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Forty years ago today, the Apollo 14 crew launched on their Saturn V rocket, the 6th human flight to the Moon and the third that landed. Following the heart-stopping problems of Apollo 13, almost ten months elapsed before Commander Alan Shepard (the first American in space), Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa, and Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell set off on January 31, 1971. They reached the Moon on February 5, and Shepard and Mitchell walked the Fra Mauro highlands, originally been the target of the aborted Apollo 13 mission. The two astronauts had to scrap a planned rock-collecting trip to the 1,000 foot wide Cone Crater when they became disoriented and almost got lost. Interestingly, recent images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter revealed they were only a little over 30 yards from the crater’s rim when they gave up the search. But they did have many successes as well.
You can read more about Apollo 14 on this NASA website.
Also on this date 50 years ago was the flight that made Alan Shepard’s suborbital Mercury flight possible: the Mercury-Redstone 2 (MR-2) mission carrying Ham, a four-year-old male chimpanzee. The suborbital flight lasted a total of 16 minutes and 39 seconds, and carried the spacecraft 422 nautical miles from the launch site at Cape Canaveral, FL, reaching a maximum altitude of 157 statute miles. The flight reached all its objectives, paving the way for human flights.
When you think about it, 10 years from Ham to Apollo 14 is pretty amazing. But we’re not likely to ever see anything like that again.