Apollo 10’s crew made history, yet their mission was only meant as a dress rehearsal for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s epic landing on Apollo 11.
It was a dress rehearsal
On May 22, 1969, NASA conducted its Apollo 10 dress rehearsal mission – a critical final demonstration needed before they could land a man on the Moon – which had to be flawless; their Soviet rivals had already outshone them with Sputnik in 1957 and the first human in space four years later. President John F Kennedy called for this feat of technological progress and national pride, captivating an entire nation.
Commander Thomas Stafford and Lunar Module Pilot Eugene Cernan successfully launched from Cape Kennedy aboard a Saturn V S-IVB stage, docked their LM, Snoopy, with the Command Module Charlie Brown and completed all steps necessary for an orbital lunar landing except its actual touchdown. Objectives included filming extensive color footage of the Moon from Snoopy as well as testing its descent system for use during actual landing operations; refining knowledge of lunar gravitational fields while practicing NASA’s extensive tracking and control network in advance of actual landing operations; filming color footage from Snoopy also helped refine knowledge of lunar gravitational fields while refining knowledge of lunar gravitational fields while refining knowledge of lunar gravitational fields for real.
As the Lunar Module approached the Moon, an unexpected issue arose that threatened to derail its mission: Snoopy began rolling erratically during its descent. Once they realized an error had duplicated an important sequence that should have been executed separately and caused the uncontrolled spin, however. Despite this anxiety-inducing moment, however, the mission continued without further incident.
Snoopy fired its engine for more than 30 seconds when it came time to return to the CM, slowing the speed of the LM and making for an easier landing on the Moon. While descending, Snoopy sent radar images back to ground control while communicating with crewmembers using CM.
After landing, the LM began sending back television transmissions – including live images of Earth from space – which helped connect astronauts with people around the globe in unprecedented ways. Once in Earth orbit again, Stafford and Cernan sent more images back of both themselves as well as of CM, before working to repair a defective gyroscope which caused an irregular spin for the LM.
It was a test flight
The Apollo 10 mission, conducted from May 18 – 26, 1969, served as a dress rehearsal for the inaugural lunar landing mission. This mission successfully demonstrated all aspects of a crewed lunar landing except actual descent onto its surface – marking a major milestone and demonstrating humans could travel to the Moon. Furthermore, this mission successfully tested lunar module (LEM). LEM served as mini spacecraft equipped with its own life support system allowing astronauts to walk upon its surface after successful LEM-command module testing.
Apollo 10’s crew included USAF Colonel Thomas Stafford, US Navy Commander John Young and Naval Aviator Eugene Cernan. Selected and trained since late 1968, their flight lasted 73 hours – known as its dress rehearsal because it provided an opportunity to test hardware and procedures that would be employed during lunar landing itself. Launch of Saturn V rocket went smoothly; all five massive F-1 engines began firing simultaneously at exactly the correct moment to generate full thrust.
Once in orbit, Apollo 10 conducted a lunar orbit insertion burn of 906 meters per second to place itself into a circular 111-kilometer lunar orbit.
This maneuver was an important test of the SPS and other systems necessary for lunar landing, including descent and landing using the Lunar Module (LM) into a stable, high-altitude lunar orbit insertion by Saturn V for the first time ever.
Once in lunar orbit, the LEM and CSM docked. LM descended to within 16 km of lunar surface for photogrammetric reconnaissance of candidate sites for final landing. Astronauts transmitted live TV images of Earth from space – powerfully representing our global human connection.
It was a first landing
The Apollo 10 mission served as humanity’s practice run for their inaugural Moon landing, simulating all aspects of crewed lunar landing except actual touchdown. Commander Thomas Stafford, Command Module Pilot John Young, and Lunar Module Pilot Eugene Cernan comprised the crew for this mission; all had previously flown in space through Gemini programs or had flown their respective modules themselves.
Mission Apollo 18 began with a launch from Kennedy Space Center on May 18, 1969 and concluded with astronauts undocking and performing a translunar injection burn with their Lunar Module (LM). This maneuver allowed astronauts to test its rendezvous and docking capability within lunar orbit, as well as testing its descent/ascent engines, radars, and lunar flight control systems.
During their mission, astronauts took many photographs of the Moon and sent them back to Earth, conducted numerous scientific experiments on board the Lunar Module (LM), practiced use of their Lunar Rover Vehicle (LRV) which allowed them to explore lunar surface; powered by six silver-zinc batteries with guidance system comprising inertial measurement unit with gyroscopes and accelerometers as well as environmental control system that recycled oxygen while maintaining temperature within cabin; as well as practicing use of their Lunar Rover Vessel.
One of the most dramatic moments in Cernan and Stafford’s mission occurred when they were flying just nine miles above the Moon, when their window passed within sight of its surface a dozen times before finally seeing it. At that moment Cernan exclaimed “Son of a Bitch! What a Long Way It Is!”
NASA was pleased with Apollo 10 and was able to gain valuable information about its Lunar Module without risking its crew’s lives. Some within NASA wished for Apollo 10 to land on the Moon instead, as this would allow them to verify its capabilities without taking on extra risks in real landing situations. Luckily, however, NASA was able to convince certain officials that this wasn’t necessary and instead decided against doing this mission in this manner.
It was a second landing
The Apollo 10 mission served as a dress rehearsal for the inaugural moon landing. Launched on 18 May 1969, the spacecraft mimicked every maneuver expected during a lunar landing except its actual touchdown. NASA took this final opportunity to test key equipment that would transport people there such as lunar modules.
This mission was an enormous success and provided the crew with an ideal opportunity to experience what it would be like to land on the Moon. They also learned if their new spacesuit, capable of supporting itself while in space without being connected to any lunar module, could be worn safely and comfortably; this allowed astronauts to leave their vehicle freely to explore new corners of spacecraft like never before.
However, during their landing attempt a major issue arose which nearly cost them their lives: reports at the time indicated that their lunar module (LM) began spinning wildly less than 8 miles above its surface – this dangerous situation played out live broadcast while Stafford and Cernan could be heard exclaiming expletives before recovering control of their craft.
Spin-out was due to various reasons, such as an errant setting that caused the abort guidance system to search for the crew module at times when it shouldn’t. NASA later determined this error was the result of numerous small mistakes by crew.
At this point, Aldrin took full control of his lunar module’s attitude and began its gradual descent toward the lunar surface. Unfortunately, Aldrin had an extremely difficult job ahead of him: altitude readings from landing radar were 2,900 feet lower than those shown by primary guidance and navigation system (PGNS), although in theory these two systems should align; it wasn’t possible to know where things had gone wrong.
Even though the mission was meant as a dress rehearsal, due to fuel limitations it could not have actually carried out a lunar landing. Still, it proved extremely valuable by showing that both Lunar Module and astronauts were capable of landing safely.