An Apollo 10 story not fit to print


The Apollo 10 Lunar Module, Snoopy.

The real story why it didn’t land.

It certainly made a good story, but not one fit for the New York Times.  No doubt its something that Gene Cernan, Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 10 fifty years ago this month, would have said.  As the article in the May 13th Times asks, why didn’t Apollo 10, which descended to 47,000 ft. above the lunar surface, land?   The article by by Jim Bell, president of the Planetary Society, cites author Craig Nelson as speculating “that the lander’s ascent module had been short-fueled on purpose,” quoting Cernan as saying that NASA didn’t load enough fuel because “the kind of people we [the astronauts] were” that given the opportunity, they’d land even though it wasn’t planned.

I can see Cernan, with his dry sense of humor, telling that story with a wink in his eye.  It was a joke, and now the joke is on the New York Times.   The real story is that the fuel load was set to duplicate a Lunar Module rendezvousing with the command ship after ascent.  Furthermore, as mission commander Tom Stafford said in an interview at the time of the 25th anniversary of the moon landing, “The lunar module . . . was too heavy.”  The fourth LM, it was built before a weight reduction program.  And further, Stafford said, “We didn’t even have the descent programs in the computer.”

None of this is mentioned in the Times article.  And unfortunately thanks to his article the joke likely will be perpetuated into myth

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