Friday, July 31, 2009

The Lunar 12


1. Neil Armstrong left NASA in 1971, weary from constant requests for appearances. He agreed to appear in NASA documentaries and briefly on key anniversaries, but refrains from making speeches or granting interviews. When he is quoted, it’s usually to remind people that while his foot was the first on the moon, thousands of space program workers put him there. Armstrong will be 79 years old this August, and lives a quiet life in Indian Hill, a suburb of Cincinnati, OH.

2. Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin (age 79) retired from NASA in 1972 and returned to the Air Force, where he had a rocky career due to depression and alcohol problems, but recovered and went on to write two memoirs and one novel. Now one of the most accessible Apollo astronauts, Buzz makes public appearances all over the world and continues to promote space exploration.

3. DECEASED: Charles “Pete” Conrad left the space program in 1973 to become chief operating officer of American Television & Communications Corp. and later vice president of McDonnell-Douglas. He died from internal injuries in 1999 after a motorcycle accident in Ojai, CA.

NASA Apollo Program
4. Alan Bean (age 77), after walking on the moon in 1969, flew as commander of the Skylab II mission in 1973. He logged 1,671 hours in space before leaving NASA in 1981 to devote his life to painting in his Houston studio, re-creating his views of various Apollo space missions and even incorporating moon dust into his artworks.

5. DECEASED: Alan Shepard retired from both the Navy and NASA in 1974, and became president of the Mercury Seven Foundation in Houston, a non-profit organization which provides college science scholarships. He died of leukemia in 1998.

6. Edgar Mitchell (age 78) retired from both the Navy and NASA in 1972 and founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Palo Alto, CA. He has written two books about science and space, and also recently announced that NASA has secret knowledge of extra-terrestrial creatures.

7. David Scott (age 78) retired from the Navy in 1975 and from NASA in 1977; a few years later, he wrote “Two Sides of the Moon” with Russian Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space. He founded Scott Science & Technology near Manhattan Beach, CA.

8. DECEASED: James Irwin left NASA and the Air Force in 1972 to found the evangelical High Flight Foundation in Colorado Springs, CO. He served as their Chairman until he died of a heart attack in 1991.

9. John Young (age 79), after walking on the moon in 1972, also served as commander of the STS-1 and STS-9 missions on Space Shuttle Columbia. As he had also flown two Gemini and two Apollo missions, he became the first man to fly six missions across 3 programs. He retired from NASA in 2004, but still lives in Houston and makes personal appearances on behalf of the space program.

Apollo Moon Landings
10. Charles Duke (73) was already a retired Air Force Reserve Brigadier General before he walked on the moon in 1972. He retired from NASA in 1975 and founded Duke Investments, Duke Enterprises and Duke Ministry for Christ, based in New Braunfels, TX.

11. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt (74) resigned from NASA in 1975 and worked as a consultant and writer/speaker. In the late 80s, he ran for the U.S. Senate representing New Mexico, and served 6 years in Congress. In the 90s, he was professor of engineering at the University of Wisconsin and also President of the Annapolis Center for Environmental Quality. He now lives in Albuquerque, NM.

12. Eugene Cernan (75) was the last man to walk on the moon in 1972, hence his 1999 book, “The Last Man On The Moon.” Catchy! He retired from NASA and the Navy in 1976 and formed the Cernan Corporation in Houston. He later served as Chairman of the Board for Johnson Engineering Corp., a NASA contractor which designs space crew stations and habitats.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Apollo 17


Date: December 7-19, 1972
Crew: Commander Gene Cernan (38)
Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans (39)
Lunar Module Pilot Harrison J. Schmitt (37)

Command Module Call Sign: America
Lunar Module Call Sign: Challenger

Moon Landing Site: Taurus-Littrow Valley
Mission Distinctions: Sixth and final moon landing, record time on the moon of 75 hours, 22 EVA hours, and 250 pounds of samples returned to Earth for analysis.

Apollo 17 Crew
Mission 17's insignia was the only one to actually feature the God Apollo, copying the profile of the famed Pythian Apollo sculpture in the Vatican. An American eagle with three stars represented the crew, and graphics of a spiral galaxy and Saturn indicated the "future" of the space program: the outer planets and distant stars.

Apollo 17 had the program’s only evening launch, and was witnessed as far away as Miami, where onlookers described it as like a firecracker shooting into the sky.

