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Author Topic:   Apollo LM Attitude Controller Assemblies (ACA)
space1
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From: Danville, Ohio, USA
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posted 05-08-2014 08:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for space1   Click Here to Email space1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Editor's note: This thread begins with a series of posts that were originally part of the discussion of RR Auction's May 2014 space sale.

Records show that the Apollo command module control handle grips were removed and presented to the astronauts starting with Apollo 8.

As for the rotational hand controllers in the lunar module, there could be at most 12 such surface-flown units, most of which are probably still among the astronauts' personal collections.

Rick Mulheirn
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posted 05-09-2014 03:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick Mulheirn   Click Here to Email Rick Mulheirn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I always thought there was only one rotational controller in each LM... on the commander's side.....but I stand corrected. Makes sense really when you think about it. DOH!

Charlie Duke told me they were unable to remove the controller from Apollo 16 so that would leave a maximum of nine flown units and I don't recall reading anything about their removal prior to Apollo 14.

Ken Havekotte
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From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
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posted 05-09-2014 05:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Of the two rotational controllers, also known as the attitude controller assemblies, from each flown lunar module, I did actually see Jim Irwin's unit while visiting his office and home in Colorado Springs during the mid-1980s.

His unit, intact with cable connectors included, came from LM-10/Falcon, as he told me, with Scott keeping his own.

I don't think any LM-rotational controllers came back from Apollos 9 and 10, and I have not heard of a retrieved ACA from Apollo 11's LM-5/Eagle as I don't think LMP-Aldrin ever reported keeping his own. If Aldrin didn't keep his, it would seem likely that Armstrong did not as well.

As for Apollo 12, if I am not mistaken, both ACAs from LM-6 were disconnected and returned back to Earth.

For Apollo 13, I am not sure about the lunar lander rotational controllers, but I did see one of the armrest units dismantled from LM-7/Aquarius and presented by the astronaut crew to the launch team and work force at Kennedy Space Center.

It would seem unlikely to me that any of the attitude controller assemblies were disconnected from Aquarius, but Lovell and Haise could be asked (I'll do so, unless someone already has the answer to that question).

But do we know for certain about the later lunar modules from Apollo 14, 16 and 17? Of course, perhaps Mitchell, Duke and Cernan could be asked as well, if not already done so.

space1
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posted 05-09-2014 05:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for space1   Click Here to Email space1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mitchell has his LM ACA from Apollo 14 (seen on televised reports during the 16mm camera controversy), and Cernan has his from Apollo 17 (displayed as part of a space exhibition some years ago).

Larry McGlynn
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posted 06-22-2014 11:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Larry McGlynn   Click Here to Email Larry McGlynn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ken Havekotte:
But do we know for certain about the later lunar modules from Apollo 14, 16 and 17?
Ken, I did ask around about the LM Attitude Control Assemblies. Here is what I have so far.
  • Apollo 9: none returned
  • Apollo 10: none returned
  • Apollo 11: none returned
  • Apollo 12: none returned
  • Apollo 13: none returned
  • Apollo 14: both returned
  • Apollo 15: both returned
  • Apollo 16: none returned
  • Apollo 17: one returned
Dave Scott said that they didn't think of it on Apollo 9. Same goes for Apollo 10 and 11. Pete Conrad said that they didn't think of it either. Jim Lovell said, they were a little busy with the LM and he remembers Fred cutting some netting and light cable. Edgar said that the removal of the ACA took three minutes with practice. Dave and Jim were able to remove theirs. Charlie Duke said that the screws stripped and they could not get theirs out. Gene Cernan said that his came out, but that Harrison's screws also stripped and Gene was yanking on that ACA, but to no avail.

Which means that only five LM ACAs were returned to Earth as souvenirs.

Two other notes of interest. Due to mission control's belief that Falcon was three thousand feet off target, they added a three thousand foot correction into the system. When Falcon pitched over Dave had to use his ACA a total of 18 times to redesignate to his proper landing site. That was most times that the ACA was used in landing on the Moon.

Also, the Apollo 17 LM Timeline book actually has ACA removal instructions pasted onto a blank section of one of the pages.

These LM ACA are one of the most rarest and an excellent artifact. Just sayin'.

Ken Havekotte
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Posts: 1998
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 06-26-2014 01:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Larry, Nice work! As I had expected, there were no ACAs returned from the earlier lunar modules that flew on Apollo until Mission 14.

What I didn't know from your report, Larry, were that none were detached from LM-11 and returned back home.

In addition, nice to know now that Cernan's- used ACA came back to earth from Apollo 17, but not the unit that Schmitt had used.

In my lifetime, Larry, I've only seen and examined two flown lunar landers ACAs; Shepard from 14 and Irwin from 15.

I'll certainly echo what Larry is saying about the lunar module ACAs, especially those that were on the moon's surface. They would certainly be in my opinion one of the most desirable Apollo program artifacts ever; after all, only five of them came back to Earth!

mode1charlie
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From: Honolulu, HI, USA
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posted 06-26-2014 02:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mode1charlie   Click Here to Email mode1charlie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Excellent sleuthing, Larry.

Are any of the ACAs on public display in museums, or are they all in private collections?

Ken Havekotte
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Posts: 1998
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 06-26-2014 03:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To partially answer the above question, Shepard's ACA from LM-8 is on public display at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville, FL, along with his right-side used backpack PLSS strap.

Irwin's ACA from LM-10 was displayed in his High Flight Foundation offices in Colorado Springs, CO, but that was during the 1980s/early 90s.

The flown/used ACA from Scott's Apollo 15 lunar voyage was just recently (last month) auctioned off by RR Auctions.

As to the ACAs belonging to Mitchell/LM-8 and Cernan/LM-12, I do not know.

Rick Mulheirn
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posted 06-26-2014 07:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick Mulheirn   Click Here to Email Rick Mulheirn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Edgar Mitchell's flown LM ACA is displayed on the desk of his study. I visted Edgar in 2009 and conducted an interview for Spaceflight magazine. During a tour of his home he kindly let me handle the ACA. He told me that they had practiced "field stripping" the controllers before the flight.

I caught a glimpse of Gene Cernan's under a perspex case (in his study) on which was sat the charred helmet he was wearing when he crashed his helicopter. The momentary glimpse came from the movie "The Last Man on The Moon".

Larry McGlynn
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From: Boston, MA
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posted 06-26-2014 09:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Larry McGlynn   Click Here to Email Larry McGlynn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ken, in talking with Charlie Duke recently, he told me that the ACA screws stripped and they could not release either ACA from Orion.

I once asked Edgar how he got the ACA out of LM-9 and he said "Three minutes with practice."

I have had the chance to handle Mitchell's (in his office), Irwin's (at the Bonhams auction), Scott's (at RR Auction) and Cernan's (at his home) ACAs. They have a smooth, tight feel to them. They had six degrees of freedom and would be ideal for a lunar landing simulation.

I have been at Draper Lab with a few of the guys. A team is designing a new lunar landing software and asked Charlie, Edgar, Tom Stafford and Dave Scott to provide feedback. To a man, they advised the team to provide a better ACA with less play and faster feedback like the Apollo ACA.

Still, they all landed the LM within the target area without missing a beat. Like they never lost the touch.

Ken Havekotte
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Posts: 1998
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 06-27-2014 04:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Larry, Thanks for the good update as I had forgotten about the Irwin ACA in auction a while back, but spoke to members of the Irwin family just recently (but didn't mention or discuss anything about Jim's ACA at the time).

But are you saying that Mitchell detached the ACA out of LM-9, or do you mean LM-8? Number 8 flew to the moon with Shepard/Mitchell while LM-9 was a backup lander, kept mostly inside KSC's Flight Crew Training Building during the Apollo era. It was never flown.

Do you know if any of the Apollo astronauts (perhaps Mitchell as you had indicated) while at KSC practiced in trying to detach the control assembly box and twin connecting cables from "grounded LM-9?"

Larry McGlynn
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From: Boston, MA
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posted 06-27-2014 07:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Larry McGlynn   Click Here to Email Larry McGlynn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ken, the Irwin ACA sold at Bonhams for $206,000 in 2009. That is where I had the chance to handle it.

My mistake on the LM number. To be clear, Edgar removed his ACA from the LM Antares or LM-8 as did Shepard.

Yes, I know Edgar and Al practiced the removal of the ACA on the ground. I could ask the other guys.

One thing to note. There were instructions on the ACA removal glued onto a page in the LM Timeline book from Apollo 17.

chet
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posted 06-27-2014 11:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Larry McGlynn:
They had six degrees of freedom and would be ideal for a lunar landing simulation.

Or the real thing!

mode1charlie
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From: Honolulu, HI, USA
Registered: Sep 2010

posted 06-27-2014 04:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mode1charlie   Click Here to Email mode1charlie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just a clarification for others' future reference.

The ACA (Attitude Controller Assembly) was, I'm guessing the technical name for the device used by its manufacturer, Honeywell. The recent auction of Dave Scott's ACA was listed as a "Rotational Hand Controller" (RHC). Do I correctly gather that RHC was the term used by NASA and the astronauts themselves, not ACA?

The ACA/RHC was used to control the LM's attitude (yaw, pitch and roll) while maneuvering to/from the lunar surface. Having just re-listened to the excellent podcast interview with David Woods on Omega Tau (which is a great condensed summary of David's also excellent book), he refers to another controller that controlled the LM's rate of descent. I think that was the T-shaped thrust/translation controller assembly, but if someone can please confirm (and also if that device had another name as well).

And finally, were any of those devices removed from the LM and returned to Earth?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-27-2014 04:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I believe the ACA referred to both the rotational and translational hand controllers as a set, but could be mistaken.

On review: I was mistaken, see below.

David C
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posted 06-27-2014 05:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
LM: ACA (pistol grip) and TTCA (T-handle).
CM: RHC and THC.

Terms with similar functions were often interchanged incorrectly. Hence ACA/ RHC confusion. Because the LM DPS was throttle-able, the TTCA was sometimes simply called the throttle. Astronauts, like most other people, don't use the correct terms all the time. Especially, 40+ years later on.

Ken Havekotte
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Posts: 1998
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 06-27-2014 08:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While it might be misleading to identify a lunar module "set" of twin ACAs and twin TTCAs, there are a few other necessary components of the moon lander's control electronics section.

In addition to the above, the rest of the package section would include an attitude/ translation control assembly (ATCA), a rate gyro assembly, the descent engine control unit or assembly, and three stabilization and control (S&C) assemblies.

All times are CT (US)

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