Apollo 11: Fueling the Future of Space Achievements

On this day, fifty years ago, the crew of Apollo 11 returned to Earth following their successful – and historic – landing on the moon. This mission means a lot to the Aerospace Industries Association. Many of our members played significant roles in making the first moon landing possible, and more than 370,000 contractors from the aerospace and defense industry and academia worked on Apollo missions.

Today, we know the Apollo Program – along with the companies and workers that made the program possible – had significant and lasting impacts, because more than 1,500 technologies from these missions went on to improve our country’s economic success and quality of life.

But Apollo 11 wasn’t just a pure technical achievement. It was also an example of what our country can achieve when it dedicates its focus and funds on a mission. According to a recent study, the United States spent nearly $300 billion on Apollo when adjusted to today’s dollars, an average of $24 billion per year – larger than NASA’s entire 2019 Fiscal Year budget of $21.5 billion.

This significant, sustained investment unleashed an aerospace industry workforce of hundreds of thousands of contractors that met President John F. Kennedy’s audacious challenge and paved the way to our more modern human spaceflight achievements, from the International Space Station to our current efforts to send the United States back to the Moon and beyond. 

Looking to the future of our space program, we should remember the final message of the crew of Apollo 11 on their return to Earth. They focused on thanking the team of people who helped make this mission a success: the engineers that planned their path, the leaders in Mission Control who guided them, and the companies and contractors who built the systems that got them to the Moon and back. 

As Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins noted, “This operation is somewhat like the periscope of a submarine. All you see is the three of us, but beneath the surface are thousands and thousands of others.”

The crew of Apollo 11 understood that this incredible feat – the most remarkable in history – would not have been possible without the team behind it. The true lasting legacy of the Apollo Program is a commitment to the government-industry partnership that not only powered our past accomplishments, but will continue to fuel our space achievements into the future.