Friday, December 12, 2008

Challenger on the Moon

Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt landed "Challenger" in the Moon's Taurus-Littrow valley on December 11, 1972. They spent three days exploring the hills and valley, sending back the clearest TV pictures yet from the surface of the Moon.

On board the LM, like every spacecraft, was the equivalent of a car's "owner's manual," describing all the systems in case something needed troubleshooting when 240,000 miles away from home. This diagram is a page taken from Gene Cernan's actual Flight Data File for the Apollo 17 mission. It went with him to the surface of the Moon, and it is perhaps the prize of my collection. Cernan signed it for me when I met him at the National Air and Space Museum on November 3, 2006. This particular page of the Flight Data File deals with overcoming trouble with the Abort Guidance System (AGS), one of the two navigation systems on the LM.

The Flight Data Files were kept in pouches behind the Commander's station. This photo, taken in the LM after the conclusion of the third and final moonwalk of the mission, shows the astronauts' helmets and space suits piled on the cover of the ascent engine. The pouches on the wall on the right side of the photo contain the Flight Data Files. I get chills every time that I think that I have a page of one of the notebooks inside those pouches, something that went to the Moon and back!

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