In response to the Apollo
13 Review Board’s recommendations, in the summer of 1970, managers and
engineers began implementing modifications to Apollo spacecraft for upcoming
missions. Completion of the changes resulted in delays of upcoming missions
while NASA evaluated the remainder of the Moon-landing missions. Workers at NASA’s
Kennedy Space Center continued preparing the Saturn V rockets for the next two flights
while the astronaut crews for the Apollo 14 and 15 missions continued their
Left: Workers stack
the Apollo 14 Saturn V’s third stage on May 13. Right: Apollo 14 prime crew members
Alan Shepard (left) and Edgar Mitchell prior to a vacuum chamber test of their
LM. Credits: NASA
On June 30, 1970, NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine
announced the slip of the Apollo 14 launch to Jan. 31, 1971. The two-month delay
resulted from changes required to the Apollo spacecraft recommended by the
Apollo 13 Review Board that investigated the causes of an oxygen tank explosion
while the crew was on its way to the Moon. The recommendations included changes
to eliminate potential combustion hazards in the Service Module’s (SM’s) high-pressure
oxygen tank and the installation of a third oxygen tank for added redundancy.
Engineers at Kennedy’s Manned Spacecraft Operations Building
(MSOB) began implementing the modifications in late July. In Kennedy’s Vehicle
Assembly Building (VAB), workers stacked the Apollo 14 Saturn V’s rocket third
stage in mid-May and began testing the assembled vehicle, awaiting the
spacecraft once engineers finished modifications and testing. The Apollo 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, conducted altitude tests of their LM
and CM in the MSOB’s vacuum chambers. They ran simulations of various aspects
of their mission, and the Moonwalkers practiced tasks for their lunar surface excursions,
such as deploying the Apollo
Lunar Surface Experiment Package (ALSEP) suite of scientific
instruments and using the Modular Equipment Transporter (MET), a two-wheeled
conveyance to ease the burden of carrying tools and rock samples over long
Left: Apollo 14 backup
crew members (left to right) Gene Cernan, Ronald Evans, and Joe Engle during a
simulated CM altitude chamber run. Right: Apollo 14 prime crew members (top to
bottom) Mitchell, Stuart Roosa, and Shepard pose on a LM mock-up. Credits: NASA
Left: Apollo 14
astronauts (left to right) Mitchell, Roosa, and Shepard during a run in the CM
simulator. Right: Mitchell (left) and
Shepard during a run in the LM simulator. Credits: NASA
Left: Apollo 14
astronauts Mitchell (left) and Shepard rehearse deploying the ALSEP instruments.
Middle: Mitchell (left) and Shepard
practice deploying the American flag. Right: Shepard uses the MET. Credits:
The Fra Mauro landing site selected for Apollo 14 included
the Cone Crater impact feature, so the astronauts’ geology training included
terrestrial locations with impact features. During the week of Aug. 10, Apollo
14 astronauts Shepard, Mitchell, Cernan, and Engle spent a week at the Nördlinger
Ries Crater in Germany, a 16-mile wide impact feature believed to be about 15
million years old. Accompanied by a team
of American and German geologists, the astronauts learned to identify
structures in the crater and collect the appropriate set of rock samples.
Three views of Apollo
14 astronauts Shepard, Mitchell, Cernan, and Engle with geologists during the
geology field trip to Nördlinger
Ries Crater in Germany. Credits: NASA
With the delay of Apollo 14 to January 1971, the launch of
Apollo 15 also slipped to July or August of that year. Workers at Kennedy began
the process of stacking the Saturn V for Apollo 15 with the arrival in the VAB
of the rocket’s first stage on July 7. As originally planned, Apollo 15 was to
be similar to Apollo 12 and 14, with a two-day stay on the lunar surface and
the astronauts conducting two spacewalks using the MET.
