"Spaceflights are not miracles, but are directly related to technological engineering on the ground."

Astronaut James Lovell.

Apollo-12 | Apollo-13 | Australia pitches in to help 13 | Apollo-14 | Apollo-15 | Apollo -16

Australian talks to Astronauts | Apollo-17 | Woomera site closes

On to Epilog| Back to Index | My home page

After the world wide euphoria of Apollo 11, we all settled down to a regular routine of a mission roughly every two months. However, with Apollo 11 out of the way, there were signs that the end of manned flight as we had known it was in sight, even to those in the lowest ranks. The media began looking into the future but they couldn't see much there, except ways to cut the horrendous costs with proposals such as the shuttle reuseable spacecraft. Tentative plans and some funding were laid down for a manned mission to Mars, but that was to soon lose momentum.

Alan Blake, Tidbinbilla Transmitter Engineer remarked: "On the first Apollo mission there were people coming from everywhere to sit in the briefing room to watch the two television sets we had in there, and eventually these indistinct, blurred pictures with two white blobs which were supposed to be the astronauts appeared and the people sat there with the eyes glued to the screen you couldn't get them away. Later on, there were perfectly clear pictures, and when you walked past the briefing room there wasn't a soul in there."

Dr. Homer Newell, an Associate Administrator of NASA said: "After a mere 15 years of space activity, people have become blasé about the subject, and even the most difficult of accomplishments seem to be taken for granted, and extensive benefits in the fields of weather, communications, environment and resources tend to fade mentally into the background of the commonplace."

For us on the tracking stations, though, it was an extremely busy period; there was little time to wonder what the future held anyway that was somebody else's worry.

We had to get ready for Apollo 12.


APOLLO 12. 14 November 1969 - YANKEE CLIPPER Charles Conrad.

(AS-507/CSM-108/LM6) 24 November 1969. INTREPID Alan Bean.

Richard Gordon.

244 Hours 36 Minutes 25 Seconds or

10 Days 4 Hours 36 Minutes duration.

45 Lunar orbits in

3 Days 17 Hours 2 Minutes

31 Hours 31 minutes on Lunar surface.

Total of 2 EVAs: 7 Hours 46 Minutes.

Samples: 75 lb (34 kg)

Spacecraft Weight: 113,878 lb (51,655 kg)

Landing area: Ocean of Storms.

Charles Pete Conrad, Commander of the mission: "A lot of people thought we named the spacecraft after naval vessels like the USS Intrepid which we did not. There was a lot of controversy over the names because the military was not too popular in those days in the United States and some people accused us of using military names for our spacecraft when in fact they did not have the proper knowledge. North American Rockwell built the Command Module and we had people out there submit names for the spacecraft with twenty five words why the name. We had them do the same thing at Grumman Aircraft for the LM. I wanted to let the people that built them name them. Yankee Clipper was named after the US clipper ship, one of the first US ventures around the world in the maritime world. The guy at Grumman named the LM Intrepid based on the Webster's Dictionary definition of the word. We then picked the final names out of the lists."

Originally the Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 12 was listed to be Clifton Williams. Alan Bean was scheduled for the Apollo Applications Program, to follow Apollo. At the time Conrad and his crew were training for the first lunar landing as back up crew, but the game of musical chairs was still playing, and the music stopped again on October 5, 1967. Williams was flying home to see his dying father when his T-38 jet went into an uncontrollable roll and crashed, too low for his parachute to save him. Bean couldn't believe his ears when he heard his old mate Conrad asking him to join his crew as LM pilot.

Chris Kraft, Head of Flight Operations: "Launch has always been an uneasy time for me, and I always looked forward to successful separation from the booster. When one adds to this an apprehension caused by bad weather over the Cape, I become even more concerned. It turned out that all of the elements were present for Apollo 12."

As if to prepare this crew of navy aviators for the Ocean of Storms, Pad 39A was blanketed by rain when Apollo 12 launched into the 1,000 foot overcast cloud ceiling. Just after the huge Saturn V vanished into the murk, observers saw two bright blue streaks right where the rocket had been. Pete Conrad, space veteran who was Capcom at Carnarvon for Gemini III, showed his cool when 36 seconds after liftoff, at a height of 6,100 feet (1,859 metres), they were hit by lightning. Then at 52 seconds they were hit again. He calmly announced to the ground controllers: "Okay, we just lost the platform, gang. I don't know what happened here. We had everything in the world drop out.....fuel cell, lights, and AC Bus overload, one and two, main bus A and B out....Where are we going?"

"We've had a couple of cardiac arrests down here too," Houston commiserated.

Conrad: "I had a pretty good idea what had happened. I had the only window at the time the booster protector covered the other windows and I saw a little glow outside and a crackle in the headphones and, of course, the master caution and warning came on immediately and I glanced up at the panel and in all the simulations they had ever done they had never figured out how to light all eleven electrical warning lights at once by Golly, they were all lit, so I knew right away that this was for real.

Our high bit rate telemetry had fallen off the line so on the ground they weren't reading us very well on what was happening, so they got us to switch to the backup telemetry system. The ground then got a look at us and they could see that a bunch of things had fallen off the line, but there weren't any shorts or anything bad on the systems so we elected to do nothing until we got through staging. When we got through staging then we went about putting things back on line."

Down among the consoles in the Control Centers the steady flow of glowing figures from the spacecraft filing past on the screens were suddenly replaced by a meaningless jumble of characters. All the telemetry signals had dropped out! John Aaron was the flight controller in charge of the Command and Service Module electrical system, and he remembered a similar event from a previous practice run, so promptly called on the voice loop, "Flight, try SCE to Aux." In the spacecraft Bean obeyed Capcom Jerry Carr's instruction, and reached across to flip the Signal Condition Equipment switch, and order was restored to the television screens. Nothing serious seemed to have happened, so Conrad immediately switched to the battery powered stabilisation system, while Bean reset the fuel cells and power back on line in just 1 minute 40 seconds from launch. While still hurtling ever faster up into space, the crew had restored all the systems except the inertial measurement system, and that was set by the 32 minute mark as they shot into the darkness over Africa.

"The crew were about a step ahead of us," said the Flight Director Gerald Griffin, "and we helped them out a little bit to get some telemetry back.

Although there was some concern that the lightning may have affected some of the LM systems at launch, particularly the highly sensitive diodes of the landing radar, it homed in to a pinpoint landing on the target, Snowman Crater and the Surveyor III spacecraft with such accuracy, that after taking over Program 66 manual control at 400 feet (122 metres) Conrad had to sidestep the Surveyor crater: "Hey, there it is. Son of a gun, right down the middle of the road Hey, it started right for the centre of the crater. Look out there. I can't believe it... amazing..... fantastic...." an incredulous Conrad remembered how he had asked trajectory specialist Dave Reed to target Intrepid for the middle of the crater, not really believing he could do it. Apollo 12 used a new computer program called a Lear Processor to minimise navigational errors using the three big tracking stations on Earth to correct Intrepid's course, or it would have overshot the target by 4,190 ft (1,277 metres). Intrepid had landed 1,300 miles (2,092 km) west of the Apollo 11 landing site.

Conrad: "I think I did something I said I'd never do. I believe I shut that beauty off in the air before touchdown."

Capcom Jerry Carr in Houston: "Shame on you!"

Conrad: "Well, I was on the gauges. That's the only way I could see where I was going. I saw that blue contact light and I shut that baby down and we just hit from about 6 feet (1.8 m)."

Carr: "Roger. Break Pete. The Air Force guys say that's a typical Navy landing!"

Conrad: "It's a good thing we levelled off high and came down because, I sure couldn't see what was underneath us once I got into that dust."

At about a 100 feet (30 m) the rocket exhaust kicked up a raging dust storm and Conrad lost sight of the lurain under the shooting bright streaks of dust blasting away from under their feet. Eyes glued to the instrument panel, occasionally flicking to look out the window, he had no idea whether there were threatening craters or boulders below, or not. Once Intrepid was down, Gordon orbiting in Yankee Clipper 60 miles (96 km) above, searched through a 28 power telescope and spotted a speck of light with a shadow, then another speck nearby, about three hours after they landed:

Gordon: "I have...... I have Intrepid! I have Intrepid!"

"The Intrepid is just on the left shoulder of Snowman.....I see the Surveyor! I see the Surveyor!"

As soon as he could, an impatient Conrad leapt onto the LM's footpad with both feet: "Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but it's a long one for me!" and began looking around. While Bean was still in the Lunar Module, he called out, "You'll never believe it. Guess what I see sitting on the side of the crater the old Surveyor." The high spirited, exuberant Apollo 12 lunar excursions were a welcome contrast to the formal, tension filled, Apollo 11 lunar walk.

They had landed a mere 600 feet (182 metres) from Surveyor III, launched from Earth 31 months before. Their visit to it would have to wait for the next day, though, as the first task was to lay out all the equipment for the science experiments, known as ALSEP (Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package).

Conrad: "And the dust! Dust got into everything. You walked in a pair of little dust clouds kicked up around your feet. We were concerned about getting dust into the working parts of our spacesuits and the Lunar Module, so we elected to remain in our suits between our two EVA's"

Bean to Conrad: "Boy, you sure lean forward."

Conrad to Bean: "...don't think you're gonna steam around here quite as fast as you thought you were."

What would happen to an astronaut if he fell down on the moon? This was one of the worries of the mission planners. Conrad was the first astronaut to be able to answer that question in the first astronaut news conference from space: "I was trying to pick up something and I was just standing there next to Al. It was a rock that was just too big to go into the tongs. We had a sort of game we played there of leaning on tongs and sort of doing a one arm jabber-doo (a Conrad one-arm push up) all stretched out...... I just sort of rolled over on my side down there on the ground and Al, before I got all the way down, just gave me a shove back up again. I don't think it will be any problem, the business of falling against a rock and cutting your space suit. You don't fall that fast. You wouldn't hit a rock hard enough."

Bean backed him up: "When you start, you fall so slowly that it gives you plenty of time almost to turn around or catch your footing before you get low enough down before it's too late. I can recall a number of times when I lost my balance. If I had lost my balance that much on Earth, I would probably have fallen down. Now on the moon, since you start moving so slowly, you're usually able to spin around, bend your knees and recover."

One of the big disappointments of the mission was the camera breaking down after only 20 minutes. As Bean placed it in another spot, Nevil Eyre, video technician at Honeysuckle Creek was watching his screen: "I could see that Alan Bean was starting to point the TV camera at the sun, because it was getting very bright up in the top left corner of the screen then I could see it starting to peel away from the was like somebody holding a sheet of paper and putting a match to it no flames, just burning, rolling back in a boomerang shape and I wanted to scream at them to point the camera away from the sun. Even the Capcom in Houston didn't know what was happening, the message wasn't getting to Bean I just wanted to reach out with a quarter of a million mile arm and push it away. I just couldn't believe what they were doing and nobody telling them. I heard the Capcom say, 'We're not seeing any picture, see if you can bump it,' and Bean tapped it with his hammer. I knew that wasn't going to fix it I knew exactly what had happened. That was the end of any video pictures from the moon this mission."

The rest of the lunar activities were followed from the Earth only with sound. To us at the tracking station it was quite strange to only have black screens around, and the normally intensive video section with nothing to do. Luckily the personalities of Conrad, with his infectious chuckles and Bean with his enthusiastic descriptions, entertained us as they whooped, hummed, joked, and rollicked around, already quite at home in this alien new environment.

Following a thirteen hour rest period after the first day's activities, the two astronauts emerged from the tiny hatch again and noticed that the scene looked less dramatic the shadows had shortened and it looked much easier to get to the Surveyor spacecraft. They headed off, skirted around Head Crater and Bench Crater, before turning back at Sharp Crater. They picked up samples until they arrived at the Surveyor, and were surprised to find it a brown colour when they thought it had been white at launch. As they puzzled over where this brown had come from, the soil around being gray, Houston threw in: "Hey, Pete, do you think there is a chance you are at the wrong Surveyor!!?"

Replied Conrad, "No, sir. Boy, it sure dug in the ground, didn't it? Oh, look at those pad marks. They're still there."

Later Conrad wrote: "The Surveyor was coated with a coating of fine dust, and it looked tan, or even brown, in the lunar light, instead of the glistening white that it was when it left Earth. It was decided later that the dust was kicked up by our descent onto the surface, even though we were 600 feet away.

We cut samples of the aluminium tubing, which seemed more brittle than the same material on Earth, and some electrical cables. Their insulation seemed to have gotten dry, hard, and brittle. We managed to break off a piece of glass, and we unbolted the TV camera. Then Al suggested we cut off and take back the sampling scoop, and so we added that to the collection."

Back at the Lunar Module while waiting for Bean to hoist the samples up, Conrad said: "I feel just like a guy at a shopping centre with the groceries, waiting for his wife."

After stowing their rock collections they attempted to clean up the clinging lunar dust, "Man, are we filthy. We need a whisk broom," complained Conrad, frustrated with the impossible task of cleaning up the mess.

The second launch from the moon's surface went smoothly and Intrepid met Yankee Clipper with a now very happy Gordon waiting to welcome his mates. After being jettisoned, this was the first time the Lunar Module was driven into the lunar surface to exercise the ALSEP seismometers. Smashing itself to smithereens at 5,000 mph (8,046 kph), about 45 miles (72 km) from the Apollo 12 ALSEP seismometer, the geophysicists stared at their readouts in growing astonishment as the shock waves built up to a peak at 8 minutes, and died away over a period of 55 minutes. On Earth the same impact would have lasted about two minutes. Dr. Maurice Ewing of Lamont Observatory exclaimed, "It was as though one had struck a bell in a church belfry a single blow and its reverberation had continued for 55 minutes." This strange phenomenon was repeated with every heavy impact in subsequent missions on all the seismometers. An explanation for this is provided by Dr. Ross Taylor in the Appendix 2 of this book.

On the return journey the Apollo 12 astronauts were witness to the first eclipse of the sun by the Earth. The three astronauts watched a thin sliver of sun behind the black mass of the earth, and took the first photographs of the Earth's atmosphere backed by the sun. Alan Bean thought it was the most spectacular view of the whole flight. They landed in a rough Pacific Ocean on November 24, 2.5 miles (4 km) from the carrier Hornet, so rough that the 16 mm movie camera was flung out of its bracket and struck Bean above an eye, opening a gash requiring two stitches.



APOLLO 13. 11 April 1970 - ODYSSEY James Lovell.

(AS-508/CSM109/LM-7) 17 April 1970. AQUARIUS Fred Haise.

Jack Swigert.

142 Hours 54 Minutes 41 Seconds.

5 Days 22 Hours 54 Minutes duration

Pericynthion: 139 miles (224 km).

Fra Mauro was planned landing area.

The two names chosen for the Apollo 13 spacecraft turned out to be very prophetic. The Command Module was called Odyssey as Lovell liked the sound and felt it was going to be a long and eventful voyage, and the Lunar Module was called after the Egyptian God Aquarius, the bringer of fertility and life. Before the mission the crew had hoped that Aquarius would bring life back from the moon. After the mission they were glad it did!

Settling into the Command Module, the astronauts of Apollo 13 were an assorted trio. Lovell was a navy test pilot with more hours in space than any other human at the time, while the other two were civilians looking forward to their first trip into space. Haise, a serious family man, had been a journalist turned naval aviator, and now had the reputation as the top astronaut expert on the Lunar Module after spending fourteen months with Grumman, the builders. Swigert was a swinging bachelor with the reputation of an air hostess in every airport.

