The Apollo Spacecraft - A Chronology.

Part 3 (H)

Man Circles the Moon, the Eagle Lands, and Manned Lunar Exploration


1971 January

1971 February

1971 March

1971 April

1971 May

1971 July

1971 October

1971 November

1971 December


January 18

NASA was considering several methods for providing real-time television coverage of lunar surface activities with scientific commentary to the news media during future Apollo flights. A recommended approach would place scientific personnel from within NASA, including Apollo Program principal investigators, in the MSC news center briefing room with a panel representing the news media. The scientific personnel would supplement the normal air-to-ground communications, public affairs commentary, and TV transmissions from the moon with spontaneous commentary on surface activities in progress.

Memo, James A. McDivitt, MSC, to Rocco A. Petrone, NASA Hq., "Media coverage of Apollo 12 and 14 experiments," Jan. 18, 1971.

January 29

The space vehicle for the Apollo 14 mission was determined ready for launch on January 31. The Flight Readiness Review had been held at KSC on December 17, 1970; all required action and open work had been completed; and the Pre-Liftoff Readiness Review had been favorably completed January 29.

Memo, Rocco A. Petrone, NASA Hq., to Apollo 14 Flight Readiness Review Record, "Confirmation of Flight Readiness for the Apollo 14 Mission," Jan. 29, 1971.

January 31-February 9

The Apollo 14 (AS-509) mission - manned by astronauts Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Stuart A. Roosa, and Edgar D. Mitchell - was launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, KSC, at 4:03 p.m. EST January 31 on a Saturn V launch vehicle. A 40-minute hold had been ordered 8 minutes before scheduled launch time because of unsatisfactory weather conditions, the first such delay in the Apollo program. Activities during earth orbit and translunar injection were similar to those of the previous lunar landing missions. However, during transposition and docking, CSM 110 Kitty Hawk had difficulty docking with LM-8 Antares. A hard dock was achieved on the sixth attempt at 9:00 p.m. EST, 1 hour 54 minutes later than planned. Other aspects of the translunar journey were normal and proceeded according to flight plan. A crew inspection of the probe and docking mechanism was televised during the coast toward the moon. The crew and ground personnel were unable to determine why the CSM and LM had failed to dock properly, but there was no indication that the systems would not work when used later in the flight.

Apollo 14 entered lunar orbit at 1:55 a.m. EST on February 4. At 2:41 a.m. the separated S-IVB stage and instrument unit struck the lunar surface 174 kilometers southeast of the planned impact point. The Apollo 12 seismometer, left on the moon in November 1969, registered the impact and continued to record vibrations for two hours.

After rechecking the systems in the LM, astronauts Shepard and Mitchell separated the LM from the CSM and descended to the lunar surface. The Antares landed on Fra Mauro at 4:17 a.m. EST February 5, 9 to 18 meters short of the planned landing point. The first EVA began at 9:53 a.m., after intermittent communications problems in the portable life support system had caused a 49-minute delay. The two astronauts collected a 19.5-kilogram contingency sample; deployed the TV, S-band antenna, American flag, and Solar Wind Composition experiment; photographed the LM, lunar surface, and experiments; deployed the Apollo lunar surface experiments package 152 meters west of the LM and the laser-ranging retroreflector 30 meters west of the ALSEP; and conducted an active seismic experiment, firing 13 thumper shots into the lunar surface.

A second EVA period began at 3:11 a.m. EST February 6. The two astronauts loaded the mobile equipment transporter (MET) - used for the first time - with photographic equipment, tools, and a lunar portable magnetometer. They made a geology traverse toward the rim of Cone Crater, collecting samples on the way. On their return, they adjusted the alignment of the ALSEP central station antenna in an effort to strengthen the signal received by the Manned Space Flight Network ground stations back on earth.

