NASA conducted several Apollo missions in 1968 and 1969, to test the procedures and equipment required to achieve the ultimate goal of putting a man on the Moon.
Three months after the successful Apollo 8 mission to the Moon, the Apollo 9 mission began. The purpose of Apollo 9 was to test fly the Lunar Module in Earth’s orbit and then link back up to the Command Module. The Lunar Module had been designed as a separate spacecraft that would detach from the Command Module in Lunar orbit and land two astronauts on the Moon. At the conclusion of a moonwalk, the Lunar Module would blast off from the Moon’s surface and link back up with the Command Module in Lunar orbit.
Sixty-six days after the Apollo 9 crew’s return to Earth, the crew of Apollo 10 launched into space. The Apollo 10 mission was an almost complete dress rehearsal of the Apollo 11 Moon landing mission. Similar to Apollo 8, the crew traveled to the Moon. In Lunar orbit two astronauts, Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan got into the Lunar Module, separated from the Command Module and descended towards the Lunar surface. At an altitude of just 47,000 feet, the Lunar Module made a pass over the intended landing site of the Apollo 11 mission and then returned to link up with the Apollo 10 Command Module.
On July 16, 1969, less than seven months after the first astronauts traveled to the Moon aboard Apollo 8, three American astronauts - Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collin - launched off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. For their mission to be a success, they would have to go three steps further than their Apollo 10 colleagues. First, two Apollo 11 astronauts would have to land the Lunar Module on the Moon’s surface, then actually get out and walk on the Moon. Finally, following their Moonwalk, the two astronauts would have to launch off the Moon’s surface and re-link back up with the orbiting Command Module.