PROJECT APOLLO: THE CONCLUSION

Introduction

At the start of 1973 scientists eagerly awaited the last samples from the moon. Apollo was all but forgotten, however, at NASA's manned space flight centers, which had already shifted gears and were preparing for the next manned projects. In August 1972, when Apollo 17's Saturn V rolled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, two launch vehicles in adjacent bays were being prepared for Skylab's first flight, nine months away. Barely a month after Apollo 17 returned, Skylab program officials completed the design certification review for modifications required at the launch complex. At Houston, Skylab crews - officially named in January 1972 - had been in training since late 1970.1 Crews for Apollo-Soyuz, the joint mission with the Soviet Union, scheduled for mid-1975, were named in early February 1973,2 the same week the first lunar samples from Apollo 17 were released.3

The Manned Spacecraft Center now had nearly 380 kilograms (836 pounds) of samples from the moon - all the lunar material the scientists could expect to get for many years. Besides the samples, there was a mass of data from the lunar-orbital experiments and a continuing flow of information from the lunar surface experiments, most of which were still functioning [see Appendix 5]. Scientists now began to concern themselves with the preservation, description, and cataloging of the samples and the provision of adequate support for a continuing program of research.4


1. W. David Compton and Charles D. Benson, Living and Working in Space: A History of Skylab, NASA SP-4208 (Washington, 1983), p. 231, 247, 220.

2. Edward C. Ezell and Linda N. Ezell, The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, NASA SP-4209 (Washington, 1978), p. 247; "ASTP Crew Named," MSC Roundup, Feb. 2, 1973.

3. "Moon Rocks Issued," ibid.

4. "Post-Apollo Lunar Science," Report of a study by the Lunar Science Institute, July 1972.


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