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  Apollo 14: Astronaut Office reaction to Shepard (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   Apollo 14: Astronaut Office reaction to Shepard
ASCAN1984
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posted 08-14-2012 07:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ASCAN1984   Click Here to Email ASCAN1984     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Was just thinking this morning how unfair to the other astronauts that Alan Shepard got Apollo 14 CDR without ever serving on a backup crew first. Why was this and how was it perceived by the Astronaut Office?

Was this a major error by Deke Slayton or the best logical step?

Delta7
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posted 08-14-2012 08:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From everything I've read and heard on the subject there were a lot of raised eyebrows and some grumbling. But Shepard benefited from the fact that Slayton had decided to replace Gordon Cooper as CDR of Apollo 13* (who was in line for the job by virtue of the fact he was backup CDR of Apollo 10). Shepard stepped right into that situation. My personal opinion is that he wouldn't have been able to march in and displace another astronaut, but that Cooper made himself a convenient target for displacement by falling out of favor with management. As they say timing is everything.

*Shepard was originally submitted by Slayton as Apollo 13 CDR, but management objected and he was moved back to Apollo 14.

Cozmosis22
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posted 08-14-2012 09:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cozmosis22     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Alan Shepard may not have been on an Apollo backup crew but he was no spaceflight rookie. Being one of the "Original Seven" and having been the first to ride a rocket straight up qualifies him in my book.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 08-14-2012 09:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree that this was not Deke's finest hour*, but do consider: Shepard _had_ served a backup assignment (to Cooper on MA-9), then had a prime crew job taken away for medical reasons (GT-III). It was one of Deke's "rules" that an astronaut who lost a flight for a medical reason should, once cleared, have first shot at the next available opening. He did this with Collins and Mattingly, too. And yes, he was being a bit self-serving, because he hoped that rule would apply for him, too. And, well, it did.

* If Slayton had assigned Shepard as backup commander for 13, putative prime commander for 16, no one would have complained.

Skylon
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posted 08-14-2012 09:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It was perceived as pretty unfair. I don't think many really opposed the notion of Gordo Cooper getting bumped (a number of Astronauts felt his performance went "downhill") - except naturally Cooper himself. However, stuff like Jim McDivitt getting offered a spot as Shepard's LMP went over worse.

I don't think it was a major error either. Slayton maintained a position that Shepard was one of the best guys in the Astronaut Office. Even without Gemini flight experience he wanted to assign him to the first Apollo flight (had he been able to regain flight status in 1966). But it was by no means a fair choice. The other guys had to slog it out through Deke's rotation to fly, while Shepard materialized at the top of it. If he'd been assigned as a backup, even if that involved bumping somebody, it would have likely gone over better. Fair - absolutely not. But an error? In what way?

If you wanted to replace Cooper, I think the most logical choice would be to offer it to Jim McDivitt whom Slayton didn't feel needed to do the backup job again. If McDivitt turned it down, then I can see Slayton going to Shepard.

Also, Apollo 13 was the first available flight when Shepard regained flight status. I doubt he could have lobbied for Apollo 11 or 12 had he been flying earlier, but I think anything from Apollo 13 onward Shepard could have fought his way onto.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 08-14-2012 10:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There's no way Slayton would or could have put Shepard on 11 or 12 — he maintained that his rotation would be the mode right up to the time he had to select the first landing crew (when he gave himself the option of recycling an experience crew like Borman's from prime to prime).

But he also felt that, once the first landing was accomplished, he could exercise more freedom in assignments.

Re McDivitt, I don't know how public the "offer" of a LMP assignment was in 1969 — nor do I think it ever reached the level of a real assignment. I'm pretty sure it was a single conversation where the subject came up like this: "What about flying with Shepard?" At which point McDivitt, canny soul that he was, could see no good options [either he was the LMP, which would have been a stupid idea, or he was commanding Shepard, which wasn't appealing, either] and declined.

(McDivitt told me years ago that he would have considered a second Apollo flight if he could have had Scott and Schweickart. But Slayton wanted to give Scott his own crew, so that eliminated that possibility.)

Fra Mauro
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posted 08-14-2012 01:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is the most controversial of the Apollo assignments. Imagine what the opinions would be if the mission failed (the crew returning of course)?

I know this was unlikely but I would have liked Anders as Apollo 14 CDR.

Skylon
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posted 08-14-2012 02:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Fra Mauro:
This is the most controversial of the Apollo assignments. Imagine what the opinions would be if the mission failed (the crew returning of course)?

