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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a US space programme that sent rockets into space in the 1960s and 1970s and put the first man on the Moon

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

Apollo comes from the Greek ‘Apóllōn’, Latin ‘Apollo’, the name of an important Greek and Roman god.


The Apollo space programme was named after the Greek and Roman god Apollo, who is unusual in having the same name in both mythologies. The son of Zeus and Leto, he is the twin brother of Artemis (Diana in Roman mythology). He is the god of many realms including archery, music, prophecy, healing, the sun, and poetry, among others. The Apollo space programme was the third of NASA‘s programmes for human space flight, the previous two being called Mercury and Gemini, both names also drawn from classical mythology. Mercury was the messenger of the gods, among other roles, while Gemini is one of the names for the twins Castor and Pollux, as well as being the name of a constellation and star sign. The rockets used in the Apollo programme were named after Saturn, the father of Jupiter in Roman mythology (and thus Apollo‘s grandfather). NASA has guidelines for naming its projects and while these names may range from figures from classical mythology to abstract nouns, all are designed to be easily memorable and hard to confuse with any  other names.


“I feel we need to remind the world about the Apollo missions and that we can still do impossible things.”
(Buzz Aldrin)

“The important achievement of Apollo was demonstrating that humanity is not forever chained to this planet and our visions go rather further than that and our opportunities are unlimited.”
(Neil Armstrong)

Related words

orbiter, shuttle, space capsule, rover

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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