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The Famous Spilled Coffee Episode

An Account by Mel Brooks

Prepared for the Apollo 17 15th Anniversary Reunion
adapted by Harald Kucharek, with permission, from
Apollo EECOM: Journey of a Lifetime
by Sy Liebergot with David Harland
Apogee Books, Burlington, Ontario, 2003.

It was during the Apollo 16 mission. I was at my console in SPAN. Jack Schmitt (better known as "Doctor Rock") was talking to me over my console. He was standing in a narrow walkway behind the row of consoles, leaning over my console. He had a cup of coffee in his hand. Someone squeezed past him, bumped him, and the coffee spilled into my console through the ducted top (for air cooling); sparks flew; smoke billowed out; the CRT went dead. I killed power to the console. Jack decided to look inside and survey the damage. He lifted the top access panel from the back (it was hinged at the front) tilting it forward. I don't guess Jack realized we had this rack mounted on top of the consoles, on which we stored our operational documents. Well, he tilted the panel and the documernts crashed down upon the row of consoles, thereby knocking over about 3 more cups of coffee, and spilling over lots of log books, flight plans, cal comps, etc. Instinctively, the occupants of the consoles leaped back to avoid getting hot coffee spilled in their laps. As they did so, they crashed into people standing between the rows of consoles, who in turn bumped into the people seated at that row of consoles. This resulted in about 3 or 4 cups of coffee being spilled along the 2nd row of consoles.

In about 30 seconds, Dr. Rock had started a chain reaction which just about wiped out the SPAN room. We spent the next couple of hours cleaning up. During the Apollo 17 mission, we (SPAN) had the CapCom tell Jack Schmitt that the guys in SPAN wanted him to know that it was very peaceful in the SPAN, no spilled coffee, and that we were glad he was on the Moon.

With fond memories,
Mel Brooks, FOD SPAN Rep.

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