Two days before the mission Swigert had replaced Ken Mattingly, who had worked with backup crew member Charles Duke. Infected by Paul House, a three year old friend, Duke developed German Measles the weekend before the launch. As Mattingly was found to have no immunity to the disease, the doctors were afraid he might break out in a severe rash at the moment Lovell and Haise were on the moon, when swollen fingers and sore muscles could have slowed him up, particularly in an emergency. Because of the teamwork required by the crew, normally the whole crew would be changed, but as Duke was already out, they left Lovell and Haise, who had to intensify the training to develop the teamwork required with Swigert in only two days. In one of the many strange twists of fate in this mission, Swigert was trained as a specialist in malfunctions of the Command and Lunar Modules, as NASA Administrator Thomas Paine pointed out: "Swigert practically wrote the book on spacecraft malfunctions." Ironically, Mattingly never did break out with Rubella.

Originally scheduled for March 12, 1970, the Apollo 13 mission left Pad 39A at 2:13 pm Florida time (1313 Spacecraft 24 hour time!!) on April 11. There was trouble right away. Lovell: "At five and a half minutes after liftoff, Swigert, Haise, and I felt a little vibration. Then the center engine of the S-II stage shut down two minutes early. This caused the remaining four engines to burn 34 seconds longer than planned, and the S-IVB third stage had to burn 9 seconds longer to put us into orbit. No problem; the S-IVB had plenty of fuel."

Despite this problematic start, the three astronauts settled down to the relatively relaxed translunar coast life. The peace of the first Sunday was broken by an agitated Swigert calling Houston. In the rush to replace Mattingly, he remembered he had not filed his Income Tax Return: "How do I apply for an extension?" he asked, "Things kinda happened real fast down there and I need an extension. I'm really serious...."

"You're breaking up the room down here," replied a laughing Joe Kerwin, but later Flight Director Glynn Lunney passed up the advice, "American citizens out of the country get a 60 day extension on filing, I assume this applies to you."

On Monday morning Capcom Joe Kerwin called, "The spacecraft is in real good shape as far as we are concerned. We are bored to tears down here." This "boredom" was reflected in the world outside - a third lunar landing hardly drew any media attention, in fact all the television networks ignored the special television show put on by the astronauts. It wasn't long before this attitude was to change dramatically.

On Monday evening at about 8.25 pm the astronauts put on a television show, and finished with: "This is the crew of Apollo 13 wishing everybody a nice evening, and we're just about ready to close our inspection of Aquarius and get back for a pleasant evening in Odyssey. Goodnight."

Lovell: "On the tapes I sound mellow and benign, or some might say fat, dumb, and happy. A pleasant evening indeed! Nine minutes later the roof fell in......"

As they were copying down a message from Houston, on a control panel just above them a yellow caution light glowed to indicate a low pressure in a hydrogen tank in the Service Module. Back at Houston the same warning glared at electrical engineer Seymour Liebergot from the sloping panel of his console. As he had been working on the contents of the tanks he wasn't too concerned to see the light, as it could be a normal short term situation, but to make sure, Liebergot asked the astronauts to stir both the hydrogen tanks. As he had been having trouble reading the quantity in the oxygen tank #2, he suggested they stir the oxygen tanks too. Swigert operated the switches labelled H2 and O2 FANS to stir the contents of the tanks as requested.

Nobody knew that inside oxygen tank #2 wires had lost their insulation from an incident during a test two weeks before.

The Cortright Committee, specially formed to investigate the incident, found the following events led to this moment of the Apollo 13 disaster. This oxygen tank #2 had originally been made for Apollo 10, but had been returned to the workshop for improvements, and replaced by a new one.: "I have to congratulate Tom Stafford, John Young, and Gene Cernan, the lucky dogs, for getting rid of it," said Lovell. The frame holding the tanks to Apollo 10 was mounted by four bolts, but inadvertently only three were removed before a crane began to lift it out of the Apollo 10 Service Module. The workers watched the frame rise about 2 inches (5 cm) - and suddenly thud back - still held by the fourth bolt. Following normal procedures, all the tanks were checked out in due course, and all passed inspection.

So, eighteen months before launch, this was the beginning of the amazing series of incidents that led to the saga of Apollo 13.

Unknown to the engineers, this drop was enough to damage the tube assembly in the neck of the tank used to fill and empty the tank during tests on the ground. Once out in space, a different set of tubes were used to channel the oxygen to either the fuel cell, or to the cabin atmosphere. After a Count Down Demonstration Test (CDDT) in March, a test run to check out the launch procedures before every mission, technicians found they were unable to pump the super cold oxygen fluid from tank #2. Due to the damaged tube assembly being out of alignment, oxygen gas pumped in to remove the liquid oxygen was bypassing the tank contents and coming back out again, leaving the liquid contents behind.

Looking for a solution, the engineering team thought the quickest way to empty the liquid oxygen would be to boil it off using the heaters in the tank, so they called Mattingly and Lovell to seek their approval, assuring them it would be okay as these tubes were not used during the flight. Lovell queried the implications of putting a new tank in. The flight would probably be delayed by at least a month was the answer, so Lovell told them to go ahead with the old tank: "If you're all comfortable with this, then I am too."

Unfortunately everybody had forgotten that the original Apollo spacecraft worked on 28 volts of electricity, but after 1965 the spacecraft's' electrical systems had been modified to handle 65 volts from the ground test equipment. Somehow the thermostat switch in this oxygen tank missed being modified, so when it operated after the CDDT test, the higher voltage welded the contacts together so the heaters remained on for 8 hours, instead of cutting the power off at a temperature of 80F (27C.). This allowed the temperature inside the tank to climb to an estimated 1,000F (538C). As the monitoring thermometer only went to 85F (29.4C), no one was aware of this excessive heat, which burned the Teflon insulation of the wires in a motor driving the fan inside the tank.

The fate of Apollo 13 was now sealed in Oxygen Tank #2.

So at 2 days, 7 hours, 54 minutes, 53 seconds into the mission some of the liquid oxygen had been used, exposing the wiring. When Swigert switched the fans on, a spark arced between the wires a spark in pure oxygen sealed under a pressure of 900 psi (6,205 kPa) in the super tough spherical nickel alloy steel tank. It took less than 20 seconds for the resulting explosion to blow the tank apart ......... wreck the adjacent equipment in Bay 4 of the Service Module ........ and blow the external side panel out....... which clipped the main antenna as it hurtled out into space.

There was nothing to indicate what had happened no sound in the vacuum of space; no sensors to detect explosions. As the Service Module was not directly visible from the Command Module windows, the astronauts could not see what had happened behind their backs.

Just a shudder from the spacecraft.

The Flight Controllers in Mission Control had no idea what had happened, only that after the astronauts reported the spacecraft had jumped, strange indications began appearing on some of the Service Module's telemetry signals reporting temperatures, pressures, voltages, and equipment status. All three astronauts' pulse rates shot up to over 130.

Lovell: "Fred was still in the Lunar Module. Jack was back in the Command Module in the left hand seat. And I was half way in between in the lower equipment bay wrestling with TV wires and a camera watching Fred coming on down." Haise was crawling through the tunnel from the LM when he saw the wall of the tunnel flex, and felt the jar from the explosion. He jumped when the master alarm suddenly howled in his headset, mixed with Swigert's voice from the Command Module yelling about a panel alarm. Lovell: "Now, before that, Fred being in the Lunar Module, had actuated a valve which normally gives us the same sound.......since he didn't tell us about it, we all rather jumped. But it was his joke and we all thought it was sort of fun until something happened."

"It wasn't me!" Haise threw at Lovell's inquiring expression as he instinctively dived for his couch in the Command Module. Swigert tried to slam the hatch shut behind him, thinking the jolt might have come from the Lunar Module being hit by something. The astronauts knew a high speed object not much bigger than a grain of sand could rip open the flimsy skin of the LM and let their life supporting atmosphere vent out in moments. The hatch wouldn't lock shut, they were still alive, so they pushed it aside. Lovell: "It is interesting to note that days later, just before we jettisoned the Lunar Module, when the hatch had to be closed and locked, Jack did it - easy as pie. That's the kind of flight it was."

Swigert admitted, "It shook the spacecraft and scared the hell out of me. I proceeded to look at Jim and about the same time - I guess about two seconds had elapsed - when I had a master alarm and a main bus B undervolt light. I told Houston we had a problem and proceeded to go over to the right hand side of the spacecraft to look at the voltage..." He saw the B bus voltage supplying half the power to drive the spacecraft, drop right out. Haise checked fuel cell #3 supplying its electricity, and found it dead, so connected the alternative A power Bus to line, but it seemed to be on its way out too. A quick check of fuel cell #1 showed it was as dead as #3. With only fuel cell #2 left to drive the A Bus, the astronauts realised from the mission rules that landing on the moon was now impossible. Swigert called Houston with the now famous remark, "Hey, Houston, we've got a problem here."

"This is Houston - say again, please."

"Houston - we've had a problem. We've had a Main B Bus undervolt," Lovell explained.

"Roger. Main B undervolt. Okay, stand by, Thirteen, we're looking at it." Capcom Lousma answered for the Mission Control team.

In the Apollo 13 spacecraft, launched at 1313 hours, it was 9:08 pm on April 13. At Honeysuckle Creek it was 1308 hours (1.08 pm) on April 14.

Although it was the middle of the day at Honeysuckle Creek, around at Houston it was just after 9 pm on a pleasant clear evening. With three friends, Andy Saulietis had rigged up a telescope connected to a black and white television set on a roof of the Manned Spacecraft Center. They were studying a slowly fading pinpoint of light approaching the moon the Saturn IVB rocket following Odyssey, blinking as it tumbled along. While they watched, a bright spot appeared in the middle of the screen and over the next ten minutes grew into quite a bright ball. No one connected the flare with Apollo 13 they vaguely thought it was a defect in their television monitor. They left the rooftop quite oblivious to what they had witnessed the oxygen tank on Apollo 13 exploding, and in ten minutes spreading into a gaseous sphere over 30 miles (48 km) wide, glowing in the sunlight.

Inside the Mission Control Center none of the Flight Controllers sitting at their consoles were aware of what had happened either, as some of them began seeing abnormal indications coming down their telemetry channels strange readings from temperatures, pressures, voltages, and the status of various pieces of equipment. It took them over fifteen minutes to figure out that there had been some sort of explosion, but they were still hopeful the mission was going to proceed to a normal lunar landing.

As the engineer in charge of the Command and Service Module's electrical and environmental systems, Seymour Liebergot was now in the hot seat. He had heard the announcements from the spacecraft, and was already scanning his console readouts. He had little to work on, only displays of the electrical system on his console to look at. Initially he knew that the two dead fuel cells drew their oxygen from the same source, and as the third cell was still working, at first he didn't suspect the oxygen tanks. He was still trying to figure out why two fuel cells would fail. Then he saw that oxygen tank #2 was showing empty. Its contents had all gone! Half the oxygen for the cabin atmosphere and the spacecraft power for the mission had just gone - vanished. They hadn't even reached the moon.

He had never seen anything like this before in his two years on the console. Was it possible all these nightmare readouts on his console were a telemetry system failure? Perhaps the oxygen really was there in the tank.

"We may have an instrumentation problem, Flight. Let me add them up." Liebergot said hopefully into his headset.

"Rog." Kranz replied, equally hopefully.

All their training and simulations had always relied on backup systems to keep the mission going, nobody had been game enough to introduce a complete failure of all the power systems into the simulations. "This was so far down the line, if anyone had asked us to simulate it ahead of time we would all have said he was being unrealistic," one of the flight controllers said later.

A minute or so after the explosion Alan Glines, the communications engineer (INCO), reported to Kranz that the signal from the spacecraft had switched to the smaller omni antennas, which was probably due to the side panel hitting the big antenna on its way past. The weaker signal combined with the erratic behaviour of the spacecraft caused the receiver operators at Honeysuckle Creek and the other stations difficulty in holding onto the fluctuating signal.

Alan Foster on the receivers remembers: "The signal level dropped right down to about minus 140 db, I can remember struggling with it - it was pretty grim but we managed to keep in lock. They also went on to emergency voice and became hard to hear."

Then Lovell announced the voltage on the A Bus was beginning to drop. An uneasy silence fell on the voice loops.....

"Okay, Houston, are you still reading Apollo 13?" Lovell couldn't contain his anxiety any longer.

"That's affirmative," replied Lousma, "We are reading you. We're still trying to come up with some good ideas for you."

He looked appealingly at Kranz: "What can I tell them?" Kranz did not have an answer. Nobody had an answer.

Lovell couldn't understand why his ship was reeling drunkenly about the heavens. The thrusters were firing away trying to bring the spacecraft under control, but unknown to either the astronauts or the control system the explosion had knocked some of the thrusters out. Lovell took over manual control, but found no matter how he tried, he could do no better than the automatic pilot - the spacecraft seemed to have a mind of its own, always trying to veer away. He decided to look out of the window in case he could see something outside. As he swung himself onto the left seat and peered out, the sight that met his inquiring eyes formed a knot in his stomach - the sun was shining on a powerful stream of gas spurting out of the side of the Service Module: "Thirteen minutes after the explosion, I happened to look out of the lefthand window, and saw the final evidence pointing toward potential catastrophe. 'We are venting something out into the.....into space,' I reported to Houston."

"Roger, we copy you are venting," acknowledged Lousma. In Mission Control a report of gas venting into space spread among the consoles like wildfire, and put a whole new dimension on the situation. Liebergot suddenly put an empty oxygen tank and a cloud of gas around the spacecraft together with the jolt felt by the crew and called to Kranz: "Let me look at the system as far as venting is concerned."

Lovell looked back at the oxygen pressures again Tank #2 was still reading zilch, but now Tank #1 was only half full, and dropping! They weren't going to have enough oxygen to bring the ship back to Earth!

This was it! Lovell knew they were in trouble. But how serious was it? What had happened? Was it only oxygen gas squirting out into space? How long did they have? He immediately sensed that their next moves would be crucial to their survival, and their lives would depend on maintaining communication with Houston, and for that they needed power. There were only 15 minutes of battery power left in the Command Module. The Earth was over 90 hours away................

About the same time Liebergot also saw oxygen tank #1 contents disappearing before his eyes, and looking into the immediate future, momentarily felt sick in the stomach. What was going on up there? Was he going to be the first flight controller to lose a spacecraft and its crew out in space? "In all my life I have never felt so alone, as I did then. I didn't have the answers. We were on the point of losing everybody and everything."

Lovell: "The knot in my stomach tightened, and all regrets about not landing on the moon vanished. Now it was strictly a case for survival. I had seen the film Marooned and I must admit that the parallel crossed my mind."

What had to be done before the Command Module completely died? Would this crippled combination of a dead Command Service Module and a LM only designed to go down to the lunar surface and back with two people cope with demands and manoeuvres they were never designed for? There was little time left to make any plans........

Everybody was facing problems leading to more problems.

Except the Lunar Module systems people.......they were standing by; powered down with a perfectly good spacecraft waiting to arrive at the moon. Bob Haselmeyer, the Lunar Module's environmental systems man, was sitting quietly in front of his console listening to the activity around him with increasing interest. Slowly it began to dawn on him that if the Command Module did go down, his Lunar Module would probably be needed. He began to grope around for the emergency procedures.............

Liebergot decided to try the heaters and fans in oxygen tank #1 and hoped that the pressure would increase, but it stubbornly continued to drop. The Command and Service Module electrical engineer from the Maroon shift, John Aaron, was quietly shaving at home when the phone shrilled. It was Mission Control. He was soon back at the Center, roaming around the consoles, trying to piece together the puzzling clues coming down from the spacecraft. It wasn't long before he announced: "The CSM is dying." He decided it wasn't a leak, but something more serious such as an explosion which had wiped out the whole oxygen system. The unthinkable had happened there was no back up or redundant system to pull them out of this one. They were facing a major disaster in space. "You'd better think about getting into the Lunar Module and using the LM systems," Leibergot advised Kranz, forty seven minutes after the explosion.

