Apollo Apollo 10 astronaut blog Charlie Brown Gene Cernan John Young Lunar moon Pad 39B Saturn V Snoopy Space Tom Stafford

Remembering Apollo 10, 50 Years On (Part 2) « AmericaSpace

Snoopy, the little black-and-white canine from the Peanuts caricature, was all over the place at NASA 5 many years ago, this month, as Apollo 10 and its three-man crew—Commander Tom Stafford, Command Module Pilot (CMP) John Younger and Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) Gene Cernan—ready for their launch to the Moon. Snoopy had turn out to be the mascot for a mission which might clear the ultimate hurdle in carrying out humanity’s first piloted landing on the surface of another world. As outlined in final weekend’s AmericaSpace historical past function, Apollo 10 was already shaping up to be one of the crucial complicated missions ever tried.

At Cape Kennedy in Florida, he might be seen sporting his purple scarf and astronaut’s bubble helmet on sweatshirts, stickers, posters and buttons. In reality, there have been some uncanny parallels with Jules Verne’s famous 1865 novel a few journey to the Moon, which additionally launched from Florida, additionally carried three men and in addition included a canine passenger. But the trials that Apollo 10 would face enormously dwarfed anything even the thoughts of Verne might probably have conceived. On the morning of 18 Might 1969, the danger was briefly put aside within the excitement. Walking down the hall of the Operations and Checkout Building, Stafford spotted one among their crew secretaries, Jamie Flowers, holding an unlimited stuffed Snoopy. Stafford patted it on the top, Young swiped at it and Cernan playfully tried to seize it and take it with him.

The playfulness ended once they arrived on the gantry of Pad 39B and have been overwhelmed by the seriousness of what was about to occur. “The elevator door rattled closed as we rose up,” wrote Cernan in his autobiography, The Final Man on the Moon, “higher and higher and we could see clearly through the wide openings of the safety door. Every inch of the way the rocket beside us hummed and vibrated. Glass-like chunks of ice slid away as her cryogenic lifeblood…boiled and bubbled in her guts. She’s alive!” At size, the elevator stopped and technicians welcomed them to the “Twelve-Forty-Nine Express,” in light-hearted reference to their scheduled 12:49 p.m. EDT liftoff time.

Within the distance, on the beaches and roadways of the Cape, tons of of automobiles and vans and camper vans sat bumper-to-bumper. Hundreds of spectators primed themselves for the event of 1969 which only one different mission might probably surpass: the landing itself in July. It was a couple of minutes after 10 a.m. that Tom Stafford entered the command module, which the crew had dubbed “Charlie Brown”, and scrunched himself into the commander’s seat on the left aspect of the cabin. Subsequent, Cernan assumed the right-side seat of the LMP and, lastly, came John Younger within the middle seat as the CMP. Pad leader Guenter Wendt—who had saved Cernan from an unfortunate episode with a deputy sheriff the day before, as outlined in last weekend’s AmericaSpace historical past article—wished them good luck, tapped their helmets and displayed a thumbs-up, before Charlie Brown’s hatch was closed and sealed. Stafford, Younger, and Cernan would see no other human being for the subsequent eight days.

Alone now, the lads broke out their checklists and commenced studying knowledge to flight controllers and implementing pc updates. Apollo 10’s stabilization and control system was checked, telemetry and radio frequencies have been verified, pyrotechnics have been armed, inner batteries inspected, the altimeter was updated, and Charlie Brown’s reaction control thrusters have been pressurised. “No time to think,” Cernan later wrote, “just time to do.” As launch neared, exterior energy sources have been eliminated and Apollo 10 was transferred onto its inner gasoline cells. Stafford’s hand controllers have been activated and the Saturn V’s steerage system assumed control.

Nine seconds before liftoff, the astronauts felt, then heard, the gasoline valves opening on the enormous rocket’s S-IC first stage. Then, the 5 mighty F-1 engines, engorged with propellant, roared to life. Three miles (5 km) away, the launch commentator counted down the ultimate seconds, amidst a steadily growing din: “Ignition sequence start…five, four, three, two…all engines running…” Finally, because the Saturn V broke its shackles to Earth and ponderously rose, like Prometheus unchained, got here “Launch Commit…Liftoff…We have a liftoff, at forty-nine minutes past the hour!”

CBS Information protection of the Apollo 10 launch, 50 years ago, this week. Video Credit: CBS Information/YouTube

Queen Fabiola of Belgium was within the VIP bleachers and instinctively grabbed the arm of her husband, King Baudouin, in shock because the “unearthly howl” of the most important and most powerful rocket ever delivered to operational status rolled over them. Even King Hussein of Jordan, who had seen many launches, flinched on the spectacle. Contained in the rattling command module, Stafford, Younger, and Cernan have been buffeted by vibrations which rifled their means, vertically, up via the booster.

Years later, Cernan might think of solely two words to explain the feeling: “Absolutely scary.” That scariness was balanced by the pure, adrenaline-fed thrill because the Saturn climbed in stately trend toward the heavens, taking 11 seconds to clear the tower. The journey on the first stage was a clean, guttural roar, which pitched and rolled them out over the Atlantic Ocean for the first two minutes of the mission.

