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  Reuse of flown Apollo spacesuits for training

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Author Topic:   Reuse of flown Apollo spacesuits for training
compass
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posted 10-16-2010 12:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for compass   Click Here to Email compass     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was browsing through the Project Apollo Image Gallery and came across this photograph of Gene Cernan engaged in EVA training wearing, the caption stated, the actual flown suit Dave Scott wore on 15.

I understand that all crews had two suits, primary and backup (training). Was the budgetary situation such by Apollo 17 that most of the already used and flown gear was pressed into service for training purposes were possible?

I have seen pictures of Neil Armstrong's suit from Apollo 11 cleaned and preserved, it looks brand new and as if it were never worn. I guess the suits from the Apollo 11 crew are preserved as a national treasure - looks like flown gear thereafter was put to good use in training, given the expense involved I can see the merit in this.

ilbasso
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posted 10-16-2010 08:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I hadn't heard about re-using EVA suits before. Since they're custom-fitted to the astronauts, I think that might lend some difficulties to re-using them.

You're right about the budgetary pressures. Wasn't some or all of the Apollo 15 CM control panel re-used in subsequent missions, since the cost of flight-certified switches was so high?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-16-2010 08:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That the Apollo 11 suits were dry-cleaned was really a mistake; the Smithsonian later had to track down the cleaners to find out what type of chemicals had been applied in order to best preserve them.

On the other hand, if you look at Dave Scott's suit on display at the National Air and Space Museum, you can see the dirt stains from Gene Cernan's desert training.

With regards to the swapping spacecraft cockpits, see: The case of the missing Apollo 15 panels by John Fongheiser (space1).

MCroft04
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posted 10-16-2010 09:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's hard to believe that cost would dictate that a suit flown to the moon would be used in later training. Is it clearly documented that Cernan used Dave Scott's suit for training?

cv1701
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posted 10-16-2010 09:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cv1701     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Both Scott and Cernan were similar in size, hence why Cernan was able to use Scott's suit.

As for why Cernan used Scott's A7LB flight suit from 15, I can only guess that it was thrown into service because Cernan's A7LB training suit for 17 wasn't ready or wasn't available. Not all photographs of Cernan training for 17 feature him wearing Scott's suit, so that would seem to support that idea.

In order for Cernan to properly train for 17, he would have needed an A7LB suit. All of the other Apollo suits that Cernan had used up until that point had been A7L (his suits from 10 and then his suits for backing up 14).

If Cernan's training suit wasn't available, aside from his flight and backup suits for 17 (which would have never been used for outdoor playing-in-the-dirt training purposes), the next-best A7LB suits that Cernan could have used would have been Scott's suits from 15. Maybe Scott's flight suit was the only one readily available for Cernan to use and the needs of meeting the training schedule were deemed more important than the historical nature of Scott's suit.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-16-2010 10:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by MCroft04:
Is it clearly documented that Cernan used Dave Scott's suit for training?
Yes, in former curator Amanda Young's book "Spacesuits," an appendix provides a catalog of the suits in the National Air and Space Museum's collection.

The entry for A7LB serial no. 315, identified as "Apollo 15 - Flight - Scott" also notes "Apollo 17 - Training - Cernan."

Obviousman
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posted 10-17-2010 01:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Obviousman   Click Here to Email Obviousman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I thought there were three suits: primary, backup and training? I believed a training article could never become a flight article.

Mike Dixon
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posted 10-17-2010 02:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike Dixon   Click Here to Email Mike Dixon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The fact that Scott's flown suit was used by Cernan for training (and I've read about this issue before today) I find simply staggering, particularly from the historical preservation perspective.

The question I have is where were Dave Scott's backup and training suits and why were they not used?

Norman.King
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posted 10-17-2010 05:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Norman.King   Click Here to Email Norman.King     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
With regards to the swapping spacecraft cockpits, see: The case of the missing Apollo 15 panels by John Fongheiser (space1).
I’ve been knocked sidewise to learn that these unique items have been butchered in this way. From a historical perspective it’s almost vandalism.

I think 15’s panels should be removed from 16 and put back. At least 15 would then be complete again. Do we know what other CM’s (other than 11) are untouched and complete?

Rick Mulheirn
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posted 10-17-2010 07:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick Mulheirn   Click Here to Email Rick Mulheirn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Talking of vandalism, when I visted Garber in 2002, they had just been sent Walt Cunningham's flight suit from JSC; Walt's wife had been campaigning to get his suit in to the national suit archive.

When it arrived it had been cut in two across the waist and some kind of prototype waist connector fitted or rather stitched and glued in place; it was a mess.

