In February 1958, a Jupiter-C missile put the first U. S. satellite into orbit. It weighed 18 pounds and was named Explorer. Three years later, in May 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced: "I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth." His prophetic vision was fulfilled July 20, 1969. Astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin, in Apollo 11, were the first two earthlings to set foot on the moon. From the Apollo 11 mission to the spectacular Apollo 17 mission in 1972, the United States has spent some $27 billion on a total of 27 manned space flights, including the Mercury and Gemini programs, and has launched over 800 orbital satellites, 300 of which are still operational. In the wake of the Apollo moonshot program came the Sky lab orbital missions around the earth. What has all this activity and expense accomplished? NASA officials point out that experiments performed on board Skylab have contributed immensely to our fund of knowledge - both of the planet on which we live, its weather, ocean currents and resources, and of the solar system on and beyond.
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