Day 1: Launch and ascent to Earth orbit

Day 1: Launch and ascent to Earth orbit
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Corrected transcript and commentary by Eric Hartwell licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

< Preparation for flight ^ Travelling from the Earth to the Moon Earth orbit and translunar insertion >

Contents


[edit] Preparation for Launch

[ The last Apollo mission was the first Saturn V launched after dark. As dusk approached, thousands of cars poured across the causeways leading onto Merritt Island. In front of the headquarters building, children threw footballs while the parents talked and listened for the progress of the countdown. The December weather did justice to Chamber of Commerce claims; in the mid-80s during the day, the temperature was 72 degrees at launch. Moonport ]


Schmitt: (Oral History 2000) [For] a night launch we had to adjust our sleep cycle and basically turn it by twelve hours. We did that over a period of about two weeks. We'd just go to bed an hour earlier, and get up an hour earlier every day for two weeks until we were on the flight plan schedule. Everybody had to do it. It wasn't just us, it was the simulators, everybody was operating on a different schedule to be prepared for what the flight plan was going to require, and that was a night launch. So we had breakfast, I guess, mid-afternoon of launch day.

Schmitt: (Oral History 2000) I had gone out the night before to see the rocket illuminated by the searchlights. That is sort of a tradition that I inherited from Bill Anders. He took me out for Apollo 8 the night before launch, and it's really an amazing sight, that Saturn V illuminated. Of course, at that point we could get ourselves in very close just because of who we were, and so you had a view that very, very few people, other than the pad technicians, ever got of the Saturn V.

Ron Evans shakes hands with Deke Slayton during suit-up for launch.
Ron Evans shakes hands with Deke Slayton during suit-up for launch.
Gene Cernan suiting up before launch
Gene Cernan suiting up before launch
Alan Shepard jokes with Jack Schmitt during suit-up.
Alan Shepard jokes with Jack Schmitt during suit-up.
Gene Cernan (foreground), Ron Evans (middle distance), and Jack Schmitt (back) during suit-up for launch. Alan Shepard is standing at the left.
Gene Cernan (foreground), Ron Evans (middle distance), and Jack Schmitt (back) during suit-up for launch. Alan Shepard is standing at the left.
Jack Schmitt undergoes final spacesuit pressure checks. 72-HC-880 ...
Jack Schmitt undergoes final spacesuit pressure checks. 72-HC-880 ...
Ron Evans relaxes during pre-launch spacesuit pressure checks.  72-HC-879 ...
Ron Evans relaxes during pre-launch spacesuit pressure checks. 72-HC-879 ...


Schmitt: (Oral History 2000) When we were suiting up and getting ready to go out to the launch pad, Ron Evans had his last cigarette just before he put on his helmet. We kept after him all during the flight that he had to take advantage of this now, he's going to have two weeks' cold turkey and he shouldn't pick it up again. He resisted for about two more weeks after we got back, but, unfortunately, he started to smoke again after that time.

Gene Cernan waves to well-wishers on the walk to the elevator that will take the crew down to the transfer van. (more ...)
Gene Cernan waves to well-wishers on the walk to the elevator that will take the crew down to the transfer van. (more ...)
Gene Cernan stops a moment with his wife and daughter during the walkout to the van that will take the crew from the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building to the pad for launch. KSC Security Chief Charlie Buckley is on the right. 72-H-1517 ...
Gene Cernan stops a moment with his wife and daughter during the walkout to the van that will take the crew from the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building to the pad for launch. KSC Security Chief Charlie Buckley is on the right. 72-H-1517 ...
Gene Cernan waits at the transfer van while Ron Evans says goodbye to his wife Jack Schmitt and Alan Shepard are behind Evans. 72-HC-881 ...
Gene Cernan waits at the transfer van while Ron Evans says goodbye to his wife Jack Schmitt and Alan Shepard are behind Evans. 72-HC-881 ...


