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  Jim Irwin, Apollo 17 backup lunar module pilot

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Author Topic:   Jim Irwin, Apollo 17 backup lunar module pilot
Rick Mulheirn
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Posts: 2458
From: England
Registered: Feb 2001

posted 06-08-2012 05:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick Mulheirn   Click Here to Email Rick Mulheirn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Has anybody ever seen any photos of Jim Irwin in training during his shortened tenure as Apollo 17 backup lunar module pilot (LMP)?

Fra Mauro
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Posts: 1017
From: Maspeth, NY
Registered: Jul 2002

posted 06-12-2012 07:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think there are any photos of him as the LM backup. This is probably because he wasn't on that assignment very long due to the stamp controversy.

Kite
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Posts: 231
From: Northampton UK
Registered: Nov 2009

posted 06-12-2012 02:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kite     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm not sure how other members feel but I always find it odd that Jim Irwin was assigned as backup Apollo 17 LMP after his heart scare when on the Moon with Apollo 15. I would have thought the medics would not have allowed this. Can anyone explain?

ozspace
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Posts: 84
From: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Registered: May 2009

posted 06-12-2012 07:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ozspace   Click Here to Email ozspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great point, I just read Al Worden's book and Jim was in pretty bad shape for a while on 15 and appeared to have sustained long term damage that may have contributed to his early death.

Grounded!
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Posts: 128
From: Bennington, Vermont, USA
Registered: Feb 2011

posted 06-12-2012 09:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Grounded!   Click Here to Email Grounded!     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It does seem a little odd that Jim Irwin was given another crew assignment after the symptoms he experienced not only during his moonwalk but during reentry and post flight (dyspnea and cyanosis).

Deke Slayton was grounded for intermittent atrial fibrillation which one could argue is a less serious and less ominous arrhythmia than the premature ventricular contractions and other symptoms experienced by Irwin.

Yes, hypokalemia increases the chance of PVCs for anyone, but Jim's other symptoms should have been a big red flag.

Tom
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Posts: 1275
From: New York
Registered: Nov 2000

posted 06-12-2012 10:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom   Click Here to Email Tom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is it possible that he was assigned as back-up LMP on Apollo 17 prior to his flight on "15"?

Henry Heatherbank
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Posts: 146
From: Adelaide, South Australia
Registered: Apr 2005

posted 06-13-2012 05:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Schmitt was going to fly 17 no matter what, so the BU LMP was as dead-end an assignment as you could possibly get in the late 1971 time frame.

I figure that in late 1971 Irwin was an acceptable risk given his extremely low likelihood of ever having to replace the prime LMP, yet NASA still had the insurance policy of a fully trained (and fully fit) BU CDR and CMP, each with lunar experience and therefore no need to bring a new crew into the training cycle at such a late stage.

Makes for an intersting quetion as to what would have happened if Schmitt had broken a leg in November 1972: delay 17 by one month or so into early 1973, or swap him out for the BU LMP (who by that stage was not Irwin anyway - it was Charlie Duke).

I'm not sure NASA was under a calendar deadline to end Apollo in 1972, but the pressure was certainly on to get on with Skylab. But I can't help concluding that Schmitt's status as the geologist would have led to a launch delay.

Henry Heatherbank
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Posts: 146
From: Adelaide, South Australia
Registered: Apr 2005

posted 06-13-2012 05:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Tom:
Is it possible that he was assigned as back-up LMP on Apollo 17 prior to his flight on "15"?

No, the Apollo 17 prime and backup crews were officially announced on 13 August 1971; ie, after Apollo 15 had flown. The removal of the original backup crew happened (from memory) in the April/May 1972 time period.

This was some way into the training cycle for 17, hence increasing the pressure to replace with a recently-experienced lunar crew. The 16 crew (with the addition of Roosa for Mattingly) was the obvious choice because they had just flown the only other J-mission.

Lou Chinal
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Posts: 946
From: Staten Island, NY
Registered: Jun 2007

posted 07-12-2012 05:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, NASA definitely painted themselves into a coner with the selection of only one geologist. Schmitt had to go.

FFrench
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Posts: 3093
From: San Diego
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 07-12-2012 06:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Lou Chinal:
Yes, NASA definitely painted themselves into a coner with the selection of only one geologist. Schmitt had to go.

They also had Tony England at that time.

Delta7
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Posts: 1153
From: Ossian IN USA
Registered: Oct 2007

posted 07-13-2012 07:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
England was actually a geophysicist which is a little different than a field geologist. I always wondered too why NASA didn't select a few more lunar geologists like Schmitt, or at least one more as insurance. But I guess specific area of expertise was secondary to meeting all of NASA's selection criteria.

Skylon
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Posts: 140
From:
Registered: Sep 2010

posted 07-13-2012 08:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On a couple notes - I get the impression that after the mess of replacing Mattingly with Swigert on Apollo 13, Slayton saw utilizing the backup crew as something you only want to do if somebody gets killed, or removed from flight status for a long duration. I think it was Apollo 16 which was bumped due to a crew illness.

As far as the questions about why so few geologists were selected, the original scientist astronaut selection was not handled too well. The National Academy of Sciences really took a major role in the selection process and their run through of the applications left a very small pool for NASA to interview (only sixteen) - looking at the unselected candidates on spacefacts, one was a geochemist, another a geologist. That means, including Schmitt, for the Group 4 selection, MSC interviewed only three people in the geological field.

The Excess Eleven doesn't look any more in depth (even though NASA handled that selection from the start - they just asked NAS to "rank" the scientists credentials). Only one other candidate was a geophysicist.

FFrench
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Posts: 3093
From: San Diego
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 07-13-2012 11:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Delta7:
England was actually a geophysicist which is a little different than a field geologist.

He had a masters in Earth and Planetary Sciences at the time of selection, and a doctorate in the subject by the time of Apollo 16 preparations, as I understand it, which seems perfect background for studying the methods by which the moon was formed.

MCroft04
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Posts: 1219
From: Smithfield, Me, USA
Registered: Mar 2005

posted 07-13-2012 02:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Tony England has Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Geology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)(1965), and a doctor of philosophy degree in Geophysics from MIT (1970).

He was a graduate fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the 3 years immediately preceding his assignment to NASA, performed heat flow measurements throughout the southwest, took part in geomagnetic studies in Montana, performed radar sounding studies of glaciers in Washington State and Alaska, performed microwave airborne research in geothermal areas of the Western United States, and participated in and lead field parties during two seasons in Antarctica.

There clearly seems to be a focus on geophysics, but his BS and MS degrees are in geology so it's possible that he garnered field experience during that time. Not sure what kind of field work he did in Antarctica. It's not clear to me yet if he had the level of geological field experience that Schmitt had, which was extensive. Then one could argue that perhaps his geophysical experience might have made him just as valuable (to study the moon in place), or even more so, than a geologist with extensive field experience.

For my money, I would have wanted a geologist with extensive field experience, and Schmitt fit the bill. Good project to do some research to see if England has the same experience.

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