|The Apollo 13 crew of Commander James Lovell (left), Command Module Pilot John "Jack" Swigert (center), and Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise (right). Image credit: NASA|
In Apollo Program parlance, this was dubbed "bootstrap photography." It took advantage of the piloted CSM, which had to loiter in lunar orbit anyway to collect the lunar surface crew after they completed their mission, to collect data useful for planning future Apollo missions.
Duncan noted that previous Apollo lunar missions had followed a "free-return" path that would enable them to loop behind the moon and fall back to Earth if their CSM Service Propulsion System (SPS) main engine failed. The Apollo 13 CSM, on the other hand, would fire its engine during the voyage to the moon to leave the free-return trajectory. This was necessary so that the mission's Lunar Module (LM) could reach its target landing site at Fra Mauro.
|The Apollo 13 Saturn V rocket clears the tower. Image credit: NASA|
Apollo 13 would then become a "CSM-only lunar alternate photographic mission." The CSM would remain on a free-return path until it reached the moon, then its crew would perform a standard two-impulse lunar orbit insertion (LOI) maneuver; that is, they would fire the SPS to slow their CSM so that the moon's gravity could capture it into an elliptical lunar orbit, then would fire the engine again at perilune (the low point of its lunar orbit) to circularize its orbit.
Duncan noted that some "desirable photographic orbits with high inclinations. . .require a three-impulse LOI." He argued, however, that "since the crew has not been trained for this type of LOI. . .this type of profile [should] not be flown."
In Duncan's alternate mission, Apollo 13 would capture into a lunar orbit that would take it over the craters Censorinus and Mösting C. These were, respectively, ranked first and eleventh in priority on the Apollo 13 list of targets for lunar-orbital photography.
Censorinus was the leading landing site candidate for Apollo 15, which at the time Duncan wrote his memo was planned as an H-class mission similar to Apollo 13 (that is, its LM would not carry a Lunar Roving Vehicle and would remain on the moon for only about a day and a half). Apollo 12 in November 1969 had been the first H-class mission, so had been designated H-1; Apollo 13 was H-2, Apollo 14 would be H-3, and Apollo 15 would be H-4, the final H-class flight.
Duncan advocated delaying the crew's scheduled sleep period by two lunar revolutions to enable them to photograph Censorinus and Mösting C. The photographic program would begin during Revolution 3 with vertical stereo photography using window-mounted Hasselblad cameras. Revolution 4 would see the first high-resolution vertical Hycon LTC photography, then the astronauts would conduct high-resolution oblique (side-looking) LTC photography during Revolution 5. They would perform "landmark tracking" using the CSM's wide-field scanning telescope (a part of its navigation system) during Revolutions 6 and 7, then would begin their delayed sleep period.
The Apollo 13 crew would awaken during Revolution 12 and fire the SPS to change their spacecraft's orbital plane (that is, the angle at which its orbit crossed the moon's equator). They would do this so that, beginning with Revolution 14, they would pass over Descartes, a suspected volcanic site in the moon's light-colored central Highlands, and Davy Rille, a chain of small craters of suspected volcanic origin. The astronauts would repeat the five-revolution photography sequence they used to image Censorinus and Mösting C. Duncan noted that Descartes ranked second on the Apollo 13 list of photographic targets, while Davy was fourth.
Duncan briefly considered a scenario in which the Apollo 13 LM was incapable of landing yet had a working descent engine which the crew could use to perform plane-change maneuvers in lunar orbit. He noted that the LM would block some CSM windows while it was docked. The astronauts might undock the CSM from the LM for photography and dock again for additional plane changes, or they might discard the LM after only a single plane change. Duncan favored a simpler approach: jettison the LM as soon as it was judged to be incapable of landing whether its descent engine was functional or not and use only the CSM SPS.
The astronauts would perform "target of opportunity" photography during Revolutions 18 and 19, then would sleep. They would wake during Revolution 24 and perform a plane change during Revolution 25 so that they could fly over Alphonsus crater, Gassendi West, and Gassendi East beginning with Revolution 27 and again carry out the five-revolution photography sequence. Alphonsus, where surface color changes and luminescence have been reported, was ranked ninth on the Apollo 13 target list, while the two sites in dark-floored Gassendi crater were ranked thirteenth and fourteenth, respectively.
Duncan estimated that, by the time the astronauts finished photographing the Alphonsus and Gassendi crater candidate landing sites, Apollo 13's cameras would likely have run out of film. He recommended that the crew fire the SPS to leave lunar orbit and return to Earth during Revolution 32 or two revolutions after the film ran out, whichever came first.
Because the extent of the internal damage to the CSM was unknown, NASA wrote off Odyssey's SPS and looked to the LM for salvation. Astronauts James Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise used Aquarius's descent engine to get back onto a free-return trajectory.
During their lunar flyby, the crew photographed the moon through Aquarius's windows using hand-held cameras. Odyssey blocked part of their field of view, but there was no thought of discarding it: the crew needed the conical Command Module (CM), with its bowl-shaped heat shield, to reenter Earth's atmosphere at the end of their voyage.
Apollo 14 (31 January-9 February 1971) became the first (and last) lunar mission to use the Hycon LTC. By the time it flew, NASA had cancelled Apollo 15 and 19 as part of its efforts to preserve its proposed Space Station/Space Shuttle Program. It had renumbered the remaining Apollo flights so that they ended with Apollo 17. Apollo 14, H-3, became the last H-class mission. The camera's chief target was Descartes, which had moved to the top spot among Apollo 16 landing site candidates. Apollo 16, planned as a J-class mission, would include a two-seat Lunar Roving Vehicle, an LM capable of remaining on the moon for three days, and a CSM with an ejectable subsatellite and a pallet of sophisticated sensors and cameras in its SM.
The Hycon camera captured 192 images, but malfunctioned while imaging the lunar surface about 70 kilometers east of Descartes. Though Apollo 14 returned no images of the site, Apollo 16 (J-2) landed at Descartes in April 1972.
Memorandum with attachment, FM5/Lunar Mission Analysis Branch to various, “Lunar alternate missions for Apollo 13 (Mission H-2),” Rocky Duncan, 13 February 1970
"Scientific Rationale Summaries for Apollo Candidate Lunar Exploration Landing Sites – case 340," J. Head, Bellcomm, Inc., 11 March 1970
"Significant Results from Apollo 14 Lunar Orbital Photography," F. El-Baz and S. Roosa, Proceedings of the 1972 Lunar Science Conference, Vol. 2, pp. 63-83, 1972
North American Aviation's 1965 Plan to Rescue Apollo Astronauts Stranded in Lunar Orbit
What If Apollo Astronauts Became Marooned in Lunar Orbit? (1968)
Apollo's End: NASA Cancels Apollo 15 & Apollo 19 to Save Station/Shuttle (1970)