With all the fanfare of the shuttle Discovery fly out to Washington this week another great milestone in space was being celebrated over at NASA’s Visitor Center. A small group of paying guests participated in a brief talk / question & answer session with former Apollo astronauts to mark the 40 anniversary of the flight of Apollo 16.
The thirty minute event was attended by Luna Module Pilots (LMP) from Apollo missions 13, 14 & 16. Astronauts Charlie Duke (Apollo 16), Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14) and Fred Haise (Apollo 13) gave highlights from their missions before answering questions. Fred Haise gave a jokingly dissertation about the importance to stay away from your back up crew. ”Even as we train together the other crew would do anything to become a prime crew member,” said Haise. This was the case with the Apollo 13 crew, Command Module Pilot (CMP) Ken Mattingly was replaced with the rookie back-up CMP John Swigert because Mattingly had been exposed to the German measles but was the only crew member that had never had the measles. Both prime and back up crew had been exposed after back up (LMP) Charles Duke contracted German Measles from one of his children. The event ended with each guest receiving a signed copy of Charlie Duke’s book ‘Moonwalker’.
Apollo 16 was the fifth NASA mission to land men on the moon. Commander John Young, Lunar Module Pilot Charles Duke, and Command Module Pilot Ken Mattingly thundered off the surface of the Earth atop a monstrous Saturn-V rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:54 PM EST on April 16, 1972. The eleven day mission saw John Young and Charles Duke land in the lunar highlands region of the moon, spending three days on the lunar surface and returning over 200 pounds of moon rocks to the Earth for research and study. The pair even drove 16.6 miles across the lunar surface. Ken Mattingly orbited the moon 64 times before Young and Duke returned to dock with the Command Module and begin their trip back home to Earth, splashing down in the South Pacific Ocean April 27, 1972.
BELOW: Video footage of the launch of Apollo 16. Public Domain footage, uploaded to Youtube by Squarkino.