The Eighth Mission:

The Third Lunar Landing

31 January–09 February 1971





Apollo 14 was a Type H mission, a precision piloted lunar landing demonstration and systematic lunar exploration. It was the third successful lunar landing.


The primary objectives were:






Although the primary mission objectives for Apollo 14 were the same as those of Apollo 13, provisions were made for returning a significantly greater quantity of lunar material and scientific data than had been possible previously. An innovation that allowed an increase in the range of lunar surface exploration and in the amount of material collected was the provision of a collapsible two-wheeled cart, the modular equipment transporter (MET), for carrying tools, cameras, a portable magnetometer, and lunar samples.


An investigation into the cause of the Apollo 13 cryogenic oxygen tank failure led to three significant changes in the CSM cryogenic oxygen storage and electrical power systems for Apollo 14. The internal construction of the oxygen tanks was modified, a third oxygen tank was added, and an auxiliary battery was installed. These changes were also incorporated into all subsequent spacecraft.


The crew members were Captain Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. (USN), commander; Major Stuart Allen Roosa (USAF), command module pilot; and Commander Edgar Dean Mitchell (USN), lunar module pilot.


Selected as one of the original astronauts in 1959, Shepard became the first American in space when he piloted the initial Mercury suborbital mission (MR-3). Shepard subsequently developed an ear disorder, Meniere’s syndrome, which caused the Navy to forbid him to fly solo in jet planes, and which forced NASA to ground him. He then became chief of the astronaut office. In 1969, however, Shepard underwent experimental surgery that corrected the problem. He was restored to full status in May and assigned to command Apollo 14 in August. Shepard was born 18 November 1923 in East Derry, New Hampshire, and at 47 years old, he would become the oldest person to walk on the Moon. He received a B.S. from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1944.[1] His backup for the mission was Captain Eugene Andrew “Gene” Cernan (USN).


Roosa and Mitchell were making their first space flights. Roosa, born 16 August 1933 in Durango, Colorado, was 37 years old at the time of the Apollo 14 mission. He received a B.S. in aeronautical engineering from the University of Colorado in 1960 and was selected as an astronaut in 1966.[2] His backup was Commander Ronald Ellwin Evans (USN).


Mitchell, born 17 September 1930 in Hereford, Texas, was 40 years old. He received a B.S. in industrial management from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1952, a B.S. in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1961, and an Sc.D. in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1964. He was selected as an astronaut in 1966. His backup was Lt. Colonel Joe Henry Engle (USAF).


The capsule communicators (CAPCOMs) for the mission were Major Charles Gordon Fullerton (USAF), Lt. Commander Bruce McCandless II (USN), Fred Wallace Haise, Jr., and Evans. The support crew were McCandless, Lt. Colonel William Reid Pogue (USAF), Fullerton, and Phillip Kenyon Chapman, Sc.D. The flight directors were M.P. “Pete” Frank and Glynn S. Lunney (first shift), Milton L. Windler (second shift), Gerald D. Griffin (third shift), and Glynn S. Lunney (fourth shift).


The Apollo 14 launch vehicle was a Saturn V, designated SA-509. The mission also carried the designation Eastern Test Range #7194. The CSM was designated CSM-110 and had the call-sign “Kitty Hawk.” The lunar module was designated LM-8 and had the call-sign “Antares.”



Launch Preparations


The terminal countdown was picked up at T-28 hours at 06:00:00 GMT on 30 January 1971. Scheduled holds were initiated at T-9 hours for 9 hours 23 minutes and at T-3 hours 30 minutes for one hour.


At launch time, a cold front extended through northern Florida. Scattered rain shower activity existed to the south of this front throughout the morning of launch, but the showers did not reach the launch area until just before the scheduled launch time. A band of cumulus congestus clouds with showers developed about 30 minutes before scheduled launch time along a line extending from Orlando toward the northern Merritt Island Launch Area (MILA). This, and the threat of lightning, necessitated a 40-minute 2-second hold at T-8 minutes until the showers had moved a sufficient distance from the launch complex. Although it was raining prior to launch, there was no rain at the pad at the time of launch, but the vehicle did travel through the cloud decks.


Surface winds in the Cape Canaveral area were fairly light and westerly. Cumulus clouds covered 70 percent of the sky (base 4,000 feet) and altocumulus covered 20 percent (base 8,000 feet), the temperature was 71.1° F, the relative humidity was 86 percent, and the barometric pressure was 14.652 lb/in2. The winds, as measured by the anemometer on the light pole 60.0 feet above ground at the launch site, measured 9.7 knots at 255° from true north. The winds at 530 feet above the launch site measured 16.5 knots at 275° from true north.


