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  Plans in case of a failed Apollo lunar departure

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Author Topic:   Plans in case of a failed Apollo lunar departure
Fra Mauro
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Posts: 1134
From: Bethpage, N.Y.
Registered: Jul 2002

posted 11-10-2008 02:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Did NASA have procedures in place to deal with a failed lunar liftoff or a failed TEI burn? I am not talking about a rescue mission.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-10-2008 02:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Drafted two days before the Apollo 11 landed, aide William Safire provided President Nixon with a short speech to be delivered "In Event of Moon Disaster."
Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.

Lou Chinal
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From: Staten Island, NY
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posted 11-10-2008 03:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
They were all aware that there was no Apollo rescue vehicle standing by.

Max Q
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From: Whyalla South Australia
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posted 11-11-2008 04:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Max Q   Click Here to Email Max Q     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wonder if at some stage their remains might have been returned to the earth. And if Neil and Buzz had been unable to return if that would have been the end of Apollo.

ilbasso
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From: Greensboro, NC USA
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posted 11-11-2008 05:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am sure that this has been covered elsewhere, but our friends the Apollo astronauts (and NASA) were willing to accept a much higher risk factor back then than we are now. If I recall correctly, at the time, NASA estimated that there was a 25% likelihood that a mission would not achieve its objectives and a 1% probability of loss of crew on a mission.

As Director James "Titanic" Cameron said, of his multiple dives to visit the Titanic while preparing for his movie, "safety is not the most important thing. I know this sounds like heresy, but it is a truth that must be embraced in order to do exploration. The most important thing is to actually go." Buzz Aldrin said that there was risk, yes, but the opportunity for gain was enormous.

I think the odds of surviving one's career as an astronaut in the 1960's and 1970's were much greater than surviving a career as a test pilot in the 1950's and 1960's, the world from which most of the Apollo astronauts came.

sts205cdr
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Posts: 590
From: Sacramento, CA
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posted 11-12-2008 11:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for sts205cdr   Click Here to Email sts205cdr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There was a procedure in case the ascent stage batteries failed. The astronauts had a pair of jumper cables that they could use to get electrical power from the descent stage batteries.

SBIV-B
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From: Buford, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2008

posted 11-12-2008 02:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SBIV-B     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In the event of no lift-off, were Armstrong and Aldrin expected to just sit around, shoot the bull and wait for the oxygen to run out, or were there means for a more speedy "liquidation"?

I understand that there were no real options for much else here.

ilbasso
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From: Greensboro, NC USA
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posted 11-12-2008 03:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
People used to speculate that the astronauts had cyanide capsules with them. In reality, a much quicker way to go would be just to vent the cabin oxygen - you'd be unconscious in 15 seconds or less.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-12-2008 03:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My bet is that Aldrin and Armstrong, or any Apollo astronaut for that matter, would work until their last breath to find a possible solution, however unlikely. I just don't see any of them just giving up.

Lou Chinal
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From: Staten Island, NY
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posted 11-12-2008 05:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Give up? All I can say is Apollo 13! I'm sure any crew would work the problem.

ilbasso
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From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 11-12-2008 08:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Never give up! Never surrender!

Max Q
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From: Whyalla South Australia
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posted 11-13-2008 05:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Max Q   Click Here to Email Max Q     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree 100% they where after all the right stuff extraordinary men.

1202 Alarm
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From: Geneva, Switzerland
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posted 11-13-2008 05:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 1202 Alarm     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The idea of looking at the moon every day since the 70's knowing that there are still a couple of dead men momified in a LM is very disturbing. It didn't happen, and looking at the moon is still always a magic moment.

kr4mula
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Posts: 625
From: Cinci, OH
Registered: Mar 2006

posted 11-17-2008 11:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Now I'm (somewhat morbidly) curious: assuming they were stuck on the moon, what would be the first thing to start causing problems for the crew? Lack of oxygen? Too much CO2, a la Apollo 13? Power loss?

I'd assume before anything like that became critical, they and NASA would have to decide what, if anything, they could do. Didn't someone speculate that the crew would do a final sign-off before such an event?

ilbasso
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From: Greensboro, NC USA
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posted 11-17-2008 01:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
They wouldn't have had a whole lot of time to worry. To save weight, the LM's expendables — food, water, battery power, and air scrubbers — were only enough for three to four days max. They might have been able to squeeze out a few more hours, a la Apollo 13, but not much more than that.

mjanovec
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From: Midwest, USA
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 12-01-2008 04:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 1202 Alarm:
The idea of looking at the moon every day since the 70's knowing that there are still a couple of dead men momified in a LM is very disturbing. It didn't happen, and looking at the moon is still always a magic moment.

I think it would have been somewhat eerie to look at the moon and think about that, had astronauts died there. But I also think we would have gotten used to it over time and could learn to look at the moon and still appreciate it's "magic."

A close analogy would be to look at Mt. Everest. The fact that over 200 dead climbers reside on the mountain doesn't necessarily destroy the beauty of the mountain itself. Yes, it introduces a sad element to the mountain. But I don't find Everest any less beautiful to look at.

