Space Cover #260: USS Algol and Apollo 9
Normally when thinking of space recovery ship cover collecting the splashdown date is the date that comes to mind but the launch date and even earlier dates are just as important to collect. A perfect example of this is the Apollo 9 mission and the role of the USS Algol.
If you look at your collection of recovery ship covers you are likely to find covers dated for March 13, 1969 which is the date the Apollo 9 command module splashed down and was recovered by the USS Guadalcanal and supported by the secondary recovery ship USS Algol. Now more of the story...
Preparation for the recovery of the Apollo 9 astronauts and space craft would include the training for and simulation of recovery operations by the ships and aircraft assigned to the task force. This training began in January of 1969 and included the USS Guadalcanal, USS Algol and USS Chilton. The USNS Vanguard training started in early February.
Naval Task Force 140, the Atlantic task force to recover space craft, was activated for Apollo 9 on February 16th. Training would continue through the end of February.
The top cover from the USS Algol is during such a training period. The USS Algol and the USS Guadalcanal each performed recovery simulations with the Recovery Control Center Atlantic (Norfolk, Virginia) between February 26 and 29th.
On the launch day for Apollo 9 the ships of Task Force 140 were on station in case of a launch abort. The USS Paiute was the Launch Site Area Sea Salvage ship, the USS Guadalcanal was at Station 1 Recovery Group (ship and aircraft), the USNS Vanguard was at Station 2 Recovery Group and the USS Algol was at Station 3 Recovery Group. Among the many other units involved in the recovery effort were the Recovery Control Center Atlantic in Norfolk, Recovery Control Center in Ramstein Germany, and multiple Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadrons (e.g. Patrick AFB; Lajes Field, Azores; Ascension Island). The bottom cover is from the USS Algol on launch day. Covers for many of the other support units can be found as well.
So be on the lookout for the "not recovery date" covers for your collection...