Thursday, January 31, 2008

Apollo 14

On this day in History Apollo 14 went to the moon. This was important for two reasons;
it was "getting back in the saddle" for NASA after the near catastrophe of Apollo 13, and it is the flight that finally put one of the original 7 astronauts on the moon. (Alan Sheppard).

It is also the mission in which Alan Shepard hit a golf ball on the moon.

At the beginning of the mission, the CSM Kitty Hawk had difficulty achieving a hard dock with the LM Antares. Repeated attempts to dock went on for 1 hour and 42 minutes, until it was suggested that Kitty Hawk be held against Antares using its thrusters, then the docking probe would be retracted out of the way, hopefully triggering the docking latches. This attempt was successful, and no further docking problems were encountered during the mission.

After separation from the command module, the LM "Antares" also had two serious problems. First, the LM computer began getting an ABORT signal from a faulty switch. NASA believed that the computer might be getting erroneous readings like this if a tiny ball of soldering material had shaken loose and was floating between the switch and the contact, closing the circuit. The immediate solution - tapping on the panel next to the switch - did work briefly, but the circuit soon closed again. If the problem recurred after the descent engine fired, the computer would think the signal was real and would initiate an auto-abort, separating the Ascent Stage from the Descent Stage and climb back into orbit. NASA and the software teams at MIT scrambled to find a solution, and determined the fix would involve reprogramming the computer to ignore the false signal. The software modifications were transmitted to the crew via voice communication, and Mitchell manually entered the changes (amounting to over 80 keystrokes on the LM computer pad) just in time.

A second problem occurred during the powered descent, when the LM radar altimeter failed to automatically lock onto the moon's surface. This was later determined to be an unintended consequence of the software patch. After cycling the landing radar breaker, it successfully acquired a signal, again just in the nick of time. Shepard then manually landed the LM closer to its intended target than any of the other five moon landing missions.

After landing in the Fra Mauro formation - the destination for Apollo 13 - Shepard and Mitchell took two moon walks, adding new seismic studies to the by now familiar Apollo experiment package, and using a "lunar rickshaw" pull cart to carry their equipment. Roosa, meanwhile, took pictures from on board command module "Kitty Hawk" in lunar orbit.

The second moonwalk, or EVA, was intended to reach the rim of the 1,000 foot (300 m) wide Cone Crater. However, the two astronauts were not able to find the rim amid the rolling terrain of the crater's slopes. Later analysis, using the pictures that they took, determined that they had come within 65 feet of the crater's rim.

Shepard and Mitchell deployed and activated various scientific instruments and experiments and collected almost 100 pounds (45 kg) of lunar samples for return to earth. Other Apollo 14 achievements included: first use of Mobile Equipment Transporter (MET); largest payload placed in lunar orbit; longest distance traversed on the lunar surface; largest payload returned from the lunar surface; longest lunar surface stay time (33 hours); longest lunar surface EVA (9 hours and 17 minutes); first use of shortened lunar orbit rendezvous techniques; first use of color TV with new vidicon tube on lunar surface; and first extensive orbital science period conducted during CSM solo operations.

On the way back to Earth, the crew conducted the first U.S. materials processing experiments in space. The Apollo 14 astronauts were the last lunar explorers to be quarantined on their return from the Moon.

Shepard and Mitchell named their landing site Fra Mauro Base, and this designation is recognized by the International Astronomical Union (depicted in Latin on lunar maps as Statio Fra Mauro).

