What if an Apollo Mission Had Crashed on the Moon?

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onesmallstep

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<p>I have a question I would like to pose to the good folks here at SDC.&nbsp; It may sound a bit morbid, but it is something I have frequently wondered about, I guess ever since July 20, 1969. </p><p>That is, what if Apollo 11, (or any of the Apollo missions), had crashed on the moon? I know there were contingencies for such a thing, a speech was written for the President to give in case of such an event. The CMPs even trained to come back alone as the sole survivor of Apollo xx.</p><p>Thankfully, nothing like this occurred, but just for the sake of this thread, what do you suppose would have happened if say Neil and Buzz had died on the moon?&nbsp; Even more gruesome than a crash, would have been a scenario whereby the ascent engine fails and the two men just sit there waiting to run out of oxygen. I can imagine a teary eyed Walter Cronkite as he listens to the doomed astronauts say their goodbyes to their loved ones just before the radio goes silent.&nbsp; My goodness...That would have been a very emotional and intense event to endure.</p><p>I know there would have been memorials, speeches, statues built, and the like.&nbsp; But would it have affected the way humanity views the moon even to this day?...Would it have been possible to ever look at the moon again without thinking of those dead astronauts; still there waiting forever vigilantly for a rescue that would never come.</p><p>I wonder if the Apollo missions would have continued?...Probably, but there would have been a big dark cloud hanging over any subsequent missions.&nbsp; I also wonder if there would have ever been a mission to recover bodies, or would the moon forever be the final resting place of those brave souls?</p><p>Another scenario I have wondered about&nbsp;was the possibility of a returning mission missing the re-entry corridor, skipping off into space and forever being in an extended orbit around earth. As Jim Lovell put it, "A permanent monument to the space program." How would it affect the human psyche to be able to go out on a clear night years later and look up and see the Flying Dutchman of the space age streaking through the sky, never being able to find the way home.<img src="http://sitelife.space.com/ver1.0/content/scripts/tinymce/plugins/emotions/images/smiley-cry.gif" border="0" alt="Cry" title="Cry" /></p><p>I hope no one thinks I'm weird for thinking of such things, but these scenarios were a real possibility during the Apollo era.</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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willpittenger

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>I have a question I would like to pose to the good folks here at SDC.&nbsp; It may sound a bit morbid, but it is something I have frequently wondered about, I guess ever since July 20, 1969. That is, what if Apollo 11, (or any of the Apollo missions), had crashed on the moon? I know there were contingencies for such a thing, a speech was written for the President to give in case of such an event. The CMPs even trained to come back alone as the sole survivor of Apollo xx.Gladly, nothing like this occurred, but just for the sake of this thread, what do you suppose would have happened if say Neil and Buzz had died on the moon?&nbsp; Even more gruesome than a crash, would have been a scenario whereby the ascent engine fails and the two men just sit there waiting to run out of oxygen. I can imagine a teary eyed Walter Cronkite as he listens to the doomed astronauts say their goodbyes to their loved ones just before the radio goes silent.&nbsp; My goodness...That would have been a very emotional and intense event to endure.I know there would have been memorials, speeches, statues built, and the like.&nbsp; But would it have affected the way humanity views the moon even to this day?...Would it have been possible to ever look at the moon again without thinking of those dead astronauts; still there waiting forever vigilantly for a rescue that would never come.I wonder if the Apollo missions would have continued?...Probably, but there would have been a big dark cloud hanging over any subsequent missions.&nbsp; I also wonder if there would have ever been a mission to recover bodies, or would the moon forever be the final resting place of those brave souls?Another scenario I wonder about is the possibility of a returning mission missing the re-entry corridor, skipping off into space and forever being in an extended orbit around earth. As Jim Lovell put it, "A permanent monument to the space program." How would it affect the human psyche to be able to go out on a clear night years later and look up and see the Flying Dutchman of the space program streaking through the sky, never being able to find the way home.</p><p>Posted by onesmallstep</DIV><br />Actually, it was at least a year ago that I asked what would have happened if Apollo 13's service module had conked out after the LM started its descent.&nbsp; If they had gone too far down, the LM would be useless as a lifeboat.&nbsp; At that point, the only real question would how the men would die: Together or seperate; suicide or staying alive as long as possible. </p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <hr style="margin-top:0.5em;margin-bottom:0.5em" />Will Pittenger<hr style="margin-top:0.5em;margin-bottom:0.5em" />Add this user box to your Wikipedia User Page to show your support for the SDC forums: <div style="margin-left:1em">{{User:Will Pittenger/User Boxes/Space.com Account}}</div> </div>
 
