Santa Maria and Spaceship America :
Mission Profiles

Apollo 17 (America) Mission Profile

The vessel America arrives at home port Earth


Spaceship America was the last of the mission modules to journey to the Moon during the Apollo lunar landing program of the 1960s and early 1970s. It was the ninth of the mission modules to travel to the Moon and back to Earth.

Mission Duration: 301 Hours and 51 Minutes
Distance Navigated (excludes lunar orbits): 480,000 plus miles
Average Speed (for crossing : parking orbit to LM/CSM separation): 2200+ mph
Maximum Speed: 25,000+ mph

Santa Maria Mission Profile


The Santa Maria participated as the flagship of Columbus's initial voyage of discovery of the New World. It might be likened to Neil Armstrong's Columbia which served as the initial flagship which transported the first astronauts to walk on the Moon to the Moon.

If Columbus's voyages were classified in the same fashion as those which put men on the Moon, they would be four in number. Neither Neil Armstrong's Columbia or Columbus's Santa Maria actually touched the terrain of their new worlds. Santa Maria remained off shore in deep water while a long boat transported Columbus and his crew to shore. In like fashion, America remained in orbit while the lunar lander Challenger ferried Astronauts Cernan and Schmidt to the Moon's surface.

Mission Duration: August 2, 1492 - March 15, 1493 ; 224 days
Distance Navigated: 8,000 plus miles
Average Speed (for crossing - Canaries to New World): 3 miles per hour
Maximum Speed: 10-12 mph

1. Discuss how the average speed of each journey (Santa Maria's and America's) should be calculated. Why should travel after arriving in the New World (Columbus) and into lunar orbit (Apollo 17) not be included in the calculation of average speed of each journey?

2. Why was the speed of each journey important? Discuss.

3. What if the average speed of each journey was a third as great? How would this impact the vessels which made the trips?

4. What would the number of days at sea have been for the Santa Maria if only ocean existed between the Canary Islands and the Orient as Columbus supposed? How would this have affected the journey? Discuss.

5. What if America's sister ship Challenger's descent engine had malfunctioned? What if Challenger's ascent engine had malfunctioned? For help in your answer, go to the Space Educators' Handbook Apollo 13 page.

Return to Home Port

Last modified: Monday, 28-Aug-00 04:00:00 PM CDT

Author: Jerry Woodfill / NASA, Mail Code ER7,

Curator: Cecilia Breigh, NASA JSC ER7

Responsible Official: Charles Gott, NASA JSC ER7

Automation, Robotics and Simulation Division, Walter W. Guy, Chief.