Mission notes

* Shepard is the only astronaut from Project Mercury (the original Mercury Seven astronauts) to reach the Moon. Another of the original seven, Gordon Cooper, had originally been scheduled to command the mission, but according to Chaikin, his casual attitude toward training, along with problems with NASA hierarchy (reaching all the way back to the Mercury-Atlas 9 flight) resulted in his relief. James McDivitt, the commander of Apollo 9, who would have been either the prime crew Lunar Module Pilot or the backup crew commander was unwilling to take a secondary role in the mission.
* Shepard smuggled a makeshift six iron golf club and two golf balls to the moon, and took several swings (one-handed, due to the limited flexibility of the EVA suit). He exuberantly, and somewhat whimsically, exclaimed that the second ball went "miles and miles and miles" in the lunar gravity, but later estimated it actually went 200 to 400 yards (180 to 365 meters). Mitchell then used a lunar scoop handle as a javelin, creating the first 'Lunar Olympics'.
* Mitchell conducted some unauthorized extra-sensory perception experiments while en route to the Moon, with friends back on Earth. Due to a 40-minute delay in the launch, however, the experiment was thrown out of sync, with the friends attempting to receive Mitchell's messages before he sent them during sleep periods. The number of matches were reportedly less than would have been obtained by random chance - Mitchell felt "this (suggested) their subconscious minds knew something was wrong".[citation needed]
* Shepard's moonwalking suit was the first to incorporate red bands on the arms and legs and a red stripe on the top of the lunar EVA sunshade "hood", so as to allow easy identification of the commander while on the surface; on the Apollo 12 pictures, it had been almost impossible to distinguish between the two crewmen, causing a great deal of confusion. This feature was on Jim Lovell's Apollo 13 suit, but because of the accident, this was not used. It was used on the remaining three Apollo flights and is used on both the U.S. and Russian spacesuits on both the Space Shuttle and International Space Station.
* As of 2006, Mitchell is the only surviving member of the crew; Roosa died in 1994 from pancreatitis and Shepard in 1998 from leukemia.
* Roosa, who worked in forestry in his youth, took several hundred tree seeds on the flight. These were germinated after return to earth, and widely distributed around the world as commemorative Moon Trees.
* The mission was a personal triumph for Shepard, who had battled back from Ménière’s disease which grounded him from 1964 to 1968. He and his crew were originally scheduled to fly on Apollo 13, but in 1969 NASA Administrators switched the scheduled crews for Apollo 13 and 14. This was done to place the more experienced Apollo 8 veteran James Lovell in command of what would have been the first lunar landing attempt if both Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 had failed to successfully land.
* The crew got some good-natured razzing in the astronaut office as the first "all-rookie" Apollo crew (Shepard's 1961 flight on Freedom 7 was a suborbital flight). However, the problems they faced with docking and landing tested them as much as any prior or subsequent Apollo crew.

Mission insignia

The oval insignia shows a gold NASA Astronaut Pin, given to U.S. astronauts upon completing their first space flight, traveling from the earth to the moon. A gold band around the edge includes the mission and astronaut names. The designer was Jean Beaulieu.

The backup crew spoofed the patch with its own version, with revised artwork showing the Road Runner cartoon character on the moon, holding a U.S. flag and a flag labeled "1st Team," as a gray-bearded (for Shepard, who was 47 at the time of the mission and the oldest man on the Moon), pot bellied (for Mitchell, who had a pudgy appearance), red furred (for Roosa's red hair) Wile E. Coyote flies in place of the astronaut pin. The flight name is replaced by "BEEP BEEP" and the backup crew's names are given. Several were left as "gotchas" on the "Kitty Hawk."


"And it's been a long way, but we're here."
Alan B. Shepard, Jr, his first words on the moon. Unlike Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Apollo 12's Pete Conrad, Shepard had already gotten off the ladder and was a few meters from the LM.


Number in parentheses indicates number of spaceflights by each individual prior to and including this mission.

* Alan Shepard (2) - Commander
* Stuart Roosa (1) - Command Module Pilot
* Edgar Mitchell (1) - Lunar Module Pilot

Backup crew

* Gene Cernan - Commander
* Ronald Evans - Command Module Pilot
* Joe Engle - Lunar Module Pilot

Support crew

* Philip Chapman
* Bruce McCandless II
* William Pogue
* Gordon Fullerton

Flight directors

* Pete Frank, Orange team
* Glynn Lunney, Black team
* Milton Windler, Maroon team
* Gerald Griffin, Gold team

Mission parameters

* Mass: CSM 29,240 kg; LM 15,264 kg
* Perigee: 183.2 km
* Apogee: 188.9 km
* Inclination: 31.12°
* Period: 88.18 min

* Perilune: 108.2 km
* Apolune: 314.1 km
* Inclination: °
* Period: 120 min
* Landing Site: 3.64530° S - 17.47136° W or
3° 38' 43.08" S - 17° 28' 16.90" W

LM - CSM docking

* Undocked: February 5, 1971 - 04:50:43 UTC
* Docked: February 6, 1971 - 20:35:42 UTC


EVA 1 start: February 5, 1971, 14:42:13 UTC

* Shepard - EVA 1
* Stepped onto moon: 14:54 UTC
* LM ingress: 19:22 UTC

* Mitchell - EVA 1
* Stepped onto moon: 14:58 UTC
* LM ingress: 19:18 UTC

* EVA 1 end: February 5, 19:30:50 UTC
o Duration: 4 hours, 47 minutes, 50 seconds

EVA 2 start: February 6, 1971, 08:11:15 UTC

* Shepard - EVA 2
* Stepped onto moon: 08:16 UTC
* LM ingress: 12:38 UTC

* Mitchell - EVA 2
* Stepped onto moon: 08:23 UTC
* LM ingress: 12:28 UTC

* EVA 2 end: February 6, 12:45:56 UTC
o Duration: 4 hours, 34 minutes, 41 seconds

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