Clearly there was no protocol in place for the preservation of national treasures such as these. They were fair game when it came to R&D.

From data I have (see chart below, click to enlarge) Joe Engle used Rusty Schweickart's flight suit when training as back-up on Apollo 14 and Stu Roosa his own flight suit when training as back-up Apollos 16 and 17.

John Charles
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posted 10-17-2010 01:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Charles     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Rick Mulheirn:
Clearly there was no protocol in place for the preservation of national treasures such as these. They were fair game when it came to R&D.
Rick is correct: when these suits were re-used, there was more interest in preparing for the next moon mission than in memorializing the last one.

Remember, the Apollo funding spike was winding down,and three whole moon missions were eliminated -- two of them just to save the small cost of implementing them, after all the hardware had been built.

NASA considered Apollo 11 as the historically significant mission, and the others were less so. So, given that the remainder of the program was facing budget cuts, we might forgive re-use of flown suits to maximize upcoming mission training.

quote:
From data I have Joe Engle used Rusty Schweickart's flight suit when training as back-up on Apollo 14 and Stu Roosa his own flight suit when training as back-up Apollos 16 and 17.
Interesting about Engle reusing Schweickart's Apollo 9 suit -- I guess they were the same size, as were Scott and Cernan. Surprised to hear that Roosa re-used his Apollo 14 A7L CMP suit when he would need the A7LB CMP version for Apollo 16 and 17. Maybe his A7L was "upgraded" (but not "vandalized") to A7LB configuration?

cv1701
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posted 10-17-2010 02:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cv1701     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by John Charles:
Surprised to hear that Roosa re-used his Apollo 14 A7L CMP suit when he would need the A7LB CMP version for Apollo 16 and 17. Maybe his A7L was "upgraded" (but not "vandalized") to A7LB configuration?
An interesting theory. The differences between the A7L and A7LB CMP suits were far less drastic then the differences between the A7L and A7LB CDR/LMP suits.

Assuming a CMP A7L could be modified, it would make since for Roosa's 14 flight suit to become his training suit for 16/17 (since his original training suit from 14 would have probably been the more worn-out of the two). His backup suit for 14 would have then become his flight suit for 16/17.

In every picture I've seen of Roosa training for 16/17, you can't see if the front of the suit has three connectors or five.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-17-2010 04:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Rick Mulheirn:
From data I have Joe Engle used Rusty Schweickart's flight suit when training as back-up on Apollo 14
Amanda Young's catalog doesn't include mention of Engle's use of Schweickart's suit, but does include a few other reuses:
  • Schweickart's Apollo 9 back-up suit was used by Duke for training
  • Cernan's Apollo 10 back-up suit was used by Cooper for training
  • Aldrin's Apollo 11 back-up suit was used by Schmitt for training
quote:
Originally posted by John Charles:
Maybe his A7L was "upgraded" (but not "vandalized") to A7LB configuration?
Again, referring to Young's catalog, Roosa's A7L suit is not indicated as having been retrofitted to A7LB, though others, such as Mattingly's Apollo 16 flight suit is.

mark plas
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posted 10-18-2010 03:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mark plas   Click Here to Email mark plas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Did Schmitt use any of his Apollo 15 suits on Apollo 17? Why would he have fitchecks in March 1972 if he did?

robsouth
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posted 10-18-2010 12:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I saw the photos on the Apollo Image Gallery a couple of years ago. Reusing hardware is one thing, but some of the things done to other space artefacts could be described as mindless vandalism.

NASA’s record at preserving historical items is abysmal, just look at what’s happened to the Apollo era launch tower at LC-39A where men first left for the moon, the Apollo 11 lunar suits, Ed White’s EVA suit and the Apollo 1 spacecraft. Having said that, their job is to launch hardware not look after it when it returns.

I still can’t believe the lunar suits of Armstrong and Aldrin were cleaned. Removing all that lunar dust and leaving them in a state where the chemicals that cleaned them are now having a detrimental effect on them is crazy. What would you rather see? Signs of use, scuffs of lunar soil, or two spotless looking suits that look like they’ve just come from the dry cleaners?

As for putting the Apollo 16 command module instrument panel back into Apollo 15, what’s the point? It’s got as much right to be in Apollo 16 as it has to be in Apollo 15?

Going to see these items nowadays you really do have to ask what is original and what has been tampered with, messed about with, changed, removed or just lost!

What I would like to see when the last few shuttle flights end, is for each orbiter to be taken into a hangar, made safe, all residuals removed and then to be displayed as they are. With NASA’s record the engines will be removed, the OMS pods will be removed, the front thruster section will be removed, the cabin will be cannibalised and when they finally go on display all that will exist of actual flown equipment will be the tyres!

