Apollo Expeditions to the Moon|
THE HUNT FOR THE RIM OF CONEAnother problem was that the ruggedness and unevenness of the terrain made it very hard to navigate by landmarks, which is the way a man on foot gets around. Ed and I had difficulty in agreeing on the way to Cone, just how far we had traveled, and where we were. We did some more sampling. and then moved on toward Cone, into terrain that had almost continuous undulations, and very small flat areas. Soon after that, the surface began to slope upward even more steeply, and it gave us the feeling that we were starting the last climb to the rim of Cone. We passed a rock which had a lot of glass in it, and reported to Houston that it was too big to pick up.
We continued, changing our suit cooling rated to match our increased work output as we climbed. and stopping a couple of times briefly to rest. For a while, we picked up the cart and carried it, preferring to move this way because it was a little faster.
And then came what had to be one of the most frustrating experiences on the traverse. We thought we were nearing the rim of Cone, only to find we were at another and much smaller crater still some distance from Cone. At that point, I radioed Houston that our positions were doubtful, and that there was probably quite a way to go yet to reach Cone.
About then, there was a general concurrence that maybe that was about as far as we should go, even though Ed protested that we really ought to press on and look into Cone crater. But in the end, we stopped our traverse short of the lip and turned for the walk back to Antares.
Later estimates indicated we were perhaps only 30 feet or so below the rim of the crater, and yet we were just not able to define it in that undulating and rough country.
One of the rocks we sampled in that area was a white breccia (a rock made up of pieces of stone embedded in a matrix). The white coloring came from the very high percentage of feldspar that was in the breccia. That rock, and others in the area, were believed to approach 4.6 billion years in age.
We stopped at Weird crater, for more sampling and some panoramic photography, and then continued the return traverse. At the Triplet craters, more than three-quarters of the way back to Antares, we stopped again. Ed's job there was to drive some core tubes; I was to dig a trench to check the stratification of the surface. But the core material was granular and slipped out of the tube every time Ed lifted it clear of the surface. I wasn't having any better luck with my trenching, because the side walls kept collapsing. I did get enough of a trench dug so that I could observe some stratification of the surface materials, seeing their color shift into the darker browns and near blacks, and then into a surprisingly light-colored layer underneath the darkest one.
That was it, Antares was in sight, as it had been throughout much of the traverse, and our long Moon walk was almost over. I went on past Antares to the ALSEP site to check antenna alignment because of reports from Houston that a weak signal was being received. Ed took some more samples from a nearby field of boulders.
At that, our surface tasks were done, with the exception of recovering the solar-wind experiment and getting back into Antares for the return flight. We had covered a distance of about two miles and collected many samples during four and one-half hours on the surface in the second EVA. I also threw a makeshift javelin, and hit a couple of golf shots.
After liftoff there were still experiments left to do. The first of these was another seismic event, generated by the impact of the jettisoned Antares on the Moon. Again the Moon responded with that resonant ringing for some time after the event. Once we were on our way back to Earth, we did a series of four experiments in weightlessness. One was a simple metal casting experiment, to see what the effects of zero gravity would be on the purity or the homogeneity of the mass. The materials included some pure samples, and others with crystals or fibers for strengthening. As you might expect, the materials turned out to be more homogeneous under zero-gravity conditions. We measured heat flow and convection in some samples and, sure enough, zero gravity changed those characteristics also. We did some electrophoretic separations, which are techniques used by the pharmaceutical industry to make vaccines, in the belief that maybe zero-gravity conditions could simplify a complex and expensive process. Finally, we did some fluid transfer experiments, simply trying to pour a fluid from one container to another in zero gravity. The surface tension works against you there, and so it was much easier when the containers being used were equipped with baffles that the fluid could cling to, as it were.
That was our mission. Our return was routine, our landing on target, and our homecoming as joyous as those before.
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, once he was there. Our two flights- Apollo 12 and 14- proved that scientists could select a target area and define a series of objectives, and that man could get there with precision and carry out the objectives with relative ease and a very high degree of success. And both of our flights. as did earlier and later missions, pointed up the advantage of manned space exploration. 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.
Apollo 12 and 14 were the transition missions. After us came the lunar rover, wheels to extend greatly the distance of the traverse and the quantity of samples that could be carried back to the lunar module. And on the last flight, a trained scientist who was also an astronaut went along on the mission.
I'd like to look on that last flight as just a temporary hold in the exploration of space.