The weather delay required the flight azimuth to be changed from 72.067° to 75.558° east of north.



Ascent Phase


Apollo 14 was launched from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39, Pad A, at a Range Zero time of 21:03:02 GMT (04:03:02 p.m. EST) on 31 January 1971. The planned launch window was from 20:23:00 GMT on 31 January to 00:12:00 GMT on 1 February to take advantage of a sun elevation angle on the lunar surface of 10.3°.


Between 000:00:12.814 and 000:00:28.000, the vehicle rolled from a launch pad azimuth of 90° to a flight azimuth of 75.558°. The S-IC engine shut down at 000:02:44.10, followed by S-IC/S-II separation and S-II engine ignition. The S-II engine shut down at 000:09:19.05, followed by separation from the S-IVB, which ignited at 000:09:23.4. The first S-IVB engine cutoff occurred at 000:11:40.56, with deviations from the planned trajectory of only -2.6 ft/sec in velocity; altitude was exactly as planned.


The maximum wind conditions encountered during ascent were 102.6 knots at 255° from true north at 43,270 feet, with a maximum wind shear of 0.0201 sec-1 at 43,720 feet.


Parking orbit conditions at insertion, 000:11:50.56 (S-IVB cutoff plus 10 seconds to account for engine tailoff and other transient effects), showed an apogee and perigee of 100.1 by 98.9 n mi, an inclination of 31.120°, a period of 88.18 minutes, and a velocity of 25,565.8 ft/sec. The apogee and perigee were based upon a spherical Earth with a radius of 3,443.934 n mi.


The international designation for the CSM upon achieving orbit was 1971-008A, and the S-IVB was designated 1971-008B. After undocking at the moon, the LM ascent stage would be designated 1971-008C and the descent stage 1971-008D.


After inflight systems checks, the 350.84-second translunar injection maneuver (second S-IVB firing) was performed at 002:28:32.40. The
S-IVB engine shut down at 002:34:23.24 and translunar injection occurred ten seconds later, at a velocity of 35,511.6 ft/sec after 1.5 Earth orbits lasting 2 hours 22 minutes 42.68 seconds.



Translunar Phase


At 003:02:29.4, the CSM was separated from the S-IVB stage. Transposition occurred normally; however, six docking attempts were required before the CSM was successfully docked with the LM at 004:56:56.7. The docked spacecraft were ejected from the S-IVB by a 6.9-second maneuver at 005:47:14.4, and an 80.2-second separation maneuver was performed at 006:04:01.7. Inflight examination of the docking probe revealed no problems. It was therefore assumed that the capture-latch assembly must not have been in the locked configuration during the first five attempts.


As on Apollo 13, the S-IVB stage was targeted to impact the Moon within a prescribed area to supply seismic data. A 252.2-second auxiliary propulsion system lunar impact maneuver was performed at 008:59:59.0 to accomplish that objective. The S-IVB impacted the lunar surface at 082:37:53.4. The impact point was latitude 8.09° south and longitude 26.02° west, 159 n mi from the target point, and 94 n mi southwest of the Apollo 12 seismometer. The seismometer recorded the impact 37 seconds later and responded to vibrations for more than three hours. At impact, the S-IVB weighed 30,836 pounds and was traveling 8,333 ft/sec.


Translunar activities included star and Earth horizon calibration sightings in preparation for a cislunar navigation exercise to be performed during transearth coast, and dim-light photography of the Earth. A 10.19-second midcourse correction was made at 030:36:07.91. At 060:30, the commander and lunar module pilot transferred to the LM for two hours of housekeeping and systems checks. While there, the crew photographed a wastewater dump from the CM to obtain data for a particle contamination study being conducted for the Skylab program. A second midcourse correction, a 0.65-second maneuver, was made at 076:58:11.98 to achieve the final trajectory desired for lunar-orbit insertion.


At 054:53:36, a clock update was performed to compensate for the weather hold during the launch countdown. This procedure, which added 40 minutes 20.9 seconds to the mission time clock, was an aid to the command module pilot while in lunar orbit because it eliminated the need for numerous updates to his flight log.


At 081:56:40.70, at an altitude of 87.4 n mi above the Moon, the service propulsion engine was fired for 370.84 seconds to insert the spacecraft into a lunar orbit of 169.0 by 58.1 n mi. The translunar coast had lasted 79 hours 28 minutes 18.30 seconds.