Skylon
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posted 10-18-2010 03:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by robsouth:
NASA’s record at preserving historical items is abysmal, just look at what’s happened to LC-39A, the place where men first left for the moon,

It has remained America's foremost place to launch humans into space...

If NASA had the money to build LC 39C, and keep 39A as a museum. Sure. If they had the money to avoid cannibalizing spacecraft, for parts in others, I'm sure they would. If they had the money and time to ready another EVA suit (which costs more than most of us here make in a year) so that Gene Cernan didn't have to use Dave Scott's...sure.

Would you rather NASA abandon use of 39A with no alternative? Or not fly Apollo 16, to preserve Apollo 15's CSM? Or hold up Apollo 17's EVA training, potentially slipping a mission to preserve Dave Scott's suit? You're talking about human beings, working in an organization with budgets, and goals that must be met, and finite resources to meet those goals. If they failed to utilize their resources to the fullest, that would be a greater crime.

History is, and will remain, more impressed with the tasks accomplished than what remains. After all, eventually the later always turns to dust.

Obviousman
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posted 10-18-2010 04:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Obviousman   Click Here to Email Obviousman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some good points made by everyone. Ultimately it does come to a balance between harsh economic reality, historical significance, and just plain desire to preserve.

mark plas
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posted 10-18-2010 04:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mark plas   Click Here to Email mark plas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some good points indeed, but the Scott suit worn by Cernan during training is something that blows my mind. Scott must have had a training and a backup suit.

Norman.King
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posted 10-19-2010 12:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Norman.King   Click Here to Email Norman.King     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Apollo 15's panels were taken to ready 16 for museum display and not so it could fly its mission.

Apollo 16's panels had been needed for another CM (fair enough).

In my opinion, that was wrong. Apollo 16 should be the incomplete CM on display, not Apollo 15.

John Charles
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posted 11-02-2010 09:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Charles     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Can someone clarify how John Young's flight suit #8 from his Apollo 7 backup CMP stint came to have a fit check date of 11/17/69 -- over a year after Apollo 7, and 6 months after his own Apollo 10 flight? And, over a year after the fit check for his flight suit #43 from his Apollo 10 CMP assignment?

Jay Chladek
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posted 11-02-2010 10:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think you guys are judging NASA of old far too harshly. They weren't museum currators, their job was to get men to an from the moon as safely as possible and do it on a budget. Preservation was a consideration, but these people were more concerned with flying the next crew and looking over the data rather then seeing how the stuff would be looked after for the next generation. There were likely other concerns as well. To call it vandalism is missing the whole point as vandalism implies wanton destruction or defacing of property. I might use the term "misguided logic" but not vandalism as this is nowhere near the level of say somebody taking a can of spray paint to the side of a rocket.

Suits to aerospace engineers are considered like aircraft or spacecraft. They get used and they can get used again if somebody mandates it. Given the price of each suit, if money can be saved by using them again, NASA will do so. Same goes for development work. If a suit is available to modify for testing, so be it. Hence that is what likely happened to Walter Cunningham's suit.

Concerning the dry cleaning bit, I have a feeling that part of it also may have been due to the lunar quarantine protocols. While biological quarantine for Apollo's 11, 12 and 14 proved to be unneccesary, at the time of Apollo 11, it was still a new thing and sterilizing the lunar suits may have been a consideration just in case there was something dormant in the lunar soil. Dry cleaning chemicals can do essentially that. The dust on the suits may not have been considered critical since they already had the lunar samples. All things considered, it could have been worse as NASA could have dictated the contractors take apart each and every bit of EVA suit hardware and test it to destruction to see if everything worked properly. Then there would not have been anything left to display except maybe a glove or two and a few rings (and maybe some boots, which were not the lunar overboots as those were thrown out before LM ascent).

As for shuttle, NASA will likely come up with some good displays for those vehicles as they have learned a lot about preserving history since Apollo. But there are some concerns over certain artifacts. The orbiters will likely be taken care of, but I recall the Smithsonian had a concern about not being able to get ahold of any decent Shuttle EMU suits since when the flight articles are retired, they are recycled for NBL use in the pool and that practice will likely continue since the ISS will still use them. Since the ISS has no effective down mass capability once shuttle is gone, the suits onboard the ISS will likely stay up there once they are no longer considered safe for use unless the Dragon system is up and running and sufficient space is alloted to bring them home.

cv1701
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posted 11-04-2010 10:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cv1701     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Chladek:
All things considered, it could have been worse as NASA could have dictated the contractors take apart each and every bit of EVA suit hardware and test it to destruction to see if everything worked properly.
Al Bean's Apollo 12 ITMG was destroyed in testing by NASA (destroyed may be too strong of a word, maybe "taken apart"). That's why the ITMG that is currently on the suit is one of his training ITMGs.