Apollo 17 Lunar Map
According to flight controllers, each Lunar mission was more difficult and ambitious than the one before, with landings at more rugged and desolate sites. Gene Kranz described it as a "Can You Top This" contest between the lunar geologists. Each crew of astronauts hoped to work harder, stay longer, and collect more moon rocks than the previous guys.

As the objectives became more scientific, it was only a matter of time before a scientist flew. Jack Schmitt was the first geologist to go into space. Apollo 17 also set up a record number of surface experiments.

Apollo 17 was Gene Cernan’s second trip to the moon and third into space. As the last to climb the ladder before the LM ascent stage rejoined the orbiting CM, he would also be the last man to walk on the moon. Enroute home, he radioed, “Apollo has been a beginning. I don’t think there will ever be an end, not as long as man is alive and willing.”

Gene Cernan & Ron Evans
A pose you sure don't see everyday...!

Seems Cernan & Schmitt were the first humans to SING on the moon when they broke into an impromptu chorus of "Strolling Through The Park One Day" while working.

Apollo 17 would be the last of the manned lunar missions, as Apollo 18, 19 and 20 were all cancelled due to budget concerns.

Apollo 17 Lunar Rover
Currently, the Apollo 17 Command Module America is on display at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The ascent stage of the Lunar Module Challenger impacted the moon on 19.96 N, 30.50 E, on December 15, 1972. The descent stage is still in the mountains of Taurus beside the giant crater of Littrow, near the Sea of Serenity.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Apollo 16


Date: April 16-27, 1972
Crew:Commander John Young (41)
Command Module Pilot Thomas K. Mattingly (36)
Lunar Module Pilot Charles Duke (36)

Command Module Call Sign: Casper
Lunar Module Call Sign: Orion

Moon Landing Site: Descartes Mountains
Mission Distinctions: Fifth moon landing. Highest lunar landing elevation (25,688 feet), lunar speed record 11.2 MPH in rover.

Apollo 16 Crew The CSM was named for the popular cartoon character, and referred to by the crew as their "friendly ghost."

The Apollo 16 suits were the first to have beverage assembly inside the space helmets, attached to 32-ounce bags of orange juice. Charlie Duke’s microphone got tangled in the straw tilt valve. and it released juice that drifted into his closed helmet in the weightlessness, coating his glasses as he was hovering the LM over the moon's surface. Later, Duke would joke that it was a "sticky moon landing."

Apollo 16
Charlie Duke had exposed Ken Mattingly to the german measles two years before, forcing him to be scratched from the Apollo 13 crew only days before launch.

In 71 hours on the lunar surface, Young & Duke collected 245 pounds of moon material to be returned to Earth for study. Their specimens included a 25-pound chunk that was recorded as the largest single rock returned by the Apollo astronauts.

Scientific results caused planetary geologists to revise previous interpretations of the lunar highlands, concluding that meteorite impacts were the dominant agent in shaping the moon's ancient surfaces, not volcanic activity.

Apollo 16 Site Map
Apollo 16 Landing site map signed by Charlie Duke

Currently, the Apollo 16 Command Module Casper is on display at the US Space & Rocket Center (near "Space Camp") in Huntsville, Alabama.

The ascent stage of the Lunar Module Orion was jettisoned from the Command Module, but spun oddly out of control and orbited the moon for about a year before crashing to the moon; its exact impact site remains unknown. The descent stage is still on the Cayley Plains of the Descartes region.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Apollo 15


Date: July 26-August 7, 1971
Crew: Commander Dave Scott (39)
Command Module Pilot Alfred Worden (39)

Lunar Module Pilot James Irwin (41)

Command Module Call Sign: Endeavour
Lunar Module Call Sign: Falcon

Moon Landing Site: Hadley Rille at the foot of Apennine Mountains

Mission Distinctions: Fourth moon landing; first landing in the lunar mountains; first use of the Lunar Rover; first launch of a sub-satellite into lunar orbit from the surface of the moon.

Apollo 15 Crew
The crew named their craft for the ship commanded by Captain James Cook, whose barque Endeavour sailed in 1768 from England to Tahiti to observe the passed of the planet Venus between Earth and the Sun. The LM was dubbed Falcon, in honor of the Air Force mascot for the all-Air Force crew.

The Apennine mountains are higher than the Sierra Nevadas and the Himalayas.

