Lost Missions And A Crew Change

While Jack Schmitt had been nominated under Deke Slayton's crew rotation system to fly a landing mission as a Lunar Module pilot, savage budget cuts would impact heavily on the Apollo programme, causing a vast upheaval in the Astronaut Office with the loss of the final three missions, Apollos 18, 19 and 20. As a consequence, one of the crews that had lost their opportunity to fly to the Moon was the one that would have been officially assigned to Apollo 18 - Schmitt's crew.

Back in 1970, Alan Shepard had called Schmitt into his office, informing the surprised scientist that he would be joining the Apollo 15 back-up crew, with Dick Gordon as mission commander and Vance Brand as Command Module pilot. Their task was to serve as back-ups for the prime crew of Dave Scott, Jim Irwin and Al

Worden. ''We pushed them as hard as we could in the simulations and everything,'' Schmitt recalled in 1999, ''and Dick Gordon and I became a pretty good spacecraft crew, too. Dick would never let me try to land it from the right side; but other than that, we worked together very closely and I think probably flew those simulators as well as the prime crew.'' He then added, ''Of course, that's what any astronaut will tell you.''8

Under the rotation system then in place, Dick Gordon's back-up crew would have later stepped up to become the prime crew for Apollo 18, but as they carried out their back-up duties they began to hear disconcerting rumours about Apollo 19 and 20 facing the axe, with Apollo 18 also under scrutiny and in jeopardy.

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