Apollo 14: back in business

Apollo 14After nearly a year of examining the problems that nearly doomed the crew of Apollo 13, the third lunar landing is achieved by the crew of Apollo 14, commanded by Alan Shepard, the only one of the seven original Mercury astronauts to walk on the moon; lunar module pilot Edgar Mitchell joins him on the surface while Stu Roosa orbits in the command module Kitty Hawk. The Apollo 14 lunar module, Antares, makes the most accurate landing of the Apollo program in the Fra Mauro highlands (the landing site originally assigned to Apollo 13), where soil samples are collected, instruments are deployed, and Shepard becomes the first human being to hit a golf ball on the moon.

The national emergency that wasn’t

Emergency Broadcast SystemsA simple accidental tape swap at the Emergency Broadcast System‘s point of origination at NORAD replaces a routine Saturday morning EBS test with an actual emergency message involving a national emergency and an imminent message from the White House. In accordance with FCC rules, numerous radio and television stations across the country interrupt their programming in anticipation of news of a national emergency that isn’t actually happening. The situation is corrected within an hour, though questions about the effectiveness of the EBS linger at the local and national levels.

Shuttle thermal protection system chosen

Space Shuttle concept artPotential contractors for NASA’s upcoming Space Shuttle offer specs based on their final design studies, which still assume that the shuttle’s giant booster will be a manned, winged vehicle in its own right that will return to a runway on Earth after its fuel is used up. One thing that both studies suggest, however, is an aluminum airframe which requires a shift away from the ablative metallic heat shields of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. A system of carbon-reinforced “shingles” is suggested as an alternative, and is approved by NASA, though developing the technology to create, install and maintain these tiles delays the first Shuttle launch into the 1980s, and the tiles are still prone to damage during both launch and re-entry – a weakness that will eventually seal the end of the Space Shuttle era.

Salyut 1: the first space station

SalyutSalyut 1, the first orbiting space station in history is launched, unmanned, by the Soviet Union. With Salyut 1, the Soviet space program intends to vault ahead of the United States in a new space discipline (namely long stays in space and the study of human endurance in a zero-G environment), having lost the moon race. The first Salyut station will orbit Earth for less than a year.