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onesmallstep

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>Actually, it was at least a year ago that I asked what would have happened if Apollo 13's service module had conked out after the LM started its descent.&nbsp; If they had gone too far down, the LM would be useless as a lifeboat.&nbsp; At that point, the only real question would how the men would die: Together or seperate; suicide or staying alive as long as possible. <br />Posted by willpittenger</DIV></p><p>Yes, they were very lucky that the SM conked out before the powered decent to the surface, or none of them would have likely made it back in one piece.&nbsp; Or, what if Apollo 8's service module had conked out while in lunar orbit...with no LM lifeboat.&nbsp; Would they still be circling the moon?</p><p>Any of a thousand things could have happened to doom any&nbsp;one of those missions.&nbsp; The fact that they all made it back safely and actually made going to the moon look easy was an extraordinary accomplishment.</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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Carrickagh

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<p>I don't think this is a bad question. I'm sure everyone on the program had this in the back of their mind.</p><p>The government always has a contingency plan. Here is the text of a prepared speech that Nixon might have delivered if Apollo 11 had suffered some misfortune. William Safire penned it...</p><p>http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/0808051apollo1.html</p><p>Fortunately this didn't happen. I like the flying Dutchman analogy. I believe Vonnegut wrote a story about a cosmonaut and astronaut who die while in orbit on seperate missions. The story is from the cosmonaut's father's perspective. It is in the form of a letter to the American astronaut's father. It is rather moving.</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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onesmallstep

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<p>&nbsp;</p><p>Today is Neil Armstrong's 78th birthday...Happy birthday Neil!</p><p>I'm glad we can celebrate your birthday instead of marking the 39th anniversary of your death!</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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robnissen

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>&nbsp;Today is Neil Armstrong's 78th birthday...Happy birthday Neil!I'm glad we can celebrate your birthday instead of marking the 39th anniversary of your death! <br />Posted by onesmallstep</DIV></p><p><font size="4">I agree.&nbsp; But I do wish he had been more of an advocate for the space program.&nbsp; I think he had a unique opportunity to be a tremendous spokesman for the manned space program, but instead he choose to slip into the background.&nbsp; While I agree, everyone has a right to privacy, I think he forfeited that right when he agreed to be the first man on the moon.&nbsp; If he was uncomfortable with celebrity, he should have told NASA and they probably would haved picked someone else.&nbsp; But I guess this is crying over spilt milk.&nbsp; </font></p><p><font size="4">Back to the main topic, Buzz Aldrin said that if the ascent module had failed, they would have just keep trying things over and over until their last breaths.&nbsp; I think that is what is meant by "the right stuff."</font></p><p>&nbsp;</p>
 
