Apollo Expeditions to the Moon



Astronaut training and development of the flight plans and crew procedures were directed by Deke Slayton. He accomplished these tasks in an outstanding manner. The training that Deke provided the crews, as well as the training provided the flight controllers, gave them the capability to react to the unexpected. Quite often it resulted in unique training devices and equipment. The zero-gravity environment was simulated by using a modified KC-135 aircraft that flew parabolas, thus creating 20 to 30 seconds of weightlessness. A neutral buoyancy water tank was also used to simulate the weightless environment. The unique Lunar Landing Training Vehicle (LLTV) was developed to train the astronauts in controlling the lunar module during the final phase of its descent and landing. The test flights of the LLTV, for example, saw the successful emergency ejection of three pilots - Joe Algranti and Stu Present, research pilots, and Neil Armstrong, the commander of the first lunar landing mission - because of vehicle failures. Bob Gilruth and I both believed that flying this craft was more hazardous than flying the actual lunar module.

A photo of astronauts and their instructor taking notes Astronauts and their instructor take notes on their field observations during a geology training trip into the Grand Canyon, in Arizona. Although the rocks that are exposed at the Grand Canyon do not resemble lunar rocks in any way, the trip here was an important step in familiarizing the astronauts with the basics of geology, so that they could function well as observers and collectors.

A photo of Apollo 13 astronauts,Haise and Lovell observing lava flow Apollo 13 Astronauts Fred Haise and Jim Lovell observe features of a lava flow near Hilo, Hawaii, during a geology field training trip. They used such items of lunar equipment as the handtool carrier behind them and the Hasselblad cameras mounted on their chest packs. As fate would have it, this pair did not have the chance to use their training.

Simulators also had to be developed to provide training for the flight crew in the operation of the spacecraft. These simulators were tied in with the Mission Control Center so that an integrated training could be accomplished with the flight controllers. These simulations allowed the flight crew to train realistically for all phases of the mission, including the landing itself. Unique display techniques were used with actual models of each landing site. The models allowed the crew to gain familiarity with the terrain and recognizable landmarks. Detailed lunar maps that were based primarily on data provided by the NASA unmanned lunar orbit program were prepared by the Air Force Information and Charting Service and by the U.S. Geological Survey.

As the system matured after Apollo 11, greater emphasis was placed on scientific training and on ensuring that the astronauts were prepared to perform scientific experiments when they arrived on the Moon. Prominent scientists both from within the government and from universities throughout the country offered their time and talent to ensure that the crew and the Operations Team were adequately trained to perform the demanding scientitic tasks. During the mission, they also participated as members of the Operations Team. Apollo brought a new aspect to spaceflight as man on the surface of the Moon worked in conjunction with a science team on Earth that capitalized on his observations, judgments, and abilities. They assessed his comments and evaluations, and modified the science planning and objectives in real time. This was not accomplished, however, without moments of frustration and anguish during the early flights, when the acceptability of the spacecraft and its systems was yet to be proved. During the later lunar missions, the crew and the Operations Team were working with proven procedures and a proven spacecraft, and the capabilities of the science organization were effectively integrated in the performance of the missions.

A photo of a crowd welcoming Apollo 8 crew back home
Although it was past 2 a.m., a crowd of more than 2000 people was on hand at Ellington Air Force Base to welcome the members of the Apollo 8 crew back home. Astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders had just flown to Houston from the Pacific recovery area by way of Hawaii. The three crewmen of the first manned lunar-orbit mission are standing at the microphones in the center of the picture.

A photo of Robert Gilruth greeting Apollo 8 astronaut,Frank Borman Apollo 8 crewman Frank Borman gets a warm greeting from Robert Gilruth, the Manned Spacecraft Center Director, upon his arrival at Ellington Air Force Base, just outside Houston. Looking on is Edwin Borman, the astronaut's 15-year-old son. William Anders and his family are in the background.

As a means of saying thanks, on March 5, 1973, this group of scientists held a dinner for a number of the program and operations personnel they had worked with over the years. The events of that night clearly showed how well this relationship had developed. As late as 1969, there were very few that would have been brave enough to predict such a dinner would have ever occurred.

Previous Next Index