Lovell and Haise had already decided to climb into the Lunar Module, leaving Swigert to wind down the Command Module. The last oxygen tank was nearly empty. Jack Lousma, the Capcom, told the astronauts, "Thirteen, Houston. We'd like you to start making your way over to the LM.." Swigert replied: "Fred and Jim are in the LM already." Lovell had joined Haise in the LM and were already throwing switches to bring the LM power up when Swigert yelled down the tunnel, "Houston wants the LM powered up."

Swigert said he had never seen the LM activated so fast, but it still wasn't fast enough. He had to turn the reentry battery on in the CSM on to keep the navigation guidance system going until the settings were transferred to the LM system. Just as Lovell set up a good alignment, the last fuel cell died. Lovell: "Getting that transfer was the first big turning point."

Houston told Swigert to close the Command Module down. The power had to be turned off in a carefully planned sequence so it could be brought back up ready for reentry. Normally the Command Module power was never turned off during a mission. He turned off the last switch, looked around the lifeless cabin no cosy lights, no friendly voices from the radio, no gurgling from pipes or whirring of fans their cheerful home of a moment ago was just dark and dead 207,000 empty miles from Earth, and racing away from it at 2,100 miles per hour (3,380 kph)!

He floated into the LM, and said to Lovell and Haise, "It's up to you now." He suddenly felt lost. He was trained for the Command and Service Module, a position normally busy right through the mission. Now he could only watch the other two expertly bringing the LM to life. The last few hours had been fast and furious, crammed with momentous life threatening it was just waiting....for what?

Haise said that he lost all track of time during those hectic five hours. It was more like a dream than reality because of the jolt from the security of comfort and order to the onslaught of unexpected events and fleeting images and feeling very vulnerable to the hostile environment of empty space. Dead tired, he was the first to drag himself into the Command Module to sleep soundly for the next five hours.

Kranz and his White Team were coming to the end of their shift. After an extra hour on duty they handed over to Glynn Lunney and the Black Team, and went to the back to study data from the spacecraft. Kranz decided to step out of the Houston shift sequence and head a Tiger Team to concentrate on the engineering and procedures to get the crippled spacecraft and its crew back home. There were no procedures to refer to, no simulations to fall back on even the emergency procedures didn't cover losing all three Command Module fuel cell power sources this was all innovation in real time with three real lives at stake.



Author: "I was operating the ranging system, which measures the distance and speed of the spacecraft, when I heard Swigert send his call, and then listened as the flight controllers sent a barrage of instructions up to the spacecraft, punctuated by terse responses from the astronauts. At that stage we did not know it was a life threatening situation."

We became aware of the seriousness of the problem when out of the blue Houston called the operations supervisor at Honeysuckle Creek and asked, "How long would it take to get Parkes up?"

"Parkes isn't committed to this mission," Mike Dinn informed them.

"Oh, then Mr. Kraft will be calling your Director on the phone shortly, " Houston replied.

Honeysuckle Creek Station Director Don Gray: "I was sitting in my office listening to this conversation on the net, and in moments the phone rang. Chris Kraft said to me 'We have a serious problem on the spacecraft; it looks like we are going to have to power down and will need all the antennas we can get. Do what you can to get Parkes up as soon as possible.'

First of all I called Tom Reid, the Director at Tidbinbilla, to organise a crew to go to Parkes, then I rang John Bolton at Parkes to find he was already aware of the problem and was prepared to change the antenna over to support the NASA signals."

At the Deep Space Station at Tidbinbilla the request took Tom Reid by surprise: "What are you talking about? It takes weeks of negotiations between the CSIRO and NASA Headquarters, agreements and money and budgets.' Then I got a black phone call , 'Hey look, we've got a problem on board the spacecraft this is a serious thing, think again about how soon you can do it never mind about budgets and money.'

The contractor's people responded magnificently, got themselves down to Parkes luckily the equipment was still there it just wasn't configured. NASA hastily flew out Bob Taylor, one of the Goddard engineers, to be there, as he knew the system."

Dr. John Bolton, then Director of Parkes: "I was listening to the conversation between Houston and James Lovell, and as had been my habit, had thoroughly digested the flight plan. I realised that the only solution was to occupy the lander and use its facilities. The very low power (from the spacecraft) and the fact that the journey would be in Parkes coverage time meant we would certainly be called in. I rang Tom Reid, the Director of Tidbinbilla, with whom I had an excellent relationship, to ask for the NASA crew to be sent in; I rang Taffy (Dr. E.G. Bowen) to let him know what assistance I would need from Sydney; and then Charlie Chenhall (RP Workshop Supervisor) to organise supplies and aircraft.

Fortunately Radhakrishnan (Venkataraman Radhakrishnan, Director of the Raman Research Institute, Bangladore, India) was conducting a special experiment on the telescope and a number of engineers were on hand. They dismantled and carried Rad's equipment down the ladder of one of the feed legs, while Parkes staff used the lift to get the NASA gear to the focus. We accomplished in 10 hours what normally took close to a week."

Bruce Window, Tidbinbilla USB Supervisor: "It was about 6 pm. I was working on shift at Tidbinbilla when we were cranked up straight away to get to Parkes in a hurry in a light aircraft, one with a propeller at the front and back (a Cessna 337). It was a hairy trip. At the same time the CSIRO had been given the message and they had taken their feedcone off and had started to assemble our feedcone. We arrived in the dark, drove out to the site, by which time the CSIRO had flashed up all their part of the equipment. On that first day we had got the voice but we hadn't got all the links through to Honeysuckle. I can remember holding the cable and shouting in frustration, 'I've got the stuff in my hand here but I can't do anything with it!!'

Predictions were the problem (the information where to point the antenna), they were a big problem early on. We just had to rely on predictions from NASA. John Bolton and his boys had to work around them as much as they could. We didn't get any really good data from Parkes that first night. They were relying heavily on us because of the improved quality of signal they were able to up the bit rate by one step with our signal from what they were

getting from the 26 metre dishes (such as Honeysuckle) that was why they needed us at Parkes. We worked 16 hour days."

Kevyn Westbrook, Officer in Charge of the Deakin Switching Centre in Canberra: "I was relaxing at home in the evening when I had a phone call from the shift supervisor at the time to say there was a problem, so I immediately went in to find that Apollo 13 really was in trouble. Next there was a call from the Network Manager in the States to say they wanted two things immediately they wanted to activate the lines to Parkes, and the second one, which was a bit more difficult, was to get some kind of broadband communication between the Carnarvon OTC Earth station and the Carnarvon Tracking Station. They wanted everything they could get.

I worked out I still had a few friends left in the PMG (now Telstra) in Western Australia who could help us out. So, by 4 o'clock in the morning I dragged one of my friends out of bed, and he said, 'Oh, I think I have got an OB (Outside Broadcast) link we could use, I'll see what I can do give me a call back in an hour.' When I called him back he said, 'Yes, I've organised it, two OB vans will be leaving the depot in Perth for Carnarvon at 8 o'clock this morning, as soon as the guys get to work.' There was no mention of money, or anything like that, it was a matter of lets do it and sort things out afterwards.

At the same time I got cracking with the PMG. Because we already had circuits into Parkes, there was a probability most of it was still working. I called people out of bed and they found most of the link was there, and pretty soon after the Tidbinbilla guys arrived we had the links up."

Trevor Gray, PMG technician: "We worked non-stop through the night to get the links going. After Apollo 11 we had trouble with the connections exploding when we switched the equipment on because of the high voltage and moisture getting in, so we had left the equipment switched on, but then all the valves had deteriorated, and we were frantically trying to find the sick valves and change them before we could get the links going."

Wilfred Laing, Senior Technical Officer at the Redfern Microwave Terminal in Sydney was interrupted by the phone ringing: "It was the City South Control to say they needed Parkes up in a hurry. I rang through to Parkes to find they were already setting their end up. Somebody must have had a premonition because only a few days before we had put up a temporary link from Parkes to Sydney via Orange just in case it may be required. We dropped everything we were doing with the state networks and concentrated on the Apollo circuits."

The moment the astronauts brought the LM communications system on line it clashed with the Saturn IVB rocket following them, as they were both on the same frequency. Because the Apollo 12 mission had left a seismometer on the moon, the Saturn IVB was organised to crash on the moon for seismic readings, and extra batteries were added for communications to last until impact. With both the Saturn IVB and Lunar Module transmitters on the same frequency it was the same as having two radio stations on the same spot on the dial of your radio. Which one does it try to lock onto?

John Saxon, Operations Supervisor at Honeysuckle Creek: "When I walked through the door at the beginning of my shift, all hell was breaking loose. The LM was on the same frequency as the SIVB third stage rocket. In the normal flight plan there was no possibility that the LM and the Saturn IVB would be on at the same time, as the Saturn IVB was planned to crash on the lunar surface before the LM is powered up. Unfortunately both vehicles were in our antenna beamwidth, both on the same frequency."

Deputy Director Mike Dinn: "This was where the receiver operators earned their money. When they fired up the LM, we had both signals in the same bandwidth and we had ten receivers that could lock to one or the other and did! Before the mission I had foreseen the possibility of our having to cope with the Saturn IVB and the LM together. There was nothing written down in the procedures and I remember calling Goddard, our technical advisors, to discuss what we might do, and we agreed there would be no difficulty in "pulling" the frequencies apart by tuning the station transmitters appropriately. I was used to this procedure in the Deep Space Network in the early years of lunar and planetary exploration. Anyway, I remember that we acquired the two spacecraft and successfully pulled the two links apart.

Then Houston asked us to tune the frequency of one transmitter and I immediately recognised this would bring all the frequencies back together again. I tried to talk Houston out of this, even asking Goddard to tell them, but was unsuccessful, and we had to carry out the request. The problems we knew would happen, occurred."

John Mitchell, USB Shift Supervisor: "Back when Apollo 1 had the fire, during the long suspension period that followed we used to hire a Cessna 210 and practice handovers and that sort of thing, and down the road when Dinn was looking for emergency procedures I put up the theory that what happens if the Saturn IVB signal does keep going for some reason? So I proposed the theory of getting the LM to switch off and we practiced that time and time again with the aircraft. I told Mike Dinn that this was the way to go."

From his previous discussions with Goddard, Dinn agreed: "I advised Houston that the only way out of this mess was to ask the astronauts in the LM to turn off its signal so we could lock on to the Saturn IVB, then turn the LM back on and pull it away from the Saturn signal."

Mitchell: "They came back in an hour and told us to go ahead, and Houston transmitted the instructions up to the astronauts "in the blind" hoping the astronauts could hear, as we didn't have the downlink (we couldn't hear them). The downlink from the spacecraft suddenly disappeared, so we knew they got the message. When we could see the Saturn IV downlink go way out to the prescribed frequency, we put the second uplink on, acquired the LM, put the sidebands on, locked up and tuned away from the Saturn IVB. Then everything worked fine."

The American station at Goldstone was also tracking at the moment of the explosion, and quickly formed a team to analyse the telemetry information they had just recorded, particularly the last few moments before the explosion. Bill Wood, lead USB Engineer: "We were able to read all bits up to signal loss by recording the data at a high speed of 60 inches per second and playing it back at 3½ inches per second. Then we rolled the chart paper onto the control room floor and counted the frames of data by eye to find out what each parameter was reading up to the signal loss, and what things looked like right after the signal was reacquired. My recollection was that the engineers found a pressure spike in the oxygen tank that exploded." The telemetry showed the pressure shot up to 1,008 psi (6,950 kPa) for two seconds before dropping to zero in the next two seconds.

Head of Flight Operations, Chris Kraft came out and grimly told the media, "This is as serious a situation as we have ever had in a manned spaceflight." People around the world, already blasé about moon missions, suddenly became engrossed in this gripping drama from space as the world's media wound themselves up for this journalists' manna from the Apollo program. Everybody was wondering would they come back alive?

By now Lovell was having to rotate the spacecraft manually to keep the temperatures even over the spacecraft. Normally the Command Module did this automatically, but it was dead. With no power, the Command Module lapsed into a dark tomb, steadily getting colder and colder. Beads of moisture formed over all the surfaces, crusting the windows. Occasional flashes of sunlight through the windows pierced the darkness lit only by their torches. Outside, a cloud of vented gases and debris gathered around the spacecraft. Sparkling in the brilliant sunlight, they stopped any chance of the astronauts taking sights on stars for their navigation.

Getting on a path to come home was the next task. Glynn Lunney and his Black team began figuring out procedures that had never been considered before. Apollo 13 was on a special trajectory to take them to their landing point on the moon, which did not slingshoot them back to the Earth it would have put them in an egg shaped Earth orbit, missing the Earth by more than 40,000 miles (64,370 km), and the spacecraft would become a permanent tomb circling the Earth. They had to do a burn but the big SPS motor designed for the job was in the damaged Service Module, and it was now dead. Nobody was game to try using it, as it may have been damaged. Would the LM descent motor do the job? Everyone was aware that nothing in the lunar module had been designed for the tasks coming up. Lovell: "The spacecraft was doing things I had never seen before. The LM was never designed to have a 60,000 lb (27,216 kg) dead Command and Service Module attached to it, so I literally had to learn to fly the vehicle all over again."

While Houston were figuring out the rocket's burn times, Lovell and Haise were wrestling with an uncontrollable spacecraft, trying to stabilise it and get away from the glittering debris enveloping them. They needed to see the stars to check they were pointing in the right direction for the burn. Every ruse failed. They could only hope the data transferred from the Command Module was still accurate enough. "Roger, Aquarius, You are go for the burn," Capcom Lousma finally announced.

First of all Lovell had to remember to unfold the LM's legs so they wouldn't get blasted by the descent rocket's flames. Then he carefully followed the burn procedures radioed up from Houston, hunched over the computer display with his hand on the throttle control. The engine burned for a fraction over the scheduled 30 seconds. "Auto shutdown." Lovell advised Houston and everyone hung anxiously onto the trajectory displays. Was the LM motor able to do the job? Was Apollo 13 coming home?

Soon the tracking data showed that the burn was perfect. Apollo 13 was going to round the moon at about 130 miles (209 km) instead of 60 miles (97 km) above the surface and would return to Earth ........ in the Indian Ocean. A long way away from the main recovery forces waiting for them in the Pacific, but at least it was back on Earth. The nearest US ship was the destroyer Bordelon, cruising off the coast of Mauritius, but the American Defense Department sent assurances they could get aircraft to the area. Due to the growing confidence in the Apollo program this was the first mission secondary recovery forces had not been sent to the South Atlantic, let alone the Indian Ocean. Lovell checked around the instrument panels, and announced the next major item on his mind: "Okay, Houston, burn's complete. Now we have to talk about powering down."

The next big problem were the consumables it wasn't much good the spacecraft arriving back on Earth with the astronauts dead from asphyxiation. The LM was only designed for two people for 45 hours, now it was going to have to support three bodies jammed in it for 90 hours. There just wasn't enough water or power to last the voyage back to Earth. Lovell figured that the earliest they could get back would be around midnight on Friday; and he couldn't see how the LM could possibly keep them going that long.

Kranz and his Tiger Team knuckled down to working out how to cut all consumables down to a basic existence level. There was enough oxygen, but the biggest worry was the water. Apart from consumption by the astronauts, it was used to keep the LM systems cool; crucial because without cooling the electronic systems would overheat and burn out. Earlier tests had shown that the LM could survive for about 7 hours without cooling before the guidance system was the first to succumb to the heat. Haise calculated the LM would run out about five hours before reaching the Earth. By winding down the LM systems until only a fifth of the normal power was used they calculated they just might make it.

Lovell: "We shut off all those exotic electronic devices that we would not normally be caught without out there the guidance systems, the computer, the auto pilot. We only had the radio for communications and a little fan to circulate the atmosphere."

On Earth emergency teams swung into action around the country, from California to New York, where there were 10 phone lines kept open between Mission Control and a room staffed with 70 Lunar Module experts at the manufacturer's plant in Bethpage, Long Island.