But it didn't. The EVA's were not the most stellar of Apollo, however the Apollo 14 crew successfully handled some serious issues such as problems retrieving the LM during transposition and docking and probably the most harrowing landing on the Moon next to Apollo 11.

This is a realm I would just as soon avoid when speculating since in the history of NASA there has yet to be an outright failure to achieve major mission objectives due to "crew error." There have been mistakes that made objectives more difficult (Chawla on STS-87), errors that caused some near misses (Carpenter on MA 7), conflicts between a flight crew and the ground (Apollo 7 and Skylab 4) and objectives failed due to technical errors (a bunch) and incorrect training (Gemini 9 EVA, Gemini 4's Titan rendezvous). This what-if scenario could just as easily be applied to any space flight crew and the result would probably be the same in all cases.

It does not feel right in that case, singling out Shepard, Roosa and Mitchell for this scenario.

Norman.King
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posted 08-14-2012 03:00 PM     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 Skylon:
This is a realm I would just as soon avoid when speculating since in the history of NASA there has yet to be an outright failure to achieve major mission objectives due to "crew error." There have been mistakes that made objectives more difficult (Chawla on STS-87)
Wasn't Chawla fully exonerated after an extensive enquiry?

Blackarrow
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posted 08-14-2012 03:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Cassutt:
If Slayton had assigned Shepard as backup commander for 13, putative prime commander for 16, no one would have complained.
Hmmmm... I can think of one key NASA figure who might have been a little upset.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 08-14-2012 04:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Oh, you're probably thinking of Cooper. Except that if Shepard got the 13 backup, it would have left Cooper aimed as prime on 13. And if you're thinking of Young, he would certainly have backed up 14.

Blackarrow
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posted 08-14-2012 04:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was thinking of Young, but your scenario (Shepard commanding 16) might have upset Cernan even more, with various other knock-on possibilities.

Captain Apollo
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posted 08-14-2012 05:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Captain Apollo   Click Here to Email Captain Apollo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is it true Shepard wept when he set foot on the moon (scene in From the Earth to the Moon)?

Michael Cassutt
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posted 08-14-2012 06:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
I was thinking of Young, but your scenario (Shepard commanding 16) might have upset Cernan even more, with various other knock-on possibilities.
Even by the standards of counter factual history, which we seem to be playing, you're stretching this past the breaking point. Cernan wasn't thinking about an Apollo landing command in May 1969.

billshap
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posted 08-14-2012 09:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for billshap     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Flight crew speculation is often criticized, yet we all enjoy doing it. For discussion, let's say Shepard was not cleared medically for 13. Cooper had played himself out of the lineup, so who would have been qualified— and available— to be CDR of 13 (it only became 14 because of Shepard)? From everything that's been said for decades there was no way Cooper was going to get it.

The entire 7 crew is out... Stafford, Young and Cernan were just coming off 10... Collins had already taken himself out of consideration... Aldrin wasn't going to get it. Lovell and Anders were coming off backing up 11. Lovell originally got 14, so wouldn't have been considered for 13 (nor Anders). Would it have been Scott, who Deke already decided would get his own crew? The only other experienced, qualified, and available candidates would have been McDivitt, and the 10 crew. Would McDivitt have taken 13 if he was the first choice as CDR? Would having Scott and Schweikart have been a deal breaker for him in this context? The only other option seems to be Stafford or Young. Stafford may or may not have been willing.

What have I overlooked? Seems like McDivitt would have been the first option in a Shepard-less 13 pool.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 08-14-2012 09:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Stafford-Eisele/Roosa-Mitchell (Stafford was a long-time friend of Eisele's and would probably have made a convincing pitch to keep him.)

Delta7
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posted 08-14-2012 10:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Apollo 13: Young, Roosa, Mitchell. (Backups Cernan, Evans, Duke).

Apollo 14: Lovell, Mattingly, Haise (Backups Anders, Swigert, Engle).

Henry Heatherbank
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posted 08-15-2012 06:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Cassutt:
McDivitt told me years ago that he would have considered a second Apollo flight if he could have had Scott and Schweickart. But Slayton wanted to give Scott his own crew, so that eliminated that possibility.
That is an intriguing teaser. Presumably both Scott AND Schweickart were unavailable to McDivitt in the 1969-1970 time period, because for a while after Apollo 9 Schweickart was being poked and prodded by the medicos (including at Pensacola) for space sickness studies.

So McDivitt could have neither Scott or Schweickart. But could Scott have got Schweickart as his LMP if he wanted it badly enough? I am presuming no because of timing: Scott's new crew needed to be in place to back up Apollo 12 by mid-1969, when Schweickart was still undergoing medical investigations. But could Scott have INSISTED, if he really wanted Schweickart badly enough, given that in mid-1969 Schweickart was one of the most experienced LMPs.

