Lunar dust problems

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"A walking traverse in this place would be terrible,'' Duke admitted. The missing fender extension was having the expected, if undesirable, effect of tossing lunar soil over them and their vehicle.

"We've got to get over this ridge, John, and we'll see the old LM,'' Duke assured Young. "Man, I am covered from head to foot with dust. Boy, those fenders really are useful, Tony. This one we lost in the back has resulted in us being . . .'' "Pretty dirty,'' Young finished. ".. .a Double Pig-Pen,'' Duke said.

"We're going to have to really brush,'' Young acknowledged.

Young photographed Duke near the front of the LRV at the end of EVA-3. Both battery covers are open and the radiators are clearly visible. (NASA)

"Charlie, you mean you guys are getting dirty?'' England asked, realizing the consequence of the missing fender segment.

"Maybe that's how we'll get our extension,'' Young ventured, hoping the extra time required to dust themselves and the rover off before they re-entered the LM would qualify them for the EVA duration record. They arrived back at the ALSEP site in just under twenty-five minutes, having covered 2.6 km, and England instructed them to perform their Station 10 Cuff Check List tasks. Young and Duke then put pressure on England for a ten-minute extension. The decision really rested with the Flight Surgeon, who wanted to make sure the astronauts got their full allotment of sleep.

"Why don't you just give us an extension?'' Young asked England.

"Tony, how about an extension, you guys? We're feeling good,'' Duke echoed.

"Oh, we understand and we can understand why you wouldn't want to get back in,'' England replied, "but we'd like you to get back in on time. And you've got a lot of science there, so don't worry about it.''

"You said all we would do tonight is sit around and talk!'' Young remarked, obviously perturbed. Young had a point. Getting as many varied samples as possible was more important to him than talking about the day's activities, but it would also give them more time on the lunar surface and maybe set an EVA record in the process. It was then that Young made a discovery that startled him. As if by some miracle, he found that one of his sample collection bags had fallen from his PLSS and had wedged between the left rear fender and the LRV frame. Young identified it as bag number four. This would have proved a significant scientific loss had it dropped to the surface during the traverse with no time to retrieve it. Tony England had still not received approval to give Young and Duke the extra time they wanted and the seconds ticked by as the astronauts waited for a decision.

"Okay, we'll go ahead and give you ten minutes,'' England finally responded. Duke then went ahead with driving in his double core sample, but he encountered resistance. Young offered to take over that duty so that Duke could perform the penetrometer duties. When they had completed this and had taken additional photographs, Duke walked back to the LM and Young went over to the LRV to perform some switch configuration changes sent to him by England.

"Okay. Except for the PWM Select and the Drive Enables, we would like everything back to nominal,'' England instructed. "Circuit breakers in, and drive power on Bus Delta, steering on Bus Delta . . . That's rear steering.''

"Circuit breakers are in, drive power's on Delta, and steering's on Delta,'' Young responded.

"Good show. And we understand you reset [the navigation] before you came,'' inquired England.

"Yeah, I did that,'' Young answered before getting on the rover and driving back to the Lunar Module. Duke put the various samples and the core tubes into a rock box and they continued their EVA closeout activities, including dusting off the LRV's battery covers and the LCRU radiators. Duke made sure that the rock box and sample collection bags were safely aboard the ascent stage. On this second day, they had traveled over 11 km in the rover. By the time Young closed the LM hatch

John Young took this photo of the LRV's final parking position at the end of EVA-3 on 23 April 1972. (NASA)

and began re-pressurization, they had broken the EVA record set on Apollo 15. This was an important personal milestone for Young and Duke, knowing that their third and last EVA the next day would be their shortest on the Moon.

As they took off their helmets and gloves, Duke remarked that the lunar soil smelled like gunpowder. This was a comment shared by most of the moonwalkers and the odor was quite strong as the lunar soil became exposed to oxygen for the first time in billions of years. They had been back inside for about twenty minutes when Tony England handed over CapCom duties to Ed Mitchell. ''Ed, how are you doing today?'' Duke asked.

