On July 26th, 1971 the Apollo 15 mission with astronauts David Scott, James Irwin, and Al Worden lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. The massive Saturn V carried the Command Module Endeavor and the Lunar Module Falcon into orbit and set the astronauts on a course for the moon. Apollo 15 was the 4th mission where astronauts landed on the moon and the first with the Lunar Roving Vehicle.
Apollo 15 was the first of the extended duration missions to the moon, which carried many improvements that extended the stay on the moon and allowed for greater time spent on moonwalks which in turn returned more science than previous missions.
The Lunar Rover or moon buggy as its become known, allowed Scott and Irwin to travel farther from the Lunar Module than ever before. Enhanced mobility meant they could sample different scientific sites across a wider area of terrain, which gave scientists back on earth a better understanding of the area Apollo 15 landed.
Apollo 15 lasted 12 days, 17 hours, and 12 minutes and the Command Module traveled 1.274 million miles during its journey. We will revisit this mission in a few days to talk about the scientific achievements of Apollo 15.
Next up, on July 26th, 2005, the Space Shuttle Discovery launched on a mission to the ISS. This was the Shuttle’s return to flight after the Columbia disaster in 2003. Discovery was commanded by Eileen Collins, who I talked about just a few days ago.
STS-114 was Collins’s 4th and final spaceflight. The return to flight for STS-114 saw NASA implement new safety features designed to mitigate the risks associated with foam from the external tank impacting the leading edge of the orbiter’s wing.
In addition to new designs and application techniques for the foam on the external tank, NASA initiated new procedures for photographing the orbiter at launch and once it was in space.
There were a few areas on Discovery that were of concern to NASA during this mission. A thermal blanket on the top or dorsal portion of the shuttle was “puffed out” and away from the orbiter. According to a NASA report, there were other issues with the foam insulation, a topic that I will go over tomorrow in more detail.
Photo Credits- NASA