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Fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 14 lunar landing

Apollo 14 as seen by LRO
Click for full image.

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary today of the landing of Apollo 14 on the Moon, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) science team has used images from the spacecraft to map out what the astronauts did on the surface, as shown in the reduced image to the right. The orange and teal lines indicate the routes followed during the two EVAs, with the pink triangles indicating stopping points along the way.

Unlike Apollo 11 and 12, which focused on engineering goals such as landing precisely on the Moon, Apollo 14 focused on addressing science goals. Antares (lunar module) landed in the Fra Mauro highlands, the original destination of the failed Apollo 13 mission, essentially taking on that mission’s objectives. This was the first crewed landing in the lunar highlands and not in the mare.

The Apollo 14 astronauts who landed on the Moon, Alan Shepard (Commander) and Edgar Mitchell (Lunar Module Pilot), completed two extra-vehicular activities (EVAs) while on the surface. They spent a total of 9 hours and 22 minutes setting up equipment, taking photographs, collecting samples, and exploring.

This was the last mission where the astronauts had to walk. The next three Apollo missions brought a rover with them, so that they could drive to their research sites.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • LocalFluff

    Looks like a brave mission by today’s standards. Could they’ve walked back from the furthest rover excursion if it had broken down? Both moonwalkers were out there on the limb, so no half way meeting with more oxygen supplies or something. I think today they would’ve made a more circular excursion trip. After having paused the whole thing for years in order to redesign the mission after Apollo 13. I think Apollo 14 shows that it was about more than winning the race against Soviet, because it had already been won. This must’ve been about ideals. And this was Alan Shepard’s Moon walking!

    Men were braver before. From antiquity to the enlightenment, the general (and largely false) perception was that men were degenerating and getting more lazy and less brave. Even in Roman time a senator complained that “Today people eat only because they feel hungry!” But today men have become cowards, although I think it as way less as bad as portrayed by media and government regulations. After WWII outdated US capital ships were used for gun practice on moving maneuvering targets. They could keep the superstructure and deck uncrewed thanks to remote radio control, but men had to man the engines. Since there was no ammo and minimal fuel onboard, it was considered “safe enough” to have them below deck as their ship was blasted by the biggest guns around. That’s peacetime exercise 20 years before the Moon landings. I think that beats even wartime German crews on mine breakers, merchant ships that went ahead of naval ships to seek out mines to hit in order to clear them faster than sweeping them safely. Because that was when at war and crews were expected to die one way or another in any case.

  • mkent

    LocalFluff: Could they’ve walked back from the furthest rover excursion if it had broken down?

    Yes. The astronauts were not allowed to travel in the rover further than they could have walked back if it had broken down.

  • Richard M

    Just to be clear, because I sense some confusion: Apollo 14 was an H class mission, not a J class mission. It did not have a lunar rover. Instead, Apollo 14’s LM was equipped with an MET, a kind of hand cart for hauling samples and equipment. Shepard’s and Mitchell’s VA’s were, in short, entirely on foot.

    Which is a shame because, as you can see from the map Bob provided, they came within just 65 feet of Cone Crater, their primary science objective, without realizing it. There was no GPS, of course, so they had to rely on visual identification of landmarks to guide themm. Had they had a rover, they’d surely have been able to cover enough ground to find it before their life support forced a return.

    It didn’t help that Shepard tended to take all the science training lightly, which irritated the Apollo science backroom to no end. As Lee Silver put it, “The Apollo 14 crews did not have the right attitude, did not learn enough about their mission, had the burden of not having the best possible preflight photography, and they weren’t ready.” Of course, in the wake of Apollo 13, one could argue that simply getting the next mission to the Moon and back alive was success enough.

  • Edward

    Richard M wrote: “Of course, in the wake of Apollo 13, one could argue that simply getting the next mission to the Moon and back alive was success enough.

    Perhaps, but with future Moon missions already being cancelled by the politicians of the time, who paid for these missions, and the science being the last important thing about going to the Moon, every experiment and every objective was important and valuable. If Shepard did not take the science seriously, then I wonder what he thought was the importance of going to the Moon. As noted by the politicians, their own goals had already been met — beating the Soviets and honoring John Kennedy.

  • LocalFluff

    Here’s a great resumé of Apollo 14:

    They brought back a rock that originated from Earth! The oldest part of Earth we have (old as in rock forming, i.e. when it froze from lava to rock). I wonder hoe come it was laying around there for 4 billion years without eroding from micrometeorites, solar wind and the temperature swings. Perhaps it was many meters wide once upon a time. Still, micrometeorites and ejecta plumes from larger impacts should’ve burried it in dust as far as I understand how things age on the Lunar surface.

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