Schmitt: (Oral History 2000) Once we got out of the suit room, all the technicians and all the support people were in the hall wishing us well as we got on the elevator. When you see the movies of it, it looks like we were having a good time and that's what I remember that we were having. Of course, we couldn't talk to anybody. We had the helmets on, we were pre-breathing pure oxygen, and so that went all the way down in the elevator, out into the van.

Schmitt: (Oral History 2000) Al Shepard was waiting for us to escort us out to the van. Charlie Buckley was there, too, the former head of security at Kennedy Space Center. I pretended that I was trying to get back off the bus, I remember, and you'll see that in the film. Suddenly my head will appear back in the doorway and Charlie sort of pushes me back in. So it was a little joke that he and I had on each other.

Schmitt: (Oral History 2000) But after that, it was pretty uneventful. You don't have a good view of the launch pad going out there. Everything went really just as one would have planned it, as we went out the elevator and out on the catwalk and met the white room crew. Guenter Wendt was waiting for us, as he waited for everybody. They strapped us in and closed it off.


Close-out team members wish Gene Cernan well in the White Room. KSC-72PC-627 ...)
Close-out team members wish Gene Cernan well in the White Room. KSC-72PC-627 ...)
Ron Evans in the White Room with close-out team members, preparing to enter the Command Module for launch.  72-HC-892 ...
Ron Evans in the White Room with close-out team members, preparing to enter the Command Module for launch. 72-HC-892 ...


[edit] First Launch Attempt

-001:22:00 (20:30EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn launch control. We're at T minus 1 hour 22 minutes and counting. Cabin purge has now been completed and the boost protective cover has been closed. The 65 percent nitrogen 35 percent oxygen mixture will now be enriched to a 60-40 mixture at liftoff. Just completed were some preflight command tests with the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. These tests are to insure that Houston can send commands, and that they are being received on or by the launch vehicle. Also just completed was a first motion signal. This is the first motion of the vehicle as it lifts off the pad. A test signal is sent to the eastern test range and to the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston to assure that they will get this signal at liftoff. Also, we just received a final go for a Jimsphere release. The Jimsphere is a weather balloon which is the final weather balloon to go up before launch indicating the wind direction.

[
The "Jimsphere" balloon, developed by NASA in the 1960's, remains the standard for obtaining accurate upper level wind data at all U.S. launch ranges. Made of lightweight, radar-reflective materials, it has conical projections which stabilize it so it quickly assumes the speed of the changing wind. (more ...) ]

Launch Control: C-band beacons are in check at this time. The C-band beacons aboard the launch vehicle are used in tracking. They give indications of range velocity during the power phase of flight. Que ball sim command was just sent. The que ball is an angle of a tacmeter which is perched above the launch escape system, and it's read by the spacecraft commander in the spacecraft. It would indicate any deviation from the plan flight through. It reads zero as it sits on the pad and during the test a simulated command is sent to it, and Gene Cernan in the spacecraft reads off what he is reading in the spacecraft during that sim command. The checks in the spacecraft continue to run somewhat ahead of schedule. The spacecraft test conductor Skip Shovin indicated their running ahead and looking good to which Cernan reply we're looking good up here too. The countdown continuing to move along well at this time T minus 1 hour 21 minutes and counting. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