On Tuesday, April 14, the US Senate adopted a resolution urging all communications media and businesses to pause at 9 pm, their local time, to "permit persons to join in prayer for the safety of the astronauts." On the same day President Nixon cancelled his appointments and drove out to the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland, accompanied by Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, at the time Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, to find out the details of how the mission was progressing.

Despite the cold war, the Russians ordered four ships to the splashdown area, and Premier Aleksei Kosygin sent a message, "I want to inform you the Soviet Government has given orders to all citizens and members of the armed forces to use all necessary means to render assistance in the rescue of the American astronauts."

Houston began working on speeding up the return trip with another burn of the LM's descent motor. Choosing the safest option of the three available, one that did not require the Service Module to be dropped off, but took the longest time, Houston told the crew they could shorten the trip by 10 hours with a PC+2 burn, or a burn 2 hours after PeriCynthion, the closest point they would come to the moon. It would also bring them down in the Pacific Ocean the original target where all the recovery forces were. Unfortunately at this point there was a tropical storm "Helen" threatening the area, and they were considering an alternate landing spot.

By now the moonlight was flooding into the spacecraft's interior and the astronauts were able to put their torches away. They had cut their consumption of water down to 6 ounces (170 grams) per day. As Houston told them to save the LM's water for cooling, Lovell told Swigert to transfer all the drinking water from the Command Module to the LM, which he did using plastic juice bags, but he sloshed some of the water into his boots, and suffered cold wet feet for the rest of the trip. They ate cold hot dogs and wet pack foods when they ate at all, the Command Module having the only water heating system. All the food and drinks were cold refrigerator cold! They didn't get very thirsty and became quite dehydrated. This crew set a record by losing 50% more weight than any other crew, Lovell losing 14 lb (6 kg).

As they were going around 139 miles (224 km) above the back of the moon, Haise and Swigert were glued to the Command Module's windows gazing in awe at the grim and desolate landscape of chaotic craters and torturous rilles, taking photographs and exclaiming, "Wow, look at that!"

"Hey, you guys come on we've got a burn to do. If we don't get this right you won't get your pictures developed!" Lovell had seen it all before on Apollo 8.

"It's all right for you you've been here before we haven't." The other two couldn't take their eyes from the passing spectacle. For 25 minutes they swung around the moon and prepared for the LM's descent rocket to bring them home faster. While they were waiting Houston called up, "By the way, Aquarius, we see the results of Apollo 12's seismometer. Looks like your third stage just hit the moon." Lovell answered, "Well, at least something worked on this flight. Sure glad we didn't have a LM impact too!" The Saturn IVB smashed into the lunar surface at 7:09 pm, April 14, 87 miles (140 km) west north west of the Apollo 12 seismometer with a force equal to 11 tons of TNT. Dr. Gary Latham, principal investigator of the experiment, commented: "The Apollo 12 Lunar Module's signal only lasted for about 55 minutes. This signal arrived about 30 seconds after impact, the peak amplitude was a factor of 20 to 30 times larger than the LM, and lasted for 4 hours, which was astounding to us."

Swigert sat on the ascent engine cover during the 4 minute 24 second burn, which increased their speed by 600 mph (966 kph): "Now we were really on our way home I felt much better about our chances."

It became a matter of waiting. And how the time dragged! Lovell: "It was very quiet .... very quiet. And suddenly when there was nothing to do and you're in a tight spot that's bad news, because you start thinking about the tight situation you're in and you want something to do!"

In the computer room at Honeysuckle Creek it was anything but quiet. Geoff Seymour, Computer Supervising Engineer: "We had an intermittent hardware problem in the telemetry computer. Prior to the launch we had experienced this problem and at one stage they were anticipating delaying the launch until we could fix the problem, but the computer managed to stay up long enough for the launch to go ahead.

Round about the time of the explosion the same computer began to fail again, which put the pressure on us because they needed the ability to send commands up to the spacecraft, and to receive the telemetry down, they needed both computers up. We began to troubleshoot this computer and managed to narrow it down to three printed circuit boards on one chassis. We replaced those, but it didn't solve the problem. I stayed on site, sleeping in one of the bedrooms below until we fixed it. As the spacecraft rounded the moon and was coming back the NASA engineers decided to ship out a chassis from the computer in the training facility in Goddard and strapped it into a first class seat on an airliner.

We believed we could fix it before the chassis arrived from the States. The only thing left for us to do was to take the chassis out of the computer and we removed several hundred printed circuit boards, we cleaned every socket in the chassis, we cleaned every pin on every printed circuit board we could remove we put it all back in, and from that day onwards the intermittent problem just went away."

Out in space a new development threatened the astronauts. A light warned them that the carbon dioxide had built up to a dangerous level, and in the confines of the LM they would have eventually gone to sleep and died, poisoned by their own breath. So Ed Smylie and Jim Correale of the Crew Systems Division at Houston figured out a way to adapt the Command Module lithium canisters, which clean the carbon dioxide from the air, to the LM's system with the materials available on board such as tape, plastic, and cardboard. Astronaut Tony England tried the procedure by putting one together by oral instructions only. The crew began to assemble the canisters at 3.30 am on April 15. "Jack and I put it together it wasn't very handsome, but it worked," said Lovell.

Nevil Eyre on the video at Honeysuckle: "The bit that sticks in my mind on this mission is Houston relaying the instructions to the astronauts on what to do to modify the lithium canisters, and wanting to use the video to see what these guys were doing. "No, no that's not the way to do it yes, yes that's the way you do it.' I recall the light was very poor, the picture was very dark and they were having trouble seeing the images. Because of the low light the picture was very noisy, it was hard to get any detail but they got it right eventually."

In the Australian Senate, Apollo 13 caused enough concern to be raised as questions on April 15 and April 16.

Senator Murphy on April 15, 1970: "My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. Can you tell us what the latest information is on Apollo 13?"

Senator Anderson: "I had in mind to seek leave to make a statement a little later on, but as what has happened in the last 24 hours is a matter of topical interest in fact, it is a matter of national interest with the concurrence and the indulgence of the Senate I shall give some facts about it."

The President of the Senate: "Do you propose to do it now?"

Senator Anderson: "Yes, I think I will do it against the background of the question. At about 1:10 pm yesterday our time there was a failure of one of the Apollo Command and Service Module's two power supplies. The cause of the failure is not yet known but it resulted in rapid loss of pressure in a liquid oxygen tank and a failure of the two fuel cells. A decision was then made not to land on the moon but to return to Earth as soon as possible. The Lunar Module is providing all the necessary power for the time being. The Command and Service Module and the Lunar Module, still locked together, are now out of lunar orbit and on their way back to Earth. The scheduled time of landing in the Pacific is about 3:15 am AEST on Saturday.

It is interesting to be able to tell the Senate and the people of Australia that a small army of dedicated Australians worked throughout the night to install microwave links enabling the 210 foot (64 metre) radio telescope of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation at Parkes to assist the return voyage of the Apollo 13 spacecraft. Parkes, within hours after a request by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, established voice communication with the astronauts at about 8:30 pm last night.

Teams from the Post Master General's Department and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, assisted by personnel from Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd., installed temporary microwave circuits from Parkes to Coonambro and from Red Hill in Canberra via Williamsdale to Honeysuckle Creek. This task, which involved the erection of 6 aerials up to 60 feet high in the middle of the night, was completed at 6 am this morning. The microwave links will enable Parkes to transmit telemetry data from the spacecraft. Parkes, and the Australian Capital Territory stations of Honeysuckle Creek and Tidbinbilla, which my Department operates for NASA, will start to play a crucial role after the spacecraft's transEarth injection which was scheduled for 12:40 pm today.

The Australian Capital Territory complex was to acquire Apollo at about 3 pm today, so we are hoping that it has done so by now. Parkes will acquire Apollo, we hope, by about 5 o'clock this afternoon. The transmission and evaluation data from the spacecraft through these three establishments will assist the Mission Control Center at Houston in the United States to check the accuracy of the flight path to Earth and to determine any mid course correction manoeuvres which may be necessary. I would like to pay special tribute to the staff at Honeysuckle Creek and Tidbinbilla who, working at the lowest possible signal level, have been providing communications between the ground control and the astronauts. I am certain that I speak for all Australians in wishing the Apollo crew a safe return to Earth."

During the afternoon of April 15, not long after they had entered the influence of the Earth's gravity field, everyone at Mission Control slid to the edge of their seats and grappled with another heart stopping report from Haise: "I just heard a little thump, sounded like down in the descent stage, and I saw a new shower of snowflakes come up." Another explosion! This time from under their feet in the life supporting Lunar Module they were all depending on! More debris gathered around the two stricken spacecraft. What had exploded? Would the flimsy LM, built to be as light as possible, break open and leave the astronauts exposed to the deadly vacuum of space?

Anxiously scanning their telemetry readouts the systems engineers quickly spotted the current from LM battery #2 was dropping steadily. Don Abraham, from the Mission Evaluation Room, figured out that hydrogen and oxygen gases had built up in the battery's lid until the pressure blew it off. The battery was still working, though its power dropped, and the other three batteries automatically compensated for the loss. After consulting with the manufacturers, the engineers decided that the batteries were going to last comfortably until the end of the mission.

Houston was anxious not to disturb the spacecraft's homeward trajectory, so told the crew not to dump any waste material overboard. This meant they had to find a way to store their urine on board. They found three bags in the Command Module and six little ones in the LM, plus by using some tanks associated with their EVA suits they managed to keep ahead of the flow. "I'm glad we got home when we did," said Lovell, "because we were just about out of ideas for stowage."

As Apollo 13 raced home the trajectory engineers began to grow frowns as they spotted the tracking data was indicating the spacecraft were gently drifting away from the critical entry corridore. What was causing this insidious drift? Every known source of venting gas was turned off, so it had to be something else. From later investigation the Lunar Module's environmental engineers concluded it must have been caused by wisps of steam drifting off the LM's cooling radiator, which under normal circumstances would not have been noticed in the short, sharp dash down to the moon's surface and back. When the error crept up to nearly a hundred miles (161 km) it was time to do something, or the astronauts in their spacecraft would bounce out of the atmosphere and go off into solar orbit: " become a permanent monument to the space program," as Lovell wryly put it.

The flight controllers were reluctant to fire the LM's descent engine again. Helium was normally used to force the fuel into the engine combustion chamber, and the LM engineers were watching the pressure slowly building up in the storage tank. At 1,800 lb per square inch (12,411 kPa) a safety membrane would blow out to relieve the pressure. Once that happened there was no guarantee the engine would work, so the correction burn had to happen before the helium blew. Late during Wednesday evening Capcom Vance Brand called Apollo 13:

"We don't want to power up the spacecraft completely, so that means no computer or mission timer. We'll simply go with a manual burn, with you controlling the engine with the Start and Stop switches. For attitude, what we're going to want to do is manually orient the spacecraft to place the Earth in the centre of your window. If you hold it there throughout the burn, the attitude will be correct. Got that?"

"Roger, I think so," Lovell confirmed thoughtfully, remembering back in Apollo 8 they had tried just such an exercise to see if they could steer the spacecraft into the reentry corridore with no help from the navigation systems. Houston planned to burn the LM's descent motor when they were just entering the influence of the Earth's gravity, and still moving relatively slowly. Using Swigert's wrist watch, they timed the burn manually for 14 seconds at 10% power, during which Lovell and Haise steered the spacecraft to keep the crosshair of the optical sight in their windows parallel with the Earth's terminator, or sunset line, which meant they should be aiming straight for the reentry corridore again. Three and a half hours later, at 2 am, the helium pressure reached 1,921 lb (13,245 kPa) and blew the safety membrane out, sending another thump through the spacecraft and a shower of sparkling crystals to join the cloud of debris shepherding Apollo 13 through space. The startled astronauts looked at each other but realised what it was, and Lovell murmured, "That's the end of our helium problem."

It became so cold in Odyssey that sleep was impossible. Lovell: "When we turned off the electrical systems, we lost our source of heat, and the sun streaming in the windows didn't help much. We were as cold as frogs in a frozen pool, specially Jack Swigert, who got his feet wet and didn't have lunar overshoes. It wasn't simply that the temperature dropped down to 35F (1.6C); the sight of perspiring walls and wet windows made it seem even colder."

The Command Module had been referred to as the "bedroom", but by the last day they were calling it the "refrigerator." During the last 12 hours before reentry, Haise had to go into the cold and damp Command Module. When he returned, it took him four hours in the LM before he stopped shivering. He ended up trying to sleep in his sleeping bag in the tunnel between the two spacecraft, with his head in the LM, which was much warmer at 50F (10C).

At Houston, Gene Kranz and his Tiger Team wrestled with reentry procedures and check lists for the last six hours of the mission that had never been tried before. Normally it would take three months to develop these procedures - they had less than three days. Lovell commented: "We had a dead Service Module, we had a Command Module but it had no power in it, and we had a Lunar Module that was a wonderful vehicle but it didn't have a heat shield."

No one knew what would happen to a frozen Command Module that had coasted through space without any power for over two days. "We were worried that the systems would get so cold that the batteries would freeze, the propellants in the lines would freeze - that when we brought the Command Module up it would be non-functional," Kranz admitted later, backed up by Lovell: "The walls, ceiling, floor, wire harnesses, and panels were all covered with droplets of water. The chances of short circuits caused us apprehension, to say the least. But thanks to the safeguards built into the Command Module after the disastrous fire in January, 1967, no arcing took place. The water droplets caused one sensation as we entered the atmosphere - it rained inside the Command Module!"

Ken Mattingly, who should have been on board Apollo 13, was everywhere at once, trying to help the various systems develop their procedures and try them out in the simulators.

When they were ready he tried the new procedures with John Young in the simulator. It was Thursday evening before they were ready to send up to Apollo 13. Mattingly then spent two tedious hours reading to a very tired Swigert as he copied them down holding a flashlight between his teeth. Then followed another hour of LM procedures to Haise. In the time it took them to write the procedures down, they covered 60, 000 miles (96,558 km). Swigert said, "....we would never have got back without that checklist." There was no second chance it had to be right the first time as the spacecraft hurtled towards that narrow door into the Earth's atmosphere with its speed building up to 24,000 mph (38,623 kph).

It was now 11 pm 6½ hours before they were due to start using them. They tried to get some rest, Lovell reporting: "Haise is lying in the tunnel with his head on the ascent engine cover, Swigert is lying on the floor in a sleep restraint." They had been averaging three hours of disturbed sleep a day.

Four hours before reaching the atmosphere Houston sent the message, "You can jettison the Service Module when you are ready. No big rush, but any time." Lovell and Haise manned the Lunar Module, while Swigert fired the Service Module separation bolts from the Command Module. Lovell had suggested to Swigert that he put a label over the switch to jettison the LM in case he threw the wrong switch, and sent his mates off to be incinerated in the brief meteor the LM was to become!

Lovell then backed the LM and Command Module away from the dead carcass of the Service Module. Swigert tried each of the Command Module windows but saw nothing. Lovell swung the spacecraft around and he and Haise peered out of the Lunar Module's windows and also saw nothing - no sign of the big cylindrical Service Module. Lovell was scanning the velvet black sky when he stiffened as he became aware of a huge silver shape silently sliding into view, slowly rolling to reveal a great gash in the side, with tendrils of wire and entrails gently waving about. Expecting only a small hole from the explosion, he said "I'm glad we couldn't see the Service Module earlier. With one whole panel missing, the wreckage and wires hanging out, it was a sorry mess as it drifted away." Then Haise yelled "I can see it out my window," so Swigert rushed down the tunnel, stuck his camera to the LM window and managed to get some shots, even though by then it was beginning to tumble. Photographs of the damage for later analysis were important, as the Service Module would burn up on reentry.

