28Apr2019

Has The Apollo 10 Lunar Module Finally Been Found?

A team of British astronomers believe they may have located the lunar module from NASA’s Apollo 10 mission – fifty years after the crew released the probe into a perpetual orbit around the Moon.

The lunar module is one of the greatest surviving relics of the moon landings and scientists want to devise a way to retrieve it as it orbits some 50,000ft above the lunar surface. At the time of the mission in 1969, Tom Stafford, a member of the Apollo 10 crew radioed back to Houston from his own orbit around Moon that the crew had completely lost sight of the probe after they jettisoned it from their command module.

In 1969, the Apollo 10 crew jettisoned the lunar module ‘Snoopy’ from the Apollo command module into an orbit never to be seen again – or so they thought. The command module is pictured here on the far side of the moon
The Apollo 11 Lunar Module is pictured gathering data on the moon’s surface. It’s sister from the Apollo 10 mission is still circling the moon and scientists believe it could be brought back.
Apollo 11 Lunar Module in landing configuration, as viewed from Command & Service Module. The similar module from Apollo 10 is still somewhere out there but may have been spotted
American astronauts and crew of the Apollo 10 mission, from left, Lunar Module pilot Eugene Cernan (1934-2017), Command Module pilot John Young and Commander Thomas P Stafford pose together in front of a Command Module during training in November 1968
The view of earth taken from the Apollo 10 space ship showing the peninsula of Baja, California, seen through swirling clouds
(Pic) Astronomer Nick Howes, pictured, along with flight controllers, space dynamics experts and astronauts from the Apollo program have spent years looking for the lunar module and believe they may have found it

‘We don’t have any idea where he went. He just went boom and it disappeared right into the Sun,’ Stafford said.

The lunar module, nicknamed Snoopy, was thought to be lost forever, though the search intrigued many back on Earth who felt that one day they might be able to find this tiny needle in a cosmic haystack.

At just four meters wide, it was always going to be a long shot but Nick Howes, a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, along with legendary flight controllers, space dynamics experts and astronauts from the Apollo program, have spent a number of years in a calculated hunt for the probe.

The team now believe that they may have found it and according to The Times all they need is someone with the expertise to go and retrieve it. The Apollo 10 mission was launched in May 1969 as a dress rehearsal for the Apollo 11 moon landing. Stafford and Cernan descended in the Lunar Module (pictured) to within 9 miles of the surface of the Moon.

Left to right; Eugene Cernan, John Young and Thomas Stafford standing in spacesuits in front of the Saturn V rocket carried the Apollo 10 spacecraft. The Apollo 10 Lunar Module was code-named Snoopy and the Command Module, Charlie Brown


Space expert Ed Buckbee, left, and Apollo 10 astronauts Tom Stafford and Euene Cernan are pictured in 2010. The crew lost sight of the lunar module after they jettisoned it into space. Howes believes someone with ‘expertise’ like Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX might somehow be able to bring the lunar module back to Earth.

All the other craft that were used during the Apollo missions were either fired into the Moon for seismology experiments or jettisoned to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Snoopy, however, was used as practice run for the Apollo 11 lunar landing, which would take place two months after Apollo 10 in July 1969.

Two of the three astronauts transferred into it as it drifted nine miles above the Moon’s surface. The pair then moved back into the command module. The mission was deemed a success.  Snoopy was fired off and left to drift in orbit forever with no realistic way to track it.

Then, eight years ago, Howes began a project to try and locate the last surviving module and managed to get astronomers from around the world to focus their telescopes on regions of the moon where he calculated it may pass though.

He even persuaded schools to get on board and help analyse the data. ‘The approximate distance it travels in its orbit is 940 million kilometers. When you are looking for something four meters wide and the last reliable data you’ve got on it is 50 years ago, it’s a bit tricky,’ he told The Times.

But against the odds, it seems the astronomers have found this unique piece of space junk after spotting an object that looked ‘odd’. ‘It was a strange anomalous object in approximately the right orbit and exactly the right size. The radar data was completely whack, as one astronomer put it. It was like nothing we’ve ever seen. We’re 99 percent convinced we’ve got it,’ said Howes.

But even the strongest telescope is unable to see an object so small at that range. The only real way to verify if the object is indeed the lunar module is to go back up there and take a look. Howes believes there is a strong argument for doing so.

‘To recover one lunar module that is intact would be, I feel, quite special. The quality of engineering that went in to the Apollo program would probably mean that if power was restored you may even be able to fire up some of the systems.

‘What I’m hoping is someone like Elon Musk can develop something and capture it and bring it back down.’ The team now believe that they may have found it and according to The Times all they need is someone with the expertise to go and retrieve it. Source: DailyMail

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