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MeteorWayne

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>I agree.&nbsp; But I do wish he had been more of an advocate for the space program.&nbsp; I think he had a unique opportunity to be a tremendous spokesman for the manned space program, but instead he choose to slip into the background.&nbsp; While I agree, everyone has a right to privacy, I think he forfeited that right when he agreed to be the first man on the moon.&nbsp; If he was uncomfortable with celebrity, he should have told NASA and they probably would haved picked someone else.&nbsp; But I guess this is crying over spilt milk.&nbsp; Back to the main topic, Buzz Aldrin said that if the ascent module had failed, they would have just keep trying things over and over until their last breaths.&nbsp; I think that is what is meant by "the right stuff."&nbsp; <br />Posted by robnissen</DIV><br /><br />I have to disagree. Neil got the job because he was the best man for the job. Buzz, and almost all other astronauts have said the same thing. He was a superb pilot and engineer, and he did his job very well, grabbing victory from the jaws of defeat. His job never was to be a spokesman for space exploration, it was to get the LM on the lunar surface in a condition that would allow them to leave safely. He did it, and every human should be grateful for that, and that alone. Especially Buzz <img src="http://sitelife.space.com/ver1.0/content/scripts/tinymce/plugins/emotions/images/smiley-smile.gif" border="0" alt="Smile" title="Smile" />&nbsp;But the same person who has that skill set is unlikely to have that public interface ability. Technical people don't always have that ability. Would you have chosen a less capable person, who would have been a better spokesman for space exploration&nbsp; decades later? It would have been a moot point if they had died on the moon!</p><p>Buzz has a different personality, and has embraced that public part. We all should appreciate that as well. I'm still trying to get him to visit the Edwin E Aldrin lecture room at the NJAA again. :)</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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onesmallstep

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>I have to disagree. Neil got the job because he was the best man for the job. Buzz, and almost all other astronauts have said the same thing. He was a superb pilot and engineer, and he did his job very well, grabbing victory from the jaws of defeat. His job never was to be a spokesman for space exploration, it was to get the LM on the lunar surface in a condition that would allow them to leave safely. He did it, and every human should be grateful for that, and that alone. Especially Buzz &nbsp;But the same person who has that skill set is unlikely to have that public interface ability. Technical people don't always have that ability. Would you have chosen a less capable person, who would have been a better spokesman for space exploration&nbsp; decades later? It would have been a moot point if they had died on the moon!Buzz has a different personality, and has embraced that public part. We all should appreciate that as well. I'm still trying to get him to visit the Edwin E Aldrin lecture room at the NJAA again. :) <br />Posted by MeteorWayne</DIV><br /><br />And he pulled victory from the jaws of defeat more than once throughout his career:<br />&nbsp;<br />While flying in the LLSV, (or whatever that ungainly lunar simulation vehicle was called), he ejected just milliseconds before a malfunction caused the thing to crash so badly it would have surely killed him.</p><p>He also pulled the fat out of the fire on Gemini 8, when a stuck thruster sent the vehicle into an uncontrolled tumble. Neil had to take some unusual and out of the ordinary actions to save the day on that one, just before they reached the point of blacking out.</p><p>Of course we know about the events of Apollo 11, when he took control of the LM from the computer and actually prevented the vehicle from crashing into a field of boulders.</p><p>Quite the hero, Mr. Coolhand Armstrong!</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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JonClarke

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<p>Had there been major hardware problems with Apollo 9 or&nbsp;10, Apollo 11 might well easily have been another test flight.&nbsp; We would have been remembering Pete Conrad and Al Bean as the first on the Moon.&nbsp; I wonder if Conrad would still have said "Whoopie!")</p><p>Jon</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><em>Whether we become a multi-planet species with unlimited horizons, or are forever confined to Earth will be decided in the twenty-first century amid the vast plains, rugged canyons and lofty mountains of Mars</em>  Arthur Clarke</p> </div>
 
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stupidlaminatedrock

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<p>I had always feared that what if it overshot the moon. Or something bad happened and they missed or they were unable to stabilize apollo 13. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>And off into deep space they go. Did they have suicide pills like the movies say? I mean has anything like that ever happened in Soviet/American space history?</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>To sit there helplessly floating past the moon sealed in the most expensive casket in history. Knowing there is nothing your fellow humans can do as you slowly but surely head deeper into space.</strong> <strong>you have enough food for maybe a month but then what?</strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;A movie about something like this would be really nice.</p>
 
