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Thank you to our Patreon patrons and Draper's "We Hack the Moon" initiative for supporting this very special episode of SciShow. Go to https://wehackthemoon.com to learn more about how engineers guided us to the moon and back with a fraction of today's technology.

The Apollo program was famous for being risky and expensive. It had a crunched timeline, daring astronauts, and lacked modern tech, and that all kind of makes you wonder… was the Apollo program a bad idea?

We made a special playlist to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing!: https://youtu.be/6VOLucXZOtI

#Apollo #MoonLanding #Science #Engineering #STEM

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Hank: Thanks to Hack The Moon for sponsoring this very special episode of. SciShow. Go to wehackthemoon.com to learn even more about the Apollo 11 mission. Almost 50 years ago on July 20th, 1969, space exploration changed forever.

That day the United States landed the first astronauts on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 Mission. And with that famous one small step, they changed the way we think about our planet and ourselves. Apollo 11 wasn't the first time humans had been to space or anything, that happened in 1961 with a Soviet flight followed shortly by an American one.

But space, we didn't even really know what that was until fairly recently. The moon, on the other hand, we've been staring at since we existed. Watching it wander through the sky, chasing or being chased by the Sun, moving through its phases.

It is another world -- one that has profound effects on our world and also on our species. There's never been a time in human history when we did not gaze at the moon and wonder. And sending people to walk on the surface of another world --the enormity of that giant leap-- It's something that changed us, something that has inspired us as individuals and as a species ever since.

So we wanted to do something special to celebrate. We wanted to ask a pretty bold question because while the whole SciShow team loves. Apollo, we couldn't help but wonder--and we hope you won't get too mad at us if we ask, was the Apollo program a bad idea?

Many people remember it as this beautiful thing that united the world, but if you really think about it, it kind of seems like.. I don't know ridiculous? Only five years passed between when the Soviet Union flung the first satellite into orbit and when President John F.

Kennedy said these words,. President Kennedy: "We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon.

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy but because they are hard."

Hank: A year after that Kennedy was dead and only six years later Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were standing on another world. In hindsight this looks like a work of genius, but lives were lost and other disasters were only narrowly averted. And if that happened, how far back with those tragedies have pushed space exploration. Ultimately was the risk worth the reward and how many close calls were there, really?

These are big questions and ones that you can spend a lot of time thinking about but at the end of the day, we're SciShow. Sitting around in wondering isn't really our thing. So we decided to get to the bottom of it. [ ♪INTRO ].

Hank: We realized we weren't gonna get to the bottom of this by looking at peer-reviewed journals. It's pretty subjective stuff. So we decided to talk to experts. And to talk to experts, we have Alexis who has gone all over America to talk to those people.

I went to London to talk to one person. Alexis. What do you have for us?

Alexis: Yeah, honestly, I think a really good place to start with this is just to know about the politics. If you want to understand why the Apollo program happened, it's important to understand that the political climate of the 1950s and 60s. During this time the United States and the Soviet Union were in the middle of the. Cold War which was essentially the showdown between two ideologies.

You had the Soviet Union and communism on one hand and the US and capitalism on the other hand. And during this conflict, space became a battleground for these two superpowers to prove which ideology was best. Initially, the Soviet Union was actually winning this race.

They launched the first satellite. They sent the first human into space. And in the US, people were concerned that these achievements would cause the public to believe that communism was the better option which the US was just not okay with.

So that's when the moon became the goal. Ultimately the United States wanted to be the first to send someone to the Moon to prove how great capitalism was. And the Soviet Union wanted to do it to prove the same thing about communism.

So even if most people today remember Apollo as a primarily scientific program, it wasn't. In the beginning, it was mainly about proving a political point. Margaret Weitekamp: The Apollo program came with a lot of risk, political risk.

This was a big gamble on a large technology program that was funded and started because they wanted to be able to show it to the world. Brady

Haran: The other thing a lot of people would say is we only did it because of politics and the Cold War and a stick it up the Russians and cuz there was this competition going on. And you know what? That's true.