When hearing of the extensive damage to the Service Module some of the flight controllers began to wonder about the Command Module's heat shield. Had it been damaged in the explosion? Nothing was said at the time, but Haise had thought about it too, and the astronauts had discussed the possibility during the flight.

During the mission they had filled the Command Module with all their rubbish in plastic bags, and now Haise had to transfer them all back to the LM as they prepared for the homecoming. He commented: "Boy, you wouldn't believe this LM right now! There's nothing but bags from floor to ceiling!"

Swigert felt a useful member of the crew again when he had to bring the Command Module's power up using the normal reentry battery, which had been topped up from the LM batteries. "Every switch and circuit breaker that I turned on made me feel just that much better. I forgot about being tired and didn't even notice the cold."

Three and a half hours after the Service Module was jettisoned, the faithful "lifeboat" Aquarius was ditched, pushed off with 3 psi (20.7 kPa) air pressure from the tunnel, bled down from the normal 5 psi (35 kPa) cabin pressure, as the Command Module's control jets could not push or pull. Sadly they watched it drift away and begin a slow forward somersault, Haise later saying he would have liked to have looked after it in his backyard. "Farewell Aquarius, and we thank you," Houston called out.

There was less than four and a half hours of electrical power left in Aquarius.

Paul Oats at Carnarvon: "When Apollo 13 came back in, it did this vast great swing back over the Indian Ocean, and we were the only people in the world who could see it for a long time. Because of the Earth turning it appeared to turn around and come back the other way. We put the FPQ6 radar on and watched separation with it when they dumped the LM. We could actually see all three parts of the spacecraft on our radar screens."

Saxon at Honeysuckle Creek: "We were the last site, as we generally were, to track the reentry phase of the mission when they entered the Earth's atmosphere. We were tracking both the Command Module and the Lunar Module. There was a great deal of interest in where the LM came down because it had a package to be installed on the moon which had a radio isotope power supply, and there was a concern that had it entered over land there might have been a radio active contamination problem. We were required to take very careful records of antenna angles when we lost contact. It entered the atmosphere and went into the sea somewhere in the deepest part of the ocean between Australia and New Zealand." This was right where Flight Dynamics Officer Jerry Bostick in Mission Control had carefully planned to put the LM. Paul Mullen, antenna driver at Honeysuckle: "We lost the LM at the end it was going too fast for our 3 per second antenna speed it just dived out of sight ahead of our antenna."

Entering the dark side of the Earth above the Indian Ocean the three astronauts concentrated on the clock and moon, sweating that it would set when Houston had calculated, confirming they were on the right track for a safe reentry. At precisely the right second a black notch bit into the bottom of the moon and it sank below the horizon. The Commander looked at his crew: "Gentlemen, we're about to reenter. I suggest you get ready for a ride," and the blazing Odyssey plunged into the atmosphere. Luckily the original planned landing area was calm now the tropical storm was raging over the alternate landing area! After the tense three minute blackout period Joe Kerwin called out, "Odyssey, Houston standing by." The seconds flicked away with no response from the spacecraft. Unable to do any more for the mission, the Houston Flight Controllers could only watch the recovery forces at work on their large television screens and listen for the spacecraft to respond.

The tension built up........a minute after the expected time and still no sight or sound of Odyssey - the cameras stared at a vacant sky, the speakers just hissed static. Then suddenly Swigert's voice filled the airwaves, "Okay, Joe!" and soon three healthy parachutes could be seen. Mission Control erupted into a frenzy of cheering and clapping. All around the world an audience of many millions joined in grateful thanks for the safe return of Apollo 13, each in their own private way. At 12:07 pm Houston time on Friday, April 17, the parachutes dunked Odyssey into the Pacific Ocean four miles (6.4 km) from the USS Iwo Jima, and the crew were greeted by cheering sailors, a brass band, and Rear Admiral Donald Davis with, "We're glad you made it, boys." Nine doctors checked them out to be in reasonable shape considering their ordeal, except for a urinary tract infection for Haise, brought on by not drinking enough, which allowed the toxins to build up. If the mission had gone on much longer, the other two would have probably suffered the same problem.

Stepping ashore in Pago Pago they were cheerfully greeted by gaily dressed Samoans, their smiling faces moving Lovell to say, "We do not realise what we have on Earth until we leave it."

Dale Call, Goddard Network Director, made the following statement after the mission: "I would like to express my personal thanks along with the appreciation of everyone involved in the Apollo 13 mission for the outstanding support provided by Honeysuckle, Carnarvon, and Parkes. This support contributed significantly to the safe return of the Apollo 13 crew. I would especially like to single out those responsible for bringing up the Parkes antenna and associated data systems in record time. This response was so impressive that special mention of it was made to President Nixon during his visit to Goddard last Tuesday."

President Nixon addressed a message to Prime Minister John Gorton:

"Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

On behalf of the people of the United States I wish to express to you and to the people of Australia my deep appreciation for your nation's assistance in the successful recovery of the Apollo XIII astronauts.

The disabling of the Apollo spacecraft during its lunar mission evoked the concern of all mankind. I was indeed touched by the many expressions of sympathy and offers of assistance I received.

The safe recovery of the astronauts, for which we are all profoundly thankful, in no way lessens the gratitude of the Government and people of the United States for your nation's immediate response to our need for assistance.

Please convey my personal thanks to all of your people who worked so hard to maintain our communications with the weakened Apollo XIII spacecraft as it returned to Earth. Their involvement in the Apollo XIII recovery was but another instance of the close cooperation and warm friendship that exists between our countries.


Richard Nixon."

For a brief moment Apollo 13 put the hassles of money and budgets and politics aside as people followed the progress of a mission where sheer guts and determination, teamwork and comradeship, ingenuity and skill brought the crew safely home. No doubt luck was a large factor in the equation. It was the 13th Apollo mission, launched at 1313 hours, the explosion occurred on April 13 spacecraft time, 13:08 hours Honeysuckle time, with 13 nations, including America, offering to provide rescue ships or aircraft. Was Apollo 13 good luck or bad luck? Probably good luck because it brings up a lot of "What ifs...?" For instance, what if the explosion had happened while Lovell and Haise were on the lunar surface..........!!?

Lovell said, "To get Apollo 13 home required a lot of innovation. Most of the material written about our mission described the ground based activities, however I would be remiss not to state that it really was the teamwork between the ground and the flight crew that resulted in a successful return. Some people would call the Apollo 13 mission a $375 million failure. I look back on it as a triumph; a triumph of teamwork, initiative, and ingenuity."

"Nobody believes me, but during this six day odyssey we had no idea what an impression Apollo 13 made on the people of Earth. We never dreamed a billion people were following us on television and radio, and reading about us in banner headlines of every newspaper published. We still missed the point on board the carrier Iwo Jima which picked us up because the sailors had been as remote from the media as we were. Only when we reached Honolulu did we comprehend our impact."

For fun, Grumman, the builders of the Lunar Module, sent a bill for $US400,000 to North American Rockwell for towing the Command and Service Module 300,000 miles (482,790 km) back home!

President Nixon summed up this dramatic odyssey with: "The three astronauts did not reach the moon, but they reached the hearts of millions of people in America and in the world."


APOLLO 14. 31 January 1971 - KITTY HAWK Alan Shepard.

(AS-509/CSM-110/LM-8) 9 February 1971 ANTARES Edgar Mitchell.

Stuart Roosa.

216 Hours 2 Minutes 1 Second.

9 days 0 Hours 2 Minutes

34 Lunar orbits in

2 Days 18 Hours 40 Minutes

33 Hours 31 minutes on Lunar surface.

Total of 2 EVAs: 9 Hours 23 Minutes.

Samples: 94.6 lb (42.9 kg).

Landing area: 3.67S x 17.46W

Fra Mauro.

Roosa named the Command Module Kitty Hawk in memory of the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers, and Mitchell called the LM Antares after the star in the Constellation Scorpius, as it was a significant mark visible through their window as they flew down to the lunar surface. At 47 years, Mission Commander Alan Shepard was the oldest man, and the only one of the original Seven Mercury astronauts, to walk on the moon.

Eugene Cernan: "I was Commander of the back up crew for Apollo 14 we had the only back up crew patch in the entire space program. After ours, backup crew patches were outlawed. Ron Evans, Joe Engle, and I called ourselves the 'First Team'. We called the Prime Crew; Shepard The Old Man, Mitchell The Fat Man, and Roosa the Cute Little Redhead. We embodied them all in one character, the coyote from the Roadrunner cartoon series. We had him coming out from the Earth with a big trail of fire behind, and he's looking at the moon. He's all red, he's got a beard, and he's got a big fat belly The Old Man, The Fat Man and The Cute Little Redhead! And there on the moon is the Roadrunner the 'Beep Beep' guy. The Roadrunner is sitting there with a big silk scarf round his neck, his legs are crossed, and he's leaning on an American flag. And this coyote is looking at the moon, at this First Team, being back up crew, who got to the moon before they did! We put about 20 or 30 of these patches inside both their spacecraft so every time they opened a locker in zero gravity one of these patches would float out."

Because the scientists had given Fra Mauro a high priority, it was reassigned from the Apollo 13 mission. Another legacy from Apollo 13 were changes to the spacecraft to try and prevent another explosive, cliff hanging mission. This time there were three oxygen tanks, instead of two, the third isolated, and a new spare 400 ampere battery to carry the mission from any point. However this mission came up with new twists to keep the crews and Flight Controllers on their toes, and to remind everyone once again spaceflights can never be a routine operation.

Once on their way to the moon, the astronauts followed the normal routine of extracting the Lunar Module from its launching housing, turning it around and docking with the Command Module. As Stu Roosa skillfully brought the Command Module in to the Lunar Module docking cone, the astronauts confidently waited for the thud of the latches biting and a green light to confirm a hard dock. To their surprise, even though they appeared to have made solid contact there were no thuds from the latches and no green light! It was unbelievable. This was the first time the American's had a docking failure at their first attempt.

Roosa: "Houston, we've failed to secure a dock."

A surprised Houston responded with, "Roger, Kitty Hawk. You've got a GO for another attempt."

The Flight Controllers sat up and began to think about possible causes and how to overcome this new development. They looked around for the specialist engineers, and the engineers began to look for their ground replicas and procedures. If there was something wrong and they were unable to dock, this would be the end of the lunar landing part of the mission, and possibly all further Apollo missions as there were already authoritative voices calling for an end to any more lunar flights in case tragedy struck quit while ahead! Then to their dismay they heard Roosa's frustrated voice after the second attempt: "Houston we do not have a dock. We're going to pull back and give this some thought."

At the critical moment Mission Control discovered the replica docking system could not be found. Head of Flight Operations Chris Kraft: "Previously we'd always had a docking probe and drogue available at the Control Center, as well as experts on the system, but now there were frantic calls for assistance and the absent docking system had to be hurriedly located to understand what might be going on thousands of miles out in space."

Three times over the next hour they tried docking without success, while the replica in Mission Control never failed. "It's possible there is some dirt, or debris, in the latches," suggested an engineer, and as fuel was beginning to run down, they decided to try a last "do or die" attempt by coming in as fast as possible and ramming the probe and drogue together, hopefully dislodging any foreign matter.

Roosa: "Houston we're going in..."

Houston: "Good luck, Kitty Hawk....."

Houston could only stand by and listen. Out in space three men held their breath as Roosa gunned his ship and the Command Module obediently leapt forward and slammed into the Lunar Module.........the latches dropped into place and a green light glared at them from the control panel.

"Got it!!" yelled the crew in unison.

Another crisis in the Apollo Program passed into history and the mission continued to follow the flight plan until they went into orbit around the moon and it was time to land. Following normal procedures they initiated a computer practice run to land. The computer program started all right, but then without warning, flung itself into an abort mode to return back to Kitty Hawk without landing.

Shepard: "Hey, Houston, our abort program has kicked in!"

Every try produced the same result, and every check could find no errors. The lunar landing was put on hold while ground trials and evaluations finally found the problem to be a faulty abort switch, so they yanked computer specialist Donald Eyles out of bed in Massachusetts to write a new program to accommodate this faulty switch, and transmitted it up through the tracking stations to the spacecraft circling the moon. Shepard, itching to be doing something but only able to wait, anxiously watched Ed Mitchell load and check out the computer, then called with relief:

"Houston we've got it. We're commencing with the descent program."

"Antares, you have a GO." replied the Houston Capcom.

It was close. There were fifteen minutes left. Fifteen minutes before having to abort and return to Kitty Hawk without landing.

Shepard: "The landing site was rougher on direct observation than the photos had been able to show. So I looked for a smoother area, found one, and landed there.

Ed and I worked on the surface for 4 hours and 50 minutes during our first EVA; after the return to Antares, a long rest period, and then resuiting, we began the second EVA. This time we had the MET Modularised Equipment Transporter, although we called it the lunar rickshaw to carry tools, cameras, and samples so we could work more effectively and bring back a larger quantity of samples. We covered a distance of about two miles and collected many samples during 4½ hours on the surface in the second EVA. I also threw a makeshift javelin and hit a couple of golf shots." They found the MET was easier and faster to carry up hills than pull it through the lunar dust.

Shepard pulled out a six iron tip from a pocket and fitted it to the end of the aluminium handle of his rock collector. Then he dropped a golf ball onto the lunar soil and announced: "I'm trying a sand trap shot." Thick lunar dust flew as the ball dropped into a nearby crater. "I got more dirt than ball." he muttered. He had a second ball ready, and steadied himself before slamming it to nearly 328 feet (100 metres).

Shepard summarised: "I look back now on the flights carrying Pete's crew and my crew as the real pioneering explorations of the moon. Neil, Buzz, and Mike in Apollo 11 proved that man could get to the moon and do useful scientific work. Our two flights Apollo 12 and 14 proved that man could get there with precision and carry out objectives with relative ease and a very high degree of success. We all were able to make minor corrections or major changes at times when they were needed, sometimes for better efficiency, and sometimes to save the mission."

Edgar Mitchell conducted the first ESP experiment in space during the Apollo 14 mission. He had planned the experiment to be a private venture, and neither Shepard nor NASA were advised, but a leak to the press after the mission brought it out into the open. Later he was assisted by Dr. J. Rhine of the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man in Durham, and Dr. Karlis Osis of the American Society for Physical Research in New York, who evaluated the results. "From the experiment some unanticipated findings have already emerged," Mitchell wrote, "In my judgment the experiment warrants continued inquiry which I hope to pursue as opportunity permits."

Apollo 14 was the last time the Lunar Receiving Lab was used as no signs of any microbes were found.


APOLLO 15. 26 July 1971 - ENDEAVOUR David Scott.

(AS-510/CSM-112/LM-10) 7 August 1971. FALCON Jim Irwin.

Alan Worden.

295 Hours 11 Minutes 53 seconds.

12 Days 7 Hours 12 Minutes

74 Lunar orbits in

6 Days 1 Hour 17 Minutes

66 Hours 55 minutes on Lunar surface. Distance travelled: 17.3 miles (27.9 km)

Total of 3 EVA's: 18 Hours 46 minutes

Samples 169 Lb (76.6 kg).

Landing area: 26.10N x 3.65E by Hadley Rille and the Apennine Mountains.

With an all Air Force crew it was easy to pick their mascot Falcon as a name for the Lunar Module, but it wasn't until they were working with a geologist and he happened to pick up a children's book on explorers that they came across Captain Cook and his exploits in the Endeavour, so as Scott explains: "Cook made the first purely scientific expedition in history, and ours was the first extensive scientific expedition to go to the moon."

In September, 1970, the landing spot was chosen on the edge of the vast Mare Imbrium, the Sea of Rains, next to one of the Moon's great mountain ranges, the Apennines, rising nearly 5 km above the mare. It promised spectacular scenery, and to the geologists a chance of finding primordial material. The geologists were also looking forward to the first lunar mission commander sympathetic to their cause - Scott was already keen on history and archaeology, and once in training his enthusiasm for geology grew into almost total committment - even insisting Lurton, his wife, take a geology course.

