Mission And Eva Traverse Planning

With the selection of Taurus-Littrow as the landing site for Apollo 17, mission and EVA transverse planning commenced. The lunar mission was made up of scientific experiment deployment and geologic exploration, but there was also science and photography to be performed by the Command Module Pilot while in orbit around the Moon. Jack R. Sevier was Chairman of the Traverse Planning Subcommittee of the Science Working Panel, and was assisted by Dr. Robert. A. Parker, Apollo 17

Mission Scientist, who would also act as the EVA CapCom. Sevier had the Herculean task of integrating the lunar surface experiments with the pressing requirements of the geologic teams and the missions operations teams so that the timeline allocated to the astronauts on the Moon was orderly, achievable and did not tax their stamina. These planned traverses were also sent to MSFC, where the LRV traverse team of Otha "Skeet" Vaughan and E.C. Smith, as well as the electrical and the thermal teams, could run Power Profile Analysis and thermal models to predict power consumption and temperatures. Mission and EVA planning was also essential to establish training procedures. Some aspects of this training had already been established, such as LRV deployment and outfitting, but there were subtle changes with regard to new sampling tools and other equipment.

The Apollo Field Geology Investigation Team was responsible for planning the geologic exploration at Taurus-Littrow and for preparing the crew for the scientific tasks to be performed on the lunar surface. It would also provide geologic guidance

Capt. Eugene Cernan (right) and Harrison Schmitt photographed in August 1972 on LRV-3 during vehicle and Lunar Module tests inside the High Bay of the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building at KSC. The LRV sits on a stand to protect the flight unit from damage. (NASA)

during the mission EVAs through the Mission Control CapCom, and would interpret the results of the field observations. William Muehlberger was the Principal Investigator and he was joined by more than two dozen of the most experienced and respected geologists and scientists involved with lunar science and exploration. Practically all of them had been involved with previous Apollo missions. Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt, who would be on the lunar surface with Eugene Cernan, was also part of the geologic consortium that established the detailed geologic exploration plans.

Orbital photography from Apollo 15 and geologic maps of the Taurus-Littrow region in 1:250,000 scale, 1:50,000 scale and 1:25,000 scale, served as the basis for planning the EVA traverses in detail. As with Apollo 15 and 16, the availability of the Lunar Roving Vehicle allowed the planning teams a wider radius of operations from the Lunar Module. This time, it could encompass the North Massif, the South Massif, the Sculptured Hills, and numerous sizable craters, as well as the scarp within Taurus-Littrow. Littrow Crater was, in fact, far to the north and well outside the area to be explored. Up to now, most of the craters within the valley of Taurus-Littrow were unnamed, but for the purposes of mission and traverse planning, they would have to be identified. Harrison Schmitt was actively involved in this effort and his choices reflected his interests in literature, geology, exploration and the history of western man. Eugene Cernan contributed several names, as did Robert A. Parker and geologists James Head, Edward Wolfe, and Beth Williams.

"We couldn't have done without it," Muehlberger said of the LRV's contribution to Apollo 17 EVA planning during our interview. "That's the reason we landed at these more complex landing sites. We knew we had the rover, which would save us energy and consumables. You could stay out longer. They also had better space suits, so instead of five-hour capability, you had seven. Both of those things contributed mightily to our planning. Apollo 17 was different in the sense that we had incredibly good photography. The Apollo 15 Service Module mapping camera from sixty-five nautical miles above the lunar surface gave us two-meter resolution. That really gives you a different capability in planning. We could see these huge boulders that had rolled down the sides of the massifs, and some went all the way to the bottom. That is why, of course, we went to those specific boulders, because we could put them back up there where they belonged, so to speak, and maybe that way get a little better geologic context into how that eight-or nine-thousand-foot massif face was put together. That was our rationale for sampling those big boulders.''

With this mission, the primary EVA traverses using the LRV were established by September 1972, but considerable planning also went into contingency traverses. There was a contingency traverse plan for one astronaut on the LRV, which eliminated the first EVA traverse but essentially kept the traverses planned for EVA-2 and EVA-3. In the event of the LRV not functioning upon deployment, contingency walking traverses were planned for each EVA that entailed shorter distances and fewer sampling stops. There was a traverse plan in the event that the Lunar Module landed as far as 2.7 km north of the targeted location, and another covering a landing the same distance south.

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