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Apollo 14 ‘Seeds’ Earth | This Week In Space History

Before Apollo 14 left Earth on Jan. 31, 1971, NASA subjected the crew to a two-week “unusual preflight semiquarantine,” the Middlesboro Daily News reported on Jan. 11, 1971. Because the Apollo 9 crew had suffered colds, and Apollo 13’s Thomas Mattingly had been exposed to measles, NASA wanted “to minimize the possible exposure … to disease or illness.” The astronauts – Commander Alan Shepard, lunar module Antares Pilot Ed Mitchell, and command module Kitty Hawk Pilot Stuart Roosa – were “permitted to associate with their wives, but not their children.”

The Lunar Module Pilot

Ed Mitchell, who was graduated from high school in Artesia, NM, grew up “riding, roping and branding,” according to the Jan. 31, 1971 Today: Florida’s Space Age Newspaper. Then, one day, he saw crop dusters over New Mexico’s farmland, and he instantly had a new passion. “Before he was 14 years old” he was flying, “illegally, but happily.”

A NASA co-worker described Mitchell as “an egghead.” He hadn’t even entered active duty in the Navy and he was earning degrees from Carnegie Institute of Technology and the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, and a doctorate from MIT. After becoming the sixth man to walk on the Moon, his only space flight, Mitchell had an epiphany.

“Sitting in the cramped cabin of the space capsule, he saw planet Earth floating freely in the vastness of space,” the webpage noetic.org said. “He was engulfed by a profound sense of universal connectedness.”

He said: “ ‘The presence of divinity became almost palpable, and I knew that life in the universe was not just an accident based on random processes.’ ”

Mitchell later founded the Institute for Noetic Sciences in Palo Alto, Calif.

The Command Module Pilot

Before Stuart Roosa joined the Air Force in 1953, according to the website nasa.gov, he worked for “the U.S. Forest Service fighting fires as a smoke jumper.” In 1965, after attaining the rank of colonel, Roosa became a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base. The next year NASA chose him as one of 19 new astronauts. His New York Times obituary quoted from the book “A Man on the Moon,” which described Roosa as “a straitlaced, conservative family man with a soldier’s devotion to his country.”

“On a bleak January night in 1967,” Today documented, “he was the capsule communicator between mission control, and the Apollo 1 spacecraft at Cape Kennedy when (the capsule) burst into flame and snuffed out three lives.”

Subsequently, Roosa was “a member of the astronaut support crew for the Apollo 9 flight,” and was “backup command pilot for the Apollo 16 and 17 missions,” his NASA biography stated.

The lunar landing

“Apollo 14 entered lunar orbit at 1:55 a.m. EST on February 4,” said the 1978 NASA publication “The Apollo Spacecraft: a Chronology.” Less than an hour later the ejected Saturn “IVB stage and instrument unit struck the lunar surface. … The Apollo 12 seismometer, left on the moon in November 1969, registered the impact and continued to record vibrations for two hours.”

To save fuel, after it had been over-consumed during the six-try docking maneuver post liftoff, “Moon Shot” said “Roosa dropped them into an elliptical (lunar) orbit with its low point ten miles above the surface.” The crew was in their 12th orbit when, the next day, Shepard and Mitchell undocked and set about landing at the hilly Fra Mauro formation. That had been Apollo 13’s destination.

Roosa, now alone, had tasks to accomplish; he “enjoyed the solitude of being in lunar orbit, alone and out of radio contact and in total darkness,” his New York Times obituary said.

Four-and-a-half hours later, Shepard became the fifth man on the Moon, the first of his and Mitchell’s two EVAs (extravehicular activities). They collected 92 pounds of lunar samples using, for the first time, a MET, or mobile equipment transporter. The device carried photographic equipment, tools, and a lunar portable magnetometer,” said “The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology.” “They made a geology traverse toward the rim of Cone Crater, collecting samples on the way.”

In their 33 hours on the lunar surface, Shepard and Mitchell worked outside of Antares for nine hours and 17 minutes.

“Just before reentering the LM,” said “The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology,” “Shepard dropped a golf ball onto the lunar surface and on the third swing drove the ball 366 meters.”

“He lived every golfer’s dream,” President Bill Clinton said in Shepard’s obituary on nytimes.com, “’taking a six iron and hitting the ball, in his words, ‘for miles and miles.’ ”

When Kitty Hawk and Antares met back up in lunar orbit, Roosa “faced the possibility the command module docking probe would not latch onto the lunar module,” as had been the problem at the beginning of the mission. His first attempt, however, did succeed, and “Roosa happily acknowledged (with) a sigh of relief,” said the 1977 publication NASA Facts: Apollo 14 Flight to Fra Mauro.

REST AT LINK: [link to moonandback.com]
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