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50 Years Ago: One Week to Apollo 10

The May 18, 1969, launch of Apollo 10 was only one week away, and the flight crew of Commander Thomas P. Stafford, Lunar Module Pilot Eugene A. Cernan, and Command Module Pilot John W. Young, at the time the most experienced crew to fly in space, was finishing up their training. Apollo 10 was the second crewed flight into lunar orbit and the first to include all components of the Apollo spacecraft. The eight-day mission was a dress rehearsal for the first human lunar landing, scheduled for July 1969, to meet President John F. Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. The flight duplicated all aspects of the landing mission with the exception of the landing itself, with Stafford and Cernan aboard their Lunar Module (LM) Snoopy coming within 50,000 feet of the surface while Young waited aboard the Command Module (CM) Charlie Brown. In addition to gaining experience navigating two spacecraft in lunar orbit, the astronauts would take the most detailed photographs yet of the Apollo 11 landing site.

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Left: Apollo 10 astronauts (left to right) Cernan, Young, and Stafford pose in front of their Saturn V.
Right: Launch Control Center Firing Room during the Apollo 10 Countdown Demonstration Test.

During the recently completed Countdown Demonstration Test, managers gave final approval to fly a color TV system in the CM. Engineers modified a black-and-white Westinghouse camera with a color wheel. The camera was equipped with a zoom lens and had low-light capability. Engineers added a three-inch monitor providing the cameraman in the spacecraft a black-and-white image of what he’s transmitting. “We hope to be able to share with you some of the experiences and things that go behind the ‘gee whiz’ and ‘golly, isn’t that beautiful,’” said Cernan. Up to 12 transmission opportunities were added to Apollo 10’s flight plan.

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Left: Color TV camera system with monitor. Right: Apollo 10 astronauts (left to right) Young, Cernan, and
Stafford receive a spacecraft systems briefing as launch day approaches.

Nearing the end of their training, the Apollo 10 astronauts received their final briefings on spacecraft systems and lunar topography, completed their final simulator runs, and had a little time to relax with NASA managers who began arriving for the launch. Close to launch day, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew paid them a visit and they enjoyed a meal together. The pre-count for the launch began on May 14, with the terminal countdown starting at T-28 hours.

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Left: Apollo 10 astronauts enjoy a light-hearted moment with the Vice-President (left to right) Cernan, Agnew holding
a Snoopy doll, Stafford, and Young. Right: Apollo 10 prime and backup crews enjoy a meal with NASA managers.

Looking beyond Apollo 10, workers were preparing for the rollout later in May of the Saturn V for the Apollo 11 mission to Pad 39A. In preparation for that event, inside the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) technicians electrically connected the spacecraft to the rocket for testing. Elsewhere in the VAB, workers stacked the first stage of the Saturn V for the Apollo 12 mission on its Mobile Launch Platform. The upper two stages were on their way to KSC from their assembly plants. The CM and LM for Apollo 12 were undergoing testing in the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building.

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Left: Apollo 11 spacecraft being lowered onto the Saturn V’s third stage in April 1969.
Right: First stage of the Saturn V for Apollo 12 being lowered onto the Mobile Launch Platform.