Computer I am now smarter than you

As he approached the moon on Apollo 17, Cernan scanned the lunar surface, looking for his landing site, glancing inside at the instruments. Before pitching over, at about 8,000 feet, Cernan leaned forward toward the window and saw the tops of the mountains out the bottom of his window.91 The crew could also see the earth, straight ahead outside the window. ''You're allowed two quick looks out the window,'' Commander Cernan told his non-aviator LMP, ''one now and one when we pitch over.''

In his memoir, Cernan describes the moment of P64: ''I pitched smoothly upright,'' suggesting he was controlling, when actually it was automatic.92

Then ''all of a sudden, bam, the lunar surface filled up almost the entire window,'' and Cernan instantly recognized his landmarks. Using the LPD, Cernan removed the exact correction he had just entered with the Noun 69 command, ''which means their [Houston's] targeting was essentially perfect.''93

Still, Cernan decided that he could find better areas to land than the selected spot. ''It was evident that boulders and craters were going to be determining factors in the selection of the final landing point,'' he later recalled. ''I used LPD frequently... several clicks back, a couple left, a couple right. I just flew it where I wanted to fly it.'' Cernan redesignated several hundred meters south of the targeted point, to the right of the Poppie Crater (named after what Cernan's daughter called his father). ''I just sort of tumbled in on that area and did some more LPDs to finally what I'd call a suitable landing site.94

Now Cernan took over in P66, at just under three hundred feet, to find an area level and free of boulders. He described the moment personally, in terms of his relationship to the machine: ''In effect, I was saying, 'Computer, I am now smarter than you. You think you know where the target is, but I'm looking at it out the window. I know where it is, and I'm going to tell you.'''95 In his memoir, he remembers it as an intimate connection with the spacecraft, ''the LM had become part of me, responding to my wishes as well as my touch on the controls as we lowered closer to the surface.''96 Cernan felt ''extremely comfortable flying the bird,'' in both LPD and manual, which he attributed to his experience practicing in the LLTV.97 In debrief, he concluded, ''I can't say enough for what I consider the accuracy of the guidance. Manual control of the spacecraft was hard and firm, different certainly than the command module operation but exactly what I expected the LM to be.''98

Telescopes Mastery

Telescopes Mastery

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