Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Prepping for moonwalks that never happened

On April 9, 1970, the final map of the planned moonwalks for Apollo 13 was distributed for the planning team and crew. This map was based on Lunar Orbiter photography and showed a relatively detailed view of the Fra Mauro highlands, the landing site for Apollo 13.

The map included three sets of potential moonwalks. One was based on the LM touching down at the intended landing site (LM-1, visible near the intersection of the horizontal fold and the rightmost vertical fold). The EVA routes for this option included a visit to the rim of Cone Crater, the large crater at far right in this map. The second and third options were contingencies, in case Aquarius landed "long." Since the crew did not have a lunar rover, visiting Cone Crater would be too far for them to travel on foot. Consequently, there were additional sites for them to visit in the opposite direction, further downrange.

Of course, Apollo 13 never made its landing at Fra Mauro. The site was considered so geologically important, though, that Apollo 14 was targeted to the same landing site. Apollo 14's Antares landed very close to the spot originally chosen for Aquarius to land. Although the Apollo 14 moonwalk plans differed somewhat from those of Apollo 13, the general traverses and locations visited matched very closely with the plans for Apollo 13. Alan Shepard and Ed Mitchell got within about 50 feet of the rim of Cone Crater, but the slopes were so gentle that they did not realize they were so close.

The original owner of this map had it postmarked at the Houston Post Office on April 17, 1970, the day Apollo 13 safely returned from its harrowing journey.

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