Aldrin visor reflectionApollo @40

On 20 July, the Apollo 11 mission successfully landed on the surface of Earth’s Moon and accomplished possibly mankind’s greatest ever achievement to date.

40 years on, Flightglobal takes a look at the key elements which answered the question of how you put a man on the Moon.

Going back

Forty years ago on 20th July man landed on the Moon and returned a further five times until 1972, a feat never since matched.

It was US president John F. Kennedy's lasting legacy to successfully land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth and has been one of humanity's greatest achievements.

It had all begun with this popular Democratic party president who would not know his life would end three years after he made the speech that launched the Apollo rockets and spacecraft.

From May 1961 when president Kennedy announced the plan to go to the Moon “within this decade”, money was no object.

That same year NASA’s designs for the three crew Apollo spacecraft were on show, contracts were awarded and by November the 162ft tall Saturn C-1 was flight tested.

But the Saturn V, then known as the C-5, was still on the drawing board and in competition with the larger Nova class booster. Nova eventually would be dropped in favour of the Saturn V.

But after seven years of technical progress the decadal challenge looked unlikely to be won when in January 1967 a ground test capsule fire killed the Apollo 1 crew. And then the second test launch of the Saturn V had upper stage engine problems.

But the third Saturn V test flight, Apollo 8, saw its crew Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders go around the Moon and back. This gamble after so much tragedy succeeded and then the countdown to the historic first step in July 1969 went largely as planned.

In the other sections of this 40th anniversary celebration of Apollo find out about the crew that set off on their journey to the Moon in July forty years ago this week, the rockets and spacecraft and computers that got them there and back and NASA’s 21st century plans to go back to the Moon and beyond.