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Apollo Expeditions to the Moon



Launching was routine, as was the establishment of the Earth parking orbit that followed. After systems checks, and approval from Mission Control, the crew fired the S-IVB stage engine to leave the parking orbit and enter the translunar trajectory. Then they separated the command and service modules from the S-IVB, and turned to dock with the lunar module. Ejection of the docked spacecraft followed, as the crew performed a separation maneuver to increase the distance between the docked spacecraft and the S-IVB stage. Then they eased the S-IVB into a solar orbit by propulsive venting of its excess propellants.

The translunar trajectory had been established so precisely that it was not necessary to make the first midcourse correction, generally a routine step during the early phases of the flight toward the Moon. Finally, after a little more than a day in flight, a single translunar midcourse correction was done to make the flight path of Apollo 10 coincide with the trajectory planned for the Apollo 11 mission. Three days and four hours away from the launch pad, the crew fired the service propulsion system for almost six minutes, inserting the spacecraft into a lunar orbit. Apollo 10 now was orbiting the Moon in a circular flight path about 60 miles above its surface.

Stafford and Cernan entered the lunar module about six hours later to check the systems. They transferred some needed equipment, and moved back into the command module for a normal sleep period. They then recentered the lunar module to go through a complete systems check to prepare for the lunar-orbit rendezvous, the final check of the flight mechanics of the Apollo mission.

Just after two hours into the fourth day, the two spacecraft were undocked and separated. The crew performed its routine communications and radar checks, and then Stafford and Cernan began their descent toward the lunar surface by firing the descent stage engine. They let down to an altitude of about eight miles above the surface, the closest they were to go in that mission. Over one of the selected landing sites, they checked the landing radar, which worked successfully. After this descent, Stafford and Cernan maneuvered the LM into an elliptical orbit. 11 by 190 miles, to establish the conditions for their rendezvous with Young in the command module. They completed one swing around the Moon? and then staged the lunar module, firing its ascent engine in a simulation of a return from the lunar surface.

These words read rapidly, as if the performance they describe were done swiftly. But it must be appreciated that this rehearsal, which was planned to follow the schedule for the Apollo 11 as closely as possible, actually took more than six and one-half hours from the beginning of the descent toward the Moon until both spacecraft had docked for the second time for crew transfer back to the CSM.