Hank: Yeah. Brady

Haran: That's completely true. But like I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. Like, that is just the circumstances that it took. The technology had to be in the right place and the political climate, the economic climate all had to align in this very unique way and that's what happened and I don't see anything wrong with that.

Yes, Apollo was only made possible because of this unique set of circumstances in this competitive political climate that was created, but you know, I don't think that's a negative. I just think we should kind of be a little bit grateful that it happened because if that if that circumstance hadn't happened, we probably --you're right -- we probably wouldn't have gone to the Moon. There probably wouldn't have been the will to spend that much money and do that.

Noah

Petro: Apollo scientifically started where science had to fit into the corners as much as they could. The initial plan for Apollo 11 included one astronaut getting out, collecting samples, and getting back in and coming back. And several scientists including Jack Schmitt who at the time was an astronaut and training the other astronauts on what they would do when they got to the moon was able to convince NASA management that, No, no, no, we really need to make the most of this one mission. If Apollo 11 is the only time we go to the Moon, we need to deploy experiments on the Moon.

Alexis: It's really interesting to think about because like people pointed out, it's this thing that took all of this time and all of these resources. And it brings up the question of like if there had been no conflict to motivate that when we have bothered? Margaret Weitekamp: If you look at the public opinion polls from the time, especially when you asked a question phrased as, "Do you think it's worth the money that's being spent?" Almost never did you get a majority saying that they were fully in support of the. Apollo program.

When the missions were actually successful, people recognized in the moment that they were seeing history in the making and they wanted to celebrate that and be some part of that so that I think there's a fundamental disconnect between what you see in public opinion polling in terms of our willingness to revert national resources to this program from a general American interest in the idea that we as Americans are explorers and that space is a part of what we do now.

Alexis: So growing up something I heard a lot about Apollo is because it was crammed into this really short time period, you had the situation where engineers were working like eight days a week and 25 hours a day to get this done. What was it actually like working on the program? Bob

Sieck: Well, it was, it was high activity, high intensity work and the work weeks, work days were long. And in retrospect I would for those of us that did the operations down here where the spacecraft were assembled, the rockets were assembled, and we processed and launched, and it was about as... A marathon at lasted about seven years. That was pretty much it.

Hank: So far, it's feeling like the experts aren't really alleviating my concerns here. We have this sort of politically motivated program that you kind of have to eeck some science out of. It's tremendously costly and it's a huge amount of effort necessary to make it happen. We had people in space but the period of time it took for us to go from one person in space to this giant leap into deep space-- it was so fast.

Alexis: You hear people say of just like we worked on Apollo around the clock for seven years or how many years or whatever... You think that was like the best idea, of just like trying to cram that in in such a short time frame like--. Destin Sandlin: Deadlines are good.

Alexis: Okay. Yeah. Destin Sandlin: Yeah, deadlines are good. Like, this video you're making, right?

Alexis: Yeah. Destin Sandlin: You got a deadline, don't you?

Alexis: Right. Destin Sandlin: Okay, and so it's good to have like we call it popping a chalk line. It's good to have a moment in time, like that's the line. We got to do this by then.

Alexis: Yeah. Destin Sandlin: I think it's a good thing to have things like that. Yeah, ultimately. You need if you're going to have a massive engineering program, you have to have a schedule because schedule helps you mitigate different things.

Like for example, as an engineer. I can keep working on something forever until it's absolutely perfect. But at some point in time, you have to get it good enough and unless you have a schedule to motivate you to shed all of your uncertainties.

You're never going to think it's good enough.

Hank: We also don't know very much about space at this point in the '60s. How often are there solar flares that could be completely devastating to a crewed mission? We don't know any of this stuff. It's all guesses.

There was so much we didn't know.

Alexis: And even as I was talking to people on my trip, they kept bringing up things that I had no idea about.

Hank: Of course.

