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Apollo 15

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Apollo 15
Mission Insignia
Missing image
Apollo-15-LOGO.jpg
Apollo 15 insignia

Mission Statistics
Mission Name:Apollo 15
Call Sign:Command module: Endeavour
Lunar module: Falcon
Number of
Crew:
3
Launch:July 26, 1971
13:34:00 UTC
Kennedy Space Center
LC 39A
Lunar Landing:July 30, 1971
22:16:29 UTC
26 7' 55.99" N - 3 38' 1.90" E
Hadley Rille
Lunar EVA
length:
LM Stand Up: 33 min 7 s
1st: 6 h 32 min 42 s
2nd: 7 h 12 min 14 s
3rd: 4 h 49 min 50 s
Total: 18 h 34 min 46 s
CMP EVA: 39 min 7 s
Lunar Surface
Time:
66 h 54 min 53.9 s
Lunar Sample
Mass:
77 kg (170 lbs)
Splashdown:August 7, 1971
20:45:53 UTC
Template:Coor dm
Duration:12 d 7 h 11 min 53 s
Number of
Lunar Orbits:
74
Time in
Lunar Orbit:
145 h 12 min 41.68 s
Mass:CSM 30,370 kg;
LM 16,430 kg
Crew picture
Missing image
Apollo_15_crew.jpg
Apollo 15 crew portrait (L-R: Scott, Worden and Irwin)


Apollo 15 crew portrait
(L-R: Scott, Worden and Irwin)
Apollo 15 crew

Apollo 15 was the ninth manned mission in the Apollo program and the fourth mission to land on the Moon. It was the first of what were termed J missions — long duration stays on the Moon with a greater focus on science than had been on previous missions.

Commander David Scott and Lunar Module Pilot James Irwin spent three days on the Moon and a total of 18 hours outside the spacecraft on lunar extra-vehicular activity. The mission was the first not to land in a Lunar mare, instead landing near Hadley rille. The crew explored the area using the first Lunar Rover allowing them to travel much further from the Lunar Module lander than had previously been possible. They collected a total of 77 kg (170 lbs) lunar surface material.

At the same time Command Module Pilot Alfred Worden orbited the Moon, using a Scientific Instrument Module (SIM) to study the lunar surface and environment in great detail using a panoramic camera, gamma ray spectrometer, mapping camera, laser altimeter, mass spectrometer, and lunar sub-satellite that was launched at the end of the mission.

Contents

Planning and training

The crew for Apollo 15 had previously served as the backup crew for Apollo 12. There had been a friendly rivalry between that prime and backup crew on that mission, with the prime being all Navy, and the backup all Air Force.

Originally Apollo 15 would have been an H mission, like Apollos 12, 13, 14. But on September 2, 1970, NASA announced it was cancelling what were to be the current incarnations of the Apollo 15 and Apollo 19 missions. To maximize the return from the remaining mission, Apollo 15 would now fly as a J mission and have the honor of carrying the first Lunar Rover.

One of the major changes in the training for 15 was the geology training. Although on previous flights the crews had been trained in field geology, for the first time 15 would make it a high priority. Scott and Irwin would train with Lee Silver, a Caltech geologist who on Earth was interested in the Precambrian. Silver had been suggested by Harrison Schmitt as an alternative to the classroom lecturers that NASA had previously used. Among other things, Silver had made important refinements to the methods for dating rocks using the decay of uranium into lead in the late 1950s.

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Apollo_15_commander_Dave_Scott_geology_training.jpg
Commander Dave Scott during geology training in New Mexico on March 19, 1971

At first Silver would take the prime and backup crews to various geological sites as if it was just a normal field geology lesson, but as the time of launch began to approach, these trips became more and more realistic. The crews would begin to wear mock-up of the backups they would carry and communicate using walkie-talkies to a CapCom in a tent (during a mission the Capsule Communicators, CapComs, were the only people who would normally speak to the crew). With the CapCom would be a group of geologists who did not know the area and would have to rely on the astronauts descriptions to interpret the area.

The decision to land at Hadley came in September 1970. The Site Selection Committees had narrowed the field down to two sites — Hadley Rille or the crater Marius, near which were a group of low, possibly volcanic, domes. Although not ultimately his decision, the commander of a mission always held great sway. To Dave Scott the choice was clear, with Hadley, being "exploration at its finest".

Command Module Pilot Al Worden also undertook geology training, but of a different kind. Working with an Egyptian, Farouk El-Baz, he would fly over areas in an airplane simulating the speed at which terrain would pass below him while in the CSM in orbit. He became quite adept at making observations as the object travelled below.

