This fantastic photograph shows the reunion of two planets and a manned spacecraft. Apollo 16 was the only mission to feature views of the Command Module with the Earth rising over the lunar horizon in the background.
The image was captured from the LM Orion orbiting at the low altitude of 57 km above the lunar surface after the CSM Casper’s failure to make its circularization burn endangered the landing attempt and obliged the two craft to re-join.
As Charles Duke was aiming the EVA Hasselblad camera equipped with a 60mm lens toward the CSM Casper to the west about one mile away, the LM crew experienced the extraordinary sight of Earthrise. Lunar highlands east of Crater Saha are in the background.
“We had a problem with the Command Module before landing. Mattingly reported a major engine problem that required us to rendezvous. This photograph was taken as we closed in on Mattingly for a little station keeping until they solved the problem. We were co-altitude at the time and started closing when we had Earthrise. Actually, we were pretty down in the dumps about that time because the mission rules said we were going to abort and not to land. Fortunately, Houston solved the problem.”
—Charles Duke (Schick and Van Haaften, pg. 119)
From the mission transcript when the photograph was taken:
098:08:45 Young (Orion):
See Ken out there?
098:08:46 Duke (Orion):
Yeah, I see Ken. [...]
098:09:32 Young (Orion):
What should we acquire them (Mission control) on here? Should be - we should he getting them now, Charlie. 98:10.
098:09:39 Duke (Orion):
Well, the Earth’s - ain’t come up yet. [...]
098:10:38 Duke (Orion):
There it comes.
098:10:45 Duke (Orion):
Okay, Ken, we’re getting Earthrise.
098:10:47 Mattingly (Casper):
Yeah, I got my high gain set up.
098:11:13 Hartsfield (Mission control):
Casper, Houston. How do you read?
098:11:16 Mattingly (Casper):
Okay; they’re locking up on me. Hello, Houston. This is Casper [garble] now. We did not do [the] Circ(ularization) [burn], and I’d like to talk about the TVC servo loops.
Understand. No Circ.
098:11:33 Mattingly (Casper):
That’s affirmative. Presently, about a mile ahead of the LM.
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© All texts by Victor Martin-Malburet