''Pretty good, Charlie. And it went real great. We're real pleased down here.'' ''We're happy as a clam,'' Duke responded. ''We just had a great time, having fun as well as the work.''

''You know, Ed,'' Young interjected, ''when we got up on top of that mountain and I'd been driving up it all the way. When I turned around and looked down, I thought, man, you've just nearly bit off more than you can chew here.''

Indeed, the drive up Stone Mountain was perhaps the most memorable event of a very full day of exploration. "Spectacular" was a word Duke had used numerous times that day to describe the vista from Station 4. Young was also moved by the stark beauty of the Descartes Highlands. In the 1989 book Footprints [Acropolis Books, New York], authors Douglas MacKinnon and Joseph Baldanza interviewed all twelve Apollo Moonwalkers. Young was asked what was the most vivid impression he had of being on the Moon, and he answered, "The Descartes landing site is one of the most dazzlingly beautiful regions on the Moon. The view from Stone Mountain has got to rank as being one of the most truly beautiful views that's ever been seen by a human being. It's quite a place. I think we ought to go back as soon as we can, because there's so little we know about it.''


When the landing was delayed by six hours, NASA had seriously considered canceling the third and last EVA. Muehlberger became alarmed, because almost a third of the anticipated science would be lost if this occurred. Geologist Dallas Peck was asked to put together a tiger team to write a report to convince NASA of the importance of retaining the third EVA. The report was effective and in the end, NASA chose only to reduce the EVA by two hours. Still, Young and Duke's third day on the Moon would be no less rewarding and challenging than the first two. While loading the rover, Young had nothing but admiration for the LRV. It had proven utterly reliable, capable of climbing the steepest slopes he dared, had shrugged off the unforgiving lunar landscape with its countless blocks that pounded the suspension and wheels and had continued to perform flawlessly. After outfitting the rover with the needed equipment and initializing the navigation system, the astronauts strapped themselves in and headed north.

"One of the most significant places we went to was on the third day up to North Ray Crater, which was four to four-and-half miles away,'' said Duke. "There were some significant geological areas up there. We found House Rock - a huge boulder. Looking across North Ray Crater, you could see layering in an out-cropping of rock. The Rover just extended the radius of operations ten to fifteen times.''

Young and Duke were headed toward some of the biggest craters at Descartes. They would pass Palmetto Crater on their left, which was estimated at 800 m in diameter. Duke kept up a continual dialog of his observations with Tony England, and was impressed with how subdued the craters were regardless of size. They finally arrived at North Ray Crater, which was roughly 900 m in diameter and more than 200 m deep. This would be Station 11. Young once more aligned the TV antenna for Houston, then walked over to the rim of North Ray. Much of the crater was strewn with large boulders and the surrounding area was littered with similar boulders and blocks.

"Man, does this thing have steep walls,'' Young remarked, standing on the crater's rim.

"They said 60 degrees,'' Duke added.

"I can't see to the bottom of it, and I'm just as close to the edge as I'm going to

The Lunar Roving Vehicle helped Young and Duke to traverse more than 26 kilometers of the Moon's surface at Descartes and collect more than 95 kilograms of lunar samples. (NASA)

get. That's the truth,'' Young confessed. England instructed Duke to take a series of photos of the interior of the crater, shots of Smoky Mountain, and stereo photos. Young performed a pan of the site with his camera. The most significant boulder at this station stop was a massive black boulder that dominated the lunar surface. Ed Fendell was taking in all he could with the TV and the geologists in the science Backroom were enthralled.

"That was virtually the only big boulder we could see in the photographs that we had before the mission,'' Muehlberger stated. ''We knew that big boulder was up there but when you've got pictures that are no better than 20-meter resolution, you don't have a lot of chance to go and pick out specific things for the astronauts to go and sample. Well, on that traverse, Young and Duke got to the rim of the crater they thought House Rock was near, but it turned out to be a long walk. They were running up against the constraints of their air supply and having to get back, get buttoned in, and get launched. They took a nice panorama of the inside of the crater. They would have liked to have walked closer to the rim of North Ray Crater, but they didn't know how steep it was going to be and therefore it might be a one-way trip if they fell into the crater.''

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