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Back-up-Crew Patch

Copyright © 2005 by Ulrich Lotzmann and Eric M. Jones.
All rights reserved.
Scan credits in the Image Library
Last revised 31 October 2017.


Apollo 14 Back-up Crew Patch

Backup-Crew Patch

Journal Contributor Brian Lawrence notes:
"The backup crew (Roadrunner) are depicted waiting
on the Moon for the prime crew (Wile E. Coyote)
to arrive. The Coyote has red fur for Roosa, a pot belly
for Mitchell, and a grey beard for Shepard."


Early in EVA-1, Al and Ed are setting up the MET.

115:03:07 Shepard: Okay. Put it down. (Pause) Let's get the...(Pause) Deploy it while it's still up here. There we go.
[After unfolding the wheels, they have to lock the front legs and handle into place.]
115:03:24 Mitchell: Well, let's see...We've had visitors again.

115:03:28 Shepard: Yeah. Hardly worth mentioning.

115:03:33 Mitchell: Agree. (Pause)

[Jones - "I had heard that the backup crew had put notes in lots of places on the spacecraft. Did you just find one on the MET?"]

[Mitchell - "I think what we're talking about there is one of their patches, because they put the goddamn things all over the spacecraft and, whenever we opened up something, there would be one of them. It had a Roadrunner on it and was a parody of our patch."]

[The exchange 'Visitors...hardly worth mentioning,' is, of course, a very dry, joking dismissal of the backup crew.]


On 16 May 2005, while reviewing the 16-mm film of the flag depoyment, Ulli Lotzmann spotted what is undoubtedly a backup-crew patch on the back of Al's PLSS.

Backs of both PLSSs

Shepard's PLSS has the usual NASA patch at the top - just below the US flag on the back of the OPS - and an extraneous patch about halfway down on the right. Mitchell's PLSS has nothing at that location.

The images from the 16-mm film of the flag deployment doesn't provide enough detail to establish that we are seeing a backup-crew patch. Lotzmann points to a short TV sequence with a somewhat better image of the suspect patch. However, even in this case, the image quality isn't good enough to allow a determination.

Back of A14 PLSSs

Comparison of the lunar surface TV image with the two patches
Subsequently, Lotzmann located TV images from the initial LM inspection which show the back of Al Shepard's PLSS. He writes, "As the light conditions in the LM were very poor during this broadcast, I used a couple of still frames and stacked them together to get an image with lower noise. Without this digital enhancement, you see almost no detail."

Back of A14 PLSSs

Comparison of the LM-Inspection TV image with the two patches.
The extraneous patch on the back of Shepard's PLSS is clearly a backup-crew patch


Finally, in October 2017 while reviewing the 16-mm film of the ALSEP depoyment, Ulli Lotzmann found undoubtable proof of a backup-crew patch on the back of Al's PLSS. (Click here for a higher-resolution version.) Note that the patch is positioned over the second Velcro strip up from the bottom on the right, which meant that the Backup Crew could attach the patch to the PLSS via a complementary Velcro strip attached to the back of the patch.

Back of Shepard PLSS


Lotzmann notes that Shepard and Mitchell seem to have removed the backup-crew patch from the back of Shepard's PLSS during their time in the cabin between the EVAs, as indicated by the following contrast-enhanced detail from AS14-68-9422 taken during the climb to Cone Crater.

Back of Shepard PLSS during EVA-2

Contrast-enhanced view of the back of Shepard's PLSS during EVA-2.
(Click on the image for a larger version.)


The Apollo 14 crew was the last Apollo crew to be placed in quarantine at the Lunar Receiving Lab after their mission. Sometime after they emerged, a Splashdown party was held and, on that occasion, Shepard presented Back-up Commander Gene Cernan with a wooden plaque - fabricated at the Manned Spacecraft Center Machine Shop under the supervision of Bill Whipkey - with the flown Backup Crew Patch from the back of Shepard's PLSS glued to the plaque.

Front of the plaque presented to Cernan

Plaque label

Plaque reverse

The fourth photo is this series shows
the front and back surfaces of the flown patch, with a Velcro strip on the back of the patch for mating with Velcro on the back of Shepard's PLSS. Remnants of the glue used to attach the flown patch to the plaque are visible.

front and back of the flown patch


The final chapter in the story of the flown 'Beep-Beep' Backup-Crew Patch came in 2009 when Gene Cernan shared it - if only for a moment - with Ed Mitchell. From Gene's expression, he was clearly delighted to have another 'Gotcha' moment at Ed's expense.

Back of Shepard PLSS

Sadly, both Ed Mitchell (September 17, 1930 - February 4, 2016) and Gene Cernan (March 14, 1934 - January 16, 2017) are now gone.


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