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Apollo 14

February 5, 2021

The Moon has a bright companion at dawn tomorrow — Antares, the brightest star of Scorpius, which is close to the lower right of the Moon.

Fifty years ago today, another Antares got even closer to the Moon — the lunar module for Apollo 14. It landed in a region known as Fra Mauro. It was the intended landing site for Apollo 13, which had to abort.

Landing Antares wasn’t easy, either. A bad switch was trying to tell its computer to abort. And its radar didn’t work until the last minute. Yet Alan Shepard and Ed Mitchell made a pinpoint landing.

MITCHELL: 20 feet. 10. Three feet per second. Contact, Al! SHEPARD: Stop. Pro, auto, auto. MITCHELL: We’re on the surface. MISSION CONTROL: Roger, Antares. MITCHELL: That was a beautiful one. SHEPARD: Okay, we’re slightly off. We landed on a slope, but other than that we’re in great shape, right on the landing site.

In fact, Antares landed less than a hundred feet from its target spot. That allowed Shepard and Mitchell to try to reach the rim of a nearby crater. The effort was even tougher than landing, though — they had to stop less than a hundred feet short of the rim.

During two moonwalks, though, they gathered almost a hundred pounds of rocks and dirt. And the astronauts set up instruments that worked for years — the legacy of Antares.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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