Alexis: Right, so I talked to you to environmental engineers at Kennedy Space. Center and they brought up the fact that during the Apollo program because of all of these things we didn't know, the environment around Kennedy got kind of wrecked. Jacqueline

Quinn: You did a little history the US Environmental Protection Agency was established December 2nd of 1970. So there was a year and a half between when we're putting men on the moon and leaving footprints behind and when the regulatory agency started up within the. United States, so there's a lot of -- from an environmental perspective, there's a timeline that needs to be understood so that you can understand that, you know, all industries followed regulations, but regulations didn't happen at that point, you know, in 1940, 1950 or 1960. They didn't even begin or come into fruition until 1970 until we'd already put men on the moon.

So a lot of our regulations that we do now as protectors and stewards of what you see behind us is different than what we did back in that era. Rosaly

Santos: Any industry that use, store, or dispose chemicals in the 50s, 60s, and 70s had some environmental impact that was unforeseen. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act was enacted in the 1970s which provided some guidance of how to manage the waste from whenever you start using it until you dispose of it. And then the Hazardous Waste amendments was enacted in the 1980s. That provided initiated corrective action for any impact that may have happened in the past.

So from then on all the industries were in tune with environmental regulations and they complied with all those new requirements that needed to get done.

Hank: Basically what I'm getting from this is that you can't be expected to follow a regulation that doesn't exist.

Alexis: Right exactly. That was kind of the point they were trying to make. Like technically we could have sat around for like 10 or 20 years to figure all of this stuff out, but it's like we didn't know what we didn't know and we weren't from a political standpoint -- the Soviet Union probably would have landed on the Moon.

Hank: Yeah, but that doesn't explain everything here. Like this was a very rushed engineering project, people died, Apollo 1 happened. Apollo 1 was going to be the first crewed mission of the Apollo program. Crewed by Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee.

On January 27, 1967, during a crewed launch rehearsal, the cabin was pressurized with pure oxygen, higher than atmospheric pressure. After an electrical short nylon in the capsule caught fire and the environment. Because the internal pressure of the capsule was higher than the external pressure of the atmosphere, it was impossible to quickly remove the door and all three astronauts were killed.

After the accident, all flights were stopped for 20 months.

Alexis: But it's actually possible that Apollo one is the reason the rest of the program didn't go terribly, terribly wrong. Bob

Sieck: And there were a number of those close calls and then and then right before our first manned mission on Apollo, the tragedy occured. And everything comes to a stop and you go look at everything you're doing. The first to figure out what happened and and fix that before you get on with the goal. And from a big picture standpoint, and this is not rationalizing to me, the whole purpose of Apollo 1 was to be the first step in getting humans to the Moon.

Because of what happened with Apollo 1, we looked at all of our preparation up to that point in time and what everyone said is well, these are the things we got to fix. This is what we really learned from Apollo 1. Margaret Weitekamp: Without the changes that came after Apollo 1, we would not have gotten to the Moon.

We were on a path that ultimately would not have worked and that dramatic change cost three lives and people were forever after very aware of the high personal cost because those were people they knew. Those were people they were friends with, they knew their families. They knew their children.

So the change that in trajectory there in some ways they did Apollo better starting from 1967. Noah

Petro: At the time, it was really important to understand what had happened in the Apollo 1 fire make sure that something like that never happen again, but also that we, you know created a culture of safety acceptance. But at the same time with some risk tolerance too. You know, if we were terrified of any problem happening, we would never have gone back into space, but we do because that's our job and there's things to be learned there. So you take a risk, you weigh what might happen and the mitigations to those things and move forward.

Alexis: When I went into all of these interviews, I was like, oh yeah, there is no way we could have done this safely in the length of time that we took to do it. But people kept telling me is like, yes, the Apollo program was risky, but like so is space. The Apollo engineer's built all of these safeguards to try and mitigate as much risk as possible. Bob

Sieck: Even though yes, it was fun, but it was serious business and people would often stay over overlapping the next shift coming on board because they wanted to see how well the stuff that they thought they fixed on their shift if it really worked right. And but there was that kind of dedication and passion for the for the effort and we never lost sight of the fact and, this was drilled into us as soon as we came on board, that the crew returning safely from whichever mission your assigned to is the most important thing about your work. Noah

Petro: I think the reason that Apollo is so successful is that in their training regimen they went through in excruciating detail all of these potential problems that could crop up and how they would solve them. And we learned that Apollo 13; that when one of the most catastrophic things that could happen in space: you lose oxygen tanks and you lose your power source, oh, well, we know how to fix that.

