Author Topic: Apollo 16 -- an odd what-if  (Read 2224 times)

Offline the_other_Doug

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Apollo 16 -- an odd what-if
« on: 10/22/2017 02:07 AM »
OK -- I was just discussing in the Armstrong thread how Deke had a policy -- you don't get to land on the Moon twice.

And was thinking about Fred Haise.

See, Charlie Duke got really sick about 3 to 4 months before Apollo 16.  They were on a geology field trip, and somehow Duke came down with pneumonia, IIRC, and ran a dangerously high fever for several days.  This is when he had his dream about being on the Moon with Young and they finding another Rover, with identical copies of himself and Young dead in the seats, and when they dated materials brought back, they found they were 100,000 years old.

Well, anyway -- what if Duke had suffered a more severe version of the illness and been disqualified from flying on 16?  His back-up was Ed Mitchell, who had already had his Moon flight.

But the backup CDR was Fred Haise, who had been cheated out of his own landing.  And who knew the Apollo 16 mission backwards and forwards, by that time.

I just wonder -- would Deke have offered to let Fred fly in Charlie's place?  And would Fred have accepted flying 16 as LMP?

I'd like to think that Fred would have been given that shot, had that scenario come to pass...
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline asdert

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Re: Apollo 16 -- an odd what-if
« Reply #1 on: 10/23/2017 08:32 AM »
What's the point of assigning a back-up if you don't use him in time of need? Duke's back-up was Mitchell. If Duke can't fly, Mitchell flies.

Your scenario implies that Haise could have been back-up for both Young and Duke. I doubt that in the Apollo era there was ever one person backing up two members of the prime crew.
« Last Edit: 10/23/2017 08:33 AM by asdert »

Offline eric z

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Re: Apollo 16 -- an odd what-if
« Reply #2 on: 10/23/2017 10:43 AM »
 The what-if game with Apollo flight assignments never fails to fascinate- but it doesn't seem at all likely John Young would have lost his chance at commanding and landing 16... Both Haise and him had orbited the Moon already. There already was the Apollo 13 precedent of just replacing one guy instead of the whole crew so if Deke thought Mitchell was incompatible with Young, then Haise might gotten the slot but this is like discussing what the Who and Led Zeppelin would be like if they each had the other's singer! Certainly fun to speculate, though. To me, one of the great losses in the space program historically-speaking was the cancellation of the later landings and indeed the whole Apollo Applications Program, which would have given a lot more guys the chance...
« Last Edit: 10/23/2017 11:01 AM by eric z »

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: Apollo 16 -- an odd what-if
« Reply #3 on: 10/23/2017 11:12 AM »
Mitchell would almost certainly have replaced Duke if Charlie had been definitely out of action. If Edgar Mitchell had then somehow also been disqualified, then several other scenarios could have been in play:

The mission would simply be delayed until Duke or Mitchell could recover - putting Apollo 16 much later into the year than April 1972. Perhaps a late summer or even early Autumn launch. If for some reason both Duke and Mitchell were out of contention; a dark horse replacement for both men could be Joe Engle, who by April 1972 had already lost his seat on Apollo 17. Apollo 16 would have been delayed till later in the year to allow Engle to have refresher training. It is unlikely that John Young would want Schmitt on his crew - it is rumored that he was one of the Apollo Commanders who was annoyed that Engle was railroaded off his Apollo 12 mission slot by authorities higher up than Deke Slayton and his superiors. Cernan and Young would probably strongly have backed Engle if Young couldn't have Duke - who he had trained with for years already. Young would have strongly respected Engle's flying skills and years of service dues already paid.

Of course; we all wish that Apollos 18 and 19 had flown to the Moon with their crews. A couple of wonderful sites were landing prospects and there were two LMs still available back then - one of 'J-Class' long duration specs and another that could have been upgraded to that status. Either that; or my preference which would have been to fly Apollo 18 and use the last full, Saturn V to launch the second Skylab station. If Apollo-Soyuz had not been flown, then that would have left three CSMs and Saturn 1Bs to conduct three more Skylab II missions into the late 1970s. Or with Apollo-Soyuz kept on the manifest; either a mixed mission of Russians and Americans to the Skylab II or 2x only long duration missions to the second Skylab. In fact, if the launch of the CSMs were staged so the crews could overlap; then one could have flown with a crew of 3 and the other with a crew of 2.

The CSM with only two crew could carry an extra couple hundred pounds of cargo to the station and also be configured as a potential 'rescue' vehicle to carry all five home. In fact - both CSMs could potentially fulfill that role if either craft ran into trouble. Such a rescue scenario had in fact almost been put into action during the Skylab program, but fortunately did not occur. My idea for the co-manifested CSMs would be that the first crew could stay up for 3 months and then be joined by the other two Astronauts late in the third month. Then; the combined crew stays for another 3 months then return home separately, having gathered data for a record-breaking six month mission and another 3 months for the other crew. Direct Medical comparisons could then be made of both crews.

