Apollo 16, 50 years of its lunar journey – The Sun Post

After the successful Apollo 11, 12, 14 and 15 missions and the failed Apollo 13, at 16 there was already enough experience, so this mission did not incorporate anything new, however, its destination was new , for the first time would land on the moon in a mountainous region to learn more about the Moon’s distant past.

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The Apollo 16 astronauts were Commander: John W. Young (1930-2018), who flew the Gemini 3 and 10 missions, Apollo 10, in which he circled the Moon, then flew the first space shuttle journey, then into the ninth. As a pilot of the command module, there was Thomas Kenneth (Ken) Mattingly II (1936), during his first flight and later he traveled in the space shuttle, he belonged to Apollo 13, but was retired 3 days before launch due to suspected measles. And finally, the lunar module pilot, Charles M. Duke Jr, (1935) during his only spaceflight.

Apollo 16 was the second J-type mission, those with the greatest scientific activity. And the only one to land on a mountainous area, in the Highlands of Descartes, an area that was suspected to be volcanic in nature. There they would collect samples of the Moon’s distant past. The landing site was midway between two large craters, the 1 km diameter North Ray and the 680 m diameter South Ray. The craters were natural “wells” which made it possible to study the old layers and to collect rocks deeper, that is to say older.

The astronauts trained in Ontario, Canada, in the 97 km diameter and 1.8 billion year old Sudbury crater.

A delayed takeoff

A few weeks before liftoff, the Saturn V rocket returned to the assembly building for repairs. the launch went from March 17 to April 16 of the same year (1972).

Finally, on the new date, 50 years ago, the Saturn V rocket took off with Apollo 16 in the direction of our natural satellite.

The trip lasted 4 days, with no major setbacks. Although the astronauts observed that the Apollo was losing tiny bits of paint.

Once in lunar orbit, astronauts Young and Duke entered the lunar module Orion, while Mattingly remained in the command/service module Casper. When the spacecraft separated, a motor in the command module failed, so the lunar module did not fly away assuming it would abort the mission and return to Earth. However, six hours later, the mission continued.

The moon landing went well. Due to delays, one exploration day has been removed.

Thus the lunar exploration of the Apollo 16 mission

The next morning, after breakfast, the astronauts put on their space suits and opened the hatch. The first to go was Young who expressed: There you are, mysterious and unknown Descartes. mountainous plains. Apollo 16 will change your image…

They unloaded the car, a camera and a spectrograph. They placed the United States flag and displayed ALSEP scientific instrumentation. They then traveled to the flag crater 36 meters in diameter, 240 meters away. They collected several samples there, including a 58 kg rock, the Big Mulay, the largest brought back by an Apollo mission.

At Buster Crater, thanks to the astronauts’ excellent descriptions, scientists on Earth realized that the Descartes Zone was not the volcanic formation they thought. Later, Young did the Grand Prix some maneuvers with the vehicle for the knowledge of the engineers.

The next day, they traveled to Stone Mountain, 3.8 km away and 152 meters high, to take samples from five craters.

On the third day, they walked more than 4 km to the North Ray crater, then to a rocky field half a km away, they found a 3-meter rock there, called Shadov Rock and another one bigger like a 4 story building, House Roche. .

Back at the lunar module, before leaving, Duke put a photo of his family on the ground, while Young left the vehicle 90 meters away, so that the television camera recorded the takeoff.

Meanwhile, in lunar orbit, Mattingly had risen 60 miles to activate SIM experiments outside the ship. However, the mass spectrograph, mapping camera, and laser altimeter failed.

The take-off of the lunar module and the docking with the command/service module went well. The next day they detached the lunar module which would crash into the Moon and the seismometers would record it, but a miscalculation caused it to crash until a year later.

Then they jettisoned a satellite, but an engine misfire caused it to fly above the Moon for just a month, instead of the year it was supposed to.

They immediately began to return to Earth. Along the way, Ken Mattingly went to outer space to retrieve rolls of film from the SIM card. They were 320,000 km from Earth, the second furthest distance from our planet, after Apollo 15.

Apollo 16 crashed on April 27 350 km southeast of the island of Kiritimati, almost halfway between Mexico and Australia, the astronauts were rescued by the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga.

Apollo 16 showed that the area, considered volcanic in nature, was not, the samples were found to be similar to those of Apollo 14. Scientists modeled the volcanic nature hypothesis based on experiments on Earth and it showed the big difference between the Moon and the Earth. What was thought of the Moon had to be rewritten. Additionally, they discovered two new aurora belts on Earth.

german@astropuebla.org

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