Mission scientist for the Moon

The role of the mission scientist for Apollo was to interface between the crew and the scientific community. While other members of the support crew handled the hardware and flight operations, the mission scientist would coordinate all the science on the missions, primarily the surface geological surveys and EVA traverses, and would accompany the landing crew during their field trips.

Apollo 11 had the basic objective of achieving the landing and getting the crew home and science was not a priority. Apollo 12 was the back-up to Apollo 11, should the earlier mission not achieve its goal, and though it included two EVAs and more science experiments in the surface package, its primary objective was to consolidate the achievement of reaching the lunar surface. Ed Gibson worked with the Apollo 12 crew on landing choreography, but he was not formally known as the mission scientist. That designation was first used by Tony England for Apollo 13, although he was not called upon for the science on that flight due to the explosion that aborted the lunar mission en route to the Moon. Phil Chapman filled the role for Apollo 14, Joe Allen for Apollo 15, Tony England (again) for Apollo 16 and Robert Parker for Apollo 17.

For Apollo 14, Phil Chapman's role was to bring together the science of the mission, representing the crew and liaising with the scientists and PIs on what the crew could or could not do on the Moon. He also worked as Capcom during the surface EVAs.

On Apollo 15, Joe Allen was the mission scientist on the first of the J-series, super scientific missions to the Moon. It was his responsibility to pull all the science together: "I became very involved in getting scientists to train the crew members in science-related things. I was a sort of integrator, a facilitator for all of those scientific meetings and so on, and it was a great assignment. I found myself being good at translation. In this case I was translating what the scientists wanted to the test pilot astronauts, and what the test pilot astronauts needed to the scientists, who didn't understand that. I think I was quite good at that, and I added a lot to that mission.'' The assignment culminated in being the Capcom during the mission. This Allen found bizarre, because he came from a frugal household in a small town in Indiana, and had never even made a phone call across the Atlantic due to the expense. When he lived in Europe, he wrote letters because it was cheaper. Allen actually talked to astronauts on the Moon before he ever made a phone call across the Atlantic.6

Allen helped to develop Dave Scott's "hammer and feather gravity in a vacuum'' experiment for the flight, based on Chapman's initial idea. He thought it would be fun to try. "I was a teacher, and I love clever little things and got to think what is it about the Moon that might lead to something rather intriguing. One [thing] is gravity, the other is that there is no air.'' Allen also had the responsibility of naming small local craters around the landing and exploration area which would be used as markers during the EVAs. He drew upon his hobbies and interests for the names, as well as characters from fiction and music compositions.

Allen also worked on Apollo 17 and immediately afterwards became an "astronaut without portfolio.'' He worked with a physics group at MSC (with considerable funding) on cosmic ray physics for a while, but although the scientists he worked with

"Mr. Galileo was right.'' Dave Scott drops a geological hammer and a falcon feather to demonstrate objects falling in vacuum to TV audiences during Apollo 15's lunar surface activities in August 1971. This practical demonstration was suggested by Phil Chapman and supported by Joe Allen.

were his peers and very good research physicists of similar age, Allen realised that he was not as able a physicist as he had been several years earlier, because he had been absent on astronaut training and support roles, and his interests had also developed in other areas. He then became assigned to the Outlook for Space study group, bypassing Skylab and ASTP and moving to Washington before returning to work on Shuttle issues.6

For the first year after returning from flight school, Bob Parker had been involved in Skylab issues, attending meetings and committees and "basically, learning by doing,'' as he recalled in his 2002 oral history. When the Apollo 15 support crew was formed in late 1969, Allen was assigned to follow the science and Karl Henize the CM, so Parker took to learning all he could about the Lunar Module. This included trips to the Grumman plant at Bethpage, New York. Initially, this training encompassed the H-series LM with its limited landing resources, but when the missions changed, he had to learn all about the J-series improved LM with extended duration capability and expanded resources. He recalled that during this time, he went from "planning what was going to happen somewhere out there in the future, to working on something that was going to happen in 1971. We were working with real vehicles, on real procedures and with real crew. It was a whole different world from Apollo Applications. It was great.''

During geological field trips for Apollo 15, Parker worked with the back-up crew (Dick Gordon and Jack Schmitt) and Allen with the prime crew (Scott and Irwin). By the time Parker worked as mission scientist for Apollo 17, there was really no need to train the back-up crew (John Young and Charlie Duke) since they had just come off Apollo 16 and were not going to recycle to a new lunar mission. Instead, he worked with Cernan and Schmitt during their Apollo 17 geology field trips.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Courage Conqueror

Courage Conqueror

Do You Want To Be More Courageous, Push Negativity Out Of Your Life, and Have More Self Belief? Learn How, In Just A Very Short Time, You Can Put an END To Your Lack Of Bravery And Feel More In Control Of Your Life Than Ever Before... GUARANTEED.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment