… and catching up with the Apollo 13 astronauts after their return
On May 7, 1970, NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine announced
that the next Moon-landing mission, Apollo 14, would launch no earlier than
Dec. 3 — the delay from the original October date a result of the ongoing
investigation into the explosion aboard Apollo
13 in April. Paine also announced that the mission would target the Fra
Mauro highlands region of the Moon, the landing site planned for Apollo 13. The
14 prime crew of Commander Alan B. Shepard, Command Module (CM) Pilot Stuart
A. Roosa and Lunar Module (LM) Pilot Edgar
D. Mitchell, as well as their backups Eugene
A. Cernan, Ronald E. Evans and Joe
H. Engle, continued training for the 10-day mission. The recently announced
crew for Apollo
15, Commander David R. Scott, CM Pilot Alfred
M. Worden and LM Pilot James B. Irwin, along with backups Richard
F. Gordon, Vance
D. Brand and Harrison
H. “Jack” Schmitt, began training for their mission slated for the
summer of 1971.
Apollo 13 astronauts James
A. Lovell, John L. “Jack” Swigert and Fred
W. Haise spent the first weeks after returning from their harrowing
mission in debriefings, press conferences and other public appearances.
Left: Apollo 14 prime
astronauts Edgar Mitchell (left) and Alan Shepard with the MET during the geology
training trip to Hawaii. Right: Apollo
14 backup astronauts Eugene Cernan (left) and Joe Engle with the MET in Hawaii.
Image Credits: NASA
The announcement that Apollo 14 would attempt a landing at
Fra Mauro resulted in a change in that crew’s geology training. Since
scientists expected their original planned landing site at Littrow to be of
volcanic origin, Apollo 14’s early geology sessions took place at volcanically
relevant sites, such as the trip to Hawaii in April 1970. The Fra Mauro site
included the Cone Crater impact feature, so subsequent training sessions, beginning
with the early June trip to Kilbourne Hole, New Mexico, focused on areas with
impact craters. The Apollo 14 crew members were the first to use the Modular
Equipment Transporter (MET), a golf-cart-like wheeled conveyance as an aid
during their two planned lunar traverses, and used it during the training
sessions. Since Apollo 14 also emphasized science observations from lunar
orbit, Roosa and Evans took part in flyover geology exercises near Flagstaff,
Arizona, in mid-June. To rehearse the final 300 feet of the descent to the
Moon’s surface, Shepard and Cernan flew training flights in the Lunar
Landing Training Vehicle (LLTV) at Ellington Air Force Base near NASA’s
Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). Apollo prime and backup commanders used the
LLTV to practice the final 300 feet of the landing on the Moon.
Left: Apollo 14
astronauts Shepard (left) and Mitchell prepare for a simulated altitude test
with the LM. Right: Workers in the VAB
stack the Saturn V’s second stage onto the first stage. Image Credits: NASA
Workers in the NASA Kennedy Space Center Vehicle Assembly
Building (VAB) resumed the stacking of the Saturn V rocket for Apollo 14. They
had already placed the rocket’s first stage on its Mobile Launcher in January,
and then added the second and third stages on May 12 and 13, respectively. Technicians
began testing the launch vehicle while engineers implemented modifications to the
Apollo spacecraft as a result of the Apollo 13 accident. In Kennedy’s Manned
Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB) on May 26, prime crew members Shepard and
Mitchell completed a simulated altitude chamber test with the LM, followed the
next day by backups Cernan and Engle. The two teams performed the actual
altitude tests on June 16 and 22, respectively, followed by simulated altitude
tests with the CM over the next two days.
Left: LM-9, originally
planned for Apollo 15, arrives at Kennedy. Right: Workers inspect the LM-9
ascent stage after its arrival in the MSOB. Image Credits: NASA
In May 1970, mission managers were planning for Apollo 15 to
follow Apollo 14 by about six months. At the time, it was planned as the last
of the 10-day H-type missions, like Apollo 12 to 14, with the crew completing
two lunar traverses using the MET as a tool carrier. LM-9, the lander
originally planned for Apollo 15, arrived at Kennedy on June 8, and workers in
the MSOB began inspections the next day.
