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  Mercury - Gemini - Apollo
  Apollo 9 LM-3 'Spider' Earth re-entry

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Author Topic:   Apollo 9 LM-3 'Spider' Earth re-entry
Paul78zephyr
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Posts: 637
From: Hudson, MA
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 11-26-2017 11:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul78zephyr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have read that the ascent stage of Apollo 9's lunar module LM-3 "Spider" remained in Earth orbit until 1981 (about 12 years). Why was it not commanded to have a safe controlled re-entry at the end of the mission as opposed to an uncontrolled re-entry?

randy
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Posts: 1902
From: West Jordan, Utah USA
Registered: Dec 1999

posted 11-26-2017 11:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for randy   Click Here to Email randy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That's a good question, one which I've never thought of. I too would like to know.

Rusty53
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Posts: 41
From: Rochester, NY USA
Registered: Jun 2010

posted 11-26-2017 09:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rusty53     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to NASA Technical Note D-7949 a Lunar Module Mission Programmer (LMP)...
...was designed to enable the lunar module to meet the requirements for unmanned near-Earth orbiting missions and to be adaptable to restricted unmanned lunar landing missions. It was utilized on the unmanned Apollo 5 LM and the Apollo 9 and 10 LMs to certify its function.

Grounded!
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Posts: 287
From: Bennington, Vermont, USA
Registered: Feb 2011

posted 11-27-2017 12:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Grounded!   Click Here to Email Grounded!     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's a good question. Was there a reason to keep it in orbit? Was there additional data to be obtained? There was not as much of a "space junk" issue back then as there is now. It would certainty have been easy to de-orbit the assent stage at that time if so desired.

oly
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Posts: 227
From: Perth, Western Australia
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 11-27-2017 12:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for oly   Click Here to Email oly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From memory, I believe I have previously read that following the test flight and undocking the LM ascent engine was test fired again until fuel exhaustion in an attempt to test the engine performance; the fuel system, including low fuel warnings, etc; the remote telemetry system and the performance of the batteries. I guess that they wanted it to fly for as long as possible to gain as much data as possible.

Solarplexus
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Posts: 78
From: Norway
Registered: Jan 2014

posted 11-27-2017 09:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Solarplexus     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Could they have used a space shuttle that had delivered its cargo to retrieve it and returned it safely to earth?

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-27-2017 10:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
LM-3 re-entered the atmosphere on Oct. 23, 1981, about three weeks shy of the launch of the second space shuttle mission, STS-2.

The 10-foot, 7-inch tall by 13-foot, 10-inch wide ascent stage may have fit into the payload bay, but at that point in the program, without any EVA experience or use of the Canadarm robotic arm, it would have been challenging, to say the least. And making it even more unlikely would have been the lack of any capture points on the ascent stage, the need for a custom mount to hold the stage securely in the payload bay, the dangers associated with any residual propellant in the ascent stage tanks, and other logistical hurdles.

Rusty53
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Posts: 41
From: Rochester, NY USA
Registered: Jun 2010

posted 11-27-2017 10:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rusty53     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As per my previous post, perhaps the reason Spider was placed in a high elliptical orbit was because NASA wanted to certify the LMP system which allowed the ascent engine to be fired when unmanned. Interesting that the only other manned LM to have a LMP system (A10 Snoopy) was also burned to oxidizer depletion making it the only LM placed into a solar orbit.

p51
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Posts: 1511
From: Olympia, WA
Registered: Sep 2011

posted 11-27-2017 11:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Solarplexus:
Could they have used a space shuttle that had delivered its cargo to retrieve it and returned it safely to earth?
Even if Columbia was up and running before the orbit decayed, I can't imagine NASA capturing this and bringing it back.

Solarplexus
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Posts: 78
From: Norway
Registered: Jan 2014

posted 11-27-2017 12:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Solarplexus     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree in that. Safety first. In theory it would be possible according to Robert but hardly in reality.

Paul78zephyr
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Posts: 637
From: Hudson, MA
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 11-27-2017 12:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul78zephyr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
LM-3 re-entered the atmosphere on Oct. 23, 1981
Is there any documentation which states what its final orbit was and where it came down?

Paul78zephyr
Member

Posts: 637
From: Hudson, MA
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 11-27-2017 12:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul78zephyr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Rusty53:
According to NASA Technical Note D-7949...
Thank you very much for that link. Very interesting read.

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