Next got here the sharp jolt of the S-II second stage, which just about propelled them head-first into Charlie Brown’s instrument panel, and then the primary worrisome indicators of “pogo” arose. Pogo was an intense, low-frequency longitudinal oscillation, which rippled up via the body of the Saturn, inflicting it to “bounce” violently, like an enormous pogo stick. “The engineers had shaved 20,000 pounds of metal” out of the S-IC, Stafford recalled, “making the booster walls more flexible and more prone to pogo. Also, there was a ground stabilization bar inside the cockpit that connected our crew couches to the rear bulkhead. It was supposed to be removed before launch, but somebody forgot. The bar magnified the pogo!”

The ignition of the Saturn’s second stage, the S-II, got here with a noticeable wham, which slammed the astronauts again into their seats. “But the pogo stayed with us,” Gene Cernan wrote, “worse than ever, as another million pounds of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen … burned hot and hard for seven minutes and we accelerated with breathtaking speed.” This acceleration was accompanied by disturbing moans and creaks from the rocket, as its metallic strained beneath excessive pogo forces. Stafford, Younger, and Cernan might really feel the impact, 20 tales beneath them, however might see nothing, for the command module’s only uncovered window was instantly in front of the commander’s face.

Their momentary blindness ended when Younger pushed the buttons to jettison the Saturn’s escape tower and launch shroud. These blew away with an incredible roar, and the cabin was instantly flooded with sunlight. The violence of the event stunned Cernan, to the extent that he was momentarily convinced that Apollo 10 had been torn unfastened from the booster. Still, the view was electrifying, as Africa’s western shore and the startling azure blue of the Atlantic Ocean, lapping its shoreline got here into sight. Stafford, Younger and Cernan had crossed the second-largest ocean on the planet…in a mere 12 minutes.

But they weren’t quite in orbit. “We got another stomp when the third stage kicked in,” wrote Cernan. After the ignition of the S-IVB, the experience turned from an intense rocking and rolling into one thing he might solely describe as being borne together with the grace and elegance of a Cadillac. Lastly, when the S-IVB fell silent, Apollo 10 was in a 118-mile (190-km) “parking” orbit, round Earth, ready to begin its journey to the Moon…however with one query still unanswered: Had the pogo damaged their spacecraft?

Flight Director Glynn Lunney and his Black Staff of controllers might see nothing amiss of their telemetry, however that they had an uneasy feeling that one thing was not proper. Ultimately, Lunney voted with the info on his display, which informed him that nothing was flawed. When Apollo 10 picked up communications with the Carnarvon tracking station on Honeysuckle Creek in Australia, the astronauts acquired a “Go for TLI.”

The six-minute Trans-Lunar Injection burn of the S-IVB started at 3:19 p.m. EDT, just a little greater than 4 hours into the mission, when the third stage’s single J-2 engine got here to the life for the second time that day. For 3 minutes of the burn, all went properly. Apollo 10 accelerated briskly toward the speed it will have to climb out of Earth’s gravitational “well” and set course for the Moon. Sadly, the speed was accompanied by some disturbing vibrations by means of the car. At their worst, these vibrations have been so dangerous that the astronauts might hardly read their devices. Tom Stafford stored his gloved hand tightly closed around the controller which might allow him to close down the S-IVB and abort the mission. “We’re getting a little bit of high-frequency vibrations in the cabin,” he radioed, calmly. “Nothin’ to worry ‘bout.”

It felt like “flutter”—the aeroelastic phenomenon during which aerodynamic forces on an object, together with an plane’s natural vibration, produce speedy periodic motions—and Stafford was privately fearful that it might necessitate an abort. With six months left to satisfy President Kennedy’s aim, he merely couldn’t deliver himself to twist the abort controller. “An abort would leave us in a giant, looping orbit,” he later wrote. “There would be no visit to the Moon, no test of the lunar module, just a two-day wait for re-entry.”

For Stafford, the decision was a no-brainer: he would not call an abort. “If she’s gonna blow,” he advised himself, “she’s gonna blow.” On the other aspect of the cabin, Cernan was considering of the abort procedures, but in addition couldn’t deliver himself to execute them. Stafford repeatedly whispered, “C’mon, baby.” At size, after six minutes, the S-IVB shut down, on time. Apollo 10’s velocity was right on the money on the 23,900 mph (38,500 km/h) wanted to start the three-day voyage to the Moon. The scare illustrated a harsh fact: On the USA’ second journey past Earth orbit, nothing could possibly be taken as a right and all the things was nonetheless a huge unknown.

Gene Cernan summed up their feelings perfectly in his autobiography. Years of flying probably the most advanced plane on Earth, pushing them to their limits, and discovering solutions to pre-determined questions now counted for nothing. “Out here,” Cernan wrote, “confronting a foreign and hostile environment, where there was no horizon, no up or down, and where speed and time take on new meaning, we not only didn’t know the answers…we didn’t know the questions!”

The third part of this four-part history function will seem next weekend.



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