Let's take it up a notch: what if Borman had not swept his Apollo 8 space sickness under the carpet, and had volunteered to be the test subject instead of Schweickart (as impossibly unlikely as that was)? That means Schweickart had a better chance of staying in rotation, and so would that have opened up the possibility of a Scott/Worden/Schweickart Apollo 12 BU/Apollo 15 prime scenario?

Even if Schweickart was still benched in mid-1969 because space sickness was still sufficiently unknown, surely this would have increased his chances of a second flight, in a very late Apollo or in Skylab?

I recall a somewhat caustic interview a few years ago in which Schweickart expressed some resentment that Borman had done the macho test pilot thing and swept his Apollo 8 illness under the carpet, which effectively made Schweickart the guinea pig, with all the consequences that had for his chances of ever flying again. Schweickart said in the interview that he had yet to "thank" Borman for doing all of that for/to him...

Fra Mauro
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posted 08-15-2012 09:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Flight crew speculation, while flawed, is enjoyable, esp. to those of us who miss a robust U.S. manned program operating out of the Cape. It is true that the Apollo 14 crew did its' job well, even though we can speculate that the EVAs might have been done better by others.

As to the original topic, I would guess that if you were an experienced astronaut who had flown to the moon, it was fine. If you were still waiting in line, there was probably some resentment.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 08-15-2012 10:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Henry Heatherbank:
Presumably both Scott AND Schweickart were unavailable to McDivitt in the 1969-1970 time period...
The window for another quick flight assignment for McDivitt was only open for a couple of weeks, late March/early April 1969. Slayton had already assigned Scott as b/u commander for 12 (with Worden and Irwin), so a recycled McDivitt-Scott-Schweickart was not going to happen. Nor was Scott going to have Schweickart at that time: given what had just happened on Apollo 9, it would have been foolish for Slayton to have put Schweickart on the next crew — and equally foolish for Scott to have asked for him, given the timing and circumstances. (Six months later, it might have made perfectly good sense. And, indeed, Schweickart did return to the pool for flight assignment, with Skylab.)

Saying that Borman "swept his sickness under the table" is silly: it was quite well known to everyone in mission control and to much of the public at the time of the flight.

Headshot
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posted 08-15-2012 11:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One aspect that has not been mentioned is that after the success of Apollo 12, Slayton had to deal with the fact that he had a lot of rookie astronauts and very few slots available for the rest of Apollo/Skylab/ASTP. That is the reason he went to the one veteran and two rookies mix.

I suspect that even had Slayton offered McDivitt a flight, and McDivitt accepted, Slayton would have let him pick whomever he want as crewmates... as long as they were rookies.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 08-15-2012 11:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you're suggesting that Slayton either had or felt an obligation to fly everyone — to give those rookies a flight — no. His method of operation was to use the astronauts he had selected for Apollo (1962/1963) until they wore out, gave up, moved to other jobs, or, as with Schweickart, were unavailable.

Only then would he move on to the unflowns. Remember, he had not wanted to select scientists at all, and even resisted the idea of a 1966 pilot group — certainly at the level that NASA HQ (Mueller) wanted. He was very happy to have some of that 1966 group, though left to his own he would have hired fewer than half the 19.

He knew that anyone coming into the program after 1963 was likely to have a long wait or a career that consisted of a single flight, if that.

Headshot
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posted 08-15-2012 02:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Slayton's only obligation was to maintain a viable group of astronauts from which to pick crews. He could not do this if he kept on flying all veteran crews (Apollo 11) or two veteran-one rookie crews (Apollo 12).

Looking to the post Apollo future, he needed to retain some of the astronauts from Group 5, as they were the youngest and most like to remain at NASA until the shuttle flew, projected to be sometime in 1977 at that time. He figured that Group 2 astronauts would leave the program soon followed by most of group 3.

You are right, he really did not think much of Group 4 (The Scientists). A number of Group 5 astronauts flew as rookies on Apollo/Skylab/ASTP and more than half flew shuttle missions. Of course there was one Mercury astronaut and one Group 2 astronaut that flew on the shuttle as well.

As everyone knows two Group 5 astronauts were Alan Shepard's Apollo 14 rookie crewmates.