[ The countdown proceeded. At T-82 minutes launch control reported the cabin purge had been completed, and the booster protective cover closed. The spacecraft was pressurized and checked for leaks. Houston tested its command signals to the launch vehicle, and the first-motion signal was checked out with Houston and the Eastern Test Range; the next time, it would bring them word of liftoff. The last weather balloon was released to determine wind direction. In the meantime the C-band and Q-ball tests were in hand. The first was used in tracking to report range velocity during the powered phase. The Q-ball, perched above the launch escape system, would warn the spacecraft commander of deviations in the first stages of flight. Cernan reported things looking good "up here." His next task was to check out the emergency hand control for the service module engine, normally operated by a computer. Far below him, little white wisps marked the topping off of the propellant loads. Moonport ]
-001:12:00 (20:40EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control 13 minus 1 hour 12 minutes and counting. At this time Spacecraft Commander Gene Cernan and the Spacecraft test conductor Skip Chauvin are going over some command checks. During these checks the Spacecraft Commander actually gimbles or moves, swings the main engine in the Service Module. He does this using his flight hand controller and this is a system which is done so that if there is a problem with the computer which normally flies these, he can take over and manually fly it. Normally, however, all burns of this engine are done by the computer. Out at the pad, the space vehicle is surrounded by searchlights producing some 225 foot candles of light, a total of 72 20 kilowatt zeon lights and 2 60 kilowatt zeon searchligh banks provide this illumination. At liftoff, approximately 7500 foot candles will be produced from the flame of the Saturn V first stage engines. This is almost equivalent to daylight. Searchlights will also illuminate the Apollo 17 for the first 60 feet of it's flight. Countdown continuing to go smoothly now as we approach the 1 hour mark. T minus 1 hour 11 minutes and counting. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-001:00:00

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're at T minus 1 hour and counting. T minus 1 hour and counting. Just completed were the C-band beacon checks. These are checks of the beacons, two of them aboard the instrument unit of the space vehicle. These are used in conjunction with C-band radar here at Kennedy Space Center to check the space vehicle during powered phase of flight. A check was just made with the superintendent of range operations who ran through the camera coverage looking at the weather around the various areas to see what camera coverage, and that appears to be satisfactory. Meanwhile, at the pad, the closeout crew has completed securing the white room area, and they are clearing the pad area themselves at this time. Just before they left, they indicated to Cernan that they were completed their jobs going back away from the pad area. Cernan said "We'll see you when we get back." The pad leader responded that "The next face you see had better be a frogman or you're in trouble." The weather appears to be satisfactory. We've been tracking some local buildups, but at this time they're just - they do not seem to be posing any problem for an on-time launch at 9:53 p.m. EST. Now, T minus 59 minutes, 32 seconds and counting. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

At T-1 hour, the close-out crew had secured the white room and was clearing the pad area. The elevators were set at the 96-meter level, for the astronauts' use in an emergency. At T-50 minutes the launch control center initiated the power transfer test, switching the vehicle momentarily onto its own battery power and then restoring external power. Some five minutes later, swing arm 9 - the access arm to the spacecraft - retracted 12 degrees to a standby position. Range safety test signals were flashing to the still unarmed destruct receivers. Moonport
-000:55:00 (20:57EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We are at T-55 minutes 54 seconds and counting. Stoney, astronaut Bob Parker, the capsule communicator here in the firing room who has a variety of of functions during this mission; one of which is to set the elevators at the 320 foot level. He actually commands the elevators which are part of the egress system, emergency egress system, for the astronauts. He has just reported that the elevators have now been set at the 320 foot level. In an emergency the crew could come out of their spacecraft into these elevators where they would be lowered at a high speed, 600 feet per minute, to the ground floor or A level floor where they can exit from there into a variety of escape modes; one of which would be down a chute into a blast danger area or a safety area, or they could continue on out and be picked up by armored carriers. Underway at this time with the launch vehicle are some checks of the secure range safety systems aboard the vehicle. These are actually checks of the receivers in that system. A range Safety Officer could terminate the flight of Apollo 17 if it became erratic by initiating emergency cut off, or if necessary a propellant dispersion command. These systems are located on each of the flight stages. There are three stages of the Saturn V. Two receivers in each stage, and they would receive a signal from the range safety officers and then sending through them to through these receivers, they could perform the propellant dispersion. These actions, of course, will be taken only if the vehicle were so erratic that it were endangering some land areas, and of course, only after the crew had used one of the escape options open to them. The test going well at this time. Our countdown continuing T-54 minutes 6 seconds and counting. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:50:00 (21:02EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control at T minus 50 minutes 55 seconds and counting. Preparations are underway in the launch control center at this time for a critical power transfer test. The space vehicle at this time is being fed from an external power source, but shortly before liftoff it will be transfered to the internal flight batteries. This test is to ensure that all electrical systems aboard the vehicle function properly on the internal flight batteries. The test takes about five minutes during which time the various elements of the launch team monitor thier systems and report in then to the test supervisor, Bill Schick here in the control room that everything looks good during the test. Depending on local weather conditions the various areas around the United States, the flight of Apollo 17 will be monitored or be able to be seen by people as far as 500 miles away. This is the flight as seen of the first stage of powered flight. This would include a large portion the southeastern United States, northern tip of Cuba and the Bahama Islands. The power transfer test is now underway; first stage, second stage, third stage, instrument unit now all going to internal power. Count down continuing to go well T-minus 49 minutes 35 seconds and counting. This is Kennedy Test Control.

