Apollo 14 space mission

Alan B. Shepard, Jr.
CSM Pilot
Stuart A. Roosa
LM Pilot
Edgar D. Mitchell

Landing (M):
Lunar Location:
Landing (E):
Orbits (M):
Surface time:

Saturn V, AS-509
January 31, 1971, 4:03:02 pm EST
February 03, 1971
Fra Mauro
February 09, 1971, 4:05 pm EST
 9 days, 0 hours, 2 minutes
0.965 km, U.S.S. New Orleans
34 (2 days, 18 hrs, 40 min)
Kitty Hawk, CM-110
Antares, LM-8
94.4 lbs
1 day, 9 hrs, 30 min

The Apollo 14 mission attracted widespread interest, in part because of its predecessor's near disaster, but also because its popular commander, Alan Shepard, was making a comeback after ten years. Following his 15-minute Mercury flight in May 1961, Shepard had been grounded for a minor ear disorder. He had continued in the program, serving for a while as chief of the Astronaut Office at Houston. Flights had passed him by, however, until surgery corrected his ear problem in 1969.

The loss of the scientific information Apollo 13 would have returned from Fra Mauro made it necessary to re-evaluate objectives for later missions. After Apollo 13 the board's scientific advisers almost unanimously agreed that the Fra Mauro site still rated the high priority it had been given; they recommended sending Apollo 14 there instead of Littrow, and the Apollo site selection board agreed.

The trip to the moon was uneventful until the time came to remove the lunar module from the S-IVB stage. Five attempts to dock the command module with the lunar module failed for no apparent reason - a worrisome anomaly, to say the least - but the sixth was successful. Command module Kitty Hawk and lunar module Antares braked into lunar orbit 82 hours after lift-off. Two hours later Kitty Hawk's main engine lowered both spacecraft to the altitude from which Antares would begin its descent. This manoeuvre was one result of the refinement of mission techniques that planners had been working on since Apollo 12, designed to conserve fuel in the lunar module and give the crew more time to hover before landing if they needed to look for a suitable site.

Shepard's first words as he stepped on to the moon were inspired by his 9 years, 10 months, and 10 days of waiting since Mercury-Redstone 3, when he had been the first American in space, to the day he stepped on the moon. "It's been a long way," he said, "but we're here." Shepard was the only one of the "Original Seven" astronauts to make the journey to the moon and only the second to fly in the Apollo program. Ed Mitchell joined Shepard on the lunar surface and they unloaded the rickshaw and experiments then picked a spot some 500 feet (150 metres) west of Antares for the instruments.

Shepard and Mitchell did most of the mission's geological field work on their second traverse. Their biggest problem was in determining their location from the landmarks shown on their map. More than once they changed their minds about where they were. They attributed this to the rolling terrain and the relation of their line of sight to the sun: craters might be visible in one direction but not in another.

A prime objective was to sample the rim of "Cone" crater, about a thousand metres (3,300 feet) from the spacecraft. By the time they got there, however, they had spent considerable time and were not positive that they were in the right place. As it turned out, they stopped just a few metres short of the rim, but at the time they were not certain they were on the slope of Cone, and Shepard was concerned with the tasks they had yet to accomplish in the time available. They turned back, completed the planned traverse, and returned to Antares after another 4 1/2-hour excursion.

Before climbing back into the lunar module, Shepard took out of his suit pocket "a little white pellet that's familiar to millions of Americans" - a golf ball - and dropped it on the surface. Then, using the handle for the contingency sample return container, to which was attached "a genuine six-iron," he took a couple of one-handed swings. He missed with the first, but connected with the second. The ball, he reported, sailed for "miles and miles." Shepard's golf club was fashioned at his request by technicians in MSC's Technical Services Division. According to Jack Kinzler, chief of Technical Services, it was "bootlegged" through the shops because no one wanted to draw high-level managerial attention to it.

Lift-off from the moon came at 1:48 p.m. EST on February 6, 1971. Mission planners had worked out a "direct" rendezvous scheme - that is, the ascent trajectory was programmed to meet the command module at its highest point, with necessary corrections being made during ascent - which they used for the first time. Two and a half hours after lift-off, Antares and Kitty Hawk docked; three hours later, having sent the lunar module crashing to the lunar surface, Kitty Hawk headed home.

Kitty Hawk made a normal re-entry and landed 0.6 miles (965 metres) from its targeted point in the South Pacific near the aircraft carrier U.S.S. New Orleans in the early morning light of February 9. Three days later the astronauts in their quarantine trailer arrived at the lunar receiving laboratory at MSC, where they spent 15 days in quarantine.

Apollo 14 successfully concluded the intermediate stage of lunar exploration, closing a period in which the progress made in mission planning and operations exceeded expectations. Armstrong had overshot his target by five miles (eight kilometres). Conrad and Shepard, aided by improved techniques, had landed within a quarter of a mile of theirs (400 metres) - an accuracy that MSC's mission planners had expected to achieve after three or four tries, but scarcely hoped for on the second.

Eagle had stayed on the moon for 21 1/2 hours, Intrepid for 31 1/2, Antares for 33 1/2. Armstrong and Aldrin's 2 1/2 hours on the surface was more than doubled by Conrad and Bean and extended nearly nine-fold by Shepard and Mitchell. Apollo 12 brought back 50 percent more lunar material than Apollo 11, and Apollo 14 returned 25 percent more than that. About the only remaining improvements to lunar exploration would come from the addition of extra supplies and a powered vehicle to save time in exploring the lunar surface.