187. The Rest of the Landings

Everybody remembers Apollo 11 because it was the first, and Apollo 13 because it failed. And because they made a movie about it. There were five other moon landings.

Apollo 12 — This flight made a precision landing in the Sea of Storms, near the landing place of the Surveyor 3 unmanned probe. Pete Conrad and Alan Bean walked on the moon while Richard Gordon remained in the command module.

Apollo 13 — Once we had reached the moon with Apollo 11 and repeated with Apollo 12, public interest dropped off dramatically. The Apollo 13 flight saw reduced coverage until the explosion. In the movie, Marilyn Lovell says about the newsmen laying siege to her house, “Landing on the moon wasn’t dramatic enough for them – why should not landing on it be?” It is a fitting statement about the last half of the Apollo program.

Apollo 13 suffered a catastrophic explosion and barely got its crew back alive, without landing on the moon. Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert became part of American myth, especially after the movie Apollo 13.

Apollo 14 — Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchel piloted their lander to Fra Mauro, the planned destination of Apollo 13. Stuart Roosa was command module pilot.

Apollo 15 — Al Wordon was the command module pilot. David Scott and James Irwin landed on the moon near Hadley rille. This was the first mission to carry a lunar rover, a powered wheeled vehicle that allowed the astronauts to range further from their landing site.

Apollo 16 — Ken Mattingly – who had missed the Apollo 13 mission due to a measles scare – was command module pilot. John Young and Charles Duke landed in the lunar highlands where they collected samples that were geologically older than those brought back by previous missions. Second use of a lunar rover.

Apollo 17 — Ronald Evans was the command module pilot of the last moon mission. Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt became the last two men on the moon (so far). They carried the third lunar rover. Schmitt, a geologist, was the only scientist-astronaut to reach the moon.

Apollo 20 was cancelled so its Saturn five booster could be used to launch Skylab. Apollo 18 and 19 were cancelled by budget cuts. All this was done before the launch of Apollo 16, so Cernan, Schmitt, and Evans knew that they would be the last.

For now.

*          *           *

There is one good video of a lunar lander launching from the moon, taken during the last mission. You see a few seconds of it occasionally on PBS space specials. I also found it a this URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlGis35Epvs

This appears to be legit, although the things you can find on You-Tube are sometimes outrageously fake. The pictures were taken from a video-camera mounted on the lunar rover, remote controlled from Earth. Similar filming had been attempted on Apollo 15 and 16, without much success.


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