Skylon
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posted 08-15-2012 03:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The 1966 class fell on good fortune with Apollo. The large group was selected on the pretense of meeting the most optimistic plans for Apollo Applications, which involved a large number of flights. If you tear down the rotation to some of what Cassutt's own book indicates, Apollo could have just as easily ended up like this had it not been for attrition of the 1963 astronauts:

Apollo 13 - Lovell, Anders, Haise
Apollo 14 - Shepard, Roosa, Mitchell
Apollo 15 - Scott, Worden, Schweickart
Apollo 16 - Young, Mattingly (?), Cernan
Apollo 17 - Collins, Duke (?), Schmitt (?)

But, Anders and Collins retired, Schweickart was moved to AAP and Cernan won the gamble of a command (Apollo 17). Had the 1963 Astronaut class not had such an attrition you'd end up with a scenario of potentially only one of the 1966 class walking on the Moon.

With retirements, moves to AAP, and outright deaths in the 1963 class, Slayton was left with little choice but to turn to the 1966 class. The post-Apollo future was not on Slayton's radar until cuts started happening, and people started getting moved to Skylab because he could see Apollo was not in the cards for them (Lind when Apollo 20 was canceled, Pogue and Carr when 18 and 19 were canceled) and wanted them to give them a realistic chance to fly.

Henry Heatherbank
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posted 08-15-2012 05:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Cassutt:
Saying that Borman "swept his sickness under the table" is silly: it was quite well known to everyone in mission control and to much of the public at the time of the flight.
Saying that Borman "swept his sickness under the table" is silly: it was quite well known to everyone in mission control and to much of the public at the time of the flight.

But that doesn't change the fact Borman did not become the guinea pig that Schweickart did, when space sickness was still the great unknown. Was this because of Borman's managerial duties or public relations role? Or was Schweickart an easier target? (Pardon my use of vernacular phrases, which I am using in the interests of brevity and succinctness, much like my earlier, apparently "silly", reference to Borman's sickness being swept under the carpet).

Michael Cassutt
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posted 08-15-2012 05:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Like most pilots and ninety percent of the astronaut office, Borman wanted little to do with the medical people, especially Chuck Berry's medical people. (The fact that Schweickart volunteered to be a guinea pig astonished many of his colleagues.)

But, then, Borman wasn't flying again, and Schweickart wanted to eliminate doubts about his fitness for a second mission. Whether it was fair or not, what happened on Apollo 9 cost Schweickart a chance at a landing mission... he had motivation, Borman didn't. And Slayton and Shepard/Stafford, backed up by Gilruth, were not going to press the issue.

Fra Mauro
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posted 08-16-2012 12:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Of course, imagine the rotation if Cooper had stayed in the good graces of management and commanded an Apollo flight. What would have happened to Shepard?

Skylon
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posted 08-16-2012 01:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Fra Mauro:
Of course, imagine the rotation if Cooper had stayed in the good graces of management and commanded an Apollo flight. What would have happened to Shepard?
Cooper had to get into management's good graces to start. Walt Williams was ready to replace Cooper with Shepard for MA 9 at a moment's notice. Slayton had to fight a little to justify assigning Cooper to MA 9 - without a doubt Cooper's performance on Faith 7 was his highpoint as an Astronaut, and finished Mercury in grand form when the flight could have easily ended in disaster. However, Cooper was also totally absent from Slayton's initial planned Gemini crews. When Shepard was grounded and the objectives of the first missions shuffled a bit, Cooper managed to land Gemini 5, which his star didn't emerge shining from.

In essence you have to imagine a whole new career for Cooper. In that scenario, after Gemini 5 he wouldn't have most likely been pointed at the dead end assignment of the Gemini 12 backup crew, nor assigned to Apollo 10 because Slayton had literally nobody else to turn to.

Blackarrow
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posted 08-16-2012 03:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Cassutt:
Cernan wasn't thinking about an Apollo landing command in May 1969.
You know this for a fact? It would have made him a very unusual military officer and astronaut not to be thinking of his own command, having flown twice and having thus become one of NASA's most experienced astronauts.

Headshot
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posted 08-16-2012 08:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I suspect that Gene Cernan started thinking about commanding his own lunar landing mission after May 26, 1969 ... sometime between Apollo 10 landing in the ocean and his arrival back in Houston. Just a guess, but he was always very agressive about improving his career.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 08-16-2012 10:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
You know this for a fact?
Do we know any of this for a fact? Let me rephrase: in May 1969, Cernan had no reason to expect a lunar landing command, not prior to an Apollo 20.

