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 XVI – Young and Duke
John Young — still active on NASA’s payroll as adviser, international ambassador and lecturer — has gained a formidable reputation as a non-signer of autographs on space covers, and returned to the Moon three years after circling it in the company of Tom Stafford and Eugene Cernan in Apollo X. This was a dress rehearsal for the Apollo XI by taking the lander ‘Snoopy’ to within 47,000 feet of the surface in May 1969.
Apollo 16 set up many records, with Young and Charlie Duke spending 71 hours on the surface, including three Lunar EVAs of almost 20 hours duration in total. However, the mission was plagued with problems, and at one point caused Mission Control as much anxiety as Apollo 13 had regarding their safety. Events during Moon orbit no 12 caused their first attempt to land to be called off, and the lander was ordered to re-rendezvous with the Command Module Caspar. Apollo 16 eventually landed six hours later than planned in the Descartes region of the Moon — a heavily cratered area — and video footage of the crew in their lunar rover shows them climbing high into the hills in flamboyant style, showering themselves and car with moondust.
A famous photo of Young shows him beside the lander Orion, saluting, whilst several feet off the ground, having jumped into the air! During his time on the Moon, Young was informed that he was to be a major player in the new Space Shuttle project and he eventually flew the first shuttle (STS-1) with Bob Crippen on April 12, 1981. Young holds the world record along with three other US astronauts, of six successful launches into space and may yet make a seventh.
Apollo XVII – Cernan and Schmitt
Whilst the original plans for the Apollo Missions had foreseen an extended series of Moon Landings political pressures due to of lack of funds and public boredom with the achievements, meant this mission became the last. Commander Eugene Cernan, like John Young, was returning to the Moon and following an unusual night time launch on December 7,1972 he set his lander Challenger down in the mountainous Taurus—Littrow area four days later and then spent three days and five hours on the surface.
The original crew hadn’t included the civilian scientist Harrison Schmitt, but because the series was about to end NASA’s team of geologists won the fight to have a real scientist on board a Moon Landing crew. All the other ‘Moonwalkers’ had had extensive training in what to look for whilst picking up specimens but couldn’t have the in-depth knowledge of a trained scientist like Schmitt. So astronaut Joe Engle was bumped from the flight schedule and Schmitt go to go to the Moon. His expertise paid off, and he made a number of important finds.
The highlight of the trip was the discovery of The Orange Rock (seen on an issue from Togo), whose geological significance with respect to the age and formation of the Moon fascinated Harrison Schmitt. Towards the end of their time on the surface, Cernan unveiled a plaque similar to that on the base of the Apollo XI lander and echoing its words: ‘May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of all mankind’.
A similar number of issues (around a dozen) commemorate Apollo’s 16 and 17, but the number issued in their immediate aftermath was very small, scarcely reaching double figures each time. The major anniversaries of Apollo XI, notably the 25th and 3Oth, provided opportunities for stamp designers to celebrate all the Apollo flights in the programme, and no doubt they will continue to do so in future.