Charles Duke collecting samples on
the rim of Plum Crater
The tenth manned mission of the Apollo
Project and the first to visit a highland region of the Moon.
Apollo 16's flight went to plan until the Command and Service Module (CSM)
and Lunar Module (LM) undocked in lunar orbit. Shortly after, the CSM began
to move strangely due to an apparent problem in the craft's thruster controls.
This required the CSM and LM to remain close together until the problem
was fixed. The LM descended to the lunar surface almost six hours behind
schedule and landed in the Descartes highlands just 230 m from the targeted
landing area. At 5,500 m above lunar "sea level," this was the
highest manned lunar landing.
During the first moonwalk the astronauts deployed the ALSEP (Apollo Lunar
Science Experiment Package) and drove the Lunar
Roving Vehicle (LRV) to Flag Crater. Unfortunately, Young
tripped and fell over one of the leads attached to the ALSEP, rendering
the experiment package useless. However, the day ended well for Young because
during his excursion he learned that Congress had approved Fiscal Year 1973
funding for the Space Shuttle development,
without which the program could have been canceled. Young, who later commanded
the first Shuttle mission, jumped in the air – or, rather, the vacuum
– when he heard the news. During the second moonwalk, the astronauts
drove the LRV to Stone Mountain where they made observations and collected
rock and soil samples. The third drive, to Smoky Mountain, was cut short
because the water supply for cooling the LM's instrumentation was running
low – more water than expected having been used during the delay before
landing. In fact, the coolant ran out just moments after the LM and CSM
re-docked. Several records were broken during the mission, including the
highest speed by a vehicle on the lunar surface (21 km/h) and the largest
crater yet visited by man – North Ray Crater, about 200 m deep and
1.5 km wide.