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Apollo 10

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Apollo 10

Apollo 10
Apollo 10's Lunar Module, Snoopy, approaches the Command/Service Module Charlie Brown for redocking
Mission type F
Operator NASA[1]
COSPAR ID CSM: 1969-043A
LM: 1969-043C
SATCAT № CSM: 3941
LM: 3948
Mission duration 8 days, 3 minutes, 23 seconds
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft Apollo CSM-106
Apollo LM-4
Manufacturer CSM: North American Rockwell
LM: Grumman
Launch mass 98,273 pounds (44,576 kg)
Landing mass 10,901 pounds (4,945 kg)
Crew size 3
Members Thomas P. Stafford
John W. Young
Eugene A. Cernan
Callsign CSM: Charlie Brown
LM: Snoopy
Start of mission
Launch date May 18, 1969, 16:49:00 (1969-05-18T16:49Z) UTC
Rocket Saturn V SA-505
Launch site Kennedy LC-39B
End of mission
Landing date Did not recognize date. Try slightly modifying the date in the first parameter. UTC
Landing site
Orbital parameters
Reference system Selenocentric
Periselene 109.6 kilometers (59.2 nmi)
Aposelene 113.0 kilometers (61.0 nmi)
Inclination 1.2 degrees
Period 2 hours
Lunar orbiter
Spacecraft component Command/Service Module
Orbital insertion May 21, 1969, 20:44:54 UTC
Departed orbit May 24, 1969, 10:25:38 UTC
Orbits 31
Lunar orbiter
Spacecraft component Lunar Module
Orbits 4
Orbit parameters
Periselene 14.4 kilometers (7.8 nmi)
Docking with LM
Docking date May 18, 1969, 20:06:36 UTC
Undocking date May 22, 1969, 19:00:57 UTC
Docking with LM Ascent Stage
Docking date May 23, 1969, 03:11:02 UTC
Undocking date May 23, 1969, 05:13:36 UTC

Left to right: Cernan, Stafford, Young

Apollo program
← Apollo 9 Apollo 11

Apollo 10 was the fourth manned mission in the United States Apollo space program, and the second (after Apollo 8) to orbit the Moon. Launched on May 18, 1969, it was the F mission: a "dress rehearsal" for the first Moon landing, testing all of the components and procedures, just short of actually landing. The Lunar Module (LM) came to within 8.4 nautical miles (15.6 km) of the lunar surface, the point where the powered descent to the lunar surface would begin.[2] Its success enabled the first landing to be attempted on Apollo 11 in July, 1969.

According to the 2002 Guinness World Records, Apollo 10 set the record for the highest speed attained by a manned vehicle at 39,897 km/h (11.08 km/s or 24,791 mph) during the return from the Moon on May 26, 1969.

Due to the use of their names as call signs, the Peanuts characters Charlie Brown and Snoopy became semi-official mascots for the mission.[3] Peanuts creator Charles Schulz also drew some special mission-related artwork for NASA.


Position Astronaut
Commander Thomas P. Stafford
Third spaceflight
Command Module Pilot John W. Young
Third spaceflight
Lunar Module Pilot Eugene A. Cernan
Second spaceflight

Backup crew

Position Astronaut
Commander L. Gordon Cooper, Jr.
Command Module Pilot Donn F. Eisele
Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell

Support crew

Flight directors

Crew notes

Apollo 10 was the first of only two Apollo missions with an entirely flight-experienced crew (the other being Apollo 11). Thomas P. Stafford had flown on Gemini 6 and Gemini 9; John W. Young had flown on Gemini 3 and Gemini 10, and Eugene A. Cernan had flown with Stafford on Gemini 9.

In addition, Apollo 10 marked the only Saturn V flight from Launch Complex 39B, as preparations for Apollo 11 at LC-39A had begun in March almost immediately after Apollo 9's launch.

They were also the only Apollo crew all of whose members went on to fly subsequent missions aboard Apollo spacecraft: Young later commanded Apollo 16, Cernan commanded Apollo 17 and Stafford commanded the US vehicle on the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project.

The Apollo 10 crew holds the distinction of being the humans who have traveled to the farthest point away from home, some 408,950 kilometers (220,820 nmi) from their homes and families in Houston.[4] While most Apollo missions orbited the Moon at the same 111 kilometers (60 nmi) from the lunar surface, timing makes this distinction possible as the distance between the Earth and Moon varies by approximately 43,000 kilometers (23,000 nmi) (between perigee and apogee) throughout the year, and the Earth's rotation make the distance to Houston vary by another 12,000 kilometers (6,500 nmi) each day. The Apollo 10 crew reached the farthest point in their orbit around the far side of the Moon at approximately the same time Earth had rotated around putting Houston nearly a full Earth diameter away. The Apollo 13 crew holds the distinction of being the farthest any human has traveled from the Earth's surface.[5]

By the normal rotation in place during Apollo, the backup crew would have been scheduled to fly on Apollo 13. However, Alan Shepard was given the Apollo 13 command slot instead. L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., Commander of the Apollo 10 backup crew, was enraged and resigned from NASA. Later, Shepard's crew was forced to switch places with Jim Lovell's tentative Apollo 14 crew.[6]

Deke Slayton wrote in his memoirs that Cooper and Donn F. Eisele were never intended to rotate to another mission as both were out of favor with NASA management for various reasons (Cooper for his lax attitude towards training and Eisele for incidents aboard Apollo 7 and an extramarital affair) and were assigned to the backup crew simply because of a lack of qualified manpower in the Astronaut Office at the time the assignment needed to be made. Cooper, Slayton noted, had a very small chance of receiving the Apollo 13 command if he did an outstanding job with the assignment, which he did not. Eisele, despite his issues with management, was always intended for future assignment to the Apollo Applications Program (which was eventually cut down to only the Skylab component) and not a lunar mission.[7]

Mission parameters

  • Mass: CSM 28,834 kg; LM 13,941 kg

Earth orbit

Lunar orbit

LM – CSM docking

  • Undocked: May 22, 1969 – 19:00:57 UTC
  • Redocked: May 23, 1969 – 03:11:02 UTC

LM closest approach to lunar surface

  • May 22, 1969, 21:29:43 UTC

On May 22, 1969 at 20:35:02 UTC, a 27.4 second LM descent propulsion system burn inserted the LM into a descent orbit of 60.9 by 8.5 nautical miles (112.8 by 15.7 km) so that the resulting lowest point in the orbit occurred about 15° from lunar landing site 2 (the Apollo 11 landing site). The lowest measured point in the trajectory was 47,400 feet (14.4 km) above the lunar surface at 21:29:43 UTC.[8]

Mission highlights

Earthrise video captured by Apollo 10 crew on 1969

This dress rehearsal for a Moon landing brought the Apollo Lunar Module to 8.4 nautical miles (15.6 km) from the lunar surface, at the point where powered descent would begin on the actual landing. Practicing this approach orbit would refine knowledge of the lunar gravitational field[9] needed to calibrate the powered descent guidance system[10] to within 1 nautical mile (1.9 km) (LR altitude update lock) needed for a landing. Earth-based observations, unmanned spacecraft, and Apollo 8 had respectively allowed calibration to within 200 nautical miles (370 km), 20 nautical miles (37 km), and 5 nautical miles (9.3 km). Except for this final stretch, the mission went exactly as a landing would have gone, both in space and on the ground, putting NASA's flight controllers and extensive tracking and control network through a rehearsal.

Shortly after trans-lunar injection, the Command/Service Module (CSM) separated from the S-IVB stage, turned around, and docked its nose to the top of the Lunar Module (LM) still nestled in the S-IVB. The CSM/LM stack then separated from the S-IVB for the trip to the Moon.

Apollo 10 was the first mission to carry a color television camera inside the spacecraft, and made the first live color TV transmissions from space.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, Young remained alone in the Command Module (CM) Charlie Brown while Stafford and Cernan flew separately in the LM Snoopy. The LM crew demonstrated their craft's radar and engines, rode out a momentary gyration in the lunar lander's motion (due to a faulty switch setting), and surveyed the Apollo 11 landing site in the Sea of Tranquility. The ascent stage was loaded with the amount of fuel it would have had remaining if it had lifted off from the surface and reached the altitude at which the Apollo 10 ascent stage fired. The fueled LM weighed 30,735 pounds (13,941 kg), compared to 33,278 pounds (15,095 kg) for the Apollo 11 LM which made the first landing.[11] Historian Craig Nelson wrote that NASA took special precaution to ensure Stafford and Cernan would not attempt to make the first landing. Nelson quoted Cernan as saying "A lot of people thought about the kind of people we were: 'Don't give those guys an opportunity to land, 'cause they might!' So the ascent module, the part we lifted off the lunar surface with, was short-fueled. The fuel tanks weren't full. So had we literally tried to land on the Moon, we couldn't have gotten off."[12][13] In his own memoir, Cernan wrote "Our lander, LM-4...was still too heavy to guarantee safe margins for a moon landing."[14]

Upon separation of the descent stage and ascent engine ignition, the Lunar Module began to roll violently due to the crew accidentally duplicating commands into the flight computer which took the LM out of abort mode, the correct configuration for this maneuver.[15] The live network broadcasts caught Cernan and Stafford uttering several expletives before regaining control of the LM. Cernan has said he observed the horizon spinning eight times over, indicating eight rolls of the spacecraft under ascent engine power. While the incident was downplayed by NASA, the roll was just several revolutions from being unrecoverable, which would have resulted in the LM crashing into the lunar surface.[15]

Splashdown occurred in the Pacific Ocean on May 26, 1969 at 16:52:23 UTC, approximately 400 nautical miles (740 km) east of American Samoa. The astronauts were recovered by the USS Princeton, and subsequently flown to Pago Pago International Airport in Tafuna for a greeting reception, before being flown on a C-141 cargo plane to Honolulu.

