The Key Events


March: The feasibility of a million-pound-thrust liquid-fueled rocket engine established by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Inc.


April: Studies of a large clustered-engine booster to generate 1.5 million pounds of thrust begun by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA).

October 4: Sputnik I, the first man-made satellite, successfully launched by the Soviet Union.


January 31: Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite, launched successfully.

June 23: Preliminary design begun by Rocketdyne Division on a single-chamber liquid-fueled rocket engine (the F-1) of 1.5 million pounds of thrust.

July 29: The National Aeronautics and Space Act signed, authorizing the establishment of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

August 15: Development begun of the Juno V (later named Saturn) booster under Advanced Research Projects Agency Order 14.

October 1: NASA officially constituted and charged with responsibility for the U.S. civilian space program.

October 11: Letter contract signed by NASA with Rocketdyne Division for development of the H-1 engine designed for use in the clustered-engine booster.

November 5: Space Task Group (STG) officially organized to implement the manned satellite project.


January 19: Contract signed by NASA with Rocketdyne Division for design and development of the F-1 engine.

April 9: First group of astronauts selected for the manned space flight program.

April-December: Detailed study of advanced manned space flight missions by the Research Steering Committee on Manned Space Flight (Goett Committee).

August-September: Meetings of the STG New Projects Panel to discuss an advanced manned space flight program.

September 12: Launching by the Soviet Union of Lunik II, which crash-landed on the moon about 35 hours later.

October 4: Launching by the Soviet Union of Lunik III, which photographed the far side of the moon three days later.

December 31: NASA approval of the Saturn C-1 configuration and the long-range Saturn development program.


January 28: NASA's Ten-Year Plan presented to Congress during testimony before the House Committee on Science and Astronautics.

March 15: ABMA's Development Operations Division and the Saturn program transferred to NASA cognizance.

April-May: Presentation by STG members of the guidelines for an advanced manned spacecraft program to NASA Centers.

April 26: NASA selection of the Douglas Aircraft Company to build the second stage (S-IV) of the Saturn C-1.

April 29: All eight H-1 engines of the Saturn C-1 first stage ground-tested simultaneously for the first time.

May 25: STG Advanced Vehicle Team formed to conduct research and make preliminary design studies leading to the definition of requirements for an advanced multiman spacecraft.

May 31: Selection of Rocketdyne Division by NASA to develop the 200,000-pound-thrust J-2 rocket engine.

July 28-29: The announcement of the Apollo program to representatives of American industry.


August 30: Industry briefing by Goddard Space Flight Center on feasibility studies for the Apollo spacecraft.

September 1: The Apollo Project Office formed under the Space Task Group (STG) Flight Systems Division.

September 13: STG briefing for prospective bidders on the feasibility studies for the Apollo spacecraft.

October 21: STG selection of the Apollo command module design.

October 25: Selection by NASA of Convair/Astronautics Division of General Dynamics Corporation, the General Electric Company, and The Martin Company to prepare feasibility studies for the Apollo spacecraft.


January 6-12: First meetings of the Apollo Technical Liaison Groups, formed to coordinate NASA inter-Center information exchange.

February 7: Six-month study contract for Apollo guidance and navigation support signed by NASA with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Instrumentation Laboratory.

February 7: Final report of the Low Committee outlining a manned lunar landing within the decade using either the earth orbit rendezvous or direct ascent technique.

April 12: First successful manned orbital flight, by Cosmonaut Yuri A. Gagarin of the Soviet Union.

May 5: First successful American suborbital flight, by Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr.

May 5: Completion of the first draft of the Apollo spacecraft specifications by STG.

May 15-17: Submission of final reports by contractors on the feasibility studies on the Apollo spacecraft.

May 22: Completion of the second draft of the Apollo spacecraft specifications by STG.

May 25: President John F. Kennedy's proposal to Congress and the nation of an accelerated space program including a manned lunar landing within the decade.

June 10: Report of the Lundin Committee recommending a low-altitude earth orbit rendezvous mode using the Saturn C-3 to accomplish the manned lunar landing mission.

June 16: Report of the Fleming Committee identifying the chief pacing items of a manned lunar landing mission within the decade as the development of and facilities for the launch vehicle.

July 28: NASA invitation to 12 companies to submit bids on the prime Apollo spacecraft contract.

August 9: Selection of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory to develop under STG direction the Apollo navigation and guidance system - first major Apollo contract.

August: Report of the Heaton Committee recommending the earth orbit rendezvous technique and use of the Saturn C-4 for the manned lunar landing mission.

October 11: Presentations to NASA representatives by five industrial teams bidding on the Apollo spacecraft contract.

October 27: Successful flight of the first Saturn C-1 (SA-1) booster.

November. 1: Formal redesignation of the Space Task Group as the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC).

November 8: First meeting of the MSC-MSFC Coordination Panels, formed to find solutions to the interrelated problems of the Apollo launch vehicle and spacecraft.

November 20: Report of the Rosen working group to the NASA Office of Manned Space Flight, recommending direct ascent as the primary lunar landing mission mode with a backup rendezvous capability development.

November 28: Selection of North American Aviation, Inc., as principal contractor for the Apollo spacecraft under MSC direction.


December 15: Selection of The Boeing Company for negotiations as the prime contractor for the first stage (S-IC) of the Saturn C-5, under the direction of Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC).

December 20: Selection of the Douglas Aircraft Company to develop the S-IVB stage of the Saturn C-5, under the direction of MSFC.

December 21: Letter contract No. NAS 9-150 signed by NASA and North American Aviation, Inc. (NAA), authorizing work to begin on the Apollo spacecraft development program.

December 21: Decision by the Manned Space flight Management Council on the Saturn C-5 configuration.

December 21: Four major subcontractors on the Apollo spacecraft systems chosen by NAA.


January 15: Apollo Spacecraft Project Office established at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC).

February 20: First successful American orbital flight, by Astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr.

March 12: Primary activities for the Apollo program relocated at MSC, Houston, Tex.

April 11: Assignment by the President of DX (highest) priority to the Apollo program.

May 8: Three major associate contractors on the Apollo spacecraft guidance and navigation system selected by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Instrumentation Laboratory.

May 11: General Dynamics/Convair awarded contract by NASA to design and manufacture the Little Joe II test launch vehicle.

July 11: Announcement by NASA that the Saturn C-IB launch vehicle would be developed to test the Apollo spacecraft in earth orbit missions.

July 11: Selection by NASA of the lunar orbit rendezvous mode for the manned lunar landing mission.

July 20: Announcement by NASA that the Mission Control Center would be located at MSC.

July 25: Invitations by NASA to 11 companies to bid on the lunar excursion module contract.

July: Hamilton Standard Division of United Aircraft Corporation selected by NASA to develop the Apollo space suit.

September 5: Nine industry proposals for the lunar excursion module contract received by NASA.

October 30: Contract signed by NASA with NAA for the development and production of the S-II (second) stage of the Saturn C-5, directed by MSFC.

November 7: Selection of the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation by NASA to design and develop the lunar excursion module under MSC direction.

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