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  Lunar Module Pilots: title and responsibilities

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Author Topic:   Lunar Module Pilots: title and responsibilities
mercnvenus
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From: Lakewood, CO USA
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posted 12-23-2009 07:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mercnvenus   Click Here to Email mercnvenus     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It seems to me the commander was the one in control of the Lunar Module on the descent to the moon. So the term Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) is a little confusing to me.

Is the LMP title for take off and rendezvous? How about when the spacecraft are first docked (not sure of the term) coming out from the rocket?

Were the LMPs trained to land? Were any of the LMPs in control during descent?

alanh_7
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posted 12-23-2009 08:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The name Lunar Module Pilot may be a little misleading. Perhaps Lunar Module Co-pilot might have been better. Though LMPs were capable of piloting the Lunar Module, to My knowledge the only LMP who ever actually did was Alan Bean on the far side of the moon following Lunar liftoff during the Apollo 12 mission. Wishing to share the experience, Pete Conrad offered the controls so Bean could briefly fly the vehicle.

I may be wrong but to the best of my knowledge Bean is the only one LMP who ever did. Anyone else shed some light?

ilbasso
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posted 12-23-2009 09:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The LMP title continued a tradition started in Gemini. The "Right Stuff" test pilot astronauts weren't about to settle for any kind of titles that inferred a secondary role or seemingly impugned a crewman's ability to fly the vehicle. So in Gemini, the roles were assigned as Command Pilot (who in reality did all the flying) and Pilot.

That naming tradition continues today with the Shuttle, in which the Commander still does almost all of the flying and the Pilot has a more operational role. Similar to the Conrad/Bean story (but more public), in the last Shuttle mission, you could hear on the coverage of the final phase of the landing that the Commander turned over control of the vehicle to the Pilot for a few seconds.

spacecraft films
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posted 12-23-2009 09:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacecraft films   Click Here to Email spacecraft films     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
And the reason why there were LMPs on Apollo 7 and 8, even though there were no LMs.

For Apollo 1, there was Command Pilot, Senior Pilot, and Pilot.

So there you go...

Rick Mulheirn
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posted 12-24-2009 05:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick Mulheirn   Click Here to Email Rick Mulheirn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Al Bean was not the only LMP to fly their respective spacecraft. Ed Mitchell flew the Apollo 14 Lunar Module Antares and I suspect others did too.

history in miniature
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posted 12-24-2009 05:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for history in miniature   Click Here to Email history in miniature     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Now that's been a puzzle to me also all these years, thanks for the explanation.

AstronautBrian
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posted 12-24-2009 07:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for AstronautBrian   Click Here to Email AstronautBrian     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hoot Gibson once said something along the lines that an astronaut's ego would never allow themselves to be called a co-pilot, hence "Commander" and "Pilot" on shuttle missions, even though essentially the pilot is actually a co-pilot. Could be part of the reason there is Commander, CMP, and LMP designations on Apollo.

garymilgrom
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posted 12-24-2009 07:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Rick Mulheirn:
Ed Mitchell flew the Apollo 14 Lunar Module Antares and I suspect others did too.
Rick - how do you know Ed flew the LM, and what makes you suspect others did too? I had only heard of the Bean experience before your post.

GACspaceguy
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posted 12-24-2009 08:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I asked Charlie Duke if he flew the LM (I had posted before that I thought he said he did). He said he never did get a chance to fly the LM on the mission only in the sims.

Delta7
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posted 12-24-2009 09:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Safe to assume all the lunar landing LMPs were fully trained to fly the LM from lunar liftoff to docking with the CM, in the event the CDR had to be left behind or was otherwise incapacitated. In fact, I believe that was one reason used to argue Joe Engle over Harrison Schmitt on Apollo 17.

pterodactyl
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posted 12-24-2009 10:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for pterodactyl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by spacecraft films:
For Apollo 1, there was Command Pilot, Senior Pilot, and Pilot.
Very early in Apollo planning the crew designations were: Commander, Navigator, and Flight Engineer. After dealing with the pilot backlash they became Commander (CDR), Command Module Pilot (CMP), and Lunar Module Pilot (LMP). As mentioned the LMP seldom did any piloting, but at least he wasn't a "flight engineer"!

ilbasso
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posted 12-24-2009 11:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
At dinner at the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation's autograph show, I asked Charlie Duke about piloting the LM in sims, and if he had ever flown the LLTV "flying bedstead" (he had not).