Lunar Orbit/Lunar Surface Phase


At 086:10:52.97, a 20.81-second service propulsion system maneuver was performed and established the descent orbit of 58.8 by 9.1 n mi in preparation for undocking of the LM. On previous missions, the descent orbit insertion maneuver had been performed with the LM descent propulsion system. Because the landing site was more rugged than previous ones, a greater margin of LM propellant was provided..


The commander and lunar module pilot entered the LM at 101:20 to perform system checks and prepare for undocking. A 2.7-second firing of the service module reaction control system separated the CM from the LM at 103:47:41.6 and resulted in an orbit of 60.2 by 7.8 n mi. A 4.02-second maneuver at 105:11:46.11 circularized the CSM to 63.9 by 56.0 n mi.


Following vehicle separation and before powered descent, ground personnel detected the presence of an abort command at a computer input channel although the crew had not depressed the abort switch. The failure was isolated to the abort switch, and to prevent an unwanted abort, a workaround procedure was developed. The procedure was followed and the 764.61-second powered descent was performed successfully at 108:02:26.52 at an altitude of 7.8 n mi.


Approximately six minutes after initial actuation of the landing radar, the system switched to the low-range scale, forcing the trackers into the narrow-band mode of operation. This ranging scale problem would have prevented acquisition of radar data until late in the descent—and prevented a lunar landing—but it was corrected by cycling the circuit breaker on and off manually.


LM left pad surface contact occurred at 108:15:09.3 followed by engine shutdown 1.83 seconds later. The remaining pads touched down at 09:18:13 GMT (04:18:13 a.m. EST) on 5 February at 108:15:11.4. The spacecraft landed in the Fra Mauro highlands at latitude 3.64530° south and longitude 17.47136° west, the intended landing site for Apollo 13. Approximately 68 seconds of engine firing time remained at landing.


Preparations for the initial period of lunar surface exploration began two hours after landing, and cabin depressurization began at 113:39:11. The first EVA began 49 minutes late due to intermittent PLSS communications during the EVA preparations. The cause was believed to have been a LM configuration problem. A recycling of the audio circuit breaker cleared the problem.


The commander exited at 113:47. He was followed eight minutes later by the lunar module pilot, whose first task was to collect the contingency sample.


During the first extravehicular period, the crew deployed the television, S-band antenna, and solar wind experiment; deployed and loaded the modularized equipment; collected samples; and photographed activities, panoramas, and equipment.


At 115:46, the pair began their trip to the Apollo lunar surface experiments package deployment site, about 500 feet west of the LM. They also deployed the laser-ranging retro-reflector 100 feet west of the ALSEP. The first ALSEP data were received on Earth at 116:47:58.


Several problems were encountered during the deployment of the ALSEP package. They were as follows: difficulty in releasing the Boyd bolt on the suprathermal ion detector; stiffness in the cable between the suprathermal ion detector and the cold cathode ion gauge, which caused the cold cathode ion gauge to fall over; low transmitter strength on the central station; noisy data from the suprathermal ion detector experiment; and failure of five of the active seismic experiment thumper initiators to fire.


Although communications were nominal during this period, gradual degradation of the television picture resolution was noted during the latter part of the EVA.


The crew entered the LM and the cabin was repressurized at 118:27:01. The first extravehicular activity period lasted 4 hours 47 minutes 50 seconds. The distance traveled was about 3,300 feet (1 km); 45.19 pounds (20.5 kg) of samples were collected.


During the lunar surface operations, the CSM made an 18.50-second plane change maneuver at 117:29:33.17, which adjusted the orbit to 62.1 by 57.7 n mi.


The second extravehicular activity began with cabin depressurization at 131:08:13, 27 minutes earlier than planned, commander egress at 131:13 and lunar module pilot egress seven minutes later.


In preparation for an excursion to the area of Cone Crater, 0.7 n mi (1.3 km) east-northeast of the landing site, the crew prepared and loaded the modular equipment transporter. They experienced difficulties in navigating the slopes and fell 30 minutes behind schedule. As a result, they only reached a point within 50 feet (15 m) from the rim of the crater. Nevertheless, the objectives associated with reaching the vicinity of this crater were achieved.


En route to Cone Crater, photographs, various samples, and terrain descriptions were obtained. Rock and soil samples were collected in a blocky field near the rim.


