Tuesday, 28 October 2008

And then men landed on the moon.

That's one small step for man... one giant leap for mankind." July 20th, 1969. Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot upon the moon reflected in the visor Buzz Aldrin, the second.

A single page from Buzz's flown Apollo 11 Flight Plan. The Flight Plan provided each of the crewmen with a detailed list of activities and a corresponding time frame for every event from launch to splashdown. From eating to sleeping, trans lunar burns or docking manoeuvres: actions both mundane and mission critical were covered and the crew would often add notations, updates or calculations to the Flight Plan as the mission unfolded.

Historically one of the most significant documents ever published even un-flown complete Apollo 11 Flight Plans can command thousands of dollars at auction.

I was fortunate to spend a couple of days in the comapny of Apollo 12 Command Module Pilot Dick Gordon when he visited Pontefract, West Yorkshire in 2011. There could not have been a nicer, more affable man in the astronaut corp. While this flag accompanied his crewmates and best friends to the lunar surface Dick missed his opportunity to match the feat when, as Commander of Apollo 18 his flight was cancelled by the Nixon administration.

As Apollo 12 Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean travelled with this flag to the lunar surface. While attending an Autographica show he was kind and gracious enough to attest to that fact on the flag itself.

The flag was stored aboard the Apollo 12 Lunar Module "Intrepid"... nestled peacefully on the lunar horizon.

I had the pleasure of meeting Fred Haise in October 2008, whilst he was on a school speaking trip to Pontefract, West Yorkshire. A finer...more modest gentleman you could not hope to meet!

Recent research would suggest, that contrary to popular belief very few "Snoopy pins" were actually flown during the Apollo program: perhaps fewer than 100. Of those, Fred Haise flew 30 according to his Personal Preference Kit (PPK) records: more than any other Apollo mission. The infamous Apollo 13 explosion that almost cost Fred his life makes this flown pin especially significant.

Betacloth mission patches stored aboard Apollo 14 Command Module "Kitty Hawk"were flown in sealed packs numbering 25 per pack: 20 packs in total. When the time came to share the flown mission emblems amongst the crew Dr Mitchell explained that his crew mates took just 5 packs each leaving him with 10 packs or 250 individual betacloths. This is one of them.

Apollo 14 Command Module "Kitty Hawk" currently on display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A number of the astronaut corp were famed for their practical jokes or "Gotchas". The "Beep Beep" Apollo 14 back-up crew patch being arguably the most famous. Secreted throughout both spacecraft by the score, even making it onto the modularized cart used to traverse the lunar surface, the patches would float out of every compartment, locker or check-list. 

The crew of Apollo 14 took the prank in good spirits.....initially. The joke eventually wore thin but then the best "Gotchas" often do. The look on Gene Cernan's face, taken with Apollo 14 Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell and another of the flown "Beep Beep" patches speaks volumes! This photo, taken at an astronaut event in San Antonio Texas in 2006 is used with the kind permission of  the photographer.