Originally planned as the last of the simpler "H" missions, with only two excursions and no vehicular rover, the cancellation of the last three Apollo lunar landings made NASA anxious to make the most of the remaining missions, so the more comprehensive scientific "J" missions were brought forward to Apollo 15. The Apollo 13 mishap introduced a convenient delay in the program to help incorporate the hardware changes, as the "J" missions were designed to use the Apollo system capabilities to the limit, and to change the role of the astronauts from test pilots to explorers, preferably scientific explorers.

Operations Supervisor at Honeysuckle Creek, John Saxon: "We almost completely rebuilt the station between Apollo 14 and Apollo 15, working masses of overtime so much so that some people begged for a break. The difference between 14 and 15 was almost like a new project. There were a whole new lot of communications with scientific experiments in the Service Module, there was a Particle and Fields sub satellite which was ejected from the Service Module into orbit around the moon, there was a lunar rover vehicle which they drove around on the surface of the moon. The communications were becoming horrendous there were so many links involved back packs of the astronauts, the relay from the lunar rover, the Lunar Module, the Particle and Fields Satellite... we went into the mission not sure we could handle all this.

Again we had the lion's share of that mission we had all the walks on the surface of the moon, all the bringing up of the first lunar rover down link to the ground, all the critical parts of that mission we were prime. Although we went into the mission with quite a bit of trepidation, it was quite amazing, it all went by the book it was perfect. Apollo 15 was the scientific and technical peak of our operations as far as I was concerned."

Mission Commander Dave Scott had been out to Carnarvon for Gemini 4, so there were a lot of connections between Apollo 15 and Australia, specially when Apollo 15 sprang a leak like Cook's Endeavour......... Irwin went to chlorinate the water and found water had started to weep out of the inlet fitting. After Scott looked at it they advised Houston who promptly asked, "How many drips per minute?" The astronauts tried to explain, water doesn't drip out in space it just makes a blob, and the blob keeps getting larger and larger. Looking for towels to mop up Irwin found, "Wouldn't you know, about that time the locker with all the towels in it jammed!" So Scott was trying to stem the water flow, Irwin and Worden were trying to open the towel locker, while Houston insisted on trying to estimate the flow rate, but soon Capcom Karl Heinz advised: "Okay, stand by. Lots of people are thinking down here now."

"We suspect the injector outlet is loose. We need tool number three and tool number "W" out of the tool kit."

Scott: "Okay, three and "W" out of the tool kit."

Heinz: "Right, put number three in the tool "W" ratchet and insert tool three in the hex opening in the chlorinator injector port."

Scott tightened the valve and the flow stopped.

"All we have to do now is to hang up a few towels to dry." Scott announced as they mopped up a quartsized blob of water.

When they had finished there were wet clothes strung all over the lower equipment bay and up into the LM tunnel, reminding the crew of an old fashioned clothesline. If the fitting had broken or they had not been able to repair the leak, and water had floated around they could never have landed on the moon, due to the danger of the delicate electronics being swamped by wandering globs of water.

Life aboard the Apollo spacecraft was different, even for the simple daily chores.

Irwin: "When it was announced that the crew was eating, everybody thought that we must be relaxing. Believe me, it was not like that at all. First you've got to find the meal for that particular time of that particular day. Of course we had a stowage map which told us where everything was when we left the Earth. All food containers were labelled A, B, C, D, E, and all meals were colour coded. Mine were blue, Dave's red, and Al's white.

So if a meal floated by and you identified it as being red, you could say, 'Hey, Dave, you've just lost your entree.'

Actually, we had to improvise a way of managing this flying circus it worked out best if I prepared the food. Three people can't use one water gun at a time to mix different amounts of hot or cold water with ingredients of eighteen bags. I read the directions six ounces, eight ounces, hot or cold. And after I had shot the water into the bag, I'd wait five or ten minutes for the bulk to absorb the water. Or, I'd float it out and let the customer age his own bag. Anyway you did it, this had to be the most unusual small restaurant in the world or out of it.

We had Velcro all over the spacecraft and on the meal packages, so to keep track of things we'd stick our dinner on the wall, course by course. If you nudged the meat course accidentally, it would take off, and you would have to float after it or get the help of a buddy downfield."

After each meal they had to log down everything they ate, or didn't eat, and advise Houston, who kept track of their energy levels.

Irwin: "Bathing was another chore. We would dampen a washcloth and clean ourselves all over as well as we could. For some reason the other guys didn't bring any soap. Fortunately I took a bar of sweet smelling soap along. It was the high point of the day just to take out the soap from the container and let the scent waft around the spacecraft. It almost made us feel clean."

The astronauts tried the first scientific experiment of the trip by putting shades over their eyes and looking for strange orange flashes reported from earlier flights. They reported seeing 61 flashes. "They look like flashbulbs popping in a darkened arena," commented Scott. They are believed to be high energy cosmic rays impacting the eye's retina, or perhaps the brain's optical centre.

Once they were safely orbiting the moon Scott was fascinated by the scenes of the moonscapes 60 miles (96.5 km) below them, the dark side away from the sun and Earth, with Earthlight brighter than the moonlight on Earth. They could easily see the mountains and crater rims glowing from the reflected light from the Earth. But it was the sunrises every two hours that impressed Scott the most: "First of all these wispy streamers of light from the sun's corona appeared above the lunar horizon, then the sun simply exploded over the horizon like a visual thunderclap, and within a second we were blinded by its bright light flooding the cabin."

Just before landing they dropped into a 9 x 45 mile (15 x 72 km) orbit. As they zoomed low over the lunar surface, Irwin realised that there were mountains higher than they were: "You look out on the horizon and you see these high peaks and you are just skimming along. Now you really know you are moving fast. You are travelling about 5,000 feet per second, that's Mach 5, or 3,000 miles per hour (4,828 kph). Your orbit is defined; you can't dodge anything. You don't have control over the vehicle, and if you did you probably couldn't react fast enough. You just assume that Houston knows where the mountains are and how high they are. But you see the high mountains on the horizon and you move towards them very fast. You wonder if you are going to clear them.

The face of the moon is beautiful in a stark, awesome, barren way. It is all ochers, tans, golds, whites, grays, browns no greens, no blues. We were hanging loose, coming to the burn itself. We were going to land on the surface. Dave was doing most of the handcontrol action, but in the main we were telling the computer what to do."

Mitchell: "Fifteen - does it look like you are going to clear the mountain range ahead?"

Scott: "We've all got our eyes closed; we're pulling our feet up."

Scott concentrated hard on bringing Falcon down to the final stages of this tricky landing, a target at the bottom of a basin hemmed in on three sides by mountains, and on the fourth by a deep gorge. Approaching a height of 8,000 feet (2,438 metres) above the valley surface, they were looking straight up before pitching forward at 6,000 feet (1,830 metres) to be able to see where they were. Both astronauts were suddenly startled to see the white flank of a mountain sliding past above them out of the left window! It was Mount Hadley Delta soaring up 13,000 feet (3,962 metres) from the plains. The simulator had never shown them this; was Houston aware how close it was!? What if they had been off course? Scott looked as far forward as he could but still couldn't see any sign of Hadley Rille.

Scott: "I looked out the window and could see Mount Hadley Delta. We seemed to be floating across Hadley Delta and my impression at the time was that we were way long because I could see the mountain out the window and we were still probably 10,000 to 11,000 feet high. I couldn't see the Rille out the forward corner of the window, which you could on the simulator - out the left forward corner."

Mitchell:"Falcon Houston. We expect you may be a little south of the site....maybe....

....3,000 feet."

When Falcon pitched over on time all Scott saw was a featureless plain. He was looking for Index Crater, where they were supposed to land: "I couldn't convince myself that I saw Index Crater anywhere. I saw, as I remember, a couple of shadowed craters, but not nearly as many as we were accustomed to seeing in the simulator. Once I realised that we were not heading for the exact landing site, and I didn't have a good location relative to Index Crater, I picked what I thought was a reasonably smooth area and headed directly for that." Then in the distance ahead he could make out Hadley Rille, so he manually brought the Lunar Module down to where he thought the planned landing should be: "At about 60 feet the dust came up at us and I lost sight of everything and concentrated on Jim's calls. I hoped there were no boulders or craters under us...... we were dropping blind - then Jim called "Contact" and I shut the motor off."

Irwin: "The light came on. I called 'Contact!' and Dave immediately pressed the button to shut the engine then we fell. We hit. We hit hard; I said 'BAM!' but it was reported in some of the press accounts as 'damn.' It was the hardest landing I had ever been in. Then we pitched up and rolled off to the side. It was a tremendous impact with a pitching and rolling motion. Everything rocked around and I thought all the gear was going to fall off. I was sure something was broken and we might have to go into one of those abort situations. If you pass 45 degrees and are still moving, you have to abort. If the Lunar Module turns over on its side, you can't get back from the moon."

Falcon landed on the lunar surface with the hardest of the Apollo landings at 6.8 feet per second (2 metres/ second). Scott had by far the heaviest spacecraft to that date with the first Lunar Rover aboard. He was also very quick to switch the engine off as he wanted to make sure the engine was off before the bell housing, which was longer than the earlier models, could contact the surface. It is also interesting to note that Scott was the only LM Commander without Navy flying experience such as landing on an aircraft carrier. The pilots agree that landing on an aircraft carrier at night is the toughest assignment.

"Okay, Houston. The Falcon is on the Plain at Hadley," Scott advised Mission Control.

Irwin: "We just froze in position as we waited for the ground to look at all our systems. They had to tell us whether we had a STAY condition.

As soon as we got the STAY, we started powering down. Evidently we had landed right on the rim of a small crater. Dave and I pounded each other on the shoulder, feeling real relief and gratitude. We had made it."

They had landed on the edge of Mare Imbrium, which stretched across the surface of the moon for at least 650 miles (1,046 km). The Falcon had settled down straddled across the rim of a crater with a tilt back of 6.9 and a lean of 8.6 to the south. The descent engine bell was damaged a bit, probably from pressure build up on landing.

Just after 7 pm Scott climbed up on the engine cover, opened the top hatch and gazed out on the lunarscape. Stark white craters scarred the soft beige of the flowing lurain. Dark lines ran around the foot of the mountains. Like a magnet his gaze was drawn up to the blue and white Earth glowing in the impossibly black sky the only colour in the whole scene before him. He spent thirty minutes just studying, photographing, and reporting his observations back to Mission Control in Houston. NASA Geophysicist Robin Brett said his descriptions were as good as a professional geologist, many agreeing it was the best geological description by an astronaut on the moon.

Scott: "The incredible variety of landforms in this restricted area (on the moon the horizon lies a scant mile and a half from the viewer) fills me with pleasant surprise. To the south an 11,000 foot (3,353 metres) ridge rises above the bleak plain. To the east stretch the hulking heights of an even higher summit. On the west a winding gorge plunges to depths of more than 1,000 feet (305 metres). Dominating the north eastern horizon, a great mountain stands in noble splendour almost three miles above us.

Ours is the first expedition to land amid lunar mountains. Never quickened by life, never assailed by wind and rain, they loom still and serene, a tableau of forever. Their majesty overwhelms me."

Feeling intruders in an eternal wilderness, they closed the hatch, repressurised the Lunar Module, and turned in to sleep. Irwin: "Dave was sleeping fore and aft, and I was athwart ship, with my hammock slung under his. I noticed that my hammock was bowed out a little bit and my feet were sort of dangling off. It was noisy in the Lunar Module with the pumps and fans running, something like sleeping in a boiler room. But, man, it was comfortable sleeping! Those hammocks felt like water beds, and we were light as a feather. The first night's sleep was the best I had the three nights we were there."

The next day, following Scott down the ladder, Irwin bounced down to the surface, kicked up a spray of black moondust, and looking to the south, exclaimed: "Oh, boy, it's beautiful out here. It reminds me of Sun Valley." The Apennine Mountains looked familiar to him, rounded and treeless. He thought they looked like excellent ski slopes. After five days of being cooped up in the spacecraft, they felt the relief and pleasure of being able to move around again, the freedom of room to run in. They felt it was like walking on a trampoline, the same bouncy feeling, and falling down was quite different to Earth you seemed to go down in slow motion with only a light impact that they felt would never cause any harm.

The astronauts tugged the two "D" rings to release the rover but it refused to drop down. It took them a half an hour's struggle to drop the brand new $US12.9 million lunar rover onto the lurain. After running through the checklist, Scott called Joe Allen at Houston: "I don't have any front steering, Joe." After more checks: "Still no forward steering, Joe." After physically trying to turn the wheels, they gave up and drove off. Apart from the front wheel drive failing, the little car darted happily about before the explorers headed south on their first excursion. Scott relayed his experiences: "The steering is quite responsive, even with only the rear steering. I can manoeuvre pretty well with the thing. There is no accumulation of dirt in the wheels."

"Just like the owner's manual," responded Allen from Houston.

As they drove across the lurain, they found the wheel fenders kept the dust down, and seat belts were needed as the rover often became airborne as it flew over the surface with a pitching motion rather like a cross between a boat in a lumpy sea and riding a horse. One of the fears had been that as the rover sped across the surface it would vanish into a cloud of dust thick enough to block the astronauts' view to see anything. Luckily this didn't happen, as the wheel fenders did their job.

The Commander was the main driver, sitting in the left seat, holding a "T" bar in his right hand, tilted slightly towards him to lessen fatigue. The bar gave full control of the rover pulled to the left turns all four wheels for a left turn, right for right turn, pushing forward drives the vehicle forward, and pulling back can stop it in its own length. A switch on the base puts the rover in reverse, with speed controlled by pulling the T bar back. As it didn't have a rear view mirror, the astronauts usually preferred to just pick it up to turn it around as it only weighed 80 lb (36 kg) on the moon.

Power was provided by a ¼ horsepower dc electric motor with a 80:1 reduction gear on each wheel, fed by two 36 volt batteries with silver zinc plates in potassium hydroxide with the capacity to last twice the planned distances.

On the first excursion, though the rover had quite sophisticated navigation facilities, in the beginning they had some trouble locating their exact position but suddenly on the top of a ridge Scott called out, "Hey, there's the Rille," and they pulled up beside the 1,200 foot (366 metre) deep chasm, surprised at its vast size. It sloped down to the 650 foot (198 metres) wide floor on their side, but on the other side, about a mile (1.6 km) away, it dropped steeply and was strewn with boulders. Right at the bottom were two house sized boulders.

Scott found a smooth spot that sloped steeply into a gully: "It looks like we could drive down to the bottom over here on this side, doesn't it? Lets drive down there and sample some rocks." Irwin was more cautious, "Dave, you are free to go ahead. I'll wait here for you," he felt he could not face the furore if they lost the rover in the Rille.

They followed the edge of the Rille around to Elbow Crater, 1.8 miles (2.9 km) from the LM, and stopped short of the big St George Crater before heading back to the Falcon. They hadn't appreciated how high they had climbed until heading back. "Hang on!" yelled Irwin as they raced downhill.

At the Lunar Module Irwin spread out the ALSEP science experiments, while Scott tried to drill a 10 foot (3 metre) core sample, but unfortunately it jammed in the dense lurain due to an unsuitable drill bit. Later, it took the combined efforts of the two strong astronauts to work it out. After the first day's activities both astronauts were totally exhausted, both suffering almost unbearable pain in their fingers from working with the gloves. Irwin was unable to get to his suit drink water bag to release its contents, so never managed a drink over the whole seven hours of the excursion.