Hank: Apollo 13 nearly ended in disaster 56 hours after takeoff when an electrical short in the cryogenic oxygen tanks resulted in the following call from Apollo 13 to Mission Control. Jim

Lovell: "Uh, Houston, we've had a problem. We've had a main B bus undervolt." Mission Control: "Roger, main B undervolt. Okay stand by 13, we're looking at it." Fred

Haise: "Okay. Right now, Houston, the voltage is -- is looking good. And we had a pretty large bang associated with the caution and warning there."

Hank: The pretty large bang in question eventually resulted in a loss of all the oxygen in the Command Module. That meant no oxygen to breathe, no water to drink, and no power for the fuel cells. After some significant engineering challenges were overcome, the astronauts rode out the majority of the mission in the lunar lander. And though they were not able to land on the moon, everyone did at least return home safely.

Noah

Petro: Apollo 11, they left the lunar module operating after they left the Moon. It was in lunar orbit. They left it operating to basically see how long past its design life. It could go and that informed what they did on Apollo 13.

So, you know, there was this entire culture of maximizing what you had to learn what you could do in the event of both success and in the case of something going wrong. If you listen to the the tapes of launch of Apollo 11 or any of the missions they're always reporting out, "okay, you know, we're in mode 1 Bravo were in what abort sequence.." You know, it wasn't up the moment the rocket launch, we're on our way to the Moon. The moment the rocket launched is okay if something happens wrong now, How do we get out of it?

And that happens throughout the whole breadth of Apollo even by Apollo 17, the time they're getting ready to lift off, they had checklists and sequences they could do if the rocket didn't ignite the first time. The idea that something wouldn't work as planned was so deeply embedded in everything that was done in Apollo, that I don't know that there was time to stop and think, "well actually, what would happen if.." "Well, if the rocket doesn't launch, we'll do this and then we'll do this and we'll do... "They all had, there was solutions to every potential problem.

Hank: So the thing that maybe we've all heard that the Apollo Astronauts were just a bunch of cowboys in space might not be quite accurate.

Alexis: Yeah. I feel like that problem comes up when you really only focus on the astronauts. There was a group of guys who were really risk tolerant and really well acquainted with risk. But when you look at the engineers and the people who built this program, that wasn't really the case.

The thing is, though, the people I talked to weren't arguing that there was no risk.

Hank: Right.

Alexis: They pointed out that space is just really risky. So when I ask them like if we could have done Apollo better or safer. They had some really interesting answers. Noah

Petro: There were risks involved and you know, all of the astronauts all the people part of it realize that exploration has inherent risks and you're going whether you're trying to climb the highest mountain or swim across an ocean or do whatever. You're taking risks and you always want to minimize the hazards that are involved but there is hazards involved. I think exploration has inherent risks in it. Margaret Weitekamp: Anytime you're doing human spaceflight, there's a lot of risk because you're putting a life at stake.

And the human in the technological equation is the only part that you really can't re-engineer or perfect. So. Humans like a very narrow temperature spectrum, we get too cold very easily, we get too hot very easily.

We human beings don't like to be shaken very hard or it gets very hard for them to function. They need to eat. As they breathe, they foul their own are so you need to keep replenishing that.

So the human factor is a tremendous risk, if you will, in putting this together, this is also happening in a moment when there weren't really computer smaller than a room. There weren't really ways of taking photographs without physical film which meant you had to carry it there and carry it back. The kind of uncrewed robotic exploration that starts in the 1970s, going to other planets, putting landers on other planets, wasn't possible in the mid-1960s.

