Monday, May 18, 2009

Apollo 10 to the Moon!!

On May 18, 1969, Apollo 10 lifted off for the Moon, on what was the final "all-up" test of the Apollo mission hardware and flight procedures prior to the first attempt at a lunar landing. Given the critical importance of this mission, NASA selected an all-veteran crew to fly Apollo 10. Tom Stafford commanded the mission, John Young piloted the Command Module, and Gene Cernan was the LM Pilot.

Apollo 10 was an extremely exciting mission. This was America's second trip to the Moon, and we keenly experienced a sense of anticipation for this flight. The LM had performed flawlessly in Earth orbit on Apollo 9, but the risks seemed exponentially higher on this mission. What if something happened when the two craft were separated on the far side of the Moon?

There was also endless speculation in the press as to whether Stafford and Cernan would violate orders and try to fly the last 50,000 feet to the lunar surface. The press said that NASA had given the LM less fuel than it needed for the landing in order to preclude such a possibility. That of course was nonsense. Stafford would never have done anything that he hadn't trained for or that was outside of the flight plan. And the actual reason that the LM didn't have enough fuel to land was because this LM was overweight and couldn't have possibly carried enough fuel to support a landing. But it all made for great "What if?" conversation. That the crew dubbed the Command Module "Charlie Brown" and the LM "Snoopy" also added to the mission's popular appeal. We all knew that the success of this flight meant that we would try for a lunar landing in the summer.

The document at right is an official invitation to the Apollo 10 launch, extended to Mae Burke. Ms. Burke, call sign W3CUL, of Seminole, Florida, was a renowned amateur radio operator who provided invaluable service in establishing radio contact between servicemen overseas and their families back in America. At the time she earned an Edison Award, she had handled some 312,000 messages between 1949 and 1957. She earned a historic record of traffic handling honors over her lifetime handling overseas traffic for US service personnel, MARS, Red Cross and other emergency messages during the Korean, Vietnam and Cold War eras.

Also shown at left is a VIP guest badge for the viewing stands.

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