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David R. Scott, Commander, Apollo 15

The importance of the Apollo Flight Journal, and its predecessor, the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal, can perhaps best be illustrated by comparing the intellectual resources invested in the early voyages of lunar exploration with those invested in the early voyages of Earth exploration.

Before Captain James Cook embarked on his historic first voyage to the South Pacific and Australia, he invested three months in its preparation, using his crew of 70 to prepare the bark Endeavour; gather equipment, provisions, and instruments; and generally plan the expedition. After departing from Plymouth on 26 August 1768, he spent almost three years conducting the first truly scientific expedition by sea, arriving back in England on 15 July 1771. During the voyage, Captain Cook maintained a handwritten Journal describing significant events and activities in several lines of narrative each day. His original Journal was not published until 122 years after he returned (London, Elliot Stock, 1893). But a comprehensive analysis of his entries, including a detailed description of his ship, equipment, and instruments, scientific results, and anecdotes of interest, was not published until almost 185 years later (Beaglehole, The Journals of Captain James Cook on his voyages of discovery, Cambridge, University Press, Vol. I, 1955).

In comparison, NASA-of-Apollo invested 20 months in the preparation of the Apollo 15 mission - using more than 100,000 people to prepare the launch vehicles and spacecraft; gather equipment, provisions, and instruments; and generally plan the expedition. After departing Cape Kennedy on 26 July 1971, the crew spent 12 days conducting the first extended scientific exploration of the Moon. However, because of the enormous amount of intellectual capital invested in preparing the mission (100,000 times 20 months) as well as the added dimensions of "modern technology," the exploratory information gathered during the mission could not be comprehensively recounted in brief daily journal entries (as per Captain Cook). Only now, with the time available to compile and analyze these highly-compressed minute-by-minute events and activities do we see the emergence of a comprehensive record of the mission to include technical explanations, preliminary scientific results, and anecdotes of interest.

The significance of the Apollo 15 mission in particular (as being the first entry in the Apollo Flight Journal) is perhaps best summarized by the FOREWORD to the Apollo 15 Preliminary Science Report:

In richness of scientific return, the Apollo 15 voyage to the plains at Hadley compares with voyages of Darwin's H.M.S.Beagle, and those of the Endeavour and Resolution. Just as those epic ocean voyages set the stage for a revolution in the biological sciences and exploration generally, so also the flight of Falcon and Endeavour did the same in planetary and Earth sciences and will guide the course of future explorations.

The boundary achievements of Apollo 15 cannot now be established. As an author of a following paper points out, the mission was not finished at splashdown in the Pacific, nor later with painstaking analysis in scores of laboratories of the samples and cores brought back, nor with careful study of the photographic imagery and instrument traces returned home. For the distinctive fact is that the mission is not yet over. Data still flow in daily from the isotope-powered station emplaced on the plain at Hadley, and from the Moon-encircling scientific satellite left in orbit. This data flow is of exceptional value because it now affords, for the first time, a triangulation of lunar events perceived by the three physically separated scientific stations that man has left on the Moon.

This volume is the first, though assuredly not the final, effort to assemble a comprehensive accounting of the scientific knowledge so far acquired through this remarkable mission.

Dr. James C. Fletcher


National Aeronautics and Space Administration

December 8, 1971

Both NASA-of-Apollo and the crew of Apollo 15 are grateful to the editors and compilers of both the Apollo Flight Journal and the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal for their significant contributions to history as well as their investment of substantial intellectual resources in preparing these records of extraordinary value.

David R. Scott

September 1998

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