Hardware

The Lunar Roving Vehicle, or the Rover, had been in development since May 1969, with the contract awarded to Boeing (who also were the lead contractors for the S-II second stage of the Saturn V). It could be folded into a space 5 ft by 20 in (1.5 m by 0.5 m). Unloaded it weighed 460 lbs (209 kg) and when carrying two astronauts and their equipment, 1500 lbs (700 kg). Each wheel was independently driven by 1/4-horsepower electric motor. Although it could be driven by either astronaut, the Commander always drove. Travelling at speeds up up to 6 to 8 mph (10 to 12 kph), it meant the for the first time the astronauts could travel far afield from their lander and still have enough time to do some serious science.

The Saturn V that launched Apollo 15 was designated SA-510, the tenth flight-ready model of the rocket. Apollo 15 used Command/Service Module CSM-112, which was given the callsign Endeavour, named after the HM Bark Endeavour and Lunar Module LM-10, callsign Falcon, named after the United States Air Force Academy mascot. If Apollo 15 had flown as an H mission it would with CSM-111 and LM-9. The CSM was used by the Apollo Soyuz Test Project and the Lunar Module was unused and is now on display at the Kennedy Space Center.

Missing image
Apollo_15_SIM_bay.jpg
Apollo 15 SM SIM bay (NASA)

As the payload of the rocket was greater, changes were made to it launch trajectory and Saturn V itself. The rocket was launched in a more southerly direction (80–100 degrees azimuth) and the Earth parking orbit lowered to 166 km (90 nautical miles) above the Earth's surface. These two changes meant 1100 pounds (500 kg) more could be launched. The propellant reserves were reduced and the number of retrorockets on the S-IC first stage reduced from eight to four. The four outboard engines of the S-IC would be burned longer and the center engine would also burn longer before being shutdown (see Saturn V for more information on the launch sequence). Changes were made to the S-II second stage to stop pogo oscillations.

On the Lunar Module, the fuel and oxidizer tanks were enlarged on both the descent and ascent stages and the engine bell on the descent stage was extended. Batteries and solar cells were added for increased electrical power. In all this increased the weight of the Lunar Module to 36,000 pounds (16,330 kilograms), 4000 pounds (1800 kg) heavier than previous models.

Technicians at the Kennedy Space Center had many problems with the SIM bay. It was the first time it had flown and experienced problems from the start. Problems came from the fact the instruments were designed to operate in zero gravity, but had to be tested in the 1 gee on the surface of the Earth. As such things like the 7.5 m booms for the mass and gamma-ray spectrometers could only be tested using railings that tried to mimic the space environment, though never worked particularly well. When the technicians tried to integrate the entire bay into the rest of the spacecraft, data streams would not synchronize and lead investigators of the instruments would want to make last minute checks and changes. When it came time to test the operation of the gamma-ray spectrometer it was neccesary to stop ever engine within 10 miles (16 km) of the test site.

Once all the various components had been installed on the Saturn V, it was moved to the launch site, Launch Complex 39A. During late June and early July 1971, the rocket and Mobile Service Structure were struck by lightning at least four times. All was well however, with only minor damage suffered.

Outward journey

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The following is a brief overview of the Apollo 15 mission. For more in-depth information, see each the main article for each section.

Launching at at 9:34:00 am EST on July 26, 1971, Apollo 15 would take four days to reach the Moon. After spending two hours in orbit around the Earth, the S-IVB third stage of the Saturn V was reignited to send them to the Moon.

During the retrieval of the LM from its stowed position below the CSM, a light came on the control panel that indicated the valves of the Service Propulsion System were open and the engine should be firing. A short was found in a switch that controlled on the redundant valves for the engine. New procedures were developed to deal with this. During their first inspection of the LM, Scott and Irwin found that the glass cover of a tapemeter had broken forcing them to clean up the glass shards least they breathe them in.

On the fourth day they entered into lunar orbit and prepared for lunar descent.

Solo operations

During the three day explorations of the Moon by Scott and Irwin, Worden had a busy schedule of observations. Apollo 15 was the first mission to carry the SIM bay, which contained a panoramic camera, gamma ray spectrometer, mapping camera, laser altimeter and mass spectrometer. Worden had to operate the shutter and lenses on the camera and turn on and off the various instruments. During the coast back to Earth, he would perform an EVA to retrieve film cassettes from the cameras.

Lunar surface

Main article: Apollo 15, Lunar surface

Apollo 15 was the first mission to perform three EVAs on the lunar surface. After landing, Scott removed the top hatch of the LM to perform a site survey and get a brief overview of the surrounding areas. The first EVA took the crew on the Rover to the base of Mount Hadley Delta. Back at the LM the crew started the deployment of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package (ALSEP). Scott had extreme difficulty drilling the holes for the heat-flow experiment, forcing him to have to come back the next day to complete the task.

The second EVA again to Scott and Irwin to the base of Mount Hadley Delta but they went up its slope. Here they found the Genesis Rock. Returning to the LM, Scott completed the heat flow holes and began on a core sample which once again was extremely difficult to drill. He was once again forced to leave it for the next day.

The difficulties with the core sample meant the cancellation of the traverse to the North Complex. The crew still travelled to the edge of Hadley Rille. Returning to the LM for the last time, Scott dropped a falcon feather and his geology hammer to show that in gravity fields, the mass of the object does not affect the rate at which is falls.