During 67 hours on the moon (Buzz & Neil had only spent two and a half!), they drove the electrically-powered lunar rover nearly 18 miles on three geologic scouting trips.

Lunar Rover
On the 3rd EVA, Scott gave the TV audience a practical demonstration of Galileo’s discovery that falling objects, unhindered by atmospheric friction, drop at the same speed. He used his geological hammer and a falcon feather.

The lunar rover had a camera mounted on it, so mission control could see, close-up and in real time, exactly what the astronauts saw.

When the crew returned, they displayed the amazing white anorthositic "Genesis Rock" they had found, a piece of lunar crust dated at over 4 billion years old!

Currently, the Apollo 15 Command Module Endeavour is on display at the National Museum of the US Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. The ascent stage of the Lunar Module Falcon impacted the moon on 26.36 N, 0.25 E, August 3, 1971. The descent stage is still at the Hadley-Apennine Lunar Canyons.

ps- did anyone catch the dates? :)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Apollo 14


Date: January 31-February 9, 1971
Commander Alan Shepard (47)
Command Module Pilot
Stuart Roosa (37)
Lunar Module Pilot
Edgar Mitchell (37)

Command Module Call Sign: Kitty Hawk
Lunar Module Call Sign: Antares

Mission Distinctions: Third moon landing; Medical & manufacturing experiments; 95 pounds of geologic specimens returned.
Moon Landing Site: Fra Mauro

Apollo 14 crew
The mission saw the return of Alan Shepard, first American in space, and one of the original "Mercury Seven" astronauts selected by NASA in 1959.

Kitty Hawk refers to the Wright Brothers and Antares is a red star in the Scorpius constellation which is the most visible landmark in the sky during the powered descent to the lunar surface.

Stuart Roosa tried to dock with the lunar module four times, but each time the capture latches failed to connect. On try number five, the two crafts were finally mated in space, just as the crew was considering an EVA to solve the issue.

Apollo 14's landing site near the Fra Mauro crater was the originally planned landing site of Apollo 13 before its deep space abort.

Alan Shepard on the Moon
Time walking on the moon was extended with each trip; Shepard and Mitchell spent over 9 hours on the surface, during which in a moment of levity, Shepard hit two golf balls with a "driver" fashioned out of a piece of his lunar equipment. He also planted the customary flag in the regolith.

After splashdown, the crew underwent the usual isolation, but after this it was decided the moon was indeed lifeless and no future Apollo astronauts were subject to quarantine.

Moon Trees
Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa took several hundred seeds on the flight, many of which were germinated on return to Earth, resulting in the "Moon Trees."

Currently, the Apollo 14 Command Module Kitty Hawk is on display at United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville, Florida. The ascent stage of the Lunar Module Antares impacted the moon at 3.42 S, 19.67 W, February 7, 1971. The descent stage is still in the Fra Mauro highlands.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Apollo 13


Date: April 11-17, 1970
Crew: Commander James Lovell (42)
Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert (38)
Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise (36)

Command Module Call Sign: Odyssey
Lunar Module Call Sign: Aquarius

Mission Distinctions: First mission failure in 22 manned American flights; Lunar Module used as a "lifeboat" while the CSM was powered down; Jim Lovell became the first man to fly twice to the moon.

Apollo 13 crew
Apollo 13 trembled when Oxygen Tank #2 blew off the Service Module behind the crew’s backs. Oxygen, electricity, light and water were lost… along with about $13 million dollars worth of scientific equipment.

According to the astronauts, the Apollo 13 movie was a fairly accurate depiction of sequential events and emotions, with some artistic liberties taken to “summarize.” (For example, Gary Sinise’s character represented many men who worked in simulators to provide solutions and checklists.) Movie geeks with more time on their hands than Ron Howard have compiled an interesting list of historical irregularities for those concerned with precise accuracy!

Apollo 13
Representation of the Apollo 13 explosion
painted by astronaut Alan Bean

The press was not informed at the time, but Lovell’s platform alignment en route to the moon after the explosion was the most crucial of the efforts to get the astronauts back home safely. Had that essential maneuver failed, they would have been marooned in space. The press did get wind of another course adjustment two days later and sensationalized the "life or death" angle.

The temperature in the LM dropped to 38 degrees. Designed only for a 45-hour lifetime for two inhabitants, the astronauts had to make it last 90 hours with three.