Here's a present-day picture of the suit.

You can see how the feet and arms still retain their original dust-stained cover layer.

This article talks a little about some of the testing that was done on the suit, as well as features a vintage post-flight photo of the suit.

Fra Mauro
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posted 11-05-2010 09:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One thing missing from all the discussion here is the budgetary factor playing a role.

During the latter part of Apollo, NASA was just trying to stay alive and if reusing CM
panels or suits helped, the that was the way it had to be. Do I agree with a lunar suit being used for training -- no -- but at the time I suppose it was necessary.

Captain Apollo
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posted 12-19-2010 04:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Captain Apollo   Click Here to Email Captain Apollo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does Dave's Scott's suit in the museum really have "Apollo 15" stenciled across the sun visor?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-19-2010 05:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The lettering is present, but rather than stencils, they are decals. They were added either by NASA or the Air Force before the helmet arrived at the museum in 1974, as this thread describes.

Captain Apollo
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posted 12-20-2010 01:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Captain Apollo   Click Here to Email Captain Apollo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, I wish they'd try to remove them. Hardly history.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-20-2010 01:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As its prior curator explained...
I cannot remove the letters though, because the exterior of the helmet would have changed color slightly due to age, and if I removed the black letter, the fading patterns would remain -- so I have left it.

Greggy_D
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posted 12-20-2010 06:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Why did some of the moonwalkers get to keep their name tags off their suits, when others did not? I noticed that Armstrong's and Aldrin's tags are still attached to their suits, which are in storage at the Smithsonian NASM.

On a related note, during the pre-Challenger shuttle era, the individual astronauts did not keep the same powder blue flight suit from flight to flight. For example, Charlie Walker wore a different Launch/Entry Coverall on each of his three flights, all within 16 months. I was shocked to learn the suits were returned to the general rotation after every shuttle flight.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-20-2010 06:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Greggy_D:
Why did some of the moonwalkers get to keep their name tags off their suits, when others did not?
All were offered their flown patches and name tags as presentation mementos ("presentos") by NASA. As I have heard it described, the Apollo 11 crew chose not to accept theirs, as to keep their suits intact as flown.
quote:
Originally posted by Greggy_D:
I was shocked to learn the suits were returned to the general rotation after every shuttle flight.
The same can be said for most shuttle-era astronaut equipment, with the exception of personal toiletries.

Skylon
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posted 12-21-2010 03:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On a similar vein of this thread, the New York Times has run an article related to the Smithsonian's collection of pressure suits.

Captain Apollo
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posted 12-21-2010 06:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Captain Apollo   Click Here to Email Captain Apollo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great article. I was interested in this inclusion - "Mr. Armstrong’s gold-visored external helmet, once thought to have been left on the Moon."

Anyone know more?

MikeSpace
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posted 12-23-2010 10:52 AM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Not really related but all I can think of is all the stuff they jettisoned while on the Moon to save weight during ascent.

Had to be done, but... yow.

David Carey
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posted 12-23-2010 11:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David Carey   Click Here to Email David Carey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This article (and an embedded interview w/ Amanda Young) may be of some interest. The $250K price tag mentioned for each copy of later suits was probably a significant factor promoting re-use in the face of tightening budgets.

LM-12
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posted 10-27-2012 04:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by compass:
I was browsing through the Project Apollo Image Gallery and came across this photograph of Gene Cernan engaged in EVA training wearing, the caption stated, the actual flown suit Dave Scott wore on 15.

Here is a full shot of Cernan wearing that same Apollo 15 suit.

model maker
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posted 11-02-2012 01:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for model maker     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by robsouth:
...all that will exist of actual flown equipment will be the tyres!
Your explanation of what would be left to display from the shuttle being tires is very close to what they are really doing. I believe they should allow historic items to keep their historical significance and not destroy or alter them. The shuttles tires will probably be the only thing left to display, as this photo shows.

LM-12
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posted 11-04-2012 04:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Was Gene Cernan wearing the flown Apollo 15 suit in this photo taken outside the Flight Crew Training Building?

Rick Mulheirn
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posted 11-04-2012 07:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick Mulheirn   Click Here to Email Rick Mulheirn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Given the cuff of his gloves are noticeably whiter than the arms of the suit I suspect he is wearing a flown suit, probably Dave Scott's.

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