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.