AFTER APOLLO AND THE MOON RACECHANGING GOALS FOR SPACE EXPLORATION
After Apollo and a decade of concentrated national effort to meet President Kennedy's Moon challenge, the American human spaceflight program moved toward new, less ambitious goals. For many citizens landing on the Moon ended the space race and diminished support for expensive programs of human space exploration. Advocates of exploration expected the Apollo missions to be the beginning of an era in which humans would move out into space, to bases on the Moon and space stations in Earth orbit, perhaps on to Mars. Others questioned whether costly human spaceflight should continue at all, now that the race was won.
This shift in public and political sentiment resulted in a modest program of human space activity--compared to the hey-day of the lunar landings. As the last lunar mission, Apollo 17, was completed in 1972, the nation settled in for a quieter era of space exploration. Two programs, using leftover Apollo rockets and spacecraft no longer need for moon journeys, symbolized this new era: Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.
Skylab, an experimental habitat built from the third-stage of a Saturn V, was the first American space station. But in an era of lower space budgets and waning public interest, it was only intended as a temporary, not a permanent, home in space. Skylab was occupied by astronauts only three times over 1973 and 1974. The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) marked a real and symbolic end to Apollo and the space race of the 1960s. To highlight reduced international tensions the United States and Soviet Union undertook, after years of intense rivalry, their first cooperative mission in space. In 1975 an American and a Soviet spacecraft rendezvoused in space as a symbol of the two countries improved relations. The crews visited each other's spacecraft, shared meals, and worked on various tasks during several days together in space.
Skylab and ASTP, successful and significant undertakings, seemed a quiet conclusion to Apollo, arguably the boldest and most dramatic adventure in history.
List of Artifacts in the Gallery
Apollo Command Module, Skylab 4
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