Just before reentering the LM, astronaut Shepard dropped a golf ball onto the lunar surface and on the third swing drove the ball 366 meters. The second EVA had lasted 4 hours 35 minutes, making a total EVA time for the mission of 9 hours 24 minutes. The Antares lifted off the moon with 43 kilograms of lunar samples at 1:48 p.m. EST February 6.

Meanwhile astronaut Roosa, orbiting the moon in the CSM, took astronomy and lunar photos, including photos of the proposed Descartes landing site for Apollo 16.

Ascent of the LM from the lunar surface, rendezvous, and docking with the CSM in orbit were performed as planned, with docking at 3:36 p.m. EST February 6. TV coverage of the rendezvous and docking maneuver was excellent. The two astronauts transferred from the LM to the CSM with samples, equipment, and film. The LM ascent stage was then jettisoned and intentionally crashed on the moon's surface at 7:46 p.m. The impact was recorded by the Apollo 12 and Apollo 14 ALSEPs.

The spacecraft was placed on its trajectory toward earth during the 34th lunar revolution. During transearth coast, four inflight technical demonstrations of equipment and processes in zero gravity were performed.

The CM and SM separated, the parachutes deployed, and other reentry events went as planned, and the Kitty Hawk splashed down in mid-Pacific at 4:05 p.m. EST February 9 about 7 kilometers from the recovery ship U.S.S. New Orleans. The Apollo 14 crew returned to Houston on February 12, where they remained in quarantine until February 26.

All primary mission objectives had been met (see Appendix 5). The mission had lasted 216 hours 40 minutes and was marked by the following achievements:

  • Third manned lunar landing mission and return.
  • Use of mobile equipment transporter (MET).
  • Payload of 32,500 kilograms placed in lunar orbit.
  • Distance of 3.3 kilometers traversed on lunar surface.
  • Payload of 43.5 kilograms returned from the lunar surface.
  • Lunar surface stay time of 33 hours.
  • Lunar surface EVA of 9 hours 47 minutes.
  • Use of shortened rendezvous technique.
  • Service propulsion system orbit insertion.
  • Active seismic experiment.
  • Inflight technical demonstrations.
  • Extensive orbital science period during CSM solo operations.
MSC, "Apollo 14 (AS-509) Flight Summary," undated; MSC, "Apollo 14 Mission Report" (MSC-04112), April 1971; NASA OMSF, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - February 16, 1971"; TWX, F. A. Speer, MSFC, to C. M. Lee, NASA Hq., "Apollo 14 (AS-509) HOSC Report," Jan. 31, 1971; ltr., Chester M. Lee, NASA Hq., "Mission Director's Summary Report, Apollo 14," Feb. 9, 1971; NASA Hq., Apollo 14 Preliminary Science Report (NASA SP-272, 1971).

February 22

MSC requested removal of sharp corners from the lunar roving vehicle (LRV) seat. During a recent series of LRV/EMU (extravehicular mobility unit) tests, a nicking or tearing of the portable life support system thermal cover had been discovered. Observation revealed that the thermal cover was contacting sharp corners on the LRV seats, when the test subject entered and left the vehicle.

Ltr., James A. McDivitt, MSC, to Richard G. Smith, MSFC, "Sharp corners on current lunar roving vehicle design," Feb. 22, 1971.

March 1

Because of difficulties during the past several months in developing and qualifying an automatic deployment system for the lunar roving vehicle, the automatic system was abandoned in favor of a manual system. Boeing was directed to stop all further effort on the automatic system.

Ltr., Richard G. Smith, MSFC, to Rocco A. Petrone, NASA Hq., "LRV Manual Deployment System," March 1, 1971.

March 10

Action was initiated to determine the feasibility of providing photographic coverage of a lunar eclipse from the lunar surface or the CSM during the Apollo 15 mission. The eclipse would occur on August 6, three or four days after the scheduled Apollo 15 mission lunar surface liftoff.

