Just to start off this forum, how about a discussion about which of the six was the most successful? Naturally, all achieved their primary objectives, but let's nitpick a little more.
I think Apollo 12 is a definite front runner. Despite being only the first operational selenogical mission, it performed remarkably well. The pinpoint landing was very pinpoint. The geological traverse uncovered some Copernicus ray material. The Surveyor surveying was very thorough despite being only a secondary objective.
Apollo 11 was a test mission. It accomplished scientific and exploration goals, but its primary objective was engineering validation. Apollos 12-16 were designed as scientific missions, but still required engineering shakedown.
Apollo 17 was the most successful for two reasons: it was the first mission not to have any major engineering problems, and it was the first mission to do what the program had promised the scientific community: put a trained geologist on the moon in order to make direct observation of it.
I'm an engineer, so I get caught up in the engineering -- coolness for its own sake. But the purpose of engineering is not to be its own end, but to serve the ends of others.
I'm sure everyone will see it as an odd choice, but I've always felt Apollo 13 was the most successful mission. Against what appeared to be overwhelming odds, NASA and the astronaut crew snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, developed procedures on the fly, and made the LM fulfill a function for which it wasn't designed. The fact that three astronauts who should have died in space were returned safely to Earth through a cobbled-together set of workarounds may stand as one of the most incredible achievements of the 20th century space program. Although the mission didn't fulfill very much of its original agenda, it spoke volumes about the creativeness, problem solving and seat of the pants engineering cababilities that existed at the time within NASA. Because I lived through the Apollo program as a young adult, I experienced it in real time. Two memories stand out above all the others - Apollo 11's landing and the Apollo 13 rescue. I guess I've always been impressed by the successful implementation of a contingency plan.
I don't think it's inappropriate to consider Apollo 13 a conspicuous success. Certainly from the engineering standpoint, if you can't avoid failure then the next best thing is to deal with it robustly. With new technology failure is often abrupt and unforgiving. To have successfully passed an inadvertent test of your system's resilience is a cause for celebration.
It depends on how you want to define success. The mission planners devised a list of criteria by which a mission's success was to be judged, but those are not the only criteria of interest.
Two memories stand out above all the others - Apollo 11's landing and the Apollo 13 rescue.
I would have to agree with this, but I think I'd also add in Apollo 8 for me.
As soon as I read your post I realized that I too was struck by Apollo 8 - the earthrise photo still gives me the same shivers I had when I first saw it. When I answered the question, I was thinking of missions to land on the moon and overlooked Apollo 8 and Apollo 10, both of which were pretty memorable!
As soon as I read your post I realized that I too was struck by Apollo 8 - the earthrise photo still gives me the same shivers I had when I first saw it.
"Earthrise" is one of the most remarkable pictures from the entire space program. I love how they handled that scene in the From The Earth To The Moon series.
For me, I get those shivers everytime I hear Frank Borman's closing words from the Apollo 8 Christmas Eve broadcast . . . "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you - all of you on the good Earth."