The Apollo Spacecraft - A Chronology.|
This fourth and final volume of the Apollo Spacecraft Chronology covers a period of eight and a half years, from January 21, 1966, through July 13, 1974. The events that took place during that period included all flight tests of the Apollo spacecraft, as well as the last five Gemini flights, the AS-204 accident, the AS-204 Review Board activities, the Apollo Block II Redefinition Tasks, the manned Apollo flight program and its results, as well as further use of the Apollo spacecraft in the Skylab missions.
The manned flights of Apollo, scheduled to begin in early 1967, were delayed by the tragic accident that occurred on January 27, 1967, during a simulated countdown for mission AS-204. A fire inside the command module resulted in the deaths of the three prime crew astronauts, Virgil I. Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chaffee. On January 28, 1967, the Apollo 204 Review Board was established to investigate the accident. It was determined that action should be initiated to reduce the crew risk by eliminating unnecessary hazardous conditions that would imperil future missions. Therefore, on April 27, a NASA Task Team - Block II Redefinition, CSM - was established to provide input on detailed design, overall quality and reliability, test and checkout, baseline specification, configuration control, and schedules.
Months of scrutinizing and hard work followed. The testing of the unmanned spacecraft began with the successful all-up test launch and recovery of the Saturn V-Apollo space system on November 9, 1967. This flight, designated Apollo 4, marked the culmination of more than seven years of developmental activity in design, fabrication, testing and launch-site preparation by tens of thousands of workers in government, industry and universities. The unmanned Apollo 4 placed 126,000 kilograms in earth orbit. It accomplished the first restart in space of the S-IVB stage; the first reentry into the earth's atmosphere at the speed of return from the moon, nearly 40,200 kilometers per hour; and the first test of Launch Complex 39.
As time for the first manned Apollo flight neared, a decision was reached to use a 60-percent-oxygen and 40-percent-nitrogen atmosphere in the spacecraft cabin while on the launch pad and to retain the pure oxygen environment in space. By March 14, 1968, testing of the redesigned interior of the vehicle demonstrated that hardware changes inside the cabin, minimized possible sources of ignition, and materials changes had vastly reduced the danger of fire propagation.
During the beginning of the period covered by this chronology (from March through November 1966) the last five Gemini spacecraft were flown. The objectives of the Gemini program that were applicable to Apollo included: (1) long-duration flight, (2) rendezvous and docking, (3) postdocking maneuver capability, (4) controlled reentry and landing, (5) flight- and ground-crew proficiency, and (6) extravehicular capability. The prelaunch checkout and verification concept as originated during the Gemini program was used for Apollo. The testing and servicing tasks were very similar for both spacecraft. Although complexity of the operations substantially increased, the mission control operations for Apollo evolved from Projects Mercury and Gemini. The medical data collected during the Gemini flights verified that man could function in space for the planned duration of the lunar landing mission. Many of the concepts for crew equipment - such as food and waste management, housekeeping, and general sanitation - originated from the Gemini experience with long-duration missions. The Gemini missions also provided background experience in many systems such as communications, guidance and navigation, fuel cells, and propulsion.
While the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft were being developed and operated, the three-man Apollo program had grown in magnitude and complexity and included a command module, a service module, a lunar module, and a giant Saturn V rocket. The spacecraft and launch vehicle towered 110 meters above the launching pad, and weighed some 3 million kilograms. With the Apollo program, the missions and flight plans had become much more ambitious, the hardware had become more refined, the software had become more sophisticated, and ground support equipment also grew in proportion.
In October 1968 Apollo 7 became the first manned flight test of the Apollo command and service modules in earth orbit and demonstrated the effectiveness of the manned space flight tracking, command and communications network. This first mission was a rousing success, with all systems meeting or exceeding requirements.
The second Apollo flight was the much-publicized Apollo 8 mission in December 1968, during which man for the first time orbited the moon. Aside from the fact that the flight marked a major event in the history of man, it also was technically a remarkable mission. The purpose of the mission, to check out the navigation and communication systems at lunar distance, was accomplished with a complete verification of those systems.
Apollo 9 (March 1969) was an earth-orbital flight and included the first engineering test of a manned lunar module and the first rendezvous and docking of two manned space vehicles.