TWX, Rocco A. Petrone, NASA Hq., to James A. McDivitt, MSC, "Lunar eclipse during Apollo 15 mission," March 10, 1971.

April 26

Acting NASA Administrator George M. Low discontinued the quarantine for future Apollo flights to the moon beginning with the Apollo 15 mission. The decision was based on a recommendation of the Interagency Committee on Back Contamination (ICBC). The ICBC would continue as an active body, however, at least until the results of the last Apollo lunar mission were reviewed. Biomedical characterization of returned lunar samples would also be continued.

Low announcement, "Decision to Terminate Quarantine under NMI 1052.90 (Attachment A, Change 1, 2)," April 26, 1971; ltr., Dale D. Myers, NASA Hq., to MSC Director, "Decision to Terminate Quarantine," May 10, 1971; TWX, J. W. Humphreys, NASA Hq., "Discontinuance of Lunar Quarantine," April 28, 1971.

April 27

James C. Fletcher was sworn in as NASA Administrator at a White House ceremony. President Nixon had nominated him for the position on March 1, and the Senate had confirmed the nomination on March 11. George M. Low, NASA Deputy Administrator, had been Acting Administrator since the resignation of Administrator Thomas O. Paine on September 15, 1970.

Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1971 (NASA SP-4018, 1972), pp. 56-57, 59, 68, 69, 72, 114.

April 30

Lee B. James, Director of Program Management at MSFC, would leave for a position in the academic community effective May 31, MSFC announced. On June 1, J. T. Shepherd would assume the duties as Acting Director, Program Management. James had been active in the space program since 1947.

MSFC Key Personnel Announcement, April 30, 1971; ltr., Eberhard F. M. Rees, MSFC, to Robert R. Gilruth, MSC, May 3, 1971.

May 5

The Apollo Site Selection Board selected Descartes as the Apollo 16 site. However, after the selection, a discussion began as to whether the Kant or Descartes region would be the better choice. NASA finally decided to go with the original selection of the Board: Descartes would be the prime Apollo 16 Site.

Ltr., Lee R. Scherer, NASA Hq., to distr.," Apollo 16 and 17 Site Selection Discussions," May 5, 1971; TWX, Rocco A. Petrone, NASA Hq., to James A. McDivitt, MSC, et al., "Apollo 16 Landing Site," June 11, 1971.

May 13

NASA was considering a plan for obtaining contamination measurements on the remaining Apollo flights for use in Skylab planning. The plan required photography on Apollo 15 of liquid dumps, limited magnitude starfield, and window deposition photography. Apollo 16 and 17 would carry instrumentation to measure cloud intensity and effects, deposits and their effects, critical surfaces, particle count, surface charge potential, and pressure.

TWX, Leland F. Belew, MSFC, to William C. Schneider and John H. Disher, NASA Hq., Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, James A. McDivitt, and Ronald W. Kubicki, MSC, "Contamination Measurements on Apollo," May 13, 1971; memo, Leland F. Belew, MSFC,to ASPO and Skylab Managers, MSC, "Background and Justification for Apollo 16 Skylab Data Request," Sept. 10, 1971.

July 26-August 7

Apollo 15 (AS-510) with astronauts David R. Scott, Alfred M. Worden, and James B. Irwin aboard was launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, KSC, at 9:34 a.m. EDT July 26. The spacecraft and S-IVB combination was placed in an earth parking orbit 11 minutes 44 seconds after liftoff. Activities during earth orbit and translunar injection (insertion into the trajectory for the moon) were similar to those of previous lunar landing missions. Translunar injection was at about 12:30 p.m., with separation of the CSM from the LM/S-IVB/IU at 12:56 p.m. At 1:08 p.m., onboard color TV showed the docking of the CSM with the LM.