The next "morning" the astronauts were roused up at 2.35 am to find a leak of water from a broken filter before the second day's excursion in the rover took them across the plains, skirting Crescent and Dune Craters, to the Apennines. As they approached Spur Crater on the flanks of the mountain they spotted an interesting looking boulder down a slope and stopped to investigate. Irwin looked back and grunted: "Gonna be a bear to get back up there, y' know!" Then without warning the rover began to slip down in the powdery dust, one wheel rearing up in the air, and Scott leapt to grab it, conscious that it was a 3 mile (1.6 km) walk back in their suits if they lost their vehicle. He held it safe while Irwin looked at the boulder.

"Come and look at this," said Irwin, "This is the first green rock I've seen." Finding another he added, "I hope it's still green when we get home." It was - the samples were bright green glass beads formed as the soil was compressed by meteorite impact, later to add an important clue about the interior of the moon. They pushed on to Spur Crater where they parked the rover.

Irwin: "Spur crater was a real gold mine. As soon as we got there, we could look over and see some of this white rock. Immediately, I saw white, I saw light green, and I saw brown. But there was one piece of white rock that looked different from any of the others."

They worked their way across to it, picking up samples and taking photographs, before they stood in front of it. They were looking at the oldest piece of rock to be found by the Apollo missions.

Irwin: "It was lifted up on a pedestal. The base was a dirty old rock covered with lots of dust that sat there by itself, almost like an outstretched hand. Sitting on top of it was a white rock almost free of dust. From four feet away I could see unique long crystals with parallel lines, forming striations. This was exactly the kind of rock we were looking for; it confirmed the suspicion that the mountains of the moon were made from rock, lighter in colour and lighter in density."

"Guess what we found! I think we found what we came for!" The strips of white crystals were what geologists call plagioclase twinning, "It's almost all plag - something close to anorthosite,'s almost all plag.....," said Scott, looking at the 9.5 oz (269g) piece of original lunar crust. It was carefully labelled sample 15415.

Back on Earth this rock was dated at 4.15 billion years. As a comparison the oldest rock ever found on Earth so far is 3.3 billion years. It also turned out to be the oldest rock brought back from the moon, so was christened the Genesis Rock by the media. They also found a 40 square mile (103.6 square km) field of cinder cones, the first positive sign of explosive volcanism on the moon. Standing at the bottom of Mount Hadley Delta, Scott looked up and remarked: "My oh my! This is as big a mountain as I ever looked up." Half a mile up the mountainside, they looked back on a magnificent, though desolate, panorama of the basin, the tiny Falcon, the Rille, and the surrounding peaks.

Due to a shortage of time, the third excursion was drastically shortened to a visit to the rim of the Rille west of the Lunar Module, before preparing to depart. Years later the geologists said that the Apollo 15 samples were the most interesting and varied of all the missions.

Before leaving Scott and Irwin planned to demonstrate their "Galileo Experiment"; that all objects fall to the ground at the same speed in a vacuum. The original theory is actually attributed to Flemish mathematician Simon Stevin (1548-1620). In front of a television camera, Scott demonstrated this by dropping a falcon feather from an Air Force mascot, and a hammer. They hit the lunar dust together in 1.3 seconds. The feather was lost when Irwin inadvertently trampled it into the dust, and he speculated on what sort of creature future explorers would imagine it would belong to.

This mission was the first time a camera could video the Lunar Module lifting off. Scott parked the rover nearby, left the keys and the handbook on the seat, and checked the camera was looking at the Lunar Module for Ed Fendell in Houston, who had remote control of the camera. For Apollo 15 the camera was left fixed looking at the Lunar Module due to some lunar grit getting into the tilt gearing, so at lift off Falcon blasted the launch area and vanished rapidly out of the top of the picture, accompanied by an unexpected rousing version of the Air Force song "Off we go, into the wild blue yonder...." as Scott had organised Worden to switch their tape recorder on at the moment of lift off.

In later missions the camera followed the Lunar Module up. This, though, was very tricky, because it took 4.8 seconds for the picture to arrive at Fendell's monitor due to the distance and decoding of the signal. So to get the lift off he had to anticipate the launch by over 5 seconds and tilt the camera up to follow the Lunar Module by the scheduled launch time not by the picture he could see on his monitor.

The Apollo 15 crew took a small block of wood from the sternpost of Captain Cook's Endeavour and left behind the falcon's feather, and a four leafed clover, before returning back to the Earth on August 7, to the recovery carrier Okinawa in the Pacific, 288 nautical miles north of Pearl Harbour, just 12 seconds behind the flight plan. The Okinawa radioed the spacecraft: "You have a streamed chute. Standby for a hard impact," as they spotted that Apollo 15 was swinging down under only two parachutes, the third all bunched up under its drogue. They landed safely at 22 mph (35.4 kph) instead of 19 mph (30.5 kph), and ended what some of the top scientists felt was, "one of the most brilliant missions in space science ever flown."

At their first public appearance after their return, Dave Scott said, "I'd like to quote my favourite statement, which I think expresses our feelings since we've come back: 'The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lighted.'"

Later he wrote, "Occasionally, while strolling on a crisp autumn night or driving a straight Texas road, I look up at the moon riding bright and proud above the clouds. My eye picks out the largest circular splotch on the silvery surface. Mare Imbrium. There, at the eastern edge of that splotch, I once descended in a spaceship. Again I feel that I will probably never return, and the thought stirs a pang of nostalgia."


APOLLO 16. 16 April 1972 - CASPER John Young.

(AS-511/CSM-113/LM-11) 27 April 1972. ORION Charles Duke.

Ken Mattingly.

265 Hours 51 Minutes 6 Seconds

11 days 1 Hour 51 Minutes

64 Lunar orbits in

5 Days 5 Hours 53 Minutes.

71 Hours 2 minutes on Lunar surface.

Lunar surface Distance travelled: 16.6 miles (26.7 km)

Total of 3 EVA's: 20 Hours 40 minutes.

Samples 213 Lb (96.6 kg)

Landing area: 8.99S x 15.51E in the Descartes Region.

Ken Mattingly overheard some youngsters say that the astronauts in their suits looked like Casper, the friendly ghost, so decided to call the Command Module Casper for a touch of humour and so that kids the could identify with the mission. Charlie Duke, at 36 the youngest of the astronauts to walk on the moon, explains the Lunar Module's name: "We had considered names like sailing ships or explorers, but nothing really struck our fancy. We then decided we would like a constellation for a name, and Orion was short and easy to pronounce, so chose Orion." "Probably one of the few constellations we knew about," added Young.

The Descartes site was almost 8,000 feet (2,450 metres) higher than the Apollo 11 site. "We kinda think of it as landing on the top of the Andes Mountains," John Young, commander of the mission, and the first man to go into lunar orbit twice, said before they left.

Apollo 16 arrived at the moon and went into orbit. Mattingly called Houston:"Henry (Hartsfield), it feels like we're clipping the tops of the trees." Duke describes their impressions: "It did feel like we were right down in the valleys. I couldn't believe how close we were to the surface......we were rocketing across the surface at about three thousand miles per hour in this low orbit, with mountains and valley whizzing by. The mountain peaks and craters went by so fast, it gave you the same impression as looking out your car window at fence posts while traveling at seventy miles per hour."

Young and Duke climbed into the Lunar Module to descend down to the lunar surface. Duke: "I was having trouble with a leaky orange juice bag. NASA had designed a plastic drink bag to fit inside our spacesuits, since we were going to be working on the lunar surface for long periods at a time. It was shaped like a hot water bottle and attached to our long underwear. A long plastic straw went up from the bag, up through the neck ring of the helmet, right next to our mouths. To drink, we simply grabbed the straw between our teeth and sucked real hard.

Well, right before our separation maneuver, I had donned my helmet and immediately my drink bag began to leak through the straw into my helmet. It seemed like every time I breathed, out would come one or two small drops of orange juice.

I couldn't suck them, I couldn't reach them with my tongue. I could only watch cross eyed as they floated out in front of my face. Eventually some of the drops would hit me on the tip of the nose and slowly migrate up into my hair, giving me a sticky orange juice shampoo. It was really frustrating not being able to wipe the stuff off , as it touched and tickled my nose."

Then just after separation, with Casper ahead of Orion as they went behind the moon, Casper had to make a burn to change orbit. Mattingly: "There is something wrong with the secondary control system in the engine. When I turn it on, it feels as though it is shaking the spacecraft to pieces."

This was serious - that engine was their ride home! Young thought hard and though he hated to say it, ordered: "Don't make the burn. We will delay that manoeuvre."

Their hearts sank down to their boots two and a half years of training and only 8 miles (12.9 km) from their target and now it looked like they would have to abort and return back to Earth. The two spacecraft circled the moon in company......anxiously waiting for an answer from Houston. Duke: "We knew in our minds it was very grim. It looked as if we had two chances to land - slim and none. We were dejected."

"It was a cliff hanger of a mission from where we were sittin' in the cockpit," Young said, "The secondary vector control system on the SPS motor wasn't workin' right and if they didn't work right the mission rules said it was no go. The people on the ground did studies at MIT and Rockwell and in the end it worked out just fine."

At last their suspense was relieved there was no danger, said Houston, even if the engine backup control had to be used: "You are GO for PDI"

Now six hours behind schedule, Orion headed down for the Cayley Plains. Spotting their shadow on the lunar surface as they came down to land, Young announced: "Boy, with that shadow, you really don't need the landing radar, and you can get a feel for the size of those craters that we were comin' over." Although Orion raised a lot of dust, it never obscured their view of the surface as they came down to the extent of the previous missions.

Duke: "We were as excited as two little five year olds on Christmas morning. Imagine the best Christmas, the best birthday, the best visit to an amusement park - all rolled into one instant of time - that is the feeling we had as we tried to describe what we were seeing." In contrast to Apollo 11's urgency to get out and walk, Young and Duke turned in for a sleep before setting foot on the lunar surface, mainly because of the long day coming up, and because of the six hour delay they had been up almost 20 hours. The delay also cost a lot of effort in changes to the excursion planning, and for a while threatened to scrub the third drive in the lunar rover to North Ray Crater because of the shortage of consumables.

Duke: "I began to write, and I wrote and wrote and wrote. It seemed like I was about to run out of pencil lead because of the hundreds of changes - changes in our time lines and changes in our procedures."

After commenting to Capcom Tony England: "Fantastic. That's the first foot on the lunar surface. It's super, Tony," 36 year old Duke, the youngest astronaut to walk on the moon, joined Young to help pull the excursion equipment out. When they turned around they were startled to see they had landed Orion only 10 feet (3 metres) away from a 25 foot (7.6 metres) deep crater. Young: "It would have been bad if we had landed in that crater, I saw it for a little while when comin' down, but where we landed it was perfectly flat, in the bottom of this 75 metre wide crater." If they had landed on the rim of the deep crater they could have toppled over the edge, and that would mean they couldn't lift off - they would have been marooned on the moon for ever. They frequently talked about the close encounter with that crater.

Young: "I can't believe that big hole back there."

Duke: "John, you picked the exact bottom of this old crater."

Young: "There weren't any flat places around here, Charlie."

Duke: "Yes, but anywhere else we would have been on a great big slope."

The first excursion looking for Plum crater was frustrating, not being sure where they were. Duke: "'There it is over,, no, that's not it,' - and we'd drive little further." They stopped at what they believed was Plum Crater, where they picked up some samples from the rim.

"Yeow...this is some crater,'s really steep. I can't even see the bottom right where we are," Duke called out.

"That is spectacular," Young agreed.

"Charlie, don't fall in that thing," warned England.

"I'm not gonna fall in," Duke said with feeling. Looking over the edge the two astronauts could see the steep sides and powdery dust could trap anyone trying to climb out, and with no ropes they realised there would be little chance of rescue if one of them did fall in.

Full of enthusiasm for the little lunar rover, Duke said as they returned to the Lunar Module: "You are making great time, John. We are doing 11 clicks (kph)."

Houston: "Outstanding!"

Duke: "Super!"

Houston: "The Grand Prix driver is at it again."

Duke: "Barney Oldfield."

Young: "I could follow a road." referring to the tracks made by the rover on its way out to Flag Crater.

Back at the Lunar Module after the first excursion, Young put the rover through its paces in front of the movie camera. Duke described the scene: "He's got about two wheels on the ground. It's a big rooster tail out of all four wheels and as he turns, he skids the back end, breaks loose just like on snow. Come on back, John.... I've never seen a driver like this. Hey, when he hits the craters it starts bouncing. That's when he gets his rooster tail. He makes sharp turns. Hey, that was a good stop. Those wheels just locked."

Young: "We drove it to see how it worked. We had to go up the side of a mountain with slopes more than 20, and I think we did that because we bottomed out the pitch meter. We wanted to see how the vehicle handled. We had the camera there to document it too, which nobody else had done before. It was like driving on ice when you cut the thing too sharp at about 5 or 7 kph, it would slide out and go backwards. The stuff on the moon is very slippery. You don't hear anything but your suit pumps going when you're drivin' in a vacuum. It was very difficult to get in and out of the Apollo 17 guys had a scoop to pick up rocks up without even stoppin' the rover."

Apollo 16 suffered a number of annoying problems. While Duke was setting up the ALSEP heat flow experiment, Young inadvertently yanked out a lead with his boot which put an end to that experiment. For six years geophysicist Mark Langseth had been studying how much heat was being conducted out of the moon's interior. His first experiment had burned up in Apollo 13's Aquarius; then Dave Scott wasn't able to drill down the required 10 feet (3 metres) in Apollo 15. Now Apollo 16 was a dead loss.

Both astronauts suffered sore fingers trying to work equipment and pick things up. Young thought it may have been because he had forgotten to trim his fingernails, a problem suffered by the Apollo 15 astronauts, but as Duke had trimmed his and he also suffered it seems that it was a hazard of the pressurised spacesuit. Duke: "Working in that spacesuit, squeezing those gloves and pressing the tips of our fingers against the ends, caused our fingers to seem like bloody stumps." The astronauts had to exert pressure all the time to keep the fingers bent when holding an object, or the suit pressure would pop the hand open.

Young and Duke both found difficulty drinking the water and orange juice from the suit containers. After 7 hours out on the lurain, Young said: "The first thing I wanted was a drink of water. I could have finished all my drink if I had a mouth behind my left ear. That was my only problem. It got lodged back there and I never could get at it."

In an attempt to overcome the potassium loss suffered by the Apollo 15 astronauts, Young and Duke were encouraged to take as much orange juice as they could, until Young finally confided with Duke with one of Apollo's classic passages: "I got the farts again. I got 'em again, Charlie. I don't know what the hell gives 'em to me. Certainly not....I think it's acid in the stomach. I really do."

Duke: "It probably is."

Young: "I mean, I haven't eaten this much citrus fruit in twenty years. And I'll tell you one thing, in another twelve ......days, I ain't never eating any more. And if they offer to serve me potassium with my breakfast, I'm going to throw up. I like an occasional orange, I really do. But I'll be damned if I'm going to be buried in oranges........"

Capcom: "Orion, Houston."

Young: "Yes, sir."

Capcom: "Okay, John. You're...where.... you have a hot mike."

Young: "H..How long have we had that?"



Then came an unscheduled event. Just before setting out on the second excursion the two explorers were discussing the plans for the day with Houston. Young: "We were just sittin' there in the LM talkin' to Houston when Honeysuckle called back."

John Saxon, on the Operations Console at Honeysuckle: "There was an Earthquake in Los Angeles and we lost all the lines to Houston for a considerable period. I was madly trying to reestablish lines to Houston, when the astronauts called Houston, and I had to respond. We had a chat for about five minutes; I guess I am the only person in the Southern Hemisphere that actually got to speak to anyone on the lunar surface. The conversation was mainly about beer!

Saxon: "Orion this is Honeysuckle. We have a comms outage with Houston at this time. Stand by one, please."

Young: "Okay, Honeysuckle nice to talk to you. How are ya'll all doin' down there?"