In May 1969 Apollo 10 journeyed to the moon and completed a dress rehearsal for the landing mission to follow in July. This mission was designed to be exactly like the landing mission except for the final phases of the landing, which were not attempted. The lunar module separated from the command module and descended to within 15 kilometers of the lunar surface, proving that man could navigate safely and accurately in the moon's gravitational field.
With the flight of Apollo 11, man for the first time stepped onto the lunar surface on July 20, 1969. The mission proved that man could land on the moon, perform specific tasks on the lunar surface, and return safely to earth.
Apollo 12 (November 1969) was the second manned lunar landing. Pieces from the unmanned Surveyor III spacecraft were recovered, and the first Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) was deployed.
Apollo 13 (April 1970) had been scheduled to be the third manned lunar landing. However, the lunar landing portion of the mission was aborted because of the explosion of an oxygen tank in the service module en route to the moon. A cislunar mission was accomplished and the lunar module was used to provide life support and propulsion for the disabled command and service module en route home. A safe return and landing was effected in the Pacific.
Apollo 14 (January-February 1971) successfully landed on the lunar surface, with the crew performing two extravehicular activities (EVAs), deploying the second Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package, and completing other scientific tasks with the aid of a rickshawlike mobile equipment transporter (MET). The crew remained on the lunar surface 33½ hours.
The fourth manned lunar landing, Apollo 15 (July-August 1971), was the first mission to use the Lunar Rover, the first to deploy a subsatellite in lunar orbit, the first to perform experiments in lunar orbit by using a scientific instrument module (SIM) in the service module, and the first to conduct extravehicular activity during the journey back to earth. Lunar stay time was 66 hours and 55 minutes.
Apollo 16 (July 1972), the fifth manned lunar landing, was essentially identical to Apollo 15 and configured for extended mission duration, remote sensing from lunar orbit, and long-distance surface traverses. The scientific instrument module was included in the service module.
The splashdown of Apollo 17 on December 19, 1972, not only ended one of the most perfect missions, but also drew the curtain on the manned flights of Project Apollo. It was the most ambitious moon probe, the longest moon mission - about 40 hours longer than Apollo 16, with 75 hours on the lunar surface from touchdown to liftoff. The extensive scientific exploration utilized a new generation of experiments. The crew traversed from the LM farther than ever before, traveling 32 kilometers in the Lunar Rover.
Although Apollo 17 was the last of the manned flights to the moon, it was not the last of the Apollo spacecraft. Apollo paved the way for missions to follow. The next program using an Apollo command module was Skylab (May 14, 1973-February 8, 1974), occurring within the time frame of this chronology, as studies of lunar samples and data returned from Project Apollo continued in laboratories throughout the world. Skylab was man's most ambitious and organized scientific probing of his planet and proved the value of manned scientific space expeditions. Skylab proved man's value in space as a manufacturer, an astronomer, and an earth observer, using the most sophisticated instruments in ways that unmanned satellites cannot match. Skylab also demonstrated man's great utility as a repairman in space.
Detailed studies of man's physiological responses to prolonged exposure to weightlessness proved his ability to adjust to the space environment and to perform useful and valuable work in space. In solar physics, Skylab enriched our solar data more than a hundredfold, with a total of some 200,000 photographs of the sun made from the Apollo Telescope Mount. As observers of earth resources from Skylab, the crews returned over 40,000 photographs and more than 60 kilometers of high-density magnetic tape. Data were acquired for all 48 continental United States and 34 foreign countries.
Beyond the period covered by this chronology, but before its publication, the Apollo spacecraft was used again in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), July 15-24, 1975. This joint space flight culminated in the first historical meeting in space between American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts. The event marked the successful testing of a universal docking system and signaled a major advance in efforts to pave the way for joint experiments and mutual assistance in future international space explorations. There were some 44 hours of docked joint activities during ASTP, highlighted by four crew transfers and the completion of a number of joint scientific experiments and engineering investigations. All major ASTP objectives were accomplished, including testing a compatible rendezvous system in orbit, testing androgynous docking assemblies, verifying techniques for crew transfers, and gaining experience in the conduct of joint international flights.