S-IVB auxiliary propulsion system burns sent the S-IVB/IU stages toward the moon, where they impacted the lunar surface at 4:59 p.m. EDT July 29. The point of impact was 188 kilometers northeast of the Apollo 14 landing site and 355 kilometers northeast of the Apollo 12 site. The impact was detected by both the Apollo 12 and Apollo 14 seismometers, left on the moon in November 1969 and February 1971.

After the translunar coast, during which TV pictures of the CSM and LM interiors were shown and the LM communications and other systems were checked, Apollo 15 entered lunar orbit at 4:06 p.m. EDT July 29.

The LM-10 Falcon, with astronauts Scott and Irwin aboard, undocked and separated from the Endeavor (CSM 112) with astronaut Worden aboard. At 6:16 p.m. EDT July 30, the Falcon landed in the Hadley-Apennine region of the moon 600 meters north-northwest of the proposed target. About two hours later, following cabin depressurization, Scott performed a 33-minute standup EVA in the upper hatch of the LM, during which he described and photographed the landing site.

The first crew EVA on the lunar surface began at 9:04 a.m. July 31. The crew collected and stowed a contingency sample, unpacked the ALSEP and other experiments, and prepared the lunar roving vehicle (LRV) for operations. Some problems were encountered in the deployment and checkout of the LRV, used for the first time, but they were quickly resolved. The first EVA traverse was to the Apennine mountain front, after which the ALSEP was deployed and activated, and one probe of a Heat Flow experiment was emplaced. A second probe was not emplaced until EVA-2 because of drilling difficulties. The first EVA lasted 6 hours 33 minutes.

At 7:49 a.m. EDT August 1, the second EVA began. The astronauts made a maintenance check on the LRV and then began the second planned traverse of the mission. On completion of the traverse, Scott and Irwin completed the placement of heat flow experiment probes, collected a core sample, and deployed the American flag. They then stowed the sample container and the film in the LM, completing a second EVA of 7 hours 12 minutes.

The third EVA began at 4:52 a.m. August 2, included another traverse, and ended 4 hours 50 minutes later, for a total Apollo 15 lunar surface EVA time of 18 hours 35 minutes.

While the lunar module was on the moon, astronaut Worden completed 34 lunar orbits in the CSM operating scientific instrument module experiments and cameras to obtain data concerning the lunar surface and environment. X-ray spectrometer data indicated richer abundance of aluminum in the highlands, especially on the far side, but greater concentrations of magnesium in the maria.

Liftoff of the ascent stage of the LM, the first one to be televised, occurred at 1:11 p.m. EDT August 2. About two hours later the LM and CSM rendezvoused and docked, and film, equipment, and 77 kilograms of lunar samples were transferred from the LM to the CSM. The ascent stage was jettisoned and hit the lunar surface at 11:04 p.m. EDT August 2. Its impact was recorded by the Apollo 12, Apollo 14, and Apollo 15 seismometers, left on the moon during those missions. Before leaving the lunar orbit, the spacecraft deployed a subsatellite, at 4:13 p.m. August 4, in an orbit of 141.3 by 102 kilometers. The satellite would measure interplanetary and earth magnetic fields near the moon. It also carried charged-particle sensors and equipment to detect variations in lunar gravity caused by mascons (mass concentrations).

A transearth injection maneuver at 5:23 p.m. August 4 put the CSM on an earth trajectory. During the transearth coast, astronaut Worden performed an inflight EVA beginning at 11:32 a.m. August 5 and lasting for 38 minutes 12 seconds. He made three trips to the scientific instrument module (SIM) bay of the SM, twice to retrieve cassettes and once to observe the condition of the instruments in the SIM bay.

CM and SM separation, parachute deployment, and other reentry events went as planned, but one of the three main parachutes failed, causing a hard but safe landing. Splashdown - at 4:47 p.m. EDT August 7, after 12 days 7 hours 12 minutes from launch - was 530 kilometers north of Hawaii and 10 kilometers from the recovery ship U.S.S. Okinawa. The astronauts were carried to the ship by helicopter, and the CM was retrieved and placed on board. All primary mission objectives had been achieved (see Appendix 5).