Delta7
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posted 08-17-2012 09:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I believe by May 1969 Bill Anders had made it known that he wasn't planning on sticking around after Apollo 11. Cernan might have thought he could make a case for the backup CDR Apollo 17/CDR Apollo 20 slot that Anders would have rotated into had he stayed and flown as Lovell's CMP on Apollo 14 (the one that Anders replacement, Ken Mattingly, would have been pointed toward; Mattingly was Group 5 and Cernan may have thought that as a Group 3 astronaut he was higher up in Deke's pecking order).

I also wonder if Cernan might have had inside info that Mike Collins was planning on retiring after Apollo 11, opening up the slot that Cernan eventually won. In other words that he knew before Deke did, having been given a "heads up" so he could vie for the spot. Just speculation.

FFrench
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posted 08-17-2012 03:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bill Anders didn't wish to take himself completely out of the running - he just didn't want to go to the moon three times to only land once. If you read the chapter he did with us in our "In the Shadow of the Moon" book, he explains his thinking.

And Michael, thanks as ever for sharing your extremely informed insights here.

Andy L
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posted 08-17-2012 07:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Andy L     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One thing that has been overlooked is the lack of rendezvous experience, both with Shepard and Cooper. I remember reading somewhere about NASA managers wanting the CMP to have done a rendezvous before as well as the commander. I guess the training the crews received must have been good.

ASCAN1984
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posted 08-20-2012 12:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ASCAN1984   Click Here to Email ASCAN1984     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One thing I wonder is when the problem with the landing radar happened on Apollo 14 it was fixed but both Shepard and Mitchell said years later that even if it happened that nothing could be done nothing was going to stop then from landing. Do you think this was true and if so would it have been with MCC's blessing?

Can't imagine that it would have been as it probably broke some mission rule or that they would have landed without MCC go. If they did the consequences would be huge if they had.

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posted 08-20-2012 05:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What consequences? It's not like they would have broken a law or anything. As it was, I don't recall anything to indicate that any of the Apollo 14 crew had interest in flying the shuttle, so it wasn't like NASA could say, "You'll never fly again if you disobey orders."

Had they aborted their landing because of the radar lock-on issue, does anyone really believe Shepard and Mitchell (and Roosa) would have been given another mission? Did NASA recycle the Apollo 13 crew to Apollo 17? No.

Both Shepard and Mitchell knew that this would be their only shot. I am just curious to know if they discussed the possibility of defying MCC and the flight rules ahead of time or just decided to wing it during the mission.

ilbasso
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posted 08-20-2012 08:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If they had violated flight rules so blatantly, one possible consequence could have been that Congress would have shut down the program - no more landings for anyone. Congress went ballistic over a corned beef sandwich - how do you think they would have reacted to astronauts defying Mission Control and risking their lives in a landing situation that was considered too dangerous to be approved?

The mission rules were set up as they were for a reason. Remember that this was only the third Moon landing attempt, too. I'm sure any of the CDRs would tell you that it was tough enough to land on the Moon even if all of the equipment was working perfectly. The failure scenarios in trying to land without radar are numerous and easy to imagine. What if they got within 100 feet of the surface and so much dust was kicked up that they completely lost sight of the ground?

canyon42
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posted 08-20-2012 08:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for canyon42   Click Here to Email canyon42     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Honestly, I always kind of thought of the landing radar incident being one of those things that Shepard allowed to be played up and consequently enhance his "mystique," for want of a better word. The situation never really got to the go/no go point, and I recall Mitchell saying that the only answer Shepard gave him about whether he would have landed without the radar was something along the lines of "you'll never know."

Could I imagine Shepard breaking the rules to land anyway if the situation hadn't gotten resolved? I suppose so, although I'd like to think he wouldn't have done so. With everything going on at the time, I think it's possible that he never actually got to the point even in his own mind of making a decision before it became a moot point.

Skylon
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posted 08-20-2012 09:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Headshot:
Both Shepard and Mitchell knew that this would be their only shot. I am just curious to know if they discussed the possibility of defying MCC and the flight rules ahead of time or just decided to wing it during the mission.
"Hey Al, if the radar fails in flight should we try landing?"

I sincerely doubt that Shepard and Mitchell had a discussion about breaking flight rules.

That said, based on Shepard's comments I doubt he was stupid. Gene Kranz I think summed up well, believing Shepard would have attempted a landing without the radar, but would have run low on fuel and been forced to abort.

Tom
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posted 08-20-2012 09:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom   Click Here to Email Tom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The most recent Astro Chat featured Edgar Mitchell. I asked the following question:
During the initial powered descent to the Fra Mauro highlands, Antares landing radar was not operating. If you were unable to get it working again, would you and Al have proceeded to the surface?
Unfortunately, the question was not selected.


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