21 communications channels as well as the health and well-being of all monitoring systems on the Saturn 5 rocket.

" The launch is a controlled explosion," she says. "You always have concerns, but you pay attention."

One of the few women in a senior position, she had to deal with sexism on a regular basis, especially when she started.

] "I got obscene calls, some comments in the elevator and some crowded in the cafeteria ," she says. "After a while, most people stopped because people realized that I was a serious worker."

However, the space program was not geared to women.

" Even as they build New buildings that they have forgotten will have more and more women as workers," says Morgan. "The first building I worked in had only one ladies room in the entire three-story building – they had to convert a man's room on each floor into a ladies' room … so we had ladies rooms with urinals."

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