Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Lunar Module rolls out to the launch pad

Forty years ago this week, the "Year of Apollo" began as the Saturn V stack for Apollo 9 was rolled out to the launch pad. It was only 11 days since Apollo 8 had blasted off from that same launch pad for the Moon!

Following the completion of Project Gemini in 1966, the next scheduled launch was Apollo 204 (later called Apollo 1), which was to lift off in February 1967. The launch pad fire that killed the crew also delayed the first Apollo launch until October 1968. So, nearly two years passed between Gemini 12 and Apollo 7, which seemed an interminable time as the end of the decade neared and Kennedy's challenge had yet to be fulfilled. The Soviet manned program had been on hold nearly the same amount of time, after Vladimir Komarov was killed in Soyuz 1 in April 1967.

So, the world had gone for a long time without manned space launches. And now, both the USSR and the US were back in space again and launches were coming very frequently. The US was so intent on getting to the Moon in 1969 that launches were planned every two months until a successful landing was achieved.

We certainly felt the anticipation and excitement. Apollo 8 had focused the public's attention to the space program once again. The Moon was now within reach, and there was new and exotic hardware to test before we could attempt a landing.

Apollo 9 would see the first manned flight of the Lunar Module. Apollo 9's LM was designated LM-3, and was later given the call-sign "Spider." LM-1 was a legless test article that flew on the unmanned Apollo 5. LM-2 was originally scheduled for another unmanned test, but after the success of Apollo 5, LM-2 was set aside for ground testing and eventually donated to the National Air and Space Museum.

This badge was from a worker for Grumman Aerospace Engineering Company, which built the Lunar Modules for the Apollo Program at their plant in Bethpage, New York.

No comments: