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May 18-26, 1969

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Apollo X to 'Sort Unknowns' Before Lunar Landing Flight

NASA Manned Spacecraft Center Roundup - April 18, 1969
Snoopy and his master Charlie Brown next month will orbit the moon, if not in fact at least in name. For the Apollo X spacecraft call signs will be Snoopy and Charlie Brown during the lunar orbit rendezvous sequence.

While in the Peanuts comic strip Snoopy made a fantasy trip to the moon atop his doghouse, in Apollo X the lunar module, manned by commander Tom Stafford and LM pilot Gene Cernan, will answer to the call Snoopy. Command module pilot John Young is Charlie Brown.

The choice of call signs for the three-way communications periods of Apollo X when the lunar module is manned was announced last week by the prime crew at a Cape Kennedy news conference. Apollo IX CSM and LM call signs were Gumdrop and Spider.

"What the Apollo X mission is going to do," said commander Tom Stafford, "is tie together all the knots that we have had in the past, sort out all the unknowns and actually pave the whole way for the lunar landing mission. We'll do everything exactly as the landing mission except the final descent, landing on the surface and the ascent into orbit. We are working with the Apollo XI crew as a team, really."

Apollo X is scheduled for a May 18 launch from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex B for an eight-day lunar orbit mission with an all-up Apollo spacecraft stack. Apollo Spacecraft Program manager George Low describes Apollo X as "doing everything that we did in Apollo IX, only in lunar orbit."

During the seven-and-a-half hour period of the Apollo X rendezvous sequence when Snoopy will be as far away as 350 miles from Charlie Brown, command module pilot John Young will be prepared to maneuver in to rescue the LM.

"John is not up there waiting for us to come back," said lunar module pilot Gene Cernan. "He's up there spring-loaded within seconds after our burn misfires to come and get us, because you don't wait maybe a rev or an extra couple of hours. The lunar module does not have the consumables to wait that long for someone to come and get you."

"We've often thought of tying a 350-mile steel clothesline between the two vehicles just to make sure," quipped Cernan, "but we've certainly given that up."

Apollo X will spend more than 61 hours in lunar orbit, and the transearth flight time will be just over 53 hours.

Touching on the culinary aspect of Apollo X, Cernan said, "There's something about eating with a spoon that automatically makes the food taste just a little bit better to me than sucking it out of a paper bag." Each Apollo X crewman will have a daily "wetpack" meal of beef, turkey or ham with potatoes which can be eaten with a spoon much the same type of meal as was carried aboard Apollo VIII for the lunar orbit Christmas meal.

Apollo X will fly the identical trajectory and timeline that will be flown on the July 16 Apollo XI lunar landing mission, except for the final descent and landing. Snoopy twice will approach to within nine miles of the lunar surface in a rehearsal of prelanding maneuvers and timelines.

Lunar orbit operations with the lunar module will fill in some of the few remaining gaps in the lunar landing goal. The final steps descent, landing and lunar surface EVA, and ascent back into lunar orbit will be taken about July 20.

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