Apollo Expeditions to the Moon

CHAPTER 14, Appendix I


The great explorations of history were unique, but in some ways all voyages of exploration are alike. There is a means of transportation; food, tools, and a way of living; methods of investigation, mapping, and sampling; and the collaboration of fellow explorers. What distinguishes one voyage from another is the place gone to and the discoveries made there. In our time, the places were on the Moon, and the discoveries have revealed another planet.

In Apollo, our ships were Saturns and CSMs, the latter more than just transport and resupply ships, for they were also orbiting laboratories, bearing spectrometers, lasers, and precision cameras. Our sketchbooks and notebooks were cameras and voice recordings. The alert experts of Mission Control were our guardian angels, in addition to those issued by Providence. The landed lunar module was our base camp, and the lunar rover was our steed. On the Apollo 17 mission, the LM Challenger could support us in its base-camp role for 75 hours, with a contingency margin of 12 hours more. In one-sixth gravity, its hammocks provided comfortable sleeping positions, with none of the lumps of camp cots or pine boughs. The total absence of black flies or mosquitoes was wonderful; and the rehydrated food was better than the grub dished up by some camp cooks.

Out on the surface, the backpack could support us for seven to eight hours, depending on physical exertion. We carried enough extra oxygen, water, and batteries in Challenger to recharge the backpack twice, for three major excursions outside. We also had an emergency supply of oxygen in the backpack that could provide at least 30 minutes of suit pressure and oxygen at large rates of flow, in case the suit was holed. Only one aspect of work in the pressure suit was very difficult and that was the effort of gripping tools against pressure within the glove. Like squeezing a tennis ball repetitively for nine hours, this was very fatiguing to forearm muscles; we also separated our fingernails from the quick as the nails scraped against the glove fingers. The forearm fatigue disappeared after each night's sleep; sore fingernails did not disappear until days after we left the Moon.

Previous Next Index