Mysterious and unknown Descartes

Capt. John Young banked his T-38 over Patrick Air Force Base and made his approach for landing. He could see the massive Vehicle Assembly Building and the SA-511 Moon rocket standing majestically on Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center to the north. As Mission Commander, it was still his Saturn V, the Lunar Module Orion was still his to land on the Descartes Highlands, and LRV-2 was still his to drive on the Moon. Apollo 16 was still his mission, but it almost didn't happen. In the midst of Apollo's greatest exploratory discoveries, the program in 1972 was in financial and political freefall. Apollo 16, and Apollo 17 that would launch later that year, had suffered a near-death experience in the summer of 1971, brought on by events in 1970.

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