MSC, "Apollo 15 Mission Report" (MSC-05161), December 1971; MSC, "Apollo 15 (AS-510) Flight Summary," undated; TWX, H. F. Kurtz, MSFC, to C. M. Lee, NASA Hq., "Apollo 15 (AS-510) HOSC Report," July 26, 1971; MSFC, "Saturn Evaluation Bulletin," No. 1, 2, and 3, Aug. 3, 13, 27, 1971; ltr., Lee, "Mission Director's Summary Report, Apollo 15," Aug. 7, 1971: KSC, "Apollo 15 Post-Launch Report," Aug. 12, 1971.

October 6-7

Major items of discussion during the Manned Space Flight Management Council meeting in Washington were the Apollo 15 anomalies. These included parachute collapse during landing, lunar module descent battery, lunar surface drill, and steering mechanism on the LRV. Also discussed were the Apollo 16 preparations and the feasibility of TV coverage of the lunar rover during traverse.

The most likely cause of the parachute collapse was damage from burning raw RCS fuel (monomethyl hydrazine) being expelled during depletion firing. Corrective action included landing with reaction control system propellants on board for a normal landing and biasing the propellant load to a slight excess of oxidizer and increasing the time delay inhibiting the rapid propellant dump, to avoid fuel contacting the parachute riser and suspension lines during low-altitude-abort land landings.

Highlights of Manned Space Management Council Meeting," Oct. 18, 1971.

October 21

Some members of the Lunar Sample Review Board expressed concern that, unless provisions were made to retain vital parts of the Apollo science program for a number of years after the lunar landings were completed, tangible returns from the lunar landings would be greatly diminished. Three main areas of concern were the lunar sample analysis program, the curatorial staff and facilities for care of the sample collection, and the lunar geophysical stations and Apollo orbital science.

Ltr., William W. Rubey and Robert A. Phinney, Cochairmen, Lunar Sample Review Board, to John E. Naugle, NASA Hq., Oct. 21, 1971.

November 18

A detailed objective assessment of the lunar roving vehicle (LRV) used on the Apollo 15 mission indicated:

  • The LRV was successfully deployed, with minor problems. Deployment took 26.5 minutes instead of the allotted time of 17 minutes.
  • LRV systems were successfully prepared for traverse. Forward steering was inoperative during EVA-1, but functioned normally on EVA-2 and EVA-3.
  • Average speed during traverse was 9.3 kilometers per hour; maximum speed 13 kilometers per hour. Maximum slopes negotiated were up to 12 degrees. Braking distance was 4.6 meters from 10 kilometers per hour.
  • The navigation system was extremely accurate.
  • Forward visibility was generally excellent.
Ltr., Richard G. Smith, MSFC, to ASPO Manager, "Apollo 15 Objective Assessment Report," Nov. 18, 1971, with encl., "LRV Detailed Objective Assessment."

December 7

A meeting was held at NASA Hq. to formulate a plan to provide the National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC) with the material required to serve the scientific community. As a result of the meeting, MSC was requested to:

  • Prepare index map overlays and frame indexes for all lunar photos from command module and scientific instrument module cameras.
  • Evaluate the photos in terms of the correctness of the exposure settings and the visible effects of any camera malfunctions.
  • Manage the preparation of the photo support data and camera calibration data to ensure their suitability for the photogrammetric reduction and subsequent analysis of the photographs.
  • Manage the preparation of microfiche imagery of all command module photographs and every third mapping camera photograph, supplying masters and/or copies of the fiches to NSSDC.
  • Provide paper prints to NSSDC for the preparation of microfilm imagery of the panoramic camera photographs.
Ltr., Rocco A. Petrone, NASA Hq., to James A. McDivitt, MSC, "Revised Apollo Photo Data Package," Jan. 7, 1972.