Missions starting with Apollo 16 would include significantly
expanded capabilities, including a three-day stay with three excursions and the
use of a Lunar Rover that the astronauts could use to travel far greater
distances. The Apollo’s SM would also be equipped with a suite of instruments
to take advantage of the longer stay in lunar orbit to conduct a variety of
scientific observations. Managers and engineers held the Critical Design Review
for the Lunar Rover on June 16 and 17 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in
Huntsville, Alabama. Astronauts John W. Young and Charles M. Duke participated
in the review and, wearing spacesuits, practiced with a mock-up of the vehicle.
In August 1970, Paine asked NASA’s Lunar and Planetary
Missions Board and the Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences
to review possible alternatives for future Apollo missions. One alternative was
to complete the remaining planned six lunar-landing flights through Apollo 19,
and the other was to delete two of the missions. The latter option would save
money during a very tight fiscal year and also free up rockets and spacecraft
for possible other uses, such a follow-on to the Skylab space station then
planned for late 1972. Although the two organizations strongly backed flying
the six remaining missions, on Sept. 2, Paine announced the difficult decision
that he was cancelling two flights — Apollo 15 and 19 — with the remaining
flights renumbered Apollo 14 through 17, to be flown at six-month intervals.
This changed the plans for Apollo 15, which would now assume the tasks of the
first of the expanded missions.
The crew of Commander David R. Scott, CM Pilot Alfred
M. Worden and LM Pilot James B. Irwin, and their backups Richard
F. Gordon, Vance
D. Brand and Harrison
H. “Jack” Schmitt, began training for their new mission. All six
astronauts completed a geology training exercise near Flagstaff, Arizona, from July
15-17, including a surface traverse followed by a flyover to examine the sites
explored on foot. On July 23, the Apollo 15 crew and several other astronauts
traveled to Medicine Hat, Alberta, to witness the Dial Pack 500-ton TNT test
explosion conducted by the Canadian Defence Research Establishment. The blast
created a crater 230 feet in diameter, 15 feet deep, and with a central mound
similar to lunar impact craters. The astronauts examined the crater within 10
minutes after the blast, providing an excellent firsthand experience to observe
Left: The Apollo 15
Saturn V first stage arrives at Kennedy’s VAB. Right: Astronauts Charles Duke
(left) and John Young test a mock-up of the Lunar Rover. Credits: NASA
On July 28, 1970, Paine announced his resignation from NASA
effective Sept. 15, with plans to return to the General Electric Company, the
firm for which he worked when President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him as deputy
administrator in January 1968. Paine assumed that position two months
later and became acting administrator upon the resignation of Administrator
James E. Webb in October 1968. President
Richard M. Nixon kept Paine in the position and named him the permanent administrator
in March 1969. The two men welcomed
the Apollo 11 astronauts back to Earth aboard the prime recovery ship USS Hornet in July 1969.
Original Mercury astronaut L. Gordon Cooper announced he was
leaving NASA effective July 31, 1970.
Cooper completed two spaceflights, Mercury
9 in 1963 and the then-record-setting Gemini 5 two years later,
becoming the first person to complete two orbital missions and accumulating more
than 222 hours in space. He later served as backup command pilot on Gemini 12
and backup commander on Apollo 10. Cooper
left NASA to assume executive positions in the private sector.
To be continued …
News events from around the world in July 1970:
July 4: Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” radio program debuts.
July 6: California passes the first “no fault” divorce law.
July 12: Explorer Thor Heyerdahl crosses the Atlantic Ocean
on the Ra II papyrus raft after
sailing 57 days from Morocco to Barbados.
July 15: Denmark beats Italy 2-0 in the first world female
July 18: Willie Mays becomes the 10th Major League Baseball
player to get 3,000 hits.
July 21: Aswan High Dam opens in Egypt, enabling human
control of the flooding of the Nile River.
July 25: “(They Long to Be) Close to You” by The Carpenters
July 31: Chet Huntley retires from NBC News, ending the