Our ORBIT Editor Jeff Dugdale tells the stories of the only 12 men who have ever walked on the moon.
This article first appeared in Stamp Magazine (September 2001 issue) and is reprinted here with permission from Jeff.
Apollo XII – Conrad and Bean
Within five months of Apollo XI, the US was back on the Moon — in contrast, landing in The Ocean of Storms instead of the Tranquility Base explored by the first two men. Charles (Pete) Conrad, tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in 1999, set out to prove that a military man such as he could do a better job than the civilian Armstrong by effecting a pin-point landing in his Intrepid lander within a few hundred yards of the target – another spacecraft, Surveyor, which had landed on the Moon three years before. One mission objective was to cut off part of the unmanned craft for analysis back home, regarding exposure to lunar winds and the lack of atmosphere on the moon.
Whilst many of the Apollo XI stamps were based on photos taken by Armstrong, the designs of Apollo XII issues were seriously handicapped by an unfortunate few seconds in which the fourth man on the Moon, Alan Bean – now a very respected space artist – inadvertently pointed his TV camera at the Sun for a few seconds and ruined its technological functions!
Thus most Apollo XII stamps show artist impressions of experiments by the two astronauts. Whilst the scope of the mission was more ambitious, and the time spent on Lunar EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) significantly longer than that of the Apollo XI crew; the number of issues is appreciably smaller, coming from little over a dozen territories.
Apollo XIV – Shepard and Mitchell
The crew of Apollo XIII (April 1970) famously didn’t land on the Moon and were extremely lucky to get hack to Earth, so a year later the fifth and sixth men to land were Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell. Shepard, who like fellow ‘Moonwalker’ Charles Conrad also died in 1999, had been the US’s first man in space, although his sub-orbital down range flight in May 1961, within three weeks of Gagarin’s single orbit, was a pale response to the Soviet achievement. Shepard had had major health problems and only by undergoing a very risky operation on his inner ear had he regained flight status, which he lost soon after the maiden 1961 flight.
In the intervening period he had been one of two men — the other was Deke Slayton — who selected astronauts for all the flights of the Gemini (two man) programme and there was a suspicion that Shepard had pulled a few strings to get his place as Commander of Apollo XIV
Many philatelic images of this mission can be distinguished from others because they depict the use of a piece of hardware no other mission employed, the space cart. This two-wheel buggy meant that portage of specimens collected on the walkers two EVAs was much easier, and they could walk much further unburdened by ‘souvenirs’. One other event peculiar to this mission was Shepard’s miles and miles ‘golf shot’.
Although he had not taken a club with him, the golf ball he put down and struck with a collecting scoop went a very long way. This event is arguably captured on some stamps, though this is debatable. Issues for the third Moon landing were slightly up on those for Apollo XII with nearly 20 territories involved in the celebration, including Oman and Liberia.
Apollo XV – Scott and Irwin
The last three Moonwalking missions were all serviced by the Lunar Rover, so you need to look carefully for caption or mission pitch to distinguish them. The Lunar Rover was a fold-down automobile complete with dustguards, which self-evidently increased the physical scope of the first mission to use it, and each of the final two missions further increased the mileage covered in their EVAs. In fact, Scott and Irwin spent almost three days on the Moon, and performed 3 EVA, including ventures into mountainous areas that they could not have walked into.
David Scott, the Commander, was famously dismissed from the Astronaut Corps on the first anniversary of his return from this mission as the Apollo 15 crew had smuggled 400 space covers with them. It was reported in newspapers in July 1972 that a West German stamp dealer had sold 100 of these at £570 each. Each of the three-crew members had been expected to gain as much as £2,700 from the sale of covers.
However they then declined to accept any money, acknowledging that their actions had been improper. Jim Irwin also resigned from the Astronaut Corps, and Worden was also moved out of the select group and made no more flights. Although Scott’s astronaut career was over his name appears as Technical Adviser in the credits of some space films such as Apollo 13 and the Tom Hanks-produced 1998 TV series From The Earth to The Moon.