john-glennThe world mourns the passing of Mercury Astronaut and later Senator John Glenn, “the Clean Marine” himself! (No relation to the Spotless Spartan or the Hygienic Hoplite).

Though Glenn was NOT a part of the Apollo Missions to the Moon I figured I would post this look at the forgotten Moon visits that came after Apollo 11 since the Mercury Missions were the prelude.


Apollo 12 patchAPOLLO 12 – Overall Commander: Charles “Pete” Conrad (not to be confused with Peter “Chuck” Conrad)

Command Module Yankee Clipper Pilot: Richard F Gordon, Jr

Lunar Module Intrepid Pilot: Alan L Bean 

Less than four full months after Apollo 11’s successful mission the Apollo 12 crew provided a SECOND fulfillment of President John F Kennedy’s goal of landing men on the moon and returning them safely to the Earth. 

The Lunar Module Intrepid touched down on the moon’s surface on November 19th, 1969 at 1:54am EST and lifted off to rendezvous with the orbiting Command Module Yankee Clipper on November 20th at 9:25am. Splashdown in the Pacific Ocean was on November 24th at 3:58pm.

The Mission: The Yankee Clipper was struck by lightning during its ascent from the Earth, knocking out all power but the back-up systems successfully restored all operations to normal. Apollo 12 made a perfect touchdown at its predesignated landing area, already improving on the previous mission, which had been very slightly off-course.

After landing at the Ocean of Storms Astronauts Conrad and Bean had to contend with a much more powdery surface than the Apollo 11 crew had encountered. The lunar dust and powder clung to the Astonauts’ suits and nearly clogged vital portions of the high-tech outfits. The crew deployed a battery of scientific equipment, gathered 75 pounds of moon rocks – many green and tan – and retrieved portions of the nearby Surveyor craft, an umanned module that had landed on the moon in 1967.

apollo 13 patchAPOLLO 13 – Overall Commander: James A Lovell, veteran of the Apollo 8 flight.  

Command Module Odyssey Pilot: John L Swigert (replacement for Ken Mattingly, who was grounded after exposure to German Measles) 

Lunar Module Aquarius Pilot: Fred Haise

The Apollo 13 mission was launched on April 11th, 1970 at 2:13pm EST and for over two full days was pronounced “the smoothest flight of the program” with CapCom’s Joe Kerwin radioing James Lovell “We’re bored to tears down here.” Unfortunately on April 13th at 10:07pm, with the Odyssey still enroute to the moon, a still-unexplained explosion in the liquid oxygen tanks unleashed a disaster that added the expression “Houston, we have a problem” to our repertoir.   

The Mission: For all intents and purposes the mission was scrapped after the explosion and getting the Astronauts home safely became the only objective. The explosion had caused the formation of a trail of debris and a cloud of escaping gases so large they were visible to astronomers throughout the world.

The long series of events that followed have been exhaustively covered in books, articles, films and documentaries so there is no need to rehash them in this article. Suffice it to say multiple jury-rigged devices and technical juggling ultimately resulted in a successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on April 17th at 1:07pm. Ken Mattingly, who never actually fell ill with the measles despite his exposure, worked in simulators at Mission Control to help devise many of the temporary fixes that saved the lives of the Apollo 13 crew.  

Apollo 14 patchAPOLLO 14 – Overall Commander: Alan B Shepard, Jr, America’s first man in space and the only one of the original seven Mercury Astronauts to walk on the moon.

Command Module Kitty Hawk Pilot: Stuart A Roosa

Lunar Module Antares Pilot: Edgar D Mitchell    

The Apollo 14 mission was carried out under the burden of increased scrutiny from the failed Apollo 13 escapade. Apollo missions 18, 19 and 20, which were originally going to undertake prolonged and extensive exploration of the moon, had already been scrapped and word was in the political winds that any difficulties with Apollo 14 might well result in the cancellation of Apollo missions 15, 16 and 17 as well.

On January 21st, 1971 at 4:03pm EST the Apollo 14 mission was launched after a storm delay of 40 minutes. Once in space the Command Module Kitty Hawk experienced technical difficulties linking up with the orbiting Lunar Module Antares. Back on Earth the backup crew worked in the simulators and helped devise a solution involving a hard ram of the Lunar Module to ensure the necessary latches took hold.  

The Mission: Once in lunar orbit the Antares‘ descent to the surface was held up because of an electrical short in the abort switch. A new computer program that bypassed the faulty abort switch was devised at Mission Control and transmitted to Edgar Mitchell, who reprogrammed the Lunar Module’s computer on the fly. The problems were not over yet, however, and as the Antares approached the lunar surface the craft’s landing radar failed to engage, almost necessitating a scrub until the now-universal tech support remedy of shutting the on-board computer off and back on resolved the glitch. Touchdown at Fra Mauro came at 4:18am on February 5th. 

Shepard and Mitchell reported that the soil at Fra Mauro was so soft it now covered the landing pads of the Antares. Apollo 14 was equipped with a “rickshaw” of sorts to facilitate the gathering of rock and soil samples so the Astronauts were no longer limited by what they could carry in their own arms. The crew also set up various scientific sensors and detonated small explosive charges to feed the sensors data while, in orbit overhead Roosa extensively photographed lunar anomalies including the crater caused by a meteor impact that was mere weeks old.    

On the second day of their lunar excursions Shepard and Mitchell attempted to reach the top of Cone Crater, which was formed billions of years earlier by massive meteoric impact. The sandy soil leading to the top of the crater prevented this but the Astronauts were still able to retrieve rock samples from near the time of the impact. As a light-hearted end to the Apollo 14 mission Alan Shepard drove a golf ball for an incredible (still-debated) length in the lighter lunar gravity.

Lunar liftoff was on February 6th at 1:48pm and splashdown came on February 9th at 4:05pm. Apollo 14 was successful enough to preserve missions 15, 16 and 17.



© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.      





Filed under Neglected History


  1. I had no idea Apollo flights went to the moon so many times!

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