Return to Earth

After lifting off from the lunar surface, Falcon and Endeavour rendezvoused and docked. After transferring across the lunar samples and other equipment, Falcon was jettisoned. It would fire its rocket engine to cause it to impact the lunar surface.

Apollo 15 spent one more day in lunar orbit, continuing the observations of Worden. After releasing a subsatellite, they ignited their Service Propulsion system to put them on a trajectory back to Earth. The next day, Worden performed an EVA to retrieve the film cassettes from the SIM bay cameras.

The twelfth day in space was uneventful, with Mission Control holding a press conference where the astronauts were asked questions submitted by the news media. On their 13th and final day they prepared for reentry. During descent one of their parachutes failed, meaning they landed under only two.

The stamp controversy

Dave Scott's space suit on display at the
Enlarge
Dave Scott's space suit on display at the NASM

After a highly successful mission, the reputation of the crew was tarnished somewhat by a deal they made with H. Walter Eiermann. Scott had carried 398 First-Day Covers in his spacesuit. Eiermann had said give each astronauts US$7000 in the form of savings accounts in return for the having the covers signed after they had returned from the Moon. He told them that he would not advertise or sell the covers until the end of the Apollo program.

Scott sent 100 of these covers to Eiermann, who was in Stuttgart, Germany. Eiermann then passed them onto a stamp dealer Herman E. Sieger. Seiger proceeded to sell the covers for an average price of US$1,500 in a public sale in Germany. On hearing this news, Scott contacted Eiermann and asked that the sale be stopped. The crew also decided against receiving any money from Eiermann. NASA took possession of the remaining 298 covers.

All three crewmembers were formally reprimanded and their official Efficiency Reports as military officers changed to reflect a formal finding of lack of judgment.

Other minor controversy centered around two timepieces, a watch and stopwatch, carried by Scott. He had agreed to evaluate the timepieces for the manufacturer at the request of a friend. Thinking they might be useful, particularly for the possible emergency timing of a manually controlled propulsion maneuver, Scott carried them on the mission but without prior authorization.

One final controversial event happened after the flight. The crew had contacted sculptor Paul Van Hoeydonck to create a small statuette so that they could personally commemorate those astronauts and cosmonauts who had lost their lives. The small aluminium was left on the Moon. They made an agreement with Van Hoeydonck that no replicas were to be made. After mentioning the statuette during their post-flight press conference, the National Air and Space Museum contacted the crew to see if they could get a replica made for the museum. The crew agreed as long as it was done with good taste and without publicity. Van Hoeydonck was contacted to make the replicas. In May 1972 Scott learned that Van Hoeydonck planned to make more replicas and sell them. Van Hoeydonck could not be presuaded not to and 950 replicas were sold for $750 apiece at the Waddell Gallery of New York.

Media

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Crew

Backup Crew

The backup crew trained to take the place of the prime crew in case of illness or death.

Support Crew

The support crew were not trained to fly the mission but were able to stand in for astronauts in meetings and be involved in the minutiae of mission planning, while the prime and backup crews trained. They often also served as capcoms during the mission.

Mission Parameters

  • Mass:
    • Launch mass: 2,921,005 kg
    • Total spacecraft: 46,782 kg
      • CSM mass: 30,354 kg, of which CM was 5840 kg, SM 24,514 kg
      • LM mass: 16,428 kg, of which ascent stage was 4971 kg, descent stage 11,457 kg
  • Earth orbits: 3 before leaving for Moon, about one on return
  • Lunar orbits: 74

Earth parking orbit

Lunar orbit

LM-CSM Docking

EVAs

  • Scott - Stand up EVA - LM upper hatch
  • Start Stand Up EVA: July 31, 1971, 00:16:49 UTC
  • End Stand Up EVA: July 31, 00:49:56 UTC
  • Duration: 33 minutes, 07 seconds
  • Scott and Irwin - EVA 1
  • EVA 1 Start: July 31, 1971, 13:12:17 UTC
  • EVA 1 End: July 31, 19:45:59 UTC
  • Duration: 6 hours, 32 minutes, 42 seconds
  • Scott and Irwin - EVA 2
  • EVA 2 Start: August 1, 1971, 11:48:48 UTC
  • EVA 2 End: August 1, 19:01:02 UTC
  • Duration: 7 hours, 12 minutes, 14 seconds
  • Scott and Irwin - EVA 3
  • EVA 3 Start: August 2, 1971, 08:52:14 UTC
  • EVA 3 End: August 2, 13:42:04 UTC
  • Duration: 4 hours, 49 minutes, 50 seconds
  • Worden - Transearth EVA 4
  • EVA 4 Start: August 5, 1971, 15:31:12 UTC
  • EVA 4 End: August 5, 16:10:19 UTC
  • Duration: 39 minutes, 07 seconds

See also

References

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