Apollo 15’s landing site hadn’t been formally chosen, but the
Davy Rille, also known as the Davy Crater Chain in the eastern portion of a
large, broken-ring depression in the northeastern corner of the Sea of Clouds (Mare Nubium), was of interest to
scientists. Apollo 15 mission plans changed significantly in September 1970. Scott,
Irwin, Gordon and Schmitt completed geology training exercises in the Orocopia
Mountains of California from May 6-13, and in the Mojave Desert in California
and the area around Flagstaff, Arizona, including a visit to Meteor Crater from
June 3-5. The participation of Schmitt, the only geologist in the astronaut
corps, significantly aided the training sessions. Worden and Brand conducted
orbital geology training in Menlo Park, California, from May 11-12, making
visual sightings and taking photographs from airplanes. Scott completed
multiple training flights in the LLTV, adding to the skills he acquired in 1969
when he served as the backup commander for Apollo 12.
Left: Apollo 13
astronauts (in background, wearing white shirts, left to right) James Lovell, Jack
Swigert and Fred Haise during a debriefing with Donald K. “Deke” Slayton and
Wernher von Braun. Middle: Apollo 13
astronauts (left to right) Lovell, Swigert and Haise during the postflight
press conference. Right: At the Senate
Committee hearing (left to right) Rocco Petrone, Thomas Paine, Lovell and
Swigert. Image Credits: NASA
On April 17, the day the Apollo 13 astronauts successfully
splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, Paine established the Apollo 13 Review
Board, with Edgar M. Cortright, director of NASA’s Langley Research Center, as
its chair. The eight-member panel met for two months and presented its report
on June 15. The astronauts began post-mission
debriefs the day after they returned to Houston and held a press conference at
the MSC, later renamed Johnson Space Center, in Houston. On April 24, Lovell
and Swigert, accompanied by Paine and Apollo Program Manager Rocco A. Petrone, appeared
before the Senate Aeronautics and Space Committee to discuss their mission.
Scenes of the parade
and welcome reception for the Apollo 13 crew in Chicago.
To celebrate the safe return of Apollo 13 to Earth, on May 1
the city of Chicago threw a parade that Lovell and Swigert attended (Haise was
not available). Mayor Richard J. Daley welcomed them at Civic Center Plaza (now
Left: Reception for
the Apollo 13 crew in Kennedy’s VAB. Middle: Apollo 13 astronauts (left to
right) Lovell, Swigert and Haise at the Grumman plant. Right: Workers shower
Lovell with confetti at the North American Rockwell plant.
On May 4, Deputy Director Miles “Mike” Ross welcomed Lovell,
Swigert and Haise back to Kennedy, where during a reception in the VAB he
presented them with photographs of their launch three weeks earlier. In turn,
the astronauts thanked the 7,500 assembled workers for their hard work,
presenting them with a signed armrest from the LM Aquarius as a memento from their mission. The next day, Lovell,
Swigert and Haise travelled to the Grumman plant in Bethpage, New York, where
they thanked the workers for the skill with which they built Aquarius, their lifeboat after the
accident. Finally, on May 6, it was on to the North American Rockwell plant in
Downey, California, where the astronauts thanked the employees who manufactured
their CM Odyssey. The Apollo 13
astronauts’ travel schedule relaxed somewhat during the next few months until
they departed for their Presidential Goodwill Tour to Europe in October 1970.
… to be continued.
News events from around
the world in May 1970
- May 2 – Diane Crump becomes the first woman jockey to ride at the Kentucky Derby
- May 4 – National Guard kills four students at Kent State University in Ohio.
- May 8 – The Beatles release their "Let it Be" album, the group’s last.
- May 15 – Elizabeth Hoisington and Anna Mae Mays named first female U.S. generals.
- May 23 – Grateful Dead's first performance outside the United States (in England).
- May 26 – The Soviet Tupolev Tu-144 becomes the first commercial transport to exceed Mach 2.
- May 31 – Magnitude 7.75 earthquake off the coast of Peru kills nearly 70,000 people and sets off the world's deadliest avalanche.