In a rare serious moment, comedian Milton Berle asked the crowd at Wrigley Field for a moment of silence and prayer for the crewmen of Apollo 13 before a Chicago Cubs game.

The crew jettisoned the blast-gutted Service Module just hours before re-entry to Earth. They had "towed" it along for 300,000 miles because it’s bulk was protecting the Command Module’s heat shield from the intense cold of space.

The final ordeal was radio silence caused by ionized air surrounding the module during its super-heated re-entry through the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Apollo 13 had an excruciating six-minute blackout, the longest of any mission, because their re-entry path was longer and far more shallow than normal.

Currently, the Apollo 13 Command Module Odyssey is on display at the Cosmosphere and Space Center of Hutchinson, Kansas. Both stages of the Lunar Module Aquarius burned up in Earth's atmosphere on April 17, 1970.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Apollo 12


Date: November 14-24, 1969
Crew: Commander Pete Conrad (39)
Command Module Pilot Dick Gordon (40)
Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean (37)

Command Module Call Sign: Yankee Clipper
Lunar Module Call Sign: Intrepid

Mission Distinctions: Second manned lunar landing, in which a sophisticated geophysical station was set up, as well as a nuclear power station.

Moon Landing Site: Oceanus Procellarum

Apollo 12 Crew
Richard Nixon became the first president to witness a manned launch; seconds after the crowd watched the Apollo 12 stack disappear into the clouds, lightning flashed all around, and at least two bolts hit the spacecraft, but luckily did not interfere with its ability to achieve TLI (translunar injection).

The lightning did, however, take all fuel cells offline, putting the CSM only on batteries. Various circuits, attitude indicators and AC inverters malfunctioned, lighting up nearly every warning diode on their panels. Mission Control advised Alan Bean how to get systems back online, avoided a mission abort.

Upon the ladder descent to the lunar surface, Conrad remarked, "That may have been a small step for Neil, but it’s a long one for me!" (Neil Armstrong was 5'11" tall and Conrad was only 5'8")

Apollo 12 landed only 535 feet from the Surveyor III, which had landed on the Moon about two and a half years earlier to take photographs and soil samples.

Apollo 12
Conrad with Surveyor 3 (LM in background)

Major mission Oops! The television camera sending pictures back to Earth was inadvertently pointed toward the sun and ruined. For the rest of the mission, controllers and the public relied upon the astronauts’ simply describing what they were seeing and doing.

Currently, the Apollo 12 command module is on display at the Air & Space Center in Hampton, Virginia. The ascent stage of the lunar module Intrepid impacted the moon at 3.94 S, 21.20 W, on November 20, 1969. The descent stage is still in the "Ocean of Storms."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Apollo 11 Legacy


Apollo 11
Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin

A legacy in pictures! Click anything in this post to see the larger and more detailed versions. Want to see the space suits of the Apollo 11 crew? One was recently put up for auction in London, another is on display in the nation's capital and exhaustively immortalized in photographs, and yet another in his namesake's hometown museum.

Apollo 11 Capsule
Currently, the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

The ascent stage of the Lunar Module Eagle was jettisoned from the Command Module, and its exact impact site on the moon on July 21, 1969 remains unknown. The descent stage is still in the "Sea of Tranquility."

Apollo 11 Moon Plaque
On the moon, a plaque was left behind, signed by each of the astronauts and the President. On Earth, the commemorations -- parades, dinners, ceremonies, documentaries, movies, books, coins, stamps, toys and other commercial products -- are too many to mention... so I'll just mention one of my favorite tributes.

In southern California, all four corners of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street are graced with Hollywood "Walk of Fame" markers, saluting the first lunar landing mission. Ironically, while the word "astronaut" is derived from two Greek words meaning "star sailor," the emblems are the only ones NOT in the shape of stars! They are instead round, for the shape of the moon.

Apollo 11

Monday, July 20, 2009

Apollo 11 Return


I think this is my favorite "artifact" from Apollo 11... yeah, yeah, I know auctions are going on right now for gloves and dust and whatnot -- but ironically, this one says far more about Earth (or rather Earthlings) than it ever will about the moon.

We've all had our share of border hassles when coming back into the country -- even when our suitcases contained nothing more than laundry, razors -- but I wonder if Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin expected to be questioned or asked to fill out a standard Customs Declaration on the way back home from the moon? However, in the Honolulu, Hawai'i Airport, that is precisely what they had to do.