Destin Sandlin: These astronauts, they know the risk.

Alexis: Yeah. Destin Sandlin: I mean they know there's a chance of death and they sign up for it. Some people have always been willing to accept a higher level of risk to make a better life for others that aren't willing to do that.

Hank: Throughout the course of this episode. We've said a lot about risk, but it's worth remembering that there's still so many stories. We could not dive into like the story of the Apollo guidance computer. For context computers before Apollo were mostly made with tiny switches called transistors connected by a bunch of wires, but that could get bulky and computers often filled large rooms.

So that had to change if we were going to fly to the moon. Listen to what these engineers had to say. John Miller, Draper Engineer: The guidance computer was really an advance.

And the only way to get the weight and the size down was to go to integrated circuits. That's something that hadn't been done before. George Schmidt, Draper Flight Simulation

Team: I've heard that at one time we were testing one-third of all integrated circuits that were being manufactured in the United States.

Hank: Integrated circuits combined transistors and wires on a small piece of silicon, making them more durable and much lighter. While it took a lot of testing to get them ready, it all worked out. These interviews came from Engineers who worked at the MIT instrumentation lab and now called Draper during the Apollo program. Draper played a major role in the program and was among other things responsible for developing the navigation and guidance system including the first digital flight computer that navigated the astronauts to the moon and back.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Landing, they've created a website called Hack the Moon which explores the technology behind the missions and features imagery and interviews of many of the people who made it possible. In the rest of this video we're going to talk more about whether or not the risks we took with Apollo we're worth it. But if you want to learn more about the people behind the missions when we're done, you can head over to hack the moon's website at we hackthemoon.com.

Now, more about those risks. So you take all these risks you do the thing. What do we get from it?

Alexis: A lot. Which, thank goodness. That's my non-risk tolerance speaking. Thank goodness it was worth it.

Hank: Yeah.

Alexis: Yeah, you get a lot from it. We've talked about this a lot on various SciShow Space episodes, but we learned more about what space is like, what the human body does in space, we learned about the moon. Noah

Petro: Subsequent Apollo missions had something called the ALSEP the Apollo. Lunar Surface Experiments Package. That wasn't going to be ready for Apollo 11, but Jack Schmitt was able to convince. NASA basically that, "No, let's just deploy a very simple experiment that only one astronaut needs to deploy.

Take about 20 minutes, set it up and make very basic measurements at the time that the the idea was the only measurements that we would want to make our the fundamentals of what the lunar seismicity like and deploy a retroreflector, a mirror on the surface that we could laze to from the earth, that we still used to this day, 50 years later now. First samples that came back from Apollo 11. And it's actually important to remember that Apollo 11 launched on July 16th.

Those samples were in a lab in Houston less than two weeks later, you know, that's fast sample return. And so within two weeks of launch, they had those samples and their preliminary examination went on and very soon realize that the moon is very old. Those basalts that they landed on were, you know, well over three and a half billion years old.

Also, very dry. There's no water in them. That was the surprise and that they were volcanic and had a lot of titanium and an elements and minerals that we see here on Earth.

They also found minerals that had not yet been identified on the earth as well. And so it was this this real discovery of what the moon is made of and how old it is. That was the great unanswered question.

I think much of what we do today is informed from Apollo samples, and we're still learning things from the Apollo samples. They were analyzed initially 50 years ago and are still being analyzed today and we're still learning new things from those samples, you know, we didn't learn everything from them 50 years ago when we put them in the safe and walk away. With new instruments and new techniques we learn new things and that informs our understanding of the Moon and by association the rest of the solar system.

Margaret Weitekamp: There is a very legitimate argument to be made that all of the money that was spent on the Apollo program was spent on the ground. It created engineering jobs. It created whole communities in Florida, in Alabama.

And in fact the federal government as a funder of this big science project was able then to push communities in say the deep south to say you can't be segregated and take Federal funding. You need to find housing for the African American engineers that we want you to be hiring. And so you need to be thinking differently about say race relations.

