What is Apollo 15 remembered for: the Stone of Genesis, Galileo's experiment and the first lunar rover

Further than ever

Three days after launch, on July 29, Apollo 15 entered lunar orbit. Space

The twin ship consisted of the command service module (CSM) Endeavor, named after Captain James Cook's famous research vessel, and the lunar module (LM) Falcon.

The mission commander, Colonel David Randolph Scott, was on board; Major Alfred Merrill Warden, command module pilot; and Lt. Col. James Benson Irwin, lunar module pilot.

Apollo 15 Crew

NASA

Apollo 15 heralded a more ambitiousphase of the US lunar program. Apollo 11 through 14 were busy getting to the moon and learning more about how to make accurate landings. In turn, "Apollo 15" became the first mission, the purpose of which is to make long research trips over the lunar surface and conduct scientific research both on the lunar surface and in its orbit.

Apollo 15 Templates

NASA

More attention in this mission more timewas given to the scientific training of the crew. As part of the training, astronauts conducted extensive field trips to moon-like regions on Earth to study the geology and practice of the first deep drilling on the satellite's surface.

The journey from Earth was accompanied only byminor issues, the Falcon LM undocked from Endeavor just 25 minutes behind schedule. At the same time, the landing site was much more difficult than in previous missions. Where Apollo 11, 12, and 14 landed near the equator and in the lowlands of the lunar mares, Apollo 15 landed in the higher latitudes on July 30, in the highlands of the lunar Apennines mountain range, at the edge of the Sea of ​​Rains.

First mission with lunar rover

After deploying a new set to the surfacenuclear powered scientific instruments, astronauts raised the American flag and installed an improved high gain communication antenna. Then the astronauts turned their attention to the deployment of the lunar rover.

NASA has been planning to ship for over a decaderover to the moon. The mission was hampered by the lack of knowledge about the nature of the lunar surface and the primitive nature of robotics in the 1960s. It made autonomous operations impossible.

The Lunar Rover had a remote controlled TV camera.

NASA

After the astronauts arrived on the moon, NASAsigned a contract with Boeing to create an electric vehicle that will allow researchers to travel far beyond the area around the lander. With a contract signed in October 1969, the company had only 17 months to design, assemble and test the rover. At the same time, it not only had to meet the requirements of the mission, but also be light enough and compact enough to fit inside the new payload compartment of the lunar module.

The result is a four-wheeleda car that resembles a buggy, hence the nickname "moon buggy". It was 3 m long with a wheelbase of 2.3 m. On Earth, the rover weighed 210 kg, and on the Moon, only 34 kg. This was the problem. Engineers were tasked with building a vehicle, but they didn't know how it would behave in low-gravity conditions.

Lunar rover diagram

NASA

In three working trips, the Lunokhod overcame a totalcomplexity 27.76 km. Despite some early technical glitches, astronauts quickly became enthralled with the rover and realized how useful it was for exploring the moon - not least because the astronauts found it much easier to ride than walk. This way, the astronauts were using less oxygen.

During their travels, Scott and Irwin stopped to take photographs and collect 77.31 kg of geological samples. Among them, by the way, is the Stone of Genesis.

Genesis Stone from the Moon

The Genesis Stone is one of the most famous specimenslunar soil (assigned number 15415), approximately 90 mm in size and weighing 269.4 g, found by Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin on August 1, 1971 near Spur crater in the Hadley-Apeninne region, located in the eastern part Rotting Swamps (Palus Putredinis). The Genesis Stone is anorthosite, consisting mainly (98%) of plagioclase, a rock-forming mineral of igneous rocks. In addition, it contains pyroxene and, in trace amounts, ilmenite and silica.

The Stone of Genesis. Photo by NASA

It was assumed that such a sample shouldbeing a fragment of the ancient lunar crust and its discovery and study will clarify a number of fundamental questions about the origin and formation of the moon, and the solar system as a whole. That is why the geologists who took part in the training of the Apollo astronauts, in particular the professor at the California Institute of Technology Lee Silver, paid special attention to the astronauts to search for anorthosites. The report of David Scott and James Irwin about the discovery of this sample caused a stormy jubilation of the geologists who were present in a specially designated room in the mission control center and no less stormy joy of the astronauts themselves. Due to the exceptional scientific importance of the find and the quite obvious biblical allusions, the first found anorthosite received such a sonorous name, despite the fact that on the same day astronauts found several more similar samples of a smaller size.

The lunar rover has significantly expanded the range of research

NASA

After studying this sample on Earth, specialistscame to the conclusion, in particular for the ratio of strontium isotopes 86 and 87, that its age is 4.1 ± 0.1 billion years, which means that the sample is much younger than the Moon, although it is quite ancient, apparently formed in the Donektarsky (Hipparkhovsky) period. According to the generally accepted theory, the lunar crust was formed when plagioclases floated in the magma ocean. However, the exact attitude of sample 15415 to this process is unknown, since its age is too small for the formation of magma in the primary ocean. As for the question of the origin of the moon, it remains open to this day.

In its original form, the Stone of Genesis was not preserved,because it was divided into a large number of fragments for research. Part of the fragments of Sample 15415 are currently stored in the 1979 Lunar Sample Building at the Lyndon Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The rest of the fragments were moved to reserve storage at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

Experiment and Memorial on the Moon

Another memorable aspect of the Apollo 15 missionthere were small demonstrations by astronauts. In his spare time during the spacewalk, Scott conducted an experiment first proposed by Galileo many centuries ago. People on Earth saw an astronaut, standing in front of a television camera, holding a hammer in one hand and a feather in the other. When they were released at the same time, they fell at the same speed. So Scott clearly showed that Galileo was right - how quickly something falls in a vacuum depends on the force of gravity, and not on the weight of the object.

Memorial to the fallen cosmonaut

NASA

Also, a participant in the Apollo 15 mission placed ona small aluminum statue on the moon's surface along with a plaque bearing the names of 14 American and Soviet astronauts who died in space exploration.

Although Scott did so privately, not in front of cameras, he later showed the memorial a photograph of the memorial at a post-mission press conference.

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