Closing out EVA3

There were two other important tasks to perform that day before liftoff and Fendell made sure his TV camera was properly positioned to record both of them. The first of these tasks was for Scott to perform the first cancellation of a U.S. Postal Service stamp on the Moon.

''Okay. To show that our good Postal Service has deliveries any place in the universe, I have the pleasant task of canceling, here on the Moon, the first stamp of a new issue dedicated to commemorate United States' achievements in space. And I'm sure a lot of people have seen pictures of the stamp. I have the first one here on an envelope. At the bottom it says, 'United States in Space, a decade of achievement,' and I'm very proud to have the opportunity here to play postman. I pull out a cancellation device. Cancel this stamp. It says, 'August the second, 1971, first day of issue'.''

The second task was actually an experiment conceived by CapCom Joe Allen, who suggested that Scott drop a lunar hammer and a feather to prove that they would hit the lunar surface at the same time. Scott thought the idea was brilliant, and he asked a friend to send him two falcon feathers to take to Hadley. There was time in the schedule for the televised experiment.

''Well, in my left hand, I have a feather; in my right hand, a hammer,'' Scott said, facing the TV camera. ''And I guess one of the reasons we got here today was because of a gentleman named Galileo, a long time ago, who made a rather significant discovery about falling objects in gravity fields. And we thought where would be a better place to confirm his findings than on the Moon.''

Fendell zoomed in so everyone viewing could get a close look at the hammer and feather, then zoomed out just as Scott dropped them. The hammer and feather did indeed hit the lunar surface at the same time. Applause could be heard in the Mission Control and the TV clip was played on broadcasts around the world.

Now, Scott and Irwin would soon have to leave their lunar home. After

This small plaque was left on the lunar surface behind LRV-1 to commemorate the astronauts and cosmonauts who gave their lives in the exploration of space. (NASA)

transferring all their samples and film magazines from the rover to the Lunar Module, Scott drove the rover 160 meters from Falcon and parked it on a slight rise. He dusted off the LCRU, TV and battery covers, then opened the battery covers. Secretly, Scott performed a touching gesture by placing a small aluminum figure made by Belgian artist Paul van Hoeydonck and a plaque with the names of fallen American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts on the lunar surface near the rover. He then retrieved a small red-covered Bible from the pocket on his leg and placed it resting against the hand controller. Only then did he align the antenna one last time and after the usual difficulty in doing so, confirmed the picture with Houston after manually lifting the TV camera and pointing it at the LM. The camera had suffered some mechanical difficulties and could no longer be remotely controlled, so Fendell would not be able to tilt the camera up to record the liftoff. Scott took a final color picture of the Lunar Roving Vehicle that had proved so reliable on the Moon and Allen asked Scott to bring back the LRV brush and TV lens brush to the LM for return to Earth. Nothing else was brought back from LRV-1. The last color photo Scott took from the lunar surface was taken through the landing struts of the Lunar Module with the rover in the distance. While Scott had been performing the last duties at the rover, Irwin had the rare opportunity to do virtually nothing, having done everything he needed to do on his Cuff Check List. So he made several slow trips around the Lunar Module to admire the breathtaking vistas of their landing site before leaving. The crew actually had time to collect more samples, but Houston wanted them back inside the LM to begin their liftoff preparations.

''As the space poet Rhysling would say,'' Allen announced, referring to the poet in Robert Heinlein's The Green Hills of Earth, ''We're ready for you to 'come back again to the homes of men on the cool green hills of Earth'.''

''Thank you, Joe. We're ready, too, but it's been great. Fabulous place up here,'' Scott replied.

Scott and Irwin dusted themselves off one last time, made sure they had their samples aboard Falcon and then climbed the ladder into the LM. The cabin re-pressurization was completed at 168 hours and 8 minutes GET. Joe Allen told the crew he had enjoyed working on the mission with them and handed over duties to Gerry Griffin, who was joined by astronaut Ed Mitchell. Scott and Irwin spent the next several hours completing the post-EVA activities and preparations for liftoff, which occurred at 171 hours, 37 minutes GET. The astronauts were impressed with how undramatic the liftoff was and how quietly the ascent engine performed. They soon rendezvoused with Al Worden in Endeavour and achieved hard dock. Scott and Irwin transferred their precious cargo of samples, the three-section core tube, camera magazines and other items to the Command Module. With full confidence in the Service Propulsion System, they began the sequence to jettison the Lunar Module and send it on a programmed path to impact the lunar surface. The three astronauts would not immediately return to Earth, but would spend several days orbiting the Moon, taking high resolution photos with the mapping camera and launching a subsatellite that would remain in lunar orbit for many months sending back important data. Eventually, the SPS fired precisely on schedule and the crew of Apollo 15 were on their way home.

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