And so in that way the space program is part of that larger push in the 1960s where Federal money is being used not only to fund a technology program, but also to push some social issues.

Hank: We did this gigantic thing not to like, you know, get stronger and kill people but to like do a big amazing thing. And it's big, right, like we've been looking at the moon since humans existed and then we walked on it.

Alexis: That's weird.

Hank: Yeah.

Alexis: That's so good. A couple people also said some just like really beautiful poetic things.

Hank: Yeah. Margaret Weitekamp: So we just had Jim Lovell here at the museum in December for the anniversary of Apollo 8, which was that famous mission at Christmas time of 1968 where they circled the moon. They went all the way around. In fact, because they were not on a trajectory that was intended to be a practice for a landing, they went farther than any human beings have ever been away from the earth and Lovell talked very persuasively about the earthrise image-- that color picture that they took as they came back around the moon and looked back and saw the Earth hanging in shadow, but hanging in space in front of them.

And said really, you know, we went to the moon but what we discovered was the Earth, was looking back at ourselves. And it was not a picture that had never been taken before; there had been robotic missions that had taken a picture very much like that. So it was not completely unexpected.

But the power of knowing that that image had been taken by a person, by someone like you or me who was behind a camera pushing the shutter and seeing that with his own eyes really was electric. That image ended up on the cover of newspapers across the world and really it begins a kind of much more complex cultural process of us thinking of ourselves as a planet, or starting to imagine and understand who we are all on this little globe together. Brady

Haran: What's the point of living longer? And what's the point of having a slightly more comfortable life and just having more heart beats and more days here on Earth, if you don't do things like go to the. Moon, if you don't create art, if you don't do amazing things, I don't see why we would want to spend all this money living longer if you don't do great things. I don't think the point of our existence is just to try and prolong our existence.

I think the point of our existence is to do great things. And to do amazing things and I think Apollo is one of the real amazing things that humans did.

Hank: So count of three was it worth it? 1 2 3. Hank &

Alexis: Yes.

Hank: So a question I asked Brady was if this was all worth it then can we do it again? Brady

Haran: I do find it hard to imagine us doing something as high risk as that now in this kind of era of like health and safety, but I don't think it's just because we live in an era of health and safety. I think it's because we haven't got that same hyper-competitiveness that forces people to take bold risks that, you know, some of these really amazing things that happen: getting to the South Pole, getting to the top of Mount Everest, getting to the Moon come about because humans are scared of being beaten to it. They want it they want to be first and they and they're willing to take risks for that prize. And those top prizes those those prizes that are most sought after, are risky to get to.

Because if they weren't someone would have already done it. So I do feel a bit like, you know, at those frontiers, if there's enough competition, people are willing to be a little bit risky. I don't know what will happen with Mars.

If it's companies that end up getting their first, if it's the Elon Musks and it's not NASA that gets there first and two or three companies are vying for it. Are they going to take a risk? I don't know, you know, are they going to risk their brand?

America kinda risked its brand, didn't it? If they killed a bunch of astronauts, you know? Are companies as willing to take a risk with their brand as a nation that maybe can absorb failure more easily?

I don't know. I don't know. It was risky.

We don't take those risks now. Will we take those risks, will we take those risks again? I don't know.

Alexis: When I talk to other people about it, they actually had a slightly different answer. Noah

Petro: You know, Apollo is nothing else. I mean, it was a great accomplishment. It was an incredible achievement, but also showed, you know, what you can do when you have a goal.

Apollo: land on the moon, back to Earth in a decade. With a goal of landing humans anywhere in the solar system with a destination and the right data, that can be accomplished. You know, we know more about almost all of the planets in the solar system than we knew certainly 50 years ago. But any object you want to go to today whether it's moon, Mars, an asteroid, we have ample data to accommodate human exploration of any of those destinations.

And so it's just a matter of having the prerogative in the the interest in going. Destin Sandlin: I think what's necessary in order to do something huge like this is technical capability. You know, economic ability, you know, money and then a a political will to do it.

