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17th of February 2021
The 50th anniversary of Apollo 14
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 14 mission to the moon. Crewed by Alan Shepard, Ed Mitchell and Stuart Roosa, the Command Module, Kitty Hawk, and Lunar Module, Antares, were launched from Cape Kennedy on 31 January 1971 (UT), with splashdown back on Earth 9 days later. There had been -- understandably -- a lengthy delay following the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission in April 1970 to ensure there was no repetition of the problems encountered during that flight. As Hamish Lindsay recounts in his essay on the honeysucklecreek.net website, that should not suggest that Apollo 14 was without its dramatic moments: there were problems redocking the Lunar Module with the Command Module en route to the moon, and during the descent of the Lunar Module to the moon's surface, problems with the Abort switch, and then the landing radar, threatened the success of the mission. However, these were overcome, and Shephard and Mitchell were able to collect 42 kg of lunar samples, and deploy the Apollo Lunar Scientific Experiments Package. This included experiments led by Australian Brian O'Brien, who passed away last year and was posthumously made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the 2021 Australia Day Honours. The image above shows Alan Shepard on the moon's surface, as seen by Ed Mitchell through the LM window. (Image credit: NASA image AS14-66-9230 and honeysucklecreek.net)

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