NASA Administrator James Webb wrote the following excellent description of the challenges facing the Apollo mission teams:
The Apollo requirement was to take offrom a point on the surface of the Earth that was traveling 1,000 miles per hour as the Earth rotated, to go into orbit at 18,000 miles an hour, to speed up at the proper time to 25,000 miles an hour, to travel to a body in space 240,000 miles distant which was itself traveling 2,000 miles per hour relative to the Earth, to go into orbit around this body, and to drop a specialized landing vehicle to its surface.
Apollo 7 and 9 were Earth-orbiting missions to test the Command and Lunar Modules, and did not return lunar data. In 1968 Apollo 8 made the first manned orbits of the Moon, and it and Apollo 10 tested various components while orbiting the Moon, and returned photography of the lunar surface.
Apollo 11 was the historic first manned landing of a man on any planetary body beyond the Earth, and the first sample return to Earth from any planetary body. Apollo 11 landed at Mare Tranquillitatis and accomplished a safe return and sample return. Apollo 12 completed a manned landing and exploration of the Oceanus Procellarum region, with a successful return with samples. Apollo 13, the subject of many documentaries, was meant to continue this run of manned landings, but the explosion of an oxygen tank resulted in serious damage to the craft while still on its way to the Moon. Through a series of heroic efforts on the parts of the crew and ground support, the craft returned all astronauts safely to the Earth.
Apollo 14 followed in 1971 with a manned landing and exploration of the Fra Mauro highlands with a sample return. Apollo 15 repeated the effort at Hadley Rille, Apollo 16 at the Cayley-
Descartes region, and Apollo 17 in the southeastern rim of Mare Serenitatis. Together the Apollo missions returned more than 840 pounds (382 kg) of rock and soil (the Soviet Luna robotic returns contributed an additional few grams, though from locales unvisited by the Apollo missions).
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