Right? And so I think we had a unique mixture of all three of those things back in the 60s and we were able to do it. Sputnik just freaked people out.

Right? And so at that point it was like, yeah we can do this. So now you get into this risk versus reward discussion, right?

And I think we're finally getting to the place now where people realize that space is awesome and we should do things because we should explore. But it's a lot harder because there's no, there's no timeline. Bob

Sieck: Today, not only industry but people in general will dwell too much on the, well, yeah, but what if we don't succeed in this. We can't accept you know stuff not working or having a tragedy or an accident. We don't want to, you know, we don't want to have to deal with that. So as a result, let's not do it.

Alexis: Mmm. Bob

Sieck: Take the easy way out. Financial standpoint: why should we invest a lot of money in this and the project may have to come to, you know, have to be cut off because we didn't make the progress we wanted in the amount of time. We don't want to take that risk. So since we don't want to take the risk, don't even try.

Alexis: Yeah. Bob

Sieck: And I think that's bad for our society. There's a difference between analyzing and accepting a risk as opposed to gambling. I'm not a gambler. I would never propose we gamble on making the decision to spend this much money for this program or whatever but look at the risk.

Look at the benefit, assess it and you know, if the goal is worth the risk, don't worry about it. Just go do it.

Hank: From the beginning I wasn't coming at this question as like was it worth it to go to the moon. It's was it the right way to do it. Was it too risky? If things had gone wrong, how much would that have set us back and after these conversations that, mostly you had, I'm starting to feel like this might have been the only time we could have done it.

Alexis: Yeah, like if you fast forward even 10, 20, 30 years... Did that perfect storm of conditions exist? Kind of not. And Interesting to think about too is when I talk to people they had said, you know, you need that timeline and that motivation but at least in the US, if we were going to do something like Apollo again through NASA, that's under the control of the executive branch.

So it's like, if a president comes in, wants one thing and the next person in office wants something else...

Hank: Doesn't want to be just sort of enacting the previous president's vision.

Alexis: Right.

Hank: Which makes you think like, John F. Kennedy having that mission unfulfilled not just because he was voted out of office but because he was assassinated, like we have to sort of like come together to try and have that vision be completed.

Alexis: Yeah.

Hank: So Apollo was a good idea. It was just a hard one. Which doesn't mean it's bad.

Alexis: Yes. In talking about Apollo, it really makes you think about kind of space exploration in general. Like, if it's risky and it's hard, why do we do it? And there are a lot of reasons for it.

Hank: Yeah, and one of those reasons, is because it's hard.

Alexis: Yeah, we like to explore things.

Hank: Yeah, we like to test our limits. So, there you have it. The Apollo program was one of the most difficult scientific projects of the 20th century, possibly one of the most difficult scientific projects ever, but just because something is hard doesn't mean it's a bad idea. When you remember the full story of Apollo, you start to realize that history is more complicated than you might think and that this achievement would not have been possible without the hundreds or thousands of people supporting it.

Thanks to the engineers who work to put these missions together, we were able to go to a place that we had been staring at for Millenia. Not just because we got lucky but because we had a goal and because people worked really hard to achieve it. And honestly, that's pretty encouraging because like some of our experts said, it means that maybe with the right teams and enough perseverance, we could do something like this again.

We couldn't have made this episode of scishow without our experts, so thank you to everyone who took the time to talk to us and share your wisdom about the Apollo program. And thank you to Alexis for traveling around and talking to all those very cool people. We also of course could not have tried a big new thing without support from our viewers and from our patrons on Patreon.

So thank you so much for watching, your support allows us to take risks, like making a new kind of episode. It was really fun. And we hope you enjoyed it.

If you did we have some cool news for you to celebrate Apollo 11 and our new project here, we made mission patches just like the kind that actual astronauts wear. They're very good and you can put them on backpacks or jean jackets or space suits to show your support for Sideshow and Apollo. They'll only be available through the end of July, though, so if you want one, you can click the link in the description.

I, for one, am gonna go put it on the backpack right now. [ ♪MUSIC ].