Apollo 11 Customs Form
Apollo 11 Customs Manifest (Click to Enlarge)

Upon splashdown, the astronauts were quarantined on the U.S.S. Hornet to guard against bringing any foreign organisms back to Earth. Neil was said to have relaxed by playing his ukulele. Back at the Lunar Receiving Laboratory and later the Manned Spacecraft Center, they spent nearly 3 weeks in confinement.

On August 13, 1969, the astronauts exited quarantine to the cheers of the American public. Huge parades were held in in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles on the same day.

That evening there was an official State Dinner, attended by Members of Congress, 44 Governors, and ambassadors from 83 nations. Nixon honored each astronaut with a presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This celebration was the beginning of a 45-day "Giant Leap" tour that brought the astronauts to 25 foreign countries and included visits with prominent world leaders.

Apollo 11
Let the press conferences begin!

On September 16, 1969, the three astronauts spoke before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill. They presented two U.S. flags, one to the House of Representatives and the other to the Senate, that had been carried to the surface of the moon with them.

Pretty cool! But that customs form still kills me. Click here to see the entire document...

Apollo 11 Moon Landing


Date: July 16-24, 1969
Crew: Commander Neil Armstrong (38)
Command Module Pilot Michael Collins (38)
Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Aldrin (39)

Command Module Call Sign: Columbia
Lunar Module Call Sign: Eagle
Moon Landing Site: Mare Tranquillitatis

Neil Armstrong's Hometown Newspaper
Armstrong's Hometown Newspaper

I won't rehash the moon landing (much)... it's all over the internet and television today! And while I appreciate that it sparks conversations about NASA's future endeavours, I think the day should honor the accomplishments of astronauts who trained for years to risk their lives in the name of science and exploration!

Some lesser known facts about the first lunar landing mission...

While Neil Armstrong is credited with the telling Mission Control the Eagle landed, this was not the first transmission from the moon. Buzz Aldrin spoke the first words from the lunar surface as he called out navigation data to Armstrong from descent to touchdown. The technical jargon from Aldrin was: "Contact light. Okay, engine stop. ACA, out of detent. Mode control, both auto. Descent engine command override off. Engine arm, off. 413 is in."

Perhaps not terribly historic-sounding... but the very first words a human spoke on another world!

The Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector consisted of mirrors that reflect Earth-based laser beams to measure the exact distance between the Moon and Earth, which is increasing at 1.5 inches each year. Today, it is the only Apollo experiment still returning data.

Lunar Surface Experiments
At 10:56pm EDT, July 20, 1969, Armstrong made his way down the LM ladder to the Moon's surface and spoke his famous line "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" exactly six and a half hours after landing. Aldrin joined him, describing the view as "magnificent desolation."

Later, Aldrin re-entered the Eagle first. The astronauts hefted film and two boxes containing about 48 pounds of moon rock samples through the LM hatch using a flat cable pulley device called the Lunar Equipment Conveyor.

While moving in the cabin, Aldrin accidentally broke the circuit breaker that armed the main engine for lift off from the moon. There was concern this would prevent firing the engine, which would strand them, since the LM circuitry could not be reconfigured. Fortunately, sticking a felt-tip pen inside the switch was enough to activate the ascent engine, and they rejoined Michael Collins in the orbiting Command Module.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

LIFE in 1969


In the continuing theme of late 1960s culture, press coverage of the space race and the Apollo Program, I thought a wonderful sign of the era was LIFE Magazine. Published in various paper formats and between 1883 and 2007, the trusted record of photo-journalism let most American households know what was going on in the world. Click on the covers below to see larger images:

Apollo 11 Life Magazine Covers

Today, it survives as the internet archive, and unsurprisingly, they are covering the 40th anniversary of the moon landing as enthusiastically as it reported the landing mission itself!

Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin is their guest editor and interviewee for the week, and they are also currently featuring some great space collections, including Scenes From The Moon and Up Close With Apollo 11.

There are some wonderful scenes of all three astronauts in training, during missions, and with the wives and children in the 1960s. Many have never been released to the public before, and it's definitely worth running through the slideshows. This was my favorite:

Chef Neil Armstrong prepares pizzas!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Two Scoops of Crazy


Wow, look at all the moon hype this week! Moon moon moon, everywhere! You'd think we didn't see the thing in the sky every night, huh? Warning: Incoming Link Avalanche! And all of these are worth ignoring work to surf ;)

I’ve stumbled over dozens of articles in the past few days, mostly about the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, newly restored moon-landing films, the lost moon-mapping tapes (now desperately trying to be restored by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project), the audio of how the Soviets tried to rush their own moon landing first with the unmanned Luna 15.

