Hey, everybody! A happy Saturday. Forty-five years ago today, David Scott and Al Worden landed their Lunar Module (LM), the Falcon into sands at Hadley Rille, and soon after became the seventh and eighth humans to walk on another world. I said it the other day, and I’ll say it again, it still makes me shiver when I think of it. People have walked on the Moon. Wow.
They’re all great, but Apollo 15 might be my favorite of all of the lunar landings. It was the first of a new, a third set of manned Moon landings, called J missions. During the development of the Apollo program, NASA came up with a series of lettered groupings of missions to differentiate some landings from others.
G missions were the ones that were the first landing on the moon. So, right, Apollo 11 was the only G mission.
H missions were a bit longer, and allowed for more time walking on the moon. Apollo 12, Apollo 13, and Apollo 14 were in this group. The successful failure of Apollo 13, of course, didn’t make it, but it was scheduled as an H.
The J missions were next, Apollo 15 was the first of those, and the J line ran through the end of the Apollo program. These missions were bigger, and allowed for more room, more time, and more exploration. This is where the real science and exploring began. There’s more information about the Apollo mission types at Wikipedia.
You don’t really read very much about these later missions, though. Not surprising, I guess. As everyone who’s seen the movie knows, when the TV networks didn’t even bother to air the broadcast the crew of Apollo 13 did along the way. It’s always been amazing to me that not only did NASA get a crew to the Moon and back, and not only did they send six more missions there, but they also kept learning, step by step, pushing themselves to do more each time. They kept growing and innovating throughout the entire Apollo program, right up to the end.
The J missions gave the LM more storage space, so they were able to bring more tools with them. So, even Scott and Irwin were only the seventh and eighth people to walk on the Moon, they became the first and second to drive on the Moon! It wasn’t one of the Corvettes the astronauts loved, but it’ll do, right? They managed to drive over 16 miles (27 km) during their time there. The whole idea of a car on the moon makes me smile like you wouldn’t believe.
This mission also had the crew launch a small research satellite into lunar orbit; which was the first time a crewed ship launched a satellite into orbit around a world other than Earth.
If all of this wasn’t enough, on the way back home, Al Worden finally got to go outside a bit, and did the first spacewalk in deep space. He needed to go get some film the other guys left in the service module’s SIM bay. So, there he was crawling around the outside of the Endeavour, the mission’s Command Service Module (CSM) at 25,000 MPH 200,000 miles from home, grumbling at his kids who they left a really important doll in the trunk, “We were making such good time!”
So, now it’s been 45 years since that incredible mission. I’ve always really liked what Dave Scott had to say when he stepped onto the Moon that day, “As I stand out here in the wonders of the unknown at Hadley, I sort of realize there’s a fundamental truth to our nature, Man must explore … and this is exploration at its greatest.” I really hope we start getting ourselves back out there soon. I can’t wait to see what we’ll find next.
Clear skies, everyone, and have a great weekend!