I asked him about training to fly the LM and was it in case the CDR were to become incapacitated. He said that most of the sims were related to what happened if the CDR's controls malfunctioned. They would do things like have one of the CDR's control sticks go out, e.g. so that Young used the translation/thrust controller and Duke operated the attitude controller from his station. There were also sims where the CDR's controls completely went out during approach, in which case Duke would fly the controls and Young would call out the spot through the Landing Point Designator (LPD), which was only etched on the CDR's window.

Rick Mulheirn
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posted 12-24-2009 07:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick Mulheirn   Click Here to Email Rick Mulheirn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by garymilgrom:
Rick - how do you know Ed flew the LM, and what makes you suspect others did too?
I asked him not so long ago. From memory he responded with something along the lines of "Oh sure....we played around with the LEM; we were test pilots after all".

What is more Ed Mitchell (and Fred Haise) was a Lunar Module specialist. Shepard was slipped to Apollo 14 from 13 to allow Mitchell more time to bring Shepard up to speed with the Lunar Module.

And I suspect the camaraderie between the crews, the astronaut ego or "Right Stuff" and flight experience of the majority on LMPs the thought of the LMP NOT flying the LEM at some point is difficult to believe regardless of the mission rules.

spacecraft films
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posted 12-24-2009 08:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacecraft films   Click Here to Email spacecraft films     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
During the Apollo 1 comms, the crew members refer to themselves as "Command Pilot," "Senior Pilot," and "Pilot."

So those designations were in effect for a time.

Go4Launch
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posted 12-25-2009 08:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Go4Launch   Click Here to Email Go4Launch     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To add one tidbit for whatever it's worth, Jim Lovell once signed an Apollo 8 photo for me (through the mail) and added "Apollo 8 Navigator."

ilbasso
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posted 12-25-2009 09:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That was certainly Lovell's claim to fame! He was the first interplanetary navigator and he did it to perfection.

gliderpilotuk
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posted 12-26-2009 06:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Go4Launch:
To add one tidbit for whatever it's worth, Jim Lovell once signed an Apollo 8 photo for me (through the mail) and added "Apollo 8 Navigator."
Clearly very (and rightly) proud of this as HE asked ME if he could sign a flown Apollo 8 nav. page with the same designation at the ASF show.

ilbasso
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posted 12-26-2009 07:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I told my wife about this thread and the fact that none of the astronauts would let themselves be labeled as co-pilots. She said, "It's the same reason there are no 'small' sized prophylactics sold in the US."

Lou Chinal
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posted 12-26-2009 07:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I belive Jim Lovell was fond of saying, " Isaac Newton was doing the driving".

Jay Chladek
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posted 12-28-2009 12:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The control malfunction procedures as far as I know were practiced by all the crews that flew to the moon, so even Harrison (Jack) Schmitt got to practice the procedures. However, apparently Dick Gordon was so into his own training for Apollo 18 (and as 15's backup) that if he ended up with a hand controller failure, he tended to move Jack out of the way to fly the craft down from the LMP station (apparently Jack didn't have a problem with that as they had a good laugh over it).

Ade74
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posted 12-29-2009 07:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ade74   Click Here to Email Ade74     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When the CDR and LMP were exploring the moon was the LMP still referred to as LMP?

On a similar note, was there a specific reason why the CDR drove the rover? If the CDR piloted the LM, wonder if the LMPs suggested they did the car driving?

spaced out
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posted 12-29-2009 10:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I guess when it comes down to it the guy in charge - the CDR - wasn't going to allocate one of the most interesting and fun tasks on the mission to the other guy. Hence, the CDR got to drive the rover.

You could also look at it another way and say driving the rover was a risky and skillful task that was key to the success of the mission so it was up to the CDR to take that heavy responsibility on his own shoulders.

But let's face it that's ... looking for a family-friendly term to use here... stretching credibility just a little too far.

webhamster
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posted 12-29-2009 02:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webhamster   Click Here to Email webhamster     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Chladek:
However, apparently Dick Gordon was so into his own training for Apollo 18 (and as 15's backup) that if he ended up with a hand controller failure, he tended to move Jack out of the way to fly the craft down from the LMP station (apparently Jack didn't have a problem with that as they had a good laugh over it).
If I remember correctly, this incident was due to a bet or some kind of a contest of wills with the simulation supervisors. Gordon's quoted comment afterwards as he was walking away was along the lines of "Thought you could make me let Jack fly it, huh? Didn't work did it? ...Never will." To which Schmitt was falling over laughing in the doorway of the simulator.

DChudwin
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posted 05-27-2010 06:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The lunar module (LM) flew on 9 missions during Project Apollo (in earth orbit on Apollo 9, around the moon on Apollo 10 and 13, and to the surface on Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16, and 7).

