First flight after Apollo 13 abort
Launch: Jan. 31, 1971
Lunar Orbit Insertion: Feb. 4, 1971
Lunar Landing: Feb. 5, 1971
Lunar Surface Departure: Feb. 6, 1971
Recovery on Earth: Feb. 9, 1971
Apollo 14, the third mission in which humans landed on the Moon, was commanded by the man who had been the first American in space, Alan B. Shepard, Jr. The command module, “Kitty Hawk,” was piloted by Stuart A. Roosa. Edgar D. Mitchell was pilot of the lunar module “Antares.” Apart from Shepard’s historic 15-minute suborbital flight, it was the first space mission for each of the astronauts.
On Feb. 5, 1971, Shepard and Mitchell landed only 175 feet (53 meters) from their targeted landing site in a hilly upland region north of Fra Mauro crater, a scientifically important site that had been the destination of the aborted Apollo 13 mission. Roosa lifted Kitty Hawk to a higher, circular orbit, where he would conduct a number of tasks including photographing the Descartes region, which became Apollo 16’s landing site, and conveying observations of prominent lunar landmarks to make landing accuracy on future missions even better.
Reinventing the Wheel
While the four previous moonwalkers had to hand-carry the supplies they needed to conduct their activities on the lunar surface, Shepard and Mitchell employed a labor-saving invention to help them: the wheel. They had a collapsible two-wheeled pull-cart nicknamed “the rickshaw” that could haul about 23 pounds or 10 kilograms (lunar weight, the equivalent of 138 pounds or 63 kilograms on Earth) of material, including a magnetometer, camera equipment, sample-collection tools and the samples themselves.
Their two moonwalks totaled 9 hours, 23 minutes, the longest time spent until then with boots on the lunar ground, and covered a distance of about 2.1 miles (almost 3.5 kilometers). They deployed the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) and a solar-wind collector, took photographs and collected more than 93 pounds (42 kilograms) of samples.
At the end of the second moonwalk, Shepard hit two golf balls with the head of a six-iron attached to the handle of a sample-collection tool.
But the activity for which this mission might be most remembered was not on the mission task list. At the end of the second moonwalk, Shepard hit two golf balls with the head of a six-iron attached to the handle of a sample-collection tool. One of the balls was found in a crater, making this the first extraterrestrial hole in one. In a lesser known but no less significant sports milestone, Mitchell threw an improvised “javelin,” which landed just beyond the golf ball.
Return to Earth
On Feb. 6, after more than 33 hours on the lunar surface, Antares lifted off and rejoined Kitty Hawk in lunar orbit. The astronauts transferred themselves, their samples and equipment to the command module and sent the lunar module crashing into the Moon between the Apollo 12 and Apollo 14 seismic stations.
The command module splashed down on February 9 in the Pacific Ocean, some 880 miles (1,417 kilometers) south of American Samoa. The astronauts and capsule were recovered by the USS New Orleans. Total mission elapsed time was 216 hours, 1 minute, 58 seconds. This was the final Apollo mission in which the astronauts were placed in quarantine upon their return.
The backup crew for this mission was Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Joe Engle. Command module Kitty Hawk is currently on display at the Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville, Florida.
- Credit: NASA