On May 25th 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered his second State of the Union Address to the Congress of the United States. The speech, titled “Urgent National Needs”, revealed his commitment to a forward thinking lunar exploration program to be called “Apollo”. This ambitious space endeavour led to the most spectacular milestone in the history of humanity, as humans set foot on another celestial body for the first time.
The project resulted in a wealth of artefacts, and some of the most significant heritage sites in the history of humanity. This thesis explores the nature, extent and current management of the cultural heritage items and places created by Project Apollo.
Consideration is given to issues of heritage significance and management of sites and artefacts associated with Project Apollo in terms of both United States national and international sites on Earth. Apollo was largely planned, developed and conducted from sites within the United States of America. However, goods and services were also sourced from countries outside the continental United States and used to meet the objectives of the program.
But Project Apollo goes well beyond that. Issues in heritage management must be addressed on an interplanetary level in relation to material culture in space. The United States and Soviet space programs launched many un-crewed and crewed missions to the Moon, leaving a large amount of material culture on the lunar surface, as well as in Earth and lunar orbit.
The effect of Apollo on an essentially terrestrial society was almost cataclysmic. An estimated quarter of the World’s population tuned in to Neil Armstrong’s history making moonwalk. Apollo has influenced humanity in ways the importance of which is not well recognised, such as presenting humanity with the first images of our fragile planet from afar.
As a political and engineering triumph, Project Apollo ranks highly in the heritage of the United States of America, but it is also the heritage of the world. Despite the significance of the event, sites associated with Apollo are yet to be inscribed on the World Heritage List. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries are very under-represented on the World Heritage List. Several countries, including Australia, have excellent examples of sites and artefacts of major significance to Apollo, but these go largely unnoticed.
When future generations reflect upon the most significant scientific and technological resources of the twentieth Century, in all likelihood it will be those sites associated with humanity’s first ventures into space and our landing them on another celestial body that will be among the top of the list. The stewardship of this legacy lies with today’s heritage managers and the organisations responsible for these sites and objects. What survives for future generations remains to be seen.