21 April 1972, 02:23:35 UTC: Lunar Module Orion (LM-11) touched down on the surface of the Moon at the Descartes Highlands. On board were the Mission Commander, Captain John Watts Young, United States Navy, and Lunar Module Pilot Lieutenant Colonel Charles M. Duke, Jr., United States Air Force. They were the ninth and tenth humans to stand on the Moon.
Technical problems delayed Orion‘s descent for three orbits. Lieutenant Commander Thomas K. (Ken) Mattingly II, U.S.N., the Command Module Pilot, remained in lunar orbit aboard Casper (CSM-113).
As they neared the surface they started to see dust blowing at about 80 feet (24 meters). The lunar module hovered briefly before continued downward.
104:29:22 Duke:Okay, 2 down. Stand by for contact. Come on, let her down. You leveled off.(Pause) Let her on down. Okay, 7. . . 6 percent [fuel remaining]. Plenty fat.
104:29:36 Duke: Contact! Stop. (Pause while they drop to the surface) Boom.
During a debriefing, John Young said,
“When we got the Contact light, I counted ‘one-potato’ and shut the engine down. The thing fell out of the sky the last three feet. I know it did. I don’t know how much we were coming down, maybe a foot a second.” ¹
Young and Duke remained on the surface for 2 days, 23 hours, 2 minutes, 12 seconds. ² During that time, they performed three EVAs totaling 20 hours, 14 minutes, 14 seconds. ³ They drove their Lunar Roving Vehicle 16.6 miles (26.7 kilometers).
A remote television camera was placed on the surface and captured color images of the Lunar Module Ascent Stage departing the Moon for lunar orbit at 01:25:47 UTC, 24 April 1972. ⁴
¹ FAI Record File Number 2301. Greatest Mass Landed on a Celestial Body: 8 257,6 kilograms (18,204.9 pounds)
² FAI Record File Number 2303. Duration of Stay on the Surface of a Celestial Body: 71 hours, 02 minutes, 13 seconds
³ FAI Record File Number 17099: Duration Extravehicular Stay on the Surface of Moon or Planet: 39 hours, 47 minutes, 3 seconds [TDiA note: EVA 1, 118:53:38—126:04:40, 7 hours, 11 minutes, 2 seconds. EVA 2, 142:39:35—150:02:44, 7 hours, 23 minutes, 9 seconds. EVA 3, 165:31:28—171:11:31, 5 hours, 40 minutes, 3 seconds. Total of EVAs 1, 2 and 3: 20 hours, 14 minutes, 14 seconds.]
⁴ FAI Record File Number 17098: Greatest Mass Lifted to Lunar or Planetary Orbit from the Lunar or Planetary Surface: 4 965,5 kilograms (10,947.05 pounds)
20 April 1962: “Neil’s Cross-Country.” NASA Research Test Pilot Neil Alden Armstrong conducts a flight to test the Minneapolis-Honeywell MH-96 flight control system installed in the third North American Aviation X-15, serial number 56-6672. The new system combined both aerodynamic and reaction thruster flight controls in one hand controller rather than the two used in X-15s -670 and -671, simplifying the tasks for the pilot.
On its fourth flight, -672 was air-dropped from the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress drop ship, Balls 8, over Mud Lake, Nevada. Armstrong fired the Reaction Motors XLR99-RM-1 engine and let it burn for 82.4 seconds. The X-15 accelerated to Mach 5.31 (3,789 miles per hour/6,098 kilometers per hour). After the engine was shut down, the rocketplane continued to its peak altitude on a ballistic trajectory, reaching 207,500 feet (63,246 meters) before going over the top and beginning its descent back toward the atmosphere. The test of the new flight control system went well.
Neil Armstrong began to pull out of the descent at about 100,000 feet (30,480 meters), but the X-15 “ricocheted” off the top of the atmosphere and climbed back to 115,000 feet (35,052 meters) where the aerodynamic control surfaces could not function. He used the reaction thrusters to turn toward the dry lake landing area at Edwards Air Force Base, but although the X-15 rolled into a left bank, it would not change direction and still in ballistic flight, went zooming by Edwards at Mach 3 and 100,000 feet in a 90° left bank.
As the X-15 dropped back into the atmosphere, Armstrong was finally able to get it slowed down, but he was far south of his planned landing site. By the time he got -672 turned around he was 45 miles (72.4 kilometers) to the south, over the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and gliding through 45,000 feet (13,716 meters). There was real doubt that he would be able to make the X-15 stretch its glide to reach the dry lake.
In a masterful display of airmanship, Neil Armstrong was able to get the X-15 to reach the south end of the dry lake, 12 miles (19.3 kilometers) from the planned landing spot to the north. But it was a very close call. In debriefing, the pilots of the four F-104 chase planes were asked how much clearance Armstrong had as he crossed over the Joshua trees at the edge of the lake bed. One of them answered, “Oh, at least 100 feet—on either side.”
At 12 minutes, 28.7 seconds, this was the longest flight of the entire X-15 program. It is called “Neil’s cross-country flight.”
