Achieving the Impossible—The Apollo Moon Landings

Program Synopsis

  

The Moon used to be a byword for "impossible" but the 1960s Apollo program changed that forever. NASA accepted President Kennedy's challenge to land an astronaut on the moon by 1970 and delivered the impossible on schedule. Along the way 400,000 Americans worked together to build the greatest engineering works the world has ever seen. This program explains the great adventure in exciting and accessible terms, and illuminates the leadership principles that made Apollo so extraordinarily successful.


For his book Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon Dr. David West Reynolds worked with Apollo astronauts and was granted unrestricted access to NASA equipment archives, spacecraft trainers, launch pads, and much more, so that he could write with an eyewitness perspective. 


In this presentation based on his Apollo book Dr. Reynolds translates the jargon and clearly explains the extraordinary engineering that took American astronauts to the Moon and back. He tells how Jules Verne's fiction inspired the first real rocketeers, and how President John F. Kennedy’s deft strategic leadership cast space as the high battleground where the two great superpowers would wage a spectacular contest for "the imagination of the world." 


Engineers and astronauts answered Kennedy's call across the nation, and at Apollo's height some 400,000 people worked in concert to create the most powerful and precise machines ever built. And in the face of the most extreme physical stresses ever experienced, those machines—like the astronauts who flew them—performed brilliantly. 


A spirit of dedication, self-sacrifice, and teamwork permeated the Apollo project and made it possible for the United States to succeed in its lunar missions where the Soviet Union failed. Computer technology has advanced greatly in the 50 years since the moon landings, but Apollo hardware is still held in awe by engineers today as the "gold standard," the best work ever wrought by human hands. 


There were specific reasons that Apollo succeeded in spite of its risky and unprecedented goals, and the moon program’s leadership and management still offer powerful lessons applicable to the enterprises of today. Dr. Reynolds identifies the aspects of program design that constituted the “Apollo success principles." He also explores the "institutional confidence" that motivated NASA's thousands of contributors to excel themselves. Finally he contrasts Apollo's success with the difficulties NASA experienced in the years after the moonshots.


For those who understand what Apollo accomplished, the Moon is a symbol of what we can do when we set our minds to it, shining proof in the sky that there are no limits to human potential.

Dr. Reynolds' program is based on his book, considered "the definitive popular account of Apollo."

Dr. Reynolds' program is based on his book, considered "the definitive popular account of Apollo."