My personal favorite news clip? A certain percentage of polled passersby who think "Buzz Lightyear" was the first man to walk on the moon. Wow.

Tang Pie
Rich pickings out there in link land! From nostalgic recipes to reminiscences of the Great Moon Hoax of 1835 even peeked through the history books, and of course, what would a celebration be without the retired Space Chimps and the almighty Russian-American Space Camp Moon War?? Don’t forget your free NASA T-shirt. (And if you die in moon-battle, your parents will still be billed for it.)

Naturally, the conspiracy theorists are also out in force, even that crackpot who was caught on video getting socked in the kisser by Buzz Aldrin a few years back. Many still refuse to believe NASA put 12 men on the moon over a period of 3 years, despite knowing it would have taken thousands of space program employees all keeping the same “secret” over four decades.

They are the subject of today’s CNN poll... so go play the numbers. Do you believe it was all a setup? Or the greatest exploration and technical achievement in history?

CNN Poll

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apollo 11 Launch


Date: July 16-24, 1969
Crew: Commander Neil Armstrong (38)
Command Module Pilot Michael Collins (38)
Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Aldrin (39)

Command Module Call Sign: Columbia
Lunar Module Call Sign: Eagle

Mission Distinction: First manned landing on Earth’s satellite.
Moon Landing Site: Mare Tranquillitatis

Apollo 11 Crew
On July 16, 1969, exactly 40 years ago today, the Saturn V rocket with the Apollo 11 mission on board was launched from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Lift off took place at 9:32AM. Orbit was achieved 12 minutes later. After one and a half orbits, the S-IVB third-stage engine pushed the spacecraft onto its trajectory toward the Moon with the Trans Lunar Injection burn. After about 30 minutes, the Command/Service Module pair separated from this last remaining Saturn V stage and docked with the Lunar Module still nestled in the Lunar Module Adaptor.

Over three-quarters of a million people gathered near the Cape to watch Apollo 11 take to the sky. Among them were Jimmy Stewart and ex-president Lyndon Johnson. President Richard Nixon watched from the Oval Office.

Will a launch such as this one, where the entire world was watching, ever take place again? Go weight in on CNN's daily poll:

Moon Poll
(my vote is probably pretty obvious :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Apollo 10


Date: May 18-26, 1969
Crew: Commander Tom Stafford (38)
Command Module Pilot John Young (38)
Lunar Module Pilot Gene Cernan(35)

Command Module Call Sign: Charlie Brown
Lunar Module Call Sign: Snoopy

Mission Distinctions: Test of the Lunar Module in Lunar Orbit, first use of color television in space. Apollo 10 was referred to colloquially as "The Dress Rehearsal."

Snoopy Mascot
Stafford, Young & Cernan were the first all-veteran crew to take to the skies in the Apollo program with no rookies. (Cernan had flown one Gemini flight; Stafford and Young and had flown two apiece.)

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Apollo 10’s return from the moon set the record for the highest speed attained by a manned vehicle at 39,897 km/h (or 24,791 mph).

Throughout 31 orbits of the moon, Apollo 10 was tasked with testing the unproven Lunar Module guidance and navigation system. During trial maneuvers, the LM came within 8.4 nautical miles of the moon’s surface.

Apollo 10
The Apollo 10 capsule, as photographed from the LM

Upon return to Earth, Apollo 10 had the most accurate splashdown of the entire program in terms of timing and location of their planned pinpoint-landing. (Apollo 13 had the second most accurate.)

Snoopy had also chosen as an official symbol of merit for America's space program, and cartoonist Charles Schulz even designed original artwork for missions, brochures, posters, etc. Through the decades, the connections between the Peanuts cartoon and NASA have remained evident in art, awards and mission control mascots. Each year, "Silver Snoopy" awards are presented to NASA employees who demonstrate excellence in their work.

NASA Silver SnoopyCurrently, the Apollo 10 Command Module is on loan to the Science Museum in London, England. And to this day, the Lunar Module Snoopy is still intact… the lone true LM ascent stage which still survives. Why? Because it’s still out there in heliocentric orbit!