Return And Splashdown

On 6 August, day twelve of the mission, Joe Allen woke the crew and then gave them a detailed news update of the happenings on Earth. Allen also had news about the LRV communications system that had been left on.

''Endeavour, this is Houston with a final update concerning the trusty LCRU on the lunar surface. We turned it on yesterday, and it worked beautifully for about thirteen minutes. We . . . were panning around, zooming in and out, and got a few more good pictures of the surrounding mountains, and suddenly we lost the TM [telemetry] downlink. In fact, we lost everything in a very short time, about 1/60 of a second, almost as though someone had turned it off. We waited a while and tried to reactivate it, and did such things as send signals back to it to pan around, while we looked carefully on the passive seismometer for evidence of motion. Apparently it was not responding to the signals. The temperatures were completely normal right before it went off the air. We're not exactly sure what happened.''

Shortly after the LCRU update to the crew, Mission Control held an on-board press conference. Questions from the press were posed to the astronauts to get their response regarding their successful mission. One question was put to Jim Irwin by the CapCom: ''You described the Lunar Rover as a bucking bronco on the Moon. Would you elaborate and assess the rover's performance and tell us what changes you recommend for the 1972 model?''

''Well,'' Irwin responded, ''there were several times there when we were riding along where we hit a sizable bump and you could see the wheels come off the ground and float through the air [sic], but Dave should comment more as far as the driving. It was really like a bucking bronco, that's true, because I was strapped in. As you know, Dave had to strap me in because I had trouble with my seatbelt, but I really did feel I was on a bucking bronco.''

''I think I might add to that,'' Scott responded. ''It's a very stable machine, but because of the /6 gravity, it tends to float. In the simulator we ran in Houston, we saw the same amplitudes, the same degree of bouncing but a different damping. In other words, the vehicle would come off the ground - one wheel normally would come off the ground - and it would take somewhat longer to return to the ground than expected. I think it is just a matter of becoming accustomed to the driving. It's a very stable vehicle. The suspension system is excellent. We had to make some sharp avoidance turns periodically, and in these turns we could tell the vehicle was quite stable - no tendency to turn over whatsoever. I think the only recommendation we really have would be to come up with a new idea on a seatbelt arrangement and we have discussed that also. I think we have some suggestions that we can make when we get back to ensure that you can have both crewmen securely in their seats in a short period of time. Other than that, I think the vehicle is about as optimum as you can build.''

The lunar geologic findings from Apollo 15 were considered the most significant of all the missions to date and scientists were eager to examine the core samples, soil and rocks being brought back. Getting a scientist among the last Apollo crews had been a political tug-of-war for several years and Harrison ''Jack'' Schmitt had finally been selected to be the Lunar Module Pilot on an Apollo mission. A trained geologist -and one who had actually helped to train the astronauts in their lunar missions - was himself now going to go to the Moon. The question was posed to Dave Scott:

''In view of your comment to geologist Lee Silver about the need for trained scientists on the Moon, do you think scientist-astronaut Jack Schmitt should be included in the crew of Apollo 17, the last of the Apollos?''

''Well, since I really have very little say-so as to which people get selected for which crews,'' Scott responded carefully, ''I might sort of bypass it by the one comment that I think the more qualified a man is on the Moon, the more results you're going to get. I think that's one of the reasons that we put as much time as we did into the geological aspects in the hope of learning enough to bring back some significant data. I think in any situation such as this - any scientific endeavor - you want the most qualified people as possible. You must also remember this is a highly complex operational mission. It requires a great deal of training and skill in order to fly these machines. I think, in particular, Jack Schmitt is a highly qualified individual

in both aspects. And I believe it's up to the management that when they select the crews they select the best people for the flight.''

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