Hardware disposition

The LM Snoopy's descent stage was left in orbit, but eventually crashed onto the lunar surface because of the Moon's non-uniform gravitational field; its location was not tracked.

After being jettisoned, Snoopy's ascent stage engine was fired to fuel depletion, sending it on a trajectory past the Moon into a heliocentric orbit.[9][16] All other ascent stages were either left in lunar orbit to eventually crash, intentionally steered into the Moon to obtain readings from seismometers placed on the lunar surface, or else burned up in Earth's atmosphere.[16] Snoopy's ascent stage orbit was not tracked after 1969, and its current location is unknown. In 2011, a group of amateur astronomers in the UK started a project to search for it.[17][18]

The Command Module Charlie Brown is currently on loan to the Science Museum in London, where it is on display. Charlie Brown's Service Module (SM) was jettisoned just before re-entry and burned up in the Earth's atmosphere.

After Apollo 10, NASA required astronauts to choose more "dignified" names for their command and lunar module. The requirement was unenforceable: Apollo 16 astronauts Young, Mattingly and Duke chose Casper, as in Casper the Friendly Ghost, for their Command Module name. The idea was to give children a way to identify with the mission by using humor.[19][20]

After the insertion into trans-Lunar orbit, the Saturn IVB third stage became a derelict object where it would continue to orbit the Sun for many years. As of 2015, it remains in orbit.[21]

Mission insignia

Apollo 10 space-flown silver Robbins medallion

The shield-shaped emblem for the flight shows a large, three-dimensional Roman numeral X sitting on the Moon's surface, in Stafford's words, "to show that we had left our mark." Although it did not land on the Moon, the prominence of the number represents the significant contributions the mission made to the Apollo program. A CSM circles the Moon as an LM ascent stage flies up from its low pass over the lunar surface with its engine firing. The Earth is visible in the background. On the mission patch, a wide, light blue border carries the word APOLLO at the top and the crew names around the bottom. The patch is trimmed in gold. The insignia was designed by Allen Stevens of Rockwell International.[22]


See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Photo description available here.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Glenday 2010, p. 13
  6. ^ Chaikin 2007, pp. 347–48
  7. ^ Slayton & Cassutt 1994, p. 236
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^
  11. ^ Statistical Table 18-12.
  12. ^ Nelson 2009, p. 14
  13. ^ NASA official history makes it plain that there was never a chance for "Snoopy" to land and take off again. "There had been some speculation about whether or not the crew might have landed, having gotten so close. They might have wanted to, but it was impossible for that lunar module to land. It was an early design that was too heavy for a lunar landing, or, to be more precise, too heavy to be able to complete the ascent back to the command module. It was a test module, for the dress rehearsal only, and that was the way it was used. Besides, the discipline on the Apollo program was such that no crew would have made such a decision on its own in any event."
  14. ^ Cernan, p.184
  15. ^ a b "Astronaut Gene Cernan Interview on Apollo 10 - (December 23, 2009)" on YouTube
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ "A version of this article was published concurrently in the British Interplanetary Society's Spaceflight magazine." (June 2008; pp. 220–225).


External links

  • "Apollo 10" at Encyclopedia Astronautica
  • NSSDC Master Catalog at NASA

NASA reports

  • Apollo 10 Press Kit (PDF), NASA, Release No. 69-68, May 7, 1969 (from NASA Program History Office)
  • Apollo 10 Press Kit (PDF), NASA, Release No. 69-68, May 7, 1969 (from NASA Technical Reports Server)
  • The Apollo Spacecraft: A Chronology NASA, NASA SP-4009
  • "Apollo Program Summary Report" (PDF), NASA, JSC-09423, April 1975
  • "Table 2-38. Apollo 10 Characteristics" from NASA Historical Data Book: Volume III: Programs and Projects 1969–1978 by Linda Neuman Ezell, NASA History Series (1988)


  • Apollo 10: "To Sort Out the Unknowns" Official NASA/JSC documentary film, JSC-519 (1969)
  • Apollo 10 16mm onboard film part 1, part 2 raw footage taken from Apollo 10
  • Apollo 10 Moon Orbit Orbital footage of Moon from Apollo 10
  • Mission Transcripts: Apollo 10 at NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC)
  • Images from Apollo 10
  • Apollo launch and mission videos at
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