...But it's a shame that big budget cuts put an end to further Apollo and Skylab missions. We all wish that there had been a couple more Lunar landings and 2 or 3 more long Skylab missions. But it was not to be. And the second Skylab could have been placed into a good, higher parking orbit long enough for the Shuttle to get to dock with it and for Shuttle crews to conduct a refurbishment and upgrade of the station! Replacement Control Movement Gyro sets and extra 'plug in' solar arrays to augment the older, ageing solar array sets. New cameras and experiment packages... :) :(
« Last Edit: 10/23/2017 11:14 AM by MATTBLAK »
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Offline WallE

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Re: Apollo 16 -- an odd what-if
« Reply #4 on: 10/23/2017 04:22 PM »
Mitchell would almost certainly have replaced Duke if Charlie had been definitely out of action. If Edgar Mitchell had then somehow also been disqualified, then several other scenarios could have been in play:

The mission would simply be delayed until Duke or Mitchell could recover - putting Apollo 16 much later into the year than April 1972. Perhaps a late summer or even early Autumn launch.

They were lucky they didn't because a huge solar flare erupted in August 1972 which would have almost certainly resulted in the death of the crew (it wouldn't be immediately fatal, they'd succumb after returning to Earth).

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: Apollo 16 -- an odd what-if
« Reply #5 on: 10/23/2017 08:47 PM »
That's true! I had forgotten that.
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Offline Proponent

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Re: Apollo 16 -- an odd what-if
« Reply #6 on: 10/23/2017 09:41 PM »
This NASA webpage suggests anyone caught by the "seahorse" flare while moonwalking would have been in serious, but not necessarily fatal, trouble.  Presumably, the CMP would have fared better.

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: Apollo 16 -- an odd what-if
« Reply #7 on: 10/23/2017 09:59 PM »
He definitely would have - in the Moon's shadow he'd be fine and in sunlight, could turn the Service Module with it's big structure and propellant tanks toward the Sun. The guys on the surface would have to terminate their EVA if it happened in the middle of one and get back in the LM with only a grab sample from their most recent EVA, stay in their suits and liftoff for rendezvous with the CSM asap.

In James Michener's novel 'Space' just such a thing was dramatized.
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Offline Kansan52

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Re: Apollo 16 -- an odd what-if
« Reply #8 on: 10/23/2017 10:43 PM »
My guess is 16 would be cancelled if swaps seemed needed because of fiscal and political policies at the time.

Offline AS_501

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Re: Apollo 16 -- an odd what-if
« Reply #9 on: 10/23/2017 11:21 PM »
We can only imagine the stress Deke was under to select the prime and backup crews.  On the one hand you want veterans to maximize the chances of mission success, plus you want to give flight assignments to enough rookies to expand your pool of veterans, but you need veterans for the more complex and risky missions, but you also want to give some seats to scientist-astronauts, but you only have a handful of lunar missions left, etc. etc.

Offline WallE

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Re: Apollo 16 -- an odd what-if
« Reply #10 on: 10/24/2017 01:52 AM »
The other issue at work obviously would be choosing landing sites with the limited number of mission slots. Apollo 13 was to land at Fra Mauro and 14 at Littrow Crater. After 13 wasn't able to land, they decided to send 14 to Fra Mauro because Littrow Crater wasn't considered as interesting of a site. In addition, the Descartes region was considered a potential landing site but Lunar Orbiter photos weren't high resolution enough to determine if it was safe to land on (too bad they didn't use those leftover Corona cameras in LO like originally planned). They had to thus photograph it from the Apollo CSM and this wouldn't have been possible by landing at Littrow Crater. The Apollo 14 crew meanwhile photographed Taurus-Littrow, which was eventually where 17 landed.

Apollo 15 was originally supposed to be an H mission and land at Hadley-Rille. After 15 was turned into a J mission, the landing site was moved to Hadley-Appenine. Choosing a site for Apollo 17 was more problematic. They narrowed it down to either Taurus-Littrow, the Marius Hills (suspected to contain volcanic cones), or a large crater, most likely Copernicus. Tycho was the scientists' first pick but considered much too dangerous to land near.

The scientists also wanted the Schroeter's Valley/Cobra Head site, but that was not a viable idea since its location would make it impossible to photograph during preceding Apollo missions. The area was also quite rugged and the Cobra's Head itself inaccessible (the chasm is about 4200 feet deep).

Keep in mind that scientists aren't flight engineers and wouldn't necessarily be aware of the risks involved in landing in certain areas of the Moon. They could merely offer a list of landing sites and the engineers/NASA administrators had the final say in where to land. For example, Harrison Schmidt had a number of unrealistic ideas about landing near Tycho or even on the far side of the Moon, a stunt that would require launching a separate comsat to maintain communication between the landing site and Earth. NASA didn't have the money for that post-budget cuts and besides, launching a comsat around the Moon would add more complexity and failure points--if the launch failed or the satellite malfunctioned, the mission would be ruined.

