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  Bob Rahn, test pilot and Apollo CM research pilot

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Author Topic:   Bob Rahn, test pilot and Apollo CM research pilot

Posts: 1319
From: Centreville, VA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 09-05-2012 10:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bob Rahn earned his civilian pilot's license in 1939, enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in May 1941, and earned his wings in January 1942 (a few weeks early because of Pearl Harbor). He was with the first group of American fighter pilots to report for combat in Europe - in fact they had to borrow Spitfires from British forces. He fought until 1943, when he was sent back to the States to serve as a test pilot. He was hired by the Douglas aviation company in that capacity, and in 1953 set the world record for fastest flight in a circular 100-km track - that is, not just blasting in a straight line, but setting a course. The next year he became the first pilot to fly the renowned Douglas A-4 Skyhawk.

As the Apollo program started, he was hired by North American Rockwell, which was making the command module. He used his expertise to figure out how the astronauts would want the controls, displays and equipment configured. Here is a photo of a page from his memoir, Tempting Fate, describing this work:

When Columbia, Apollo 11's CM, was completed, he was assigned to help that crew of astronauts become familiar with it. (He had actually known Armstrong since the mid-1950s when Rahn helped establish the Society of Experimental Test Pilots; in fact Rahn knew most of the astronauts from flying with them during his years at Edwards Air Force Base and Patuxent River Naval Air Station.) He even accompanied Columbia to Kennedy Space Center and supervised it being attached to the Saturn V rocket.

He was then hired by ABC News as an on-air expert during the Apollo missions. He was at the studio as Apollo 11 approached the first lunar landing, and he had something with him:

I have that very same flight plan, with hundreds of words on a couple of dozen pages written by Rahn about what he was hearing live from the CDR, LMP, CMP, and Houston.

You can see near the center where he wrote "Houston, Tranquility Base here. Eagle has landed."

As Armstrong and Aldrin prepared to step onto the surface, Rahn switched to a copy of the Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Operations Plan, in which he wrote hundreds more words, including "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

He went back to writing in the Flight Plan after the lunar module lifted off to rendezvous with the CM, and took notes all the way until splashdown days later.

I'd like to know if anyone by any chance has any photos or video showing Rahn on the air at ABC during either Apollo 11 or Apollo 13. (He mentions being on the air during Apollo 13, and I have his flight plan from that mission too.)

This is the kind of thing that cS members are kind enough to spend time working on just to do a favor, so I should mention that a couple of months ago I consigned these items to an auction house. Your help would make the auction listing as detailed and interesting as possible, and I'd greatly appreciate it. (And yes - BOY do I wish I could hang on to these. I know Rahn is not a household name, but these original documents in which someone so involved with Apollo wrote so many details as they happened would not be out of place in a museum.)

All times are CT (US)

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