Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March 13, Anniversary of Apollo 9's Test of LEM Technology

From Time/Life we are treated to a series of images celebrating the various LEMs that NASA built through the years. From wood models to scaled up mock-ups that allowed engineers and astronauts to test full sized machines.

Apollo 8 took men to the moon, orbited and returned. The next target was to put men on the Moon and the mission was moved up to 11. That meant that the LEM has to be engineered from mock ups to a functioning spacecraft. A herculean task under normal conditions, supernatural with the time Grumman and NASA had to work with. Apollo 9 flew a LEM that provided the astronauts a platform to practice rendezvousing with the Lunar Module setting atop the S4-b. Nine's LEM was not meant to fly outside Earth orbit, but was a test bed for many of the procedures and equipment. 10s LEM was fully functional and did fly to Lunar orbit and performed all of the maneuvers that 11s lander was being prepared for. A little known fact is that 10s lander was fully capable of landing, but in a move that many felt was dangerous and put the 10 lander crew in danger, NASA did not fuel the assent module with enough fuel to make orbit, preventing 10's crew being first on the moon. Also 10 was the last Apollo mission with real time audio being fed to the networks. 10's LEM worked very well, but either the assent engines glitched or as in the "official" version, a switch was in the wrong position. The glitch manifested itself as a violent vibration. In truth the accent module maneuvered violently for almost a minute. Mitchell, while regaining control of the craft described to NASA mission control the manner of the malfunction. Being a VERY stress few seconds, Mitchell interjected several rather colorful and extremely descriptive words, much to NASA's chagrin.

Checkout the Time page and photos here

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