On the return to the LM, the crew also obtained magnetometer measurements at two sites along the traverse. An estimated 1.5-foot trench was dug and samples were taken. An unsuccessful attempt to obtain a triple core tube sample was made, but other containerized samples were collected.


An alignment adjustment was made to the ALSEP central station’s antenna just prior to crew ingress in order to improve the signal strength being received at the Manned Space Flight Network ground stations. This improved signal strength approximately 1/2 db; however, data could still be received by the 30-foot antenna.


Before reentering the LM, the CDR dropped a golf ball onto the surface. Using the head of a “6-iron” attached to the handle of the contingency sample collector, he attempted to strike the ball but struck mostly soil and barely moved the ball. The second swing sent the ball a few feet to the right. He dropped a second ball which he hit into a crater about 50 feet away. The LMP later threw the staff from the solar wind experiment into the same crater.


The second extravehicular activity period lasted 4 hours 34 minutes 41 seconds. The distance traveled was about 9,800 feet (3 km); 49.16 pounds (22.3 kg) of samples were collected. The crew reentered the LM and the cabin was repressurized at 135:42:54, thus ending the third human exploration of the Moon.


While the landing crew was on the surface, the CMP performed tasks to obtain data for scientific analyses and future mission planning. These tasks included photography of the proposed Descartes landing site, the lunar surface under high-sun-angle lighting conditions, photography of low-brightness astronomical light sources, and photography of the Gegenschein and Moulton Point regions.


For the mission, the total time spent outside the LM was 9 hours 22 minutes 31 seconds, the total distance traveled was more than 13,100 feet (4 km), and the collected samples totaled 93.21 pounds (42.28 kg; official total in kilograms as determined by the Lunar Receiving Laboratory in Houston). The farthest point traveled from the LM was 4,770 feet.


Ignition of the ascent stage engine for lunar liftoff occurred at 18:48:42 GMT (13:48:42 EST) on 6 February  at 141:45:40. The LM had been on the lunar surface for 33 hours 30 minutes 31 seconds.


The 432.1-second firing of the ascent engine placed the vehicle directly into a 51.7 by 8.5 n mi orbit, the first use of a direct lunar orbit rendezvous in the Apollo program. However, a 12.1-second vernier adjustment was required at 141:56:49.4 and altered the orbit to 51.2 by 8.4 n mi.


A 3.6-second terminal phase initiate maneuver at 142:30:51.1 and two small midcourse corrections brought the ascent stage to an orbit of 60.1 by 46.0 n mi. The ascent stage made a 26.7-second maneuver at 143:13:29.1 to finalize the orbit at 61.5 by 58.2 n mi for docking with the CSM at 143:32:50.5 at an altitude of 58.6 n mi. The two craft had been undocked for 39 hours 45 minutes 8.9 seconds. During the braking phase for docking, telemetry indicated that the abort guidance system had failed, but no caution and warning signals were on. A cycling of all circuit breakers and switches did not remedy this condition. Although no probe/drogue problems were experienced during docking, the probe was returned to Earth for postflight analysis. Television during rendezvous and docking was excellent and clearly showed the docking maneuver.


After transfer of the crew and samples to the CM, the ascent stage was jettisoned at 145:44:58.0, and the CSM was prepared for transearth injection. The ascent stage was then maneuvered by remote control to impact the lunar surface. A 15.8-second maneuver was made at 145:49:42.5 to separate the CM from the ascent stage, and resulted in an orbit of 63.4 by 56.8 n mi. A 76.2-second deorbit firing at 57.2 n mi altitude depleted the ascent stage propellants, and impact occurred at 147:42:23.7. The impact point was latitude 3.42° south and longitude 19.67° west, 36 n mi west of the Apollo 14 landing site, 62 n mi from the Apollo 12 landing site, and 7 n mi from the target.


On Apollo 14, special dust control procedures were used to effectively decrease the amount of lunar surface dust in the cabins. On previous missions, dust adhering to equipment being returned to Earth had created a problem.


Following a 149.23-second maneuver at 148:36:02.30, transearth injection was achieved at 148:38:31.53 at a velocity of 8,505 ft/sec after 34 lunar orbits lasting 66 hours 35 minutes 39.99 seconds.



Transearth Phase


During transearth coast, a 3.00-second midcourse correction of 0.5 ft/sec was made at 165:34:56.69 using the service module reaction control system. In addition, a special oxygen flowrate test was performed to evaluate the system for planned extravehicular activities on subsequent missions, and a navigation exercise simulating a return to Earth without ground control was conducted using only the guidance and navigation system. Scientific investigations included televised demonstrations of electrophoretic separation, liquid transfer, heat flow and convection, and composite casting under zero-gravity conditions.




