The lunar dust problem returns

The only problem Cernan and Schmitt did have with the rover was the loss of the right rear fender extension. The temporary repair Cernan had made using the tape failed on their return to the LM.

"I think you have lost a fender. I keep getting rained on here,'' Schmitt remarked.

"Oh, no!'' the Commander exclaimed.

"Look at our rooster tail,'' Schmitt observed. "Look what's ahead of us here.''

"Yeah, that's probably it. It probably didn't stay. I can see it in the shadow.'' Due to the direction they were traveling and the angle of the Sun, Cernan could see the shadow of the lunar soil being thrown up and forward.

"Look at that fender. Look at the dust it's produced. Look at the LCRU,'' Cernan added as they headed for the Surface Electrical Properties (SEP) site, clearly concerned. Cernan wasn't the only one concerned. The engineers listening in the LRV management interface control room of the Huntsville Operations Support Center (HOSC) knew the missing fender extension would wreak havoc on the LRV's electrical systems, because extra dust was being deposited on the dust covers and could then get into the space radiators and increase the temperatures of the electronics. Cernan and Schmitt had not even completed their first EVA and already the lost fender extension was creating problems, not just for the LRV but for the astronauts' suits as well. A solution to this problem would have to be found, and the telephone lines between Houston and Huntsville came to life to work on the problem. In the meantime, Cernan reinitialized the LRV's navigation system in order to get a true north-south and east-west orientation and used the LRV to lay out

The Station 6 stop was this large split boulder near the base of the North Massif. Cernan climbed up the steep slope above the boulder to get this photo. Schmitt sampled the lunar soil thrown onto the surface of the boulder after its impact. He is carrying the gnomon. (NASA)

tracks so that the SEP antenna wires would be accurately deployed. At the intersection of the tracks, Schmitt placed the transmitter and together they unreeled the antennas, measuring 35 meters from the transmitter.

"Oh, boy; the thing that makes me sick is losing that fender. I can stand a lot of things, but I sure don't like that,'' Cernan complained as he helped lay out the antennas. "Man, I hate this dust. I got to make a new fender tonight.''

"Hey, Gene, I presume that the fender that came off is the fender that came off before, right?" Parker asked.

"Yeah, same one. My tape didn't hold; it was too dusty,'' Cernan said. They finished configuring the SEP and Schmitt collected some larger samples and placed them in the Sample Return Container. The missing fender extension continued to haunt Cernan. Minutes later, he voiced his concern again.

"Boy, that one fender just is an order of magnitude more of a dust problem,'' Cernan remarked as he dusted off the LCRU and battery covers. Schmitt offered to help with the dusting task.

"Well, I need a fender, that's what I need. Figure out something we can make a fender with,'' he said to Schmitt as well as to Mission Control in Houston.

"How about one of the others that's not as critical?'' Schmitt queried.

"Yeah, but I wouldn't ever take one of those off! You know, I had one to put on and it didn't stay, which is what I figured.''

"I thought you said it was broken, though?''

"Well, it was,'' Cernan answered. "But these aren't supposed to come off, either, unless you break them. I broke that one. My hammer got caught underneath it. It wasn't the fender's fault.''

Minutes later, a curious event occurred involving the LRV's High-Gain Antenna. Schmitt and Cernan were stowing samples in bags and then containers, when Cernan noticed flying debris.

"What are those things going over? What is that, Jack? Hey, something just hit here!'' Cernan looked around to try to determine what had occurred. "What blew? Hey, what is that?''

"Oh, your antenna .. .It's that Styrofoam off the High-Gain Antenna package,'' Schmitt observed.

"No, the one you deployed. The Rover's High-Gain Antenna,'' Schmitt explained, just as another piece of insulating foam exploded from the antenna.

"My God, it blew up!'' Cernan stated in amazement.

"Yeah," Schmitt said in response.

"Look at that stuff, it just keeps flying over the top of our heads! I thought we were the closest witnesses to a lunar meteor impact. I wonder if that's the same glass I picked up?''

"John says it blew up on his mission too, guys,'' Parker said, when John Young relayed the information to Parker that the same phenomenon had happened during Apollo 16. Cernan prepared to configure the LRV's circuit breakers before leaving to return to the LM.

"One thing we'd like before you guys leave the rover is a fairly good description of what happened to the rear fender when it came off. Is the damage primarily to the piece that you've lost, or are the rails on the pieces remaining fairly bad?'' Parker asked.

"Well, a piece of the rail on the aft inboard side here ...'' Cernan said, pausing as he looked at the damaged fender. "The rail isn't missing; it's just a piece of the flange, the rail that fits against the fender [that's missing]. But that doesn't hold any part of the fender on. I don't remember what I saw on the [missing] fender. The rails look pretty good, Bob. And I had one of them completely on, and I just couldn't get the other one on. If I had known what that dust was [going to be like], I would have tried an awful lot harder.''

"Do you have any feeling that you could get away with putting a front fender on?'' Parker asked, the question having been passed up to him from the LRV teams in Houston and Huntsville.

"Well, I have done it before, but it's not easy.''

"Okay, as far as you can tell, so that we can look at it overnight, the rear fender -the part that's remaining - looks in fairly good shape, right?'' Parker asked.

"Let me take a good look at it,'' Cernan answered. "Yeah, the part you need, I think, to hold that fender on.''

"Okay, we'll take a look at it here while you're sleeping,'' Parker offered. Cernan opened the LCRU blanket to 100 per cent and opened the battery covers. He had been diligent in keeping the LRV's critical components dusted periodically, but it was not just the rover but each astronaut's suit that had to be dusted off as much as possible. The lunar dust was tenacious, clinging to the fabric of their suits, metal surfaces and even their visors. They prepared to take their samples aboard the LM and completed closing out their first EVA at Taurus-Littrow.

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