A U.S. Navy fighter pilot who flew 78 combat missions during the Korean War, Neil Armstrong became a civilian test pilot at NACA (National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, the predecessor to NASA) in 1955. He made 7 flights in the X-15 before transferring to NASA’s Project Gemini in 1962.
Armstrong was command pilot for Gemini 8 and Gemini 11, commander of the backup flight crew of the Apollo 8 mission, and was commander of Apollo 11.
On 20 July 1969, Neil Alden Armstrong was the First Man To Stand on the Surface of The Moon.
17 April 1970: Apollo 13 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at S. 21° 38′ 24″, W. 165° 21′ 42″, southwest of American Samoa. The landing was just 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) from the recovery ship, USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2).
With their spacecraft crippled by an internal explosion on 13 April, the planned lunar landing mission had to be aborted. Astronauts James A. Lovell, Jr., John L. Swigert, Fred W. Haise, Jr., worked continuously with engineers at Mission Control, Houston, Texas, to overcome a series of crises that threatened their lives.
16 April 1972: At 17:54:00 UTC (12:54 p.m., Eastern Standard Time), Apollo 16 was launched from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Aboard were Captain John Watts Young, United States Navy, the Mission Commander, on his fourth space flight; Lieutenant Commander Thomas Kenneth Mattingly II, U.S. Navy, Command Module Pilot, who had been scheduled for the Apollo 13 mission; and Lieutenant Colonel Charles Moss Duke, Jr., U.S. Air Force, Lunar Module Pilot. Apollo 16 was the tenth manned Apollo mission, and the fifth to land on The Moon. The landing site was in the Descartes Highlands.
John Young had been a Navy test pilot before being assigned to NASA as an astronaut. He was the pilot for Gemini 3; backup pilot, Gemini 6A; commander, Gemini 10; command module pilot for Apollo 10; backup commander, Apollo 13; and commander, Apollo 16. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 1976 after 25 years of service. He would go on to command the first space shuttle flight, Columbia (STS-1) and then STS-9. He was scheduled to command Atlantis (STS-61-J). John Young retired from NASA in 2004, as one of the world’s most experienced astronauts.
The Saturn V lifted off at T + 000:00:00.59 and quickly accelerated, reaching Mach 1 one minute, 7.5 seconds after launch (T + 01:07.5). The S-IC first stage engines cut off and the stage separated at T + 02:43.5. The S-II stage continued to drive the space craft, and Apollo 16 entered Earth orbit at 18:05:56.21 UTC.
The Saturn V rocket was a three-stage, liquid-fueled heavy launch vehicle. Fully assembled with the Apollo Command and Service Module, it stood 363 feet (110.642 meters) tall. The first and second stages were 33 feet (10.058 meters) in diameter. Fully loaded and fueled the rocket weighed 6,200,000 pounds (2,812,273 kilograms).¹ It could lift a payload of 260,000 pounds (117,934 kilograms) to Low Earth Orbit.
The first stage was designated Saturn S-IC. It was designed to lift the entire rocket to an altitude of 220,000 feet (67,056 meters) and accelerate to a speed of more than 5,100 miles per hour (8,280 kilometers per hour). The S-IC stage was built by Boeing at the Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, Louisiana. It was 138 feet (42.062 meters) tall and had an empty weight of 290,000 pounds (131,542 kilograms). Fully fueled with 203,400 gallons (770,000 liters) of RP-1 and 318,065 gallons (1,204,000 liters) of liquid oxygen, the stage weighed 5,100,000 pounds (2,131,322 kilograms). It was propelled by five Rocketdyne F-1 engines, producing 1,522,000 pounds of thrust, each, for a total of 7,610,000 pounds of thrust at Sea Level. These engines were ignited seven seconds prior to lift off and the outer four burned for 168 seconds. The center engine was shut down after 142 seconds to reduce the rate of acceleration. The F-1 engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation at Canoga Park, California.
The Saturn S-II second stage was built by North American Aviation at Seal Beach, California. It was 81 feet, 7 inches (24.87 meters) tall and had the same diameter as the first stage. The second stage weighed 80,000 pounds (36,000 kilograms) empty and 1,060,000 pounds loaded. The propellant for the S-II was liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The stage was powered by five Rocketdyne J-2 engines, also built at Canoga Park. Each engine produced 232,250 pounds of thrust, and combined, 1,161,250 pounds of thrust.
The Saturn V third stage was designated Saturn S-IVB. It was built by McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company at Huntington Beach, California. The S-IVB was 58 feet, 7 inches (17.86 meters) tall with a diameter of 21 feet, 8 inches (6.604 meters). It had a dry weight of 23,000 pounds (10,000 kilograms) and fully fueled weighed 262,000 pounds. The third stage had one J-2 engine and also used liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for propellant. The S-IVB wou place the Command and Service Module into Low Earth Orbit, then, when all was ready, the J-2 would be restarted for the Trans Lunar Injection.
Eighteen Saturn V rockets were built. They were the most powerful machines ever built by man.
¹ At First Motion (T + 000.00.00.3) the Vehicle Weight of Apollo 16/Saturn V AS-511 was calculated at 6,439,605 pounds (2,920,956 kilograms).