Offline the_other_Doug

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Re: Apollo 16 -- an odd what-if
« Reply #11 on: 10/24/2017 02:51 AM »
The other issue at work obviously would be choosing landing sites with the limited number of mission slots. Apollo 13 was to land at Fra Mauro and 14 at Littrow Crater. After 13 wasn't able to land, they decided to send 14 to Fra Mauro because Littrow Crater wasn't considered as interesting of a site. In addition, the Descartes region was considered a potential landing site but Lunar Orbiter photos weren't high resolution enough to determine if it was safe to land on (too bad they didn't use those leftover Corona cameras in LO like originally planned). They had to thus photograph it from the Apollo CSM and this wouldn't have been possible by landing at Littrow Crater. The Apollo 14 crew meanwhile photographed Taurus-Littrow, which was eventually where 17 landed.

Apollo 15 was originally supposed to be an H mission and land at Hadley-Rille. After 15 was turned into a J mission, the landing site was moved to Hadley-Appenine. Choosing a site for Apollo 17 was more problematic. They narrowed it down to either Taurus-Littrow, the Marius Hills (suspected to contain volcanic cones), or a large crater, most likely Copernicus. Tycho was the scientists' first pick but considered much too dangerous to land near.

The scientists also wanted the Schroeter's Valley/Cobra Head site, but that was not a viable idea since its location would make it impossible to photograph during preceding Apollo missions. The area was also quite rugged and the Cobra's Head itself inaccessible (the chasm is about 4200 feet deep).

Keep in mind that scientists aren't flight engineers and wouldn't necessarily be aware of the risks involved in landing in certain areas of the Moon. They could merely offer a list of landing sites and the engineers/NASA administrators had the final say in where to land. For example, Harrison Schmidt had a number of unrealistic ideas about landing near Tycho or even on the far side of the Moon, a stunt that would require launching a separate comsat to maintain communication between the landing site and Earth. NASA didn't have the money for that post-budget cuts and besides, launching a comsat around the Moon would add more complexity and failure points--if the launch failed or the satellite malfunctioned, the mission would be ruined.

Actually, there was never a final site selected for the H-mission version of Apollo 15, and I don't believe the Hadley landing site was being seriously considered for it.  Up until the change, Hadley-Appenine was being penciled in for Apollo 17.  At that point, they had decided that the Hadley site was so full of a variety of geologic features that it really required the mobility and stay-time offered by a J mission.

One of the final candidates for the H-mission Apollo 15 was a landing site between two of the craters in the Davy crater chain.  When they began to look at how they would use the Rover and additional stay time at Davy, they realized that it simply was not a varied enough area to want to spend that much time there.  And, by this time in late '69 through early '70, the compelling reasoning to visit Davy, the possibility that the crater chain was endogenous, composed of volcanic craters controlled by internal fracturing systems, was falling out of favor.  As it began to look like Davy was just a broken-up impactor that plowed in along a trajectory line, and not endogenous volcanic craters after all, it became no more interesting than any other highlands site.  So, the Davy landing site sort of died at that point, as not being worthy of a J mission and looking less likely to be as interesting as was once thought.

So, once Davy was out for a J-mission Apollo 15, they started looking at other options.  The real choice, then, became going to the Marius Hills to investigate its (relatively) young volcanics, and leave Hadley for Apollo 17 as planned, or jump-starting the J mission science program and heading for the most challenging site -- Hadley --first.

Hadley offered more variety of geologic features, including the Appenine Front, the rille, and the obvious volcanic domes to the north of the landing site.  Marius Hills looked younger, and featured domes and calderas and rilles, but not the piled-up stacks of original crust that formed the Appenines.  And, hey -- if you went to Hadley on 15, you could always go to Marius on 17, right?

In fact, had 13 not failed and 14 landed at Littrow, they would have sampled the dark mantling unit, known it was not terribly young, found out about the fire fountains that made the black, red, orange and green glasses that make the dark mantling dark, and would not have blown their final mission on a site that was thought to offer young volcanics, but really didn't.  I bet, had this happened, 17 would have gone to the Marius Hills.

Especially since the program director told the geologists and enthusiastic astronauts that they would land at Tycho over his dead body... :)
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: Apollo 16 -- an odd what-if
« Reply #12 on: 10/24/2017 03:36 AM »
I think Hadley was the best landing site that Apollo had. Taurus Littrow was probably 'second best' - but both were spectacular. Imagine going to places like that now with hi-definition television! I think only Apollo 16's Descartes Highlands ended up being a bit of a disappointment: lots of breccias and no evidence of volcanism, which is what they were hoping for. John and Charlie sure took some great pictures there, though.
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Offline ICEINK

Re: Apollo 16 -- an odd what-if
« Reply #13 on: 10/25/2017 08:12 AM »
Testing


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Offline ICEINK

Re: Apollo 16 -- an odd what-if
« Reply #14 on: 10/25/2017 08:14 AM »
Great historical accounting of the Apollo Era of manned Spaceflight.


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