The second Lunar Grand Prix

Back at the LM, Duke got off and took the 16 mm Data Acquisition Camera from the rover in preparation for Young to perform the planned lunar Grand Prix. After the problems that plagued the 16 mm DAC on Apollo 15, the camera had received modifications to resolve the problems and prevent their occurrence on Apollo 16. Duke walked about fifty meters away and once he told Young the camera was rolling, Young began the test with a hard acceleration. Almost immediately, the LRV began rocking fore and aft in response to going in and out of small craters at 10 kph.

''He's got about two wheels on the ground,'' Duke commented to Houston. ''There's a big rooster tail out of all four wheels and as he turns, he skids. The back end breaks loose just like on snow. Come on back, John. And the DAC is running. Man, I'll tell you, Indy's never seen a driver like this. Okay, when he hits the craters and starts bouncing is when he gets his rooster tail. He makes sharp turns. Hey, that was a good stop. Those wheels just locked.''

Young made another run for Duke to film. The original plan was to get four or five minutes' worth of film of the Grand Prix, but England felt that the two runs Duke had described would give NASA, Boeing and GM all the information they wanted, so the test was cut short. Young then armed the mortar package and Duke deployed the Solar Wind Composition Experiment. Duke then reported the relevant LRV navigation readouts, battery and motor temperatures to England in Houston. With the samples they had collected and described to the geologists through their communications, it was slowly becoming evident that Descartes had not experienced recent volcanism, as had been strongly believed.

''My general impression of this thing is [that] I'm a lot more surprised at how really beat up this place is,'' Young admitted. ''It must be the oldest stuff around, because it's just craters on top of craters on top of craters. I mean, there's some really big old subdued craters that we don't even have mapped on our photo map, I'm sure of it.''

Young opened the LCRU covers to sixty-five per cent. They placed Big Muley near the MESA until the end of their mission. With the rest of the EVA-1 samples safely in the Sample Return Containers, they did their best to dust themselves off and then the two astronauts re-entered Orion. They had been on the surface for seven hours during their first EVA. It had been a good first day, except for the loss of the heat flow experiment when Young inadvertently broke the connecting cable with his foot. When they re-pressurized the cabin and took off their helmets, the pungent odor of lunar soil could be smelled. They helped each other get out of their suits, cleaned themselves up as best they could, ate their evening meal, and continued a running dialog with Houston regarding the accomplishments of the day.


On Day 2, Young and Duke would spend the majority of their EVA in the vicinity of Stone Mountain, some four kilometers south of Orion. The day before, Young had said Apollo 16 would change Descartes' image, but the Descartes Highlands had surprises of a different sort in store. The astronauts suited up and exited the LM,

John Young works at the rear of the rover during EVA-2. The Lunar Hand Tool Carrier is in the open position. Note the sample rake. Both the high-gain antenna and the low-gain antenna are pointed almost directly up, towards Earth. ( NASA)

then prepped the rover, loaded the film canisters in their Hasselblads, got on the rover and initialized the navigation system, and then headed off.

Each stop during the EVAs was identified with a station number. They had visited three stations the previous day, so the first stop this time was Station 4 at Stone Mountain. Here, they would really be able to put the rover through its paces and see what it was actually capable of. The rover was going to go mountain climbing, and the NASA and Boeing engineers were listening intently as Duke and Young reached the base of Stone Mountain and looked up. They would take the rover as far up as they could, find a suitable place to park, and take samples and photos.

"The Rover could climb a 25-degree slope,'' said Duke during the interview. "We climbed Stone Mountain, which was to the south, on the second day. That was the steepest slope, and we were about 300 to 400 feet up from the Cayley Plains at the highest point.'' The astronauts had a commanding view of the valley and could even see Orion four kilometers away. Young was impressed that the rover had made such a steep climb so effortlessly, and said so to Houston.

"If anyone had told me this thing could go up the side of that mountain ...'' Young added . . .

"I wouldn't have believed it,'' Duke interjected. "This is a real beauty.''

"We climbed a steeper-than-20-degree hill,'' Young remembered during the interview, thinking back, "because we bottomed out the rover and broke off the pitch indicator. I was really surprised when I looked down Stone Mountain. I wondered how we got up a slope that steep.''

Young found a small plateau where he could park the rover for their Station 4 stop. The antenna was aligned and CapCom Tony England happily remarked that Houston had a picture. Ed Fendell went into action doing a complete pan from that location. Duke took 500 mm photos and noted to England that the rover's right rear wheel was off the ground, an indication of just how rugged their parking position was. The slope of Stone Mountain was littered with blocks, as was visible to those watching in Houston. Both Moon walkers gave detailed descriptions of their samples and general observations, spending an hour on their tasks at Station 4. When they finished the sample collection and photos, they strapped themselves in and prepared to go back down. Duke attempted to start the DAC, but once again, the camera would not work. Had it worked properly, it would have made interesting viewing as the astronauts headed down Stone Mountain. The men felt like they were going to fall out of the front of the rover, but for their seatbelts.

"Okay. Okay, we're going down-slope ... cross-slope, Tony,'' Duke commented, "and I feel like I'm about to fall out.''

They made stops at Station 5 and 6 further down Stone Mountain, but already they could observe from the samples they collected that Descartes had not experienced the volcanic activity they and the scientists on Earth had surmised. The block samples they collected proved that they were part of ejecta from meteor impacts, not from volcanoes. This was confirmed when the samples were examined later.

"At our site,'' Young stated, "they predicted we'd find rille-like volcanic rocks and there were none. They were all anorthosites and anorthositic breccias. That's a totally different kind of rock. We found rocks at our site that were age-dated between 4.2 and 4.5 billion years old.''

As they continued their EVA that day, the two marveled at the stark beauty of the Descartes Highlands against the deep blackness of space. All the astronauts on the Apollo lunar landing missions spoke of this and sometimes the words failed them. How do you describe the indescribable? All their training had not prepared them for this. However, they would all be moved by their experiences on the Moon, in ways both religious and psychological. They were on the Moon in a sliver of time among billions of years.

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