Nine astronauts had the title "lunar module pilot" (LMP) on missions where there was a lunar module -- Rusty Schweickart, Gene Cernan, Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Fred Haise, Ed Mitchell, Charlie Duke and Harrison (Jack) Schmitt.

Did any of the lunar module pilots actually "fly" the LM in the sense of using the hand controllers to maneuver the LM? Did any of the lunar module pilots train on the LLRV -- the "flying bedstead" used to train for landings?

Was it the commanders who actually flew the LM, and the title of lunar module pilot was a misnomer?

Editor's note: Threads merged.

Jay Chladek
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posted 05-27-2010 06:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It goes back to that old "Commander" and "Pilot" title from the Gemini days as no astronaut with ego the size of Texas wants to be called a "co-pilot". Hence the LMP title instead of "flight engineer" which is what they were pretty much. But they had backup hand controllers in case the primaries failed and all trained in simulators to fly the LM.

It has been documented that Pete Conrad let Al Bean take control of A12s LM on the back side of the moon after ascent and before docking with the CSM. Both crewmembers were backups for Apollo 9 though, which was a test of the LM in orbit. As such, both had more knowledge on LM systems then some of the subsequent crews. I am pretty certain the Rusty got to try out the LM controls on Apollo 9 since it was a shakedown of the LM systems and the LMP controls are part of that as they likely may have tested contingency plans just to see how things worked. As for Apollo 10, Gene Cernan makes no mention if he did anything like that during the ride in Snoopy (another test of the LM, albeit more a dress rehearsal rather then a LM shakedown).

Now for the backup crew of Apollo 15 (prime for 18) Dick Gordon was notorious for getting as much stick time as he could in the LM simulator. So even if the sim supervisors would shut down his controls so Harrison Schmidt could fly it down, he would just smile and walk over to the other side of the sim cabin, nudging "Dr. Rock" out of the way and continuing the descent.

As for the LLRV (was it the RV, I recall it was the LLTV), I remember reading somewhere that Bill Anders flew it. Granted he was never on a mission with an LM, but before Borman's crew got assigned to Apollo 8 as a flight around the moon, it was supposed to be a second LM test after what became Apollo 9 (originally assigned as Apollo 8 until the delivery schedule of LM-3 began to slip). So he was trained as a full LMP, same as the others who flew after him.

LM-12
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posted 11-09-2011 11:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Did the LMP ever drive the LRV on the lunar surface - even just for a brief period? NASA photo S72-33685 shows Charlie Duke in the left-hand seat during training. Maybe the photo description is incorrect.

Editor's note: Threads merged.

BBlatcher
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posted 11-09-2011 02:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for BBlatcher     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, the LMP for Apollo 10, Gene Cernan, did go on to command Apollo 17, so that sort of counts.

I seriously doubt Al Shepard would have let anyone pilot his Lunar Module, especially since he and Ed Mitchell were running into potential abort problems during the landing of Apollo 14.

skye12
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posted 01-01-2012 09:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for skye12   Click Here to Email skye12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Supposedly, Conrad let Beam do "some" LM flying as I saw on "From the Earth to the Moon."

Peter downunder
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posted 03-05-2013 12:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Peter downunder   Click Here to Email Peter downunder     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"Playing around..." with the LM is not exactly flying the LM. It sounds to me Mitchell is hedging his answer. It would seem that the only evidence of a LMP actually flying the LM goes to Al Bean.

There is the story of Dick Gordon pushing Jack out of the way in the sim when the Commander's controls were made unserviceable. Then on exiting the sim he commented "tried to let Jack land didn't you..."

And by the way... I told my wife about this thread and the fact that none of the astronauts would let themselves be labeled as co-pilots. She said, "It's the same reason there are no 'small' sized prophylactics sold in the US." They're labelled 'slim fit' in Australia

robsouth
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posted 03-05-2013 03:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Commander, navigator and systems engineer would have been more appropriate titles. When the two crew members entered the LM prior to undocking then CMDR, CMP and LM co-pilot would have been more accurate.

Neil Aldrin
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posted 03-06-2013 08:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Neil Aldrin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ilbasso:
I told my wife about this thread and the fact that none of the astronauts would let themselves be labeled as co-pilots. She said, "It's the same reason there are no 'small' sized prophylactics sold in the US."
You may remember the segment in "Moon Machines" where the engineer was explaining the condom-type device used for urine collection. They had to change the sizes from Small, Medium and Large to Large, Extra Large and Huge.

These guys were doing cutting-edge, dangerous work for us, so massaging their egos a bit was a small price to pay.

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