We will continue to apply what we learned from Apollo, as well as Skylab and ASTP, as we venture into the next manned program, known as the Space Shuttle. The Shuttle will be another leap forward. It will be the first reusable space vehicle. It will consist of three components: solid rocket boosters, a jettisonable external propellant tank, and an orbiter. The Space Shuttle will be launched like a rocket, fly in orbit like a spaceship, and land like an airplane. These vehicles are being designed to last for at least a hundred missions. The reusability will reduce the cost of putting men and payloads in orbit to about 10 percent of the Apollo costs.
In this chronology, as with any collection of written communications on a given project, the negative aspects of the program, its faltering and its failures, become more apparent because these are the areas that require written communication for corrective action. However, it should be stressed that in spite of the failures, the moon was reached by traveling an unparalleled path of success for an undertaking so complex. The disastrous fire at Cape Kennedy had given the Apollo program a drastic setback. But when Apollo 7 was launched, the first manned flight in nearly two years, it was a success. Every spacecraft since that time improved in performance with the exception of the problems experienced in Apollo 13. For example, consider the Apollo 8 spacecraft and booster, which contained some 15 million parts. If those parts had been 99.9 percent reliable, there still would have been 15,000 failures. But it had only five failures, all in noncritical parts.
To summarize Project Apollo - there were 11 manned flights; 27 Americans orbited the moon; 12 walked on its surface; 6 drove lunar vehicles. Perhaps one of the most important legacies of Apollo to future programs is the demonstration that great successes can be achieved in spite of serious difficulties along the way.
No other event in the history of mankind has served to bring the peoples of the world closer together than the lunar landings of Project Apollo. This feeling of "oneness" was fully displayed during the flight of Apollo 13 when many nations of the earth offered assistance in recovering the voyagers from their crippled spacecraft. From nearly every country came prayers and words of encouragement. The crippling of the Apollo 13 spacecraft en route to the moon called forth maximum cooperative use of the ability of astronauts, the ground support organization, and the contractors. The men and the equipment they designed and operated proved capable of handling this emergency.
Besides the demonstration of the power of teamwork, many areas of understanding have come out of the lunar landing program. The command and service modules on the last three lunar missions carried some 450 kilograms of cameras, sophisticated remote-sensing equipment, and additional consumables to investigate the moon thoroughly from orbit. Detailed studies of the moon were accomplished - of its size, shape, and surface, and the interrelationship of the lunar surface features and its gravitational field. On the surface of the moon, where there is no atmosphere to erode, secrets were uncovered that have long since been worn away here on earth. Understanding the geology of the moon improves the understanding of our own planet.
Twelve men, who spent a total of 296 hours exploring the lunar surface in six radically different areas, mined 382 kilograms of lunar rocks and material. Scientists have catalogued, distributed, and analyzed this lunar material. Much of the real discovery is still being unraveled in laboratories around the world.
Five lunar science stations, originally designed to last a minimum of a year, are still at work on the lunar surface, continuing to transmit to earth technical data about the moon.
The national space program became an example of a successful management approach to accomplish an almost impossible project. The task of going to the moon required a government, industry, and university team which, at its peak, organized 400,000 people, hundreds of universities, and 20,000 separate industrial companies for a common goal. This project was accomplished in full public view of the world. These management techniques are available to our country to use again on what are considered almost impossible tasks.
The Apollo photographs of the entire earth in one frame have made us realize how small and finite and limited are the resources of spaceship Earth. Apollo not only brought home to us more clearly the problems we must face in protecting this tiny planet, but it also suggested solutions. As we now turn some of our attention to such problems as mass transportation, pollution of our atmosphere and our fresh water resources, urban renewal, and utilization of new power sources, the same management approach, techniques, and teams that landed men on the moon can combine to help solve these kinds of problems. The photographs of our earth taken by astronauts on Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and ASTP have clearly demonstrated that we can make ecological surveys from space in geography, in agriculture and forestry, geology, hydrology, and oceanography. We can update maps, study pollution, predict floods, and help locate our natural resources and good commercial fishing grounds. We have only scratched the surface in the application of space technology.
The Apollo spacecraft not only made history, but laid a great foundation of hope for a better future. The really important benefits are yet to be derived, for we have merely cracked open the door to a completely new laboratory in which to pursue knowledge.
Kenneth S. Kleinknecht
Director of Flight Operations
Johnson Space Center