Saxon: "We are doing great. Nice to talk to you. We will be with you shortly, we are just getting some lines configured for you."

Young: "Have a Swan for us."

Saxon: "Say, again, Orion. You are pretty poor quality on this back up."

Young: "That was grab a Swan for us."

Saxon: "I still cannot copy you, sorry about this, the quality is very poor at the moment."

Young: "Okay you are loud and clear."

Saxon: "Roger that I read you a bit better now."

Duke: "Honeysuckle, what John was saying was have a Swan for us."

Saxon: "Oh, Roger. We should get the lines restored very shortly for you. Sorry about the delay."

Young: "Okay you guys are nice to talk to. We do not care about the delay."

Saxon: "Thanks very much. Certainly appreciate it. It's a pleasure working on this mission."

Young: "Roger. We would like to come down there and see you folks at Honeysuckle."

Saxon: "Right you've got a permanent invite, anytime you like."

Young: "That's very kind."

Saxon: "We will keep the beer cool for you."

Duke : "You have just got a couple of fellows ready to show up on your lawn. That's the best idea I've heard for a long time."

Saxon: "I think that's a pretty good one down here too."

Duke : "You see in my terminology that's certainly 48 packs. Right now that's how I feel really love one."

Saxon: "This was picked up by the American press, and they published a few things about astronauts talking to Australia and talking about Swan Lager. Swan got hold of this, and thought it was marvellous publicity, so they sent each of the astronauts a crate of beer. We rang them up and said, 'Hey look we're having a party too,' so we ended up with 48 crates of Swan beer!"

During the second excursion they climbed up a 20 degree slope to the Cinco Craters on Stone Mountain and reached a height of 500 feet (152 metres) above the valley floor, the highest level of any of the Apollo excursions. Looking back over the steep ridges below they found the panoramic view across the valley stunning: "We can see the Lunar Module....look at that, John," an excited Duke shouted as he spotted the colourful Orion sitting in the middle of the drab gray valley floor about 3 miles (5 km) away. The brilliant white of South Ray Crater dominated the view, with black and white boulders scattered across the landscape. Young was keen to visit it, but Houston figured the hazards were too great.

As the third excursion began, Capcom Tony England cheerfully announced: "Out again on that sunny Descartes Plains," and Young retorted: "Ain't any plains around here, Tony. I told you that yesterday." At North Ray Crater they found a large rock they called House Rock which they estimated to be 90 feet (27 metres) long and 45 feet (13.7) metres high. Unable to break a sample off it, Duke broke samples off a rock next to it someone called the Outhouse Rock. On the way back they set a moon speed record of 10.6 mph (17.1 kph) as their speedometer went off scale high. Duke felt they were going to launch themselves into orbit.

Before leaving to return, Duke decided: " take this time to place our family picture on the moon, so I walked about thirty feet from the LM and gently laid our autographed picture of the Duke family on the gray dust. As I made a photograph of it lying there, I wondered, 'Who will find this picture in the years to come?'" He then added a special Air Force medallion to commemorate their silver anniversary.

Duke described the moment of lift off: "The Lunar Module is held together by three large bolts and at lift off the bolts explode, separating the ascent stage from the descent stage. At the same time a guillotinelike affair cuts the electrical, oxygen, and water lines.

When the bolts exploded, instead of being propelled upwards, we dropped. Oh, no, it didn't light and we are dropping! flashed through my mind.

Then, bang! the engine ignited and instantly there was 3,500 lb (1,588 kg) of thrust. A kick at the bottom of my feet, and off we went straight up for 800 feet (244 metres)!"

After meeting up with Mattingly in Casper and on their way back to Earth, a large film canister of pictures from lunar orbit had to be retrieved from the SIM Bay at the back of the Service Module. After depressurising and opening the hatch, Mattingly climbed out. Duke followed, and describes the scene for us: "I followed, floating out a body length, and anchored my feet on the hatch sill. My job was to make sure his safety line, plus oxygen and communication lines didn't get tangled in parts of the spacecraft.

As I floated out, I was again overcome with the awesome beauty of space. The panorama of the universe was spread out before me, and I felt like a spectator in an audience watching the play unfold. Ken was the performer and the universe was the stage.

To the right was the Earth, 198,000 miles (318,641 km) away. It was a crescent Earth just a thin sliver of blue and white yet breathtaking to behold. Over my left shoulder was the moon, only 42,000 miles (67,590 km) away and enormous. It was a full moon, and I could see clearly all the major features the Sea of Tranquillity where Neil and Buzz had landed, Ocean of Storms, even the Descartes highlands. It was spectacular!

Everywhere I looked it was blackness the empty blackness of space, so powerful it seemed I could reach out and touch it. The feeling of detachment I experienced was strange; it was almost euphoric, and I wondered what it would be like to float off into this blackness."

Mattingly was experiencing similar feelings as he collected the film from the SIM Bay. He was very aware of the vast nothingness surrounding the life supporting infinitesmal speck they had called Casper. Tightly gripping the handrail he could feel the comforting security of the spacecraft flow through his gloves and fingers. As they cruised back to Earth, he remarked: "There's not a scene on the moon that carries the emotional impact of watching your Earth shrink to a little ball."

Casper dropped into the Pacific on April 27, 1,500 miles (2,414 km) south of Hawaii and flopped upside down before righting itself, just 1 mile (1.6 km) from the USS Ticonderoga.

Until the Apollo 16 mission the geologists were able to predict the type of soil the astronauts would bring back. The Descartes samples ended this run. Confidently predicting soil and rocks with a volcanic origin, the geologists were taken aback to find the samples turned out to be impact breccias. As Geologist Don Wilhelms admitted, "...we goofed."

On July 17, 1972, only three months after it was set up, Apollo 16's seismometer registered the largest impact ever recorded on the moon when a meteorite hit the far side of the moon near Mare Moscoviense.


APOLLO 17. 7 December 1972. - AMERICA Gene Cernan.

(AS-512/CSM-114/LM-12) 19 December 1972. CHALLENGER Jack Schmitt.

Ron Evans.

301 Hours 51 Minutes 59 Seconds.

12 Days 13 Hours 51 Minutes

75 Lunar orbits in

6 Days 3 Hours 48 Minutes

75 Hours on Lunar surface.

Distance travelled: 21.7 miles (35 Km)

Total of 3 EVA's: 22 Hours 4 Minutes.

Samples 243 lb (110 kg)

Landing area: TaurusLittrow.

Apollo 17 was the last Apollo mission to the moon, so the spacecraft were named with appropriate dignity, the Command Module America as a tribute to the mission and the American public. The LM was called Challenger because of what the future held for America.

The patch for Apollo 17 was also full of symbolism. Cernan explains the significance of the design: "We felt certainly that Apollo 17, in spite of the fact that it's the last flight in the Apollo Program, it's really not the end, but rather the beginning. It's sort of a conclusion of the culmination of what we consider man's greatest achievement, certainly in our lifetime. And, looking into the future, these achievements and the potential of them have literally no bounds. So, we have a bust of the God Apollo on our patch. He represents not just Apollo and the Apollo program, but we feel that he represents mankind himself.

He represents knowledge and wisdom; Apollo is looking out into the future. He not looking behind. And he's not simply looking at the moon someplace that mankind has been and in a sense has a goal that mankind has accomplished. But he is looking beyond the moon and into the future.

We have along with him, up in the corner of our patch, a golden moon, sort of representing a golden era of spaceflight that we are bringing to a close now.

Superimposed upon this moon, alongside the bust of Apollo, alongside mankind, we're a little bit parochial: we have a very contemporary American eagle whose wings are coloured with blue and red stripes of our flag. And we have three white stars indented into the top of this eagle's wings.

The significance there is to remind us not just in this country, and as I say, parochially speaking the rest of the world, that the achievements that have happened in the past decade were not by accident. America brought us to where we are today and the United States of America is going to lead us into the achievements and accomplishments of the future."

A normal Apollo mission plan would have ended in a landing on the moon during a solar eclipse, putting the spacecraft in the moon's shadow for up to nine hours. The engineers felt that some of the spacecraft systems might not survive such a long cold period, so to arrive at the target in sunlight with the sun at the right angle, Apollo 17 was scheduled to have the first night launch...........

It was a brilliant spectacle. With an intensity equal to the sun, the dazzling glare from the streaming wake of the giant rocket lit up the night sky and was seen as far away as North Carolina, over 500 miles (805 km) away. " have a lift off. We have a lift off and it's lighting the area, it's just like daylight here at the Kennedy Space Centre as the Saturn V is moving off the pad. It has now cleared the tower."

Apollo 17 was the first spacecraft to break out of Earth orbit and head for the moon from over the Atlantic instead of the Pacific because the Saturn IVB rocket was not quite powerful enough under the conditions to push the spacecraft to escape velocity from the Pacific.

Schmitt was intrigued with the weather patterns he could see on the Earth. It was an unusually clear day, and he was describing it to Houston when the Capcom commented: "You're a regular human weather satellite!"

Schmitt, in space for the first time, found he was unable to communicate his feelings to Houston: "Bob, you always wish that you had a poet aboard one of these missions, so he could describe things that we're seeing and looking at and feeling in terms that might transmit at least part of that feeling to everybody in the world. Unfortunately that's not the case, but..... I certainly hope that some day, in the not too distant future, the guy can fly who can express these things."

They followed the now familiar routine of arriving at he lunar surface. "Gene landed the LM as if it were an everyday event," said Schmitt, the first geologist to visit the moon. Coming to the end of his checklist, he then announced: "The next thing it says is that Gene gets out!"

Cernan: "How are my legs? Am I getting out?"

Schmitt: "Well, I don't know. I can't see your legs..... I think you're getting out though, because there isn't as much of you in here as there used to be....."

The now familiar routine of exploring around the LM in the rover was broken by Cernan breaking part of the wheel dustguard. Cernan: "Yeah, I caught it under my hammer. The reason it was so important to fix it was because of the lunar dust. It's fine like graphite, but rather than a lubricant, it's a friction producing material it gets into everything, into your visor, into the electronic gear, and when we drove the rover without that portion of that fender we had a roostertail of dust thrown completely over the top over everything, and that was just unacceptable. So we made a fender out of some geology maps. We took duct tape, but we couldn't use it because of all that lunar dust, we couldn't clean it off enough for the tape to stick. So we taped a couple of maps together the night before and then had to use light clamps from inside the LM to clamp it on to the existing portion of the fender. When we came home we needed the clamps because they held both lights, so we brought the fender home and it's now in the Smithsonian in Washington." This was the first successful automotive repair on the moon.

As Schmitt clambered down the ladder for their second excursion, he looked up and announced: "My, what a nice day. There's not a cloud in the sky!" On their way back from the South Massif near Shorty Crater on this trip, Schmitt was about to take a photograph when his excited voice stirred everybody up: "There is orange soil!!"

Cernan: "Well, don't move till I see it."

Schmitt: "It's all over orange."

Cernan: "Don't move till I see it."

Schmitt: "I stirred it up with my feet!"

Cernan: "Hey it is! I can see it from here."

Schmitt: "It's orange!"

Cernan: "Wait a minute, let me put my visor up...... It's still orange!"

Schmitt's boot had kicked the soil and revealed orange soil, which was actually microscopic glass beads, tinted by Titanium, caused by an impact, not by volcanism.

Cernan: "When you are on the surface of the moon in the daytime it's a paradox. You are standing on the surface of the moon lit by sunlight you, your body and the surroundings, and you look up at the sky and it's black it's not darkness it's just black. Most people confuse darkness with blackness they are totally two different words. Darkness is the absence of light in my definition. Blackness is a void. Blackness is the absence of almost anything. If you look at the Earth from the moon it reflects sunlight, yet it is surrounded by the blackest black you could ever conceive in your mind the absence of anything. The blackness has three dimensions. I didn't find the black sky above oppressive. I define blackness as the infinity of time and space and if you let your mind and imagination wander the infinity of time and space does anything but close in upon you it just goes on forever. When you stand on the moon and look up and see that blackness which goes all the way to the horizon of the moon, it doesn't feel like you are being closed in upon like a black painted ceiling at all as a matter of fact it is exactly the opposite.

When you are on the moon you can't look anywhere near the sun it's devastatingly bright. When we drove the rover back to the east it was a lot more difficult to see upsun than downsun because of the reflective surface. The closer you looked toward the sun you just couldn't see much definition at all.

A lot of people say can you see anything else in the daytime on the moon can you see stars? The answer to that is yes if you shield your face and eyes from all the reflected light around you can see stars in the daytime on the moon not as brightly as at night of course."

A visit to the North Massif during the third geological excursion to the Sculptured Hills brought to an end the last journey on the surface of the moon.

Houston: "Okay, you guys, say farewell to the moon."

Cernan: "Bob, this is Gene. I'm on the we leave the moon at TaurusLittrow, we leave as we came, and, God willing, we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind."

Gene Cernan climbed up the nine steps of the LM ladder to become the last person in the Apollo Program to leave the lunar surface. At the top he paused and looked around: "I felt excited that we had been there, but disappointed that we had to leave. Jack Schmitt and I described that valley that we landed in as our own private little Camelot. We knew once we left we would never come back. It was our home it was a uniquely historical place no man had ever been before in the history of life on this planet of ours. You were there you made your imprint. You would think that would be enough, but there was so much to do. Then you do leave and you remember all the things you wished you would have done little things or big things or whatever. It was hard to leave but it was time to leave. I always thought that if I knew things were going to go so well I wish I could have stayed another week or two. But you do know the longer you stay the more vulnerable you might become to problems that might come to keep you from getting home."

On Earth Mission Control read a statement from President Nixon: "As Challenger leaves the surface of the moon we are conscious not of what we leave behind, but of what lies before us." So as the last words exchanged between the moon and Earth echoed around the world, what were the people of Planet Earth who were listening thinking........?

It seems everybody remembers the first step on the moon few can remember the last person to pull his boot off the surface of the moon.

After a text book launch from the lunar surface, Apollo 17 returned to Earth on December 19, to be welcomed back to a big party on the carrier USS Ticonderoga, and entered the record books with the longest manned flight to the moon, the heaviest swag of lunar samples; the longest activity time on the lunar surface, the longest time in lunar orbit, and the only Saturn V night launch. Apollo 17 was also the first time the brand new 64 metre "big" dish was used at the Tidbinbilla Tracking Station.



On December 22, 1972, Deep Space Station 41 at Island Lagoon, Woomera, finished life as a tracking station for NASA. The Department of Supply found that the cost of transporting the antenna to a new location was prohibitive, so it was sold for scrap the following year.

As it was Christmas, Bill Mettyear, wrote the following poems in memory of his beloved station:


Alas, we are nearing the end of our task

As well as the end of the year.

And so with mixed feelings we bid you goodbye

As well as the season's good cheer.

For our station is closing, and as we withdraw

From the teams that take part in the race

We recall with some pride the part we have played

In the exploration of space.

And as we prepare for the last of our tracks

We send our last wishes to you.

From Don Cocks, John Heath and the rest of the staff

Who made up the Forty-One crew.


Christmas is here, the grass is ris

I wonder where Station 41 is?

41's gone but not forgotten

For us the future is verbotten

No more countdowns, no more tracks

No more trackchiefs and long playbacks

But as each year passes by

Our thoughts back here will surely fly.

Of Happy times and good companions

Rewarding work (all for the taxman)

So fare thee well, and this we prithee

A Merry Christmas, and wish we were withee!


With no more lunar missions in the foreseeable future, the Manned Space Flight Tracking Network, in particular the three 26 metre sites which included Honeysuckle Creek, designed specially for tracking spacecraft at lunar distances, now had no reason to exist. Luckily there were more exciting projects on the way to prolong their life for a few years.

Top | On to Epilog| Back to Index | My home page