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Apollo 10

May 18-26, 1969

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Apollo 10 splashes into ocean on target

NASA Manned Spacecraft Center Roundup - May 30, 1969
Precisely eight days and three minutes after their lunar launch on May 16, Apollo 10 crewmen Tom Stafford, John Young, and Eugene Cernan splashed into the waters of the South Pacific, 399 miles east of American Samoa.

Apollo 10, which ventured closer to the moon than man has ever been, received the traditional hero's welcome from those who waited in the pre-dawn hours aboard the USS Princeton for her re-entry.

The mission's valuable cargo of pictorial, electronic and human data, when developed, decoded, and debriefed, will hopefully pave the way for an Apollo 11 lunar landing mission now scheduled for launch July 16.

The foundation was laid last Thursday when Commander Stafford and Lunar Module Pilot Cernan dipped within 9.6 miles of the lunar surface to survey the prime target sites being considered for the first landing mission.

Apollo 10 was a perfect launch and right on time, dispelling all fears that Stafford, whose previous two flights have experienced delays, is a jinx.

The space vehicle circled the Earth one-and-a-half times before trans-lunar injection, which began the crew's 72-hour coast to the Moon.

Shortly after TLI, the three Gemini veterans made the first of several "fantastic" television transmissions with the new color equipment designed for spaceflight.

The world watched as Stafford separated the command service module from the third stage of Saturn V, turned the big ship around and hooked nose-to-nose with the L.M.

Then the CSM and LM broke away from the spent third stage and continued smoothly on their trans-lunar course.

As testimony to the amazing accuracy of the mission planning and flight navigation, landing time was predicted six months ago within 35 seconds of actual splashdown, the entire mission operated within minutes of the flight schedule and only two out of several planned mid-course corrections were deemed necessary.

The first of these corrections, on the trans-lunar coast, involved a service propulsion system burn of seven seconds at about 2:30 Monday afternoon.

Increased pre-flight precautions left the Apollo 10 crew in extremely good physical condition, the only complaint being some slightly unsettled stomachs from hydrogen in the drinking water.

Tuesday was a relatively quiet day as Apollo 10 continued on its TLC, offering both scheduled and unscheduled television along the way.

Lunar orbit insertion was accomplished about 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent on lunar photography, systems checks and generally accustoming the mission personnel and crew to intermittent losses of communication.

The mission's first obstacle was encountered shortly after 10 Thursday morning when Stafford and Cernan entered the LM for the first time and were greeted by a flurry of snowlike fiberglass released from a rent in the CSM hatch. The fibers, which caused some skin and eye irritation for the astronauts, were also clogging a 1/4-inch tunnel vent, delaying the undocking maneuver until the problem was cleared up. Plans are already in the works for a change in insulation before the next flight.

Tension rose again just before the schedule separation behind the moon when Snoopy shifted about 3 degrees, placing a slight strain on the docking mechanism.

However, when the group reappeared, Charlie Brown was still in his 69-mile circular orbit and Snoopy was flying low.

The LM crew tackled dozens of tracking, photography and observation assignments on its low passes while Young worked to keep communications open between the divided craft and stood ready for any emergency.

While communications, both vocal and high bit rate data, were minimal during the first low pass satisfactory linkage was apparently restored for Snoopy's second dive. However, this is the type of anomoly that will undergo careful study before a go-ahead is given for Apollo 11.

A more dramatic, but reportedly less dangerous, event occurred after the first pass just as Stafford and Cernan prepared to jettison the LM's descent stage.

As the vehicle burst apart - throwing the descent stage into lunar orbit as planned - the L.M. cabin was seized by a series of violent gyrations which sent the crew's heart rates soaring. Stafford took over when the rolling began and stabilized the craft manually.

The problem has been traced to a control switch, accidentally left in the wrong position. Flight controllers agree that the crew was in no immediate danger during the shake-up.

Eight hours and four revolutions after undocking, Snoopy fired his ascent engines and began to maneuver toward Charlie Brown.

"That rendezvous was the best one we ever had," said Stafford.

Two hours after redocking, with equipment and data transferred to Charlie Brown, the Apollo crew was reunited. Then, the hatch was sealed and the dog who "sure was good to us" blasted into solar orbit.

In their two low sweeps, Stafford and Cernan employed all but the final 12 minutes of the Apollo 11 touchdown technique.

They conducted tests on the lunar landing radar which performed much sooner (at 65,000 feet) than expected (50,000 feet). They took stereo still photography and high resolution movies and made numerous observations on lunar geology from their unique vantage point.

Computer data gained from the radar tests and various other tracking devices used will help the navigators determine how much the Moon's gravitational field affects flight paths.

The spent LM descent section, left in lunar orbit, passed close to the CSM several times Friday night and Saturday morning, causing some concern among the orbiting trio even though the danger was fractional. Snoopy was last sighted on the 29th orbit.

On the 31st orbit, at 5:25 Saturday morning, a two minute, 42 second trans-earth injection burn sent Apollo 10 homeward after 61.5 hours in lunar rendezvous.

It reached the mid-way point between Earth and Moon at 4:40 Sunday evening and on Monday, entering at a speed of over 24,769 mph (fastest reentry ever), Apollo 10 splashed down at 11:53 a.m. CDT.

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