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trailrider

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>I have a question I would like to pose to the good folks here at SDC.&nbsp; It may sound a bit morbid, but it is something I have frequently wondered about, I guess ever since July 20, 1969. That is, what if Apollo 11, (or any of the Apollo missions), had crashed on the moon? I know there were contingencies for such a thing, a speech was written for the President to give in case of such an event. The CMPs even trained to come back alone as the sole survivor of Apollo xx.Thankfully, nothing like this occurred, but just for the sake of this thread, what do you suppose would have happened if say Neil and Buzz had died on the moon?&nbsp; Even more gruesome than a crash, would have been a scenario whereby the ascent engine fails and the two men just sit there waiting to run out of oxygen. I can imagine a teary eyed Walter Cronkite as he listens to the doomed astronauts say their goodbyes to their loved ones just before the radio goes silent.&nbsp; My goodness...That would have been a very emotional and intense event to endure.I know there would have been memorials, speeches, statues built, and the like.&nbsp; But would it have affected the way humanity views the moon even to this day?...Would it have been possible to ever look at the moon again without thinking of those dead astronauts; still there waiting forever vigilantly for a rescue that would never come.I wonder if the Apollo missions would have continued?...Probably, but there would have been a big dark cloud hanging over any subsequent missions.&nbsp; I also wonder if there would have ever been a mission to recover bodies, or would the moon forever be the final resting place of those brave souls?Another scenario I have wondered about&nbsp;was the possibility of a returning mission missing the re-entry corridor, skipping off into space and forever being in an extended orbit around earth. As Jim Lovell put it, "A permanent monument to the space program." How would it affect the human psyche to be able to go out on a clear night years later and look up and see the Flying Dutchman of the space age streaking through the sky, never being able to find the way home.I hope no one thinks I'm weird for thinking of such things, but these scenarios were a real possibility during the Apollo era. <br />Posted by onesmallstep</DIV></p><p>Unfortunately, such things are a CONTINUING possiblity.&nbsp; What MIGHT have happened back in 1969?&nbsp; Given we still thought we were in a race with the Russians to the Moon, we probably would have grounded the Apollo/Saturn V until we figured out what happened and "fixed" it, just as we did when the Apollo I (204) fire killed Grissom, Chaffee and White on the pad.&nbsp; It might have been more difficult because we would not have had the hardware to analyze...unless it turned out to be a flight profile failure (not enough fuel in the LM, not enough recon of the landing site, etc.), but I think THEN we would have pressed on.</p><p>We didn't quit when Challenger blew up, and we didn't quit when Columbia augered in, though there were some people who said the cost isn't worth it.&nbsp; Hopefully, the American public is not so risk averse, concerned about gas prices, etc, etc, to have us quit if, Heaven forbid, another disaster occurs in space or on the pad...but I am less optimistic on that score than I used to be...&nbsp; I mean, what would happen if, worst case scenario, the Hubble mission results in damage to the orbiter that can't be repaired before re-entry...and the ST-400 ship also has a non-recoverable problem! (Shudder!)&nbsp; For that matter, what happens to the Shuttle program if a mission so much as blows a tire on landing, the orbiter runs off the side of the runway, and totals the bird, even though everyone inside walks away unscathed? Would there be enough foreward thinking people, both the public and Congress, to say, "Fix the problem and PRESS ON!" ???</p><p>I think we tend to lose our perspective on aerospace accidents.&nbsp; I am NOT trying to be insensitive about this...(I knew Gus Grissom and have met other astronauts over the years)...but we lose 14 astronauts in two different accidents, plus several more in crashes in their T-38's and a bird strike, and everybody is wringing their hands and wanting to quit!&nbsp; We lose 230-odd people in a Boeing 747 (TWA Flight 800) from a fuel tank explosion, and not only did the same flight number take off the next day, with the same configured aircraft, but a decade later, many of those same aircraft are still flying with the centerline tanks NOT inerted, and another two years before the AWD deadline expires! </p><p>People die in automobile accidents, ski accidents, boat accidents, from TOO MUCH exercise...let's just crawl under our beds and lie there...and die from LACK of exercise!</p><p>I yield the soap box, now!</p><p>Ad Luna! Ad Ares! Ad Astra!</p>
 
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