If you find a bottleneck in Making the Modern World there is one likely culprit: the Apollo 10 capsule. It is impossible, even for staff, to walk by without taking a sly glance at this magnificent object. Whilst unassuming – with its battered, singed red exterior – it tells us so much about the potential for human endeavour and scientific exploration.
Piloted by a three man team – Commander Thomas P Stafford, Command Module Pilot, John W. Young and Lunar Module Pilot, Eugene Cernan – Apollo 10 took to the skies on May 18. 1969, their mission: to test all the components and procedures of a Moon landing, without actually landing on the moon (known as an F type mission – a ‘dry run’ for the later Apollo 11 mission).
Upon reaching lunar orbit – carrying the first colour television camera inside the spacecraft to beam live broadcasts back to earth – Young remained in the command module, Charlie Brown, while Stafford and Cernan flew separately in the lunar module.
Interesting fact: throughout the mission the astronauts used call-signs from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts (the command module, Charlie Brown, and the Landing Module Snoopy) Schulz had created some special mission-related artwork for NASA.
Whilst orbiting, the crew monitored the craft’s radar and ascent engine, momentarily rode out a gyration in the Lunar Lander’s motion and surveyed the landing site in the Sea of Tranquillitywhich would be used by Apollo 11.
The crew returned safely, splashing into the Pacific Ocean on May 26, 1969.
All crew members went on to fly in subsequent missions: Staffordon the Apollo Soyuz test project, Young on Apollo 16 and Cernan as commander of Apollo 17 which made him, to this day, the last man on the moon. If you would like to hear more about Cernan and his mission, why not come visit our Gene Cernan drama character at the museum. And whilst you are here, visit the amazing Exploring Space gallery to see the other people and objects that have boldly explored the universe!
In 2011, the USA ended its space programme; the approximate cost of the programme being 7 billion a year – the equivalent of about 28 million Playstation 3 consoles.
- Was it worth it? Should this money be spent on exploring the universe?
- If you had this money for scientific investigation, what would you explore?
See Apollo 10 in Making the Modern World near the Wellcome Wing.