Ironically, I think the successful moon landings did more to erase the "magic" of the moon for some people. Just look at how un-enthusiastic some people are about returning there...

rodpyle
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From: Pasadena, California, USA
Registered: Dec 2008

posted 12-06-2008 12:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for rodpyle   Click Here to Email rodpyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I recall that there was a suggestion of adding manual valves to the ascent engine (I think put forward by Armstrong; possibly others as well). But it was rejected by the engineers as "unnecessary." Of course, the engineers didn't have to go...

Just as scary, in my opinion, would have been a failure of the explosive fasteners between the ascent and descent stages, or a full or partial failure of the guillotine which cut the wiring bundle between them.

In reflection, I frequently am amazed that it worked at all! A real tribute to the designers.

ilbasso
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From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 12-06-2008 10:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So much of what went on in the LM was driven by pyrotechnic devices — opening lines to pressurize tanks, driving the guillotines, etc. Pyros are generally considered the most reliable ways of doing so many critical tasks, and even so they generally had redundant ones in case the first ones didn't work.

The failure of at least one of the pyros needed to separate the descent module from the propulsion module on several consecutive Soyuz-TMA vehicles was a stern reminder that even these "failsafe" devices can fail!

mjanovec
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From: Midwest, USA
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posted 12-07-2008 03:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Charlie Duke once told a funny story about the launching of the LM ascent module from the surface. When the guillotine cut the wires, the LM dropped about an inch and just sat there for a second.

He said he thought "oh sh..." but couldn't finish the thought before the LM ascent engine ignited.

ilbasso
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From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 12-07-2008 12:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'll bet that was the longest second of his life!

cosmic_buffalo
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From: Dayton, Ohio, USA
Registered: Jul 2014

posted 07-22-2014 06:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cosmic_buffalo   Click Here to Email cosmic_buffalo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The risks were high and this article from Space.com talks about Nixon's speech preparation in case of a tragic moon landing by Apollo 11.

Editor's note: Threads merged.

Tony Guidry
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Posts: 18
From: Lafayette, Louisiana, USA
Registered: Jun 2009

posted 07-23-2014 11:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tony Guidry   Click Here to Email Tony Guidry     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I recall reading an article a few years back about an interview in which Neil Armstrong was asked how he thought he and Buzz Aldrin would have spent their final hours on the moon, had the ascent engine of the Lunar Module failed to ignite. Neil replied, in true Armstrong style, "I suppose we'd have spent the time trying to fix the engine!"

One Big Monkey
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From: West Yorkshire, UK
Registered: Jul 2012

posted 07-24-2014 02:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for One Big Monkey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
James Burke asked this question at the pre-flight press conference (and if people think the post-mission press conference was awkward and stilted, they were positively gushing compared with this).

Fast forward to about 4:10 to hear Burke's question and Armstrong's response.

There are two other parts and while it can be uncomfortable viewing at times, it's easy to see who the natural leader of the mission was.

Captain Apollo
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From: UK
Registered: Jun 2004

posted 08-06-2014 05:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Captain Apollo   Click Here to Email Captain Apollo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is this the press conference Norman Mailer took such offense to in "A Fire on the Moon"?

MadSci
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From: Maryland, USA
Registered: Oct 2008

posted 08-29-2014 05:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MadSci     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ilbasso:
I think the odds of surviving one's career as an astronaut in the 1960's and 1970's were much greater than surviving a career as a test pilot in the 1950's and 1960's, the world from which most of the Apollo astronauts came.
Quite so. Flying military jets in the 60's was very hazardous. The systems were immature, pilot training for IFR was weak, cockpit resource management was practically non-existent, and then there were those wars.

I recall reading more than one Apollo astronaut biography where the astronaut stated that sometimes he and others felt guilty that they were not facing the kind of risks their classmates were in Vietnam, and in addition to the glory, their job was much safer.

NJ CO
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From: Greenwich, NJ, US
Registered: Mar 2008

posted 09-03-2014 04:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NJ CO     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Firstly, thankfully we can just curiously speculate on this...

That said, I'm always impressed that not one of the explosive "bolts" failed (was a lot more involved than just bolts we all know), or the guillotine didn't sever every single remaining link from the stages.

Thankfully they got it right... every time.

NJ CO
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From: Greenwich, NJ, US
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posted 09-03-2014 05:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NJ CO     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We could go on and on with this topic...

I recall reading that Alan Shepard waking up in the middle of a sleep period after hearing a noise, remarking to Edgar Mitchell that he (Shepard) wondered if the "damned thing" (meaning the LM) wasn't tipping over, as it was situated on a small tilt.

Leave it to the Ice Commander to remark with a bit of salt in his words in wondering if his spaceship was falling over...

calcheyup
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From:
Registered: May 2014

posted 09-03-2014 05:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for calcheyup     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The best part followed a whispered conversation regarding concerns about the LM possibly tipping and went something like this (according to Dr. Mitchell):

"Ed?"

"Yeah?"

"Why the hell are we whispering?"

NJ CO
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From: Greenwich, NJ, US
Registered: Mar 2008

posted 09-03-2014 06:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NJ CO     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yeah, like a couple of kids in a hastily constructed tree house or something. Just a bit higher than a tree they were, though!

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