The service module was jettisoned at 215:32:42.2, and the CM followed a normal entry profile. The command module reentered the Earth’s atmosphere (400,000 feet altitude) at 215:47:45.3 at a velocity of 36,170.2 ft/sec following a transearth coast of 67 hours 9 minutes 13.8 seconds. The service module should have entered Earth’s atmosphere and its debris should have landed in the Pacific Ocean 650 n mi southwest of the CM splashdown; however, no radar data or sightings confirmed the entry or impact.


The parachute system effected splashdown of the CM in the Pacific Ocean at 21:05:00 GMT (04:05:00 p.m. EST) on 9 February.


Mission duration was 216:01:58.1. The impact point was about 0.6 n mi from the target point and 3.8 n mi from the recovery ship U.S.S. New Orleans. The splashdown site was estimated to be latitude 27.02° south and longitude 172.67° west.


After splashdown, the CM assumed an apex-up flotation attitude. The crew was retrieved by helicopter and was aboard the recovery ship 48 minutes after splashdown. The CM was recovered 76 minutes later. The estimated CM weight at splashdown was 11,481.2 pounds, and the estimated distance traveled for the mission was 1,000,279 n mi.


The crew remained aboard the New Orleans in the mobile quarantine facility until they departed by aircraft for Pago Pago, Samoa, at 17:46 GMT on 11 February. They were then transferred to a second mobile quarantine facility aboard a C-141 aircraft and flown to Ellington Air Force Base, Houston, where they arrived at 09:34 GMT on 12 February, following a refueling stop at Norton Air Force Base, California. The crew entered the lunar receiving laboratory at 11:35 GMT the same day.


After the New Orleans arrived at Hawaii, the CM and first mobile quarantine facility were offloaded at 21:30 GMT on 17 February. The first mobile quarantine facility was sent by aircraft to Houston, where it arrived at 07:40 GMT on 18 February. The CM was taken to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, for deactivation. Upon completion of deactivation, at 23:00 GMT on 19 February, it was transferred to Ellington Air Force Base via C-133 aircraft, where it arrived at 21:45 GMT on 22 February.


The crew and medical support personnel were released from quarantine on 27 February, and the CM and lunar samples were released on 4 April. The tests showed no evidence of lunar microorganisms at the three sites explored, and this was considered to be sufficient justification for discontinuing the quarantine procedures on future missions.





The Apollo 14 mission was the third successful lunar landing and demonstrated excellent performance of all contributing elements, thereby resulting in the collection of a wealth of scientific information. All of the objectives and experiment operations were accomplished satisfactorily except for some desired photography that could not be obtained.


The following conclusions were made from an analysis of post-mission data:


  1. Cryogenic oxygen system hardware modifications and changes made as a result of the Apollo 13 failure satisfied, within safe limits, all system requirements for future missions, including extravehicular activity.


  1. The advantages of piloted space flight were again clearly demonstrated on this mission by the crew’s ability to diagnose and work around hardware problems and malfunctions which otherwise might have resulted in mission termination.


  1. Navigation was the most difficult lunar surface task because of problems in finding and recognizing small features, reduced visibility in the up-sun and down-sun directions, and the inability to judge distances.


  1. Rendezvous within one orbit of lunar ascent was demonstrated for the first time in the Apollo program. This type of rendezvous reduced the time between lunar liftoff and docking by approximately two hours from that required on previous missions. The timeline activities, however, were greatly compressed.


  1. On previous lunar missions, lunar surface dust adhering to equipment being returned to Earth had created a problem in both spacecraft. The special dust control procedures and equipment used on this mission were effective in lowering the overall level of dust.


  1. Onboard navigation without air-to-ground communications was successfully demonstrated during the transearth phase of the mission to be sufficiently accurate for use as a contingency mode of operation during future missions.


  1. Launching through cumulus clouds with tops up to 10,000 feet was demonstrated to be a safe launch restriction for the prevention of triggered lightning. The cloud conditions at liftoff were at the limit of this restriction and no triggered lightning was recorded during the launch phase.


[1] Shepard died of leukemia 21 July 1998 in Community Hospital in Monterey, CA.

[2] Roosa died of complications from pancreatitis 12 December 1994 in Washington, DC. (NASA Headquarters Release No. 94-210).