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Apollo Expeditions to the Moon



The rendezvous was flawless. It began with the usual maneuvering by the LM, using its reaction control system. Young, in the command module, nominally had nothing to do except to wait passively for the docking; the lunar module was expected to be the active seeker and mover in the rendezvous. But in fact he had to be prepared to take over the rendezvous if anything failed on the LM. So he checked the rendezvous every step of the way with sextant observations and ranging with very-high-frequency radio, working out the things he would have to do in the event of a lunar module system failure. The terminal phase of the docking began an hour later, and the lunar module nudged its way into the locking mechanism of the command module. The jubilant crews met back in the command module.

Glistening in the sunlight, reflecting the Moon in bright metal as yet undarkened by the savage heat of atmospheric reentry, the Apollo 10 command module ghosts silently within a few yards of its lunar module, occupied by Gene Cernan and Tom Stafford. John Young is alone in the command module at this point. The background is the far side of the Moon, about 60 miles down.

For the final day in lunar orbit, Stafford, Young, and Cernan spent their time in a series of experiments that would add to the general fund of Apollo knowledge. They tracked landmarks. worked on alignment exercises for the inertial platform, and took a series of stereo-pair and sequence photographs of the lunar surface, singling out features that would guide future landing-site selections. And then it was time for the return to Earth.

They fired the service module engine once again to move out of the lunar orbit and back onto a trajectory toward the Earth, using a fast-return flight path that would bring them back again in 54 hours. The flight path again was established with great precision; the only midcourse correction needed was done just about three hours before the reentry, and it changed the velocity by slightly more than two feet per second, or about one part in 20,000.

Shaving in space, expected to be a problem (neither astronauts nor delicate mechanism would thrive in a whiskery atmosphere), proved to be no problem at all with an adequately sticky lather. Looking on is Apollo 10 Commander Stafford.

A meal, not a map, is what Gene Cernan is holding up here. It's a plastic envelope containing a chicken and vegetabie mix; und with hot water added it made a palatable main course. In the Mercury days space food had been almost as grim as Army survival rations, but during Apollo the eating grew a lot better. By the end of the program, individual astronaut preferences were reflected in the flight menus, and spooned dishes and sandwich spreads were available.

Fifteen minutes before reentry, they separated the command module from the service module. The command module bearing the crew streaked through the atmosphere; the parachutes deployed and let the spacecraft down on their target coordinates. The astronauts always made much of the accuracy of their landings, with a pool going to the crew landing closest to the target. (In fact, the navigation and guidance accuracy was such that the spacecraft computers pinpointed the target location better than the recovery ships were able to. Later, ships used inertial navigation that was as accurate as that in the spacecraft, but their captains stood off by a mile or two from the landing point to avoid any possibility of a collision.) Navy helicopters swung over their rafts, lifted the crew and took them back to the recovery carrier, the USS Princeton, within 39 minutes after the craft had hit the water. About an hour later, the spacecraft itself was hoisted. charred and dripping, onto the deck of the Princeton.

Manning his control console in the Mission Control Center in Houston is George M. Low, then Apollo Spacecraft Program Manager. Behind him is Chris Kraft, Director of Flight Operations at the Manned Spacecraft Center. They and the other men in the photo are viewing a color television transmission from the Apollo 10 during the second day of ist lunar orbit mission. The spacecraft at this point was some 112,000 miles from the Earth, about halfway to the Moon. Low's TV monitor is off to the left.

These two flights had been successful; more, they had been nearly trouble-free. The confidence they gave to the planned Apollo 11 mission was almost tangible, erasing any doubts about the pace and the direction of the program before Apollo 9 and 10. The thoroughness of the approach, the critical design reviews, and the extensive test and simulation work on the ground had successfully demonstrated the readiness of equipment and crews for the next step.

Dawn was just breaking as Apollo 10 gently floated down into the Pacific 395 miles east of Pago Pago. The pinpoint landing was so accurate that the blinking tracking lights on the spacecraft were visible from the USS Princeton during the descent.

Everything had been done that would later be done by the crew of Apollo 11, except for the actual touching down on the Moon's surface, the stay there, and the liftoff. Apollo 9 and 10 had done all they could to prepare the entire team- astronauts, flight controllers, ground-support personnel, and management - for the great adventure.

Flotation collar secured, frogmen get ready to assist the Apollo 10 astronauts from the command module. Named Charlie Brown, the CM landed three and a half miles from the USS Princeton. About one-half hour later the astronauts were aboard the recovery ship, having spent eight days in space.

Returning from the dress rehearsal, Commander Thomas P. Stafford is aided from the command module by frogmen. By demonstrating lunar orbit rendezvous and the LM descent system, this lunar orbit mission set the stage for Apollo 11, which flew two months later and put men on the Moon.

Hoist away! Shortly after they come down from space, the astronauts go back up; this time only briefly as the cage and sling carry them one at a time to the recovery helicopter hovering above (the camera freezes two of its blades).

Glad to be horne. Standing in the 'copter doorway the jubilant Apollo 10 crew smile at well-wishers aboard the Princeton. From left: LM Pilot Gene Cernan, Commander Tom Stafford, and CM Pilot John Young. The Apollo 10 splashdown was near American Samoa.