[iii] As the 20th century ends and we approach the beginning of a new millennium, future generations will look back and recall the leaving of our home planet as a defining moment in the history of humankind.
The story of Apollo has been told and retold many times by those fortunate enough to have experienced space travel first hand-the astronauts themselves. Those who managed to leave the cradle of the Earth and walk upon the surface of the Moon offer a unique perspective shared firsthand by only a handful of people chosen to represent humankind in the culmination of this great adventure. As we reflect on the 30th anniversary of Apollo's first landing, we should not overlook other accounts of this monumental achievement as offered by those representing the half a million people associated with the program. During the 1960s, these people joined in a national effort to bring to completion President John F. Kennedy's vision of landing Americans on the Moon and returning them safely to Earth before the end of the decade.
For a project as massive as the Apollo program, history may distance itself to the extent where modern interpretation distills a feeling that such events took place without extensive human involvement. Nothing could be further removed from the truth. Through the verbal accounts offered by the oral histories such as presented in this volume, we are reintroduced to the critical human factor which is the essence of any history. People made Apollo happen and it is important to preserve their thoughts, feelings, and recollections for future generations. The oral histories presented in this volume offer a sample of what NASA has done to preserve the story of Apollo as part of our nation's human spaceflight heritage.
The accounts included in this book are a small sampling of the large number of oral histories that have been conducted under the auspices of the NASA history program, since near the beginning of the Agency. They also represent the many personal contributions made during Project Apollo, the single largest [iv] peacetime endeavor in American history. These recollections span the origins, management, and completion of that enormous effort and measurably enhance our appreciation of its difficulty. I am pleased that the comments of some of the key individuals involved in Project Apollo are being preserved by NASA and made available through this book.
The people who are quoted in this book were among the top leaders of NASA. All of them played a prominent part in the conduct and accomplishments of Apollo. As one of those who knew and watched these individuals lead, I have a particular sense of their statements. I always had the feeling of having been granted a special privilege to participate and work on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. The contents of this book reveal that these people had similar experiences. They all recognized that it took literally thousands of dedicated people to bring these efforts to fruition and that it was up to them to provide the necessary leadership to allow all of the workers on the project to accomplish their tasks. It was a wondrous thing to watch. Anyone interested in the underlying strength of NASA in this time period will find these accounts a fascinating read.