-000:45:00 (21:06EST)

Launch Control: This Apollo Saturn Launch Control, we're now T minus 45 minutes 55 seconds and counting. Various elements of launch team reporting in to test supervisor Bill Schick, that they experienced no problems during the power transfer. We now transfer back again to an external power source, which will feed the vehicle systems until approximately 50 seconds before liftoff, at which time the final power transfer to internal takes place. At the T minus 45 minute mark, we'll be watching for swing arm number 9. That's the swing arm which gives access to the Spacecraft to swing back to a retract position, 12 degrees back from the Spacecraft. This is a park position, a standby position, where it remain down until the final moments of the countdown. T minus 5 minutes, it swings back to the full retract position. Once it swing backs, the launch escape system aboard the a-, atop of the Spacecraft can be armed and this system could be used to pull the Astronaut crew to safety in any disaster. Now T minus 44 minutes 52 seconds and counting, this is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:41:00 (21:11EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn - This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're at T minus 40 minutes, 51 seconds and counting. Swing arm number 9 just retracted a few minutes ago, and, as it retracted, the astronaut crew aboard the space field could feel it moving away from the spacecraft. Eugene Cernan the spacecraft commander commented, "We're really hanging out here in the breeze now." Spacecraft test conductor, referring to the weather indicated that that was just a small breeze. The launch escape system has been armed. The system now could be used to carry the astronauts to safety if necessary. It's also used during the initial phases of powered flight to carry the astronauts away in an emergency. It would fly away in a high arc pulling them to a height, enough so that their parachute systems could deploy, and they could make a normal landing. The system is about 33 feet long. The motor develops 147 thousand pounds of thrust. This is almost twice the amount of thrust of the Redstone rocket, which powered astronaut Alan Sheppard, America's first man into space. The countdown continuing to move along smoothly now. T minus 39 minutes, 36 seconds and counting. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:35:00 (21:18EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're at T-minus 35 minutes 11 seconds and counting. Spacecraft commander Gene Cernan has reported back to the spacecraft test conductor Skip Chauvin. He said you've delivered us the best now it's our turn. Thank the guys we want to see them as soon as we can when we get back and I guarantee you we'll do that. Meanwhile C-band beacon checks are going on with the space vehicle. The liquid hydrogen liquid oxygen fully aboard and being replenished at this time to ensure a full load at liftoff. Count down continuing to go smoothly as we approach the half hour mark T-minus 34 minutes 34 seconds and counting. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:30:00 (21:22EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control T minus 30 minutes 54 seconds and counting. Manned Spacecraft just indicated to the test supervisor Bill Schick that we are go for the terminal countdown sequences. Final propulsion checks have been completed and the C-band readouts, once again repeated have been completed. Beach boss reports the launch sight recovery force helicopters are on station and ready. Digital range safety command checks are now underway as the countdown continues smoothly aiming for the T minus 30 minute mark. Now at T minus 30 minutes 24 seconds and counting, this is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:25:00 (21:27EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. T-25 minutes 54 seconds and counting. Command Module Pilot Ron Evans at this time has armed the reaction control system aboard the service module. He does this by allowing the hypergolic fuels to move down the lines to the engines. At this time he is reading out the temperatures, pressures and fuel quantities in that system. Our weather continues to look good. The major frontal area which had been of some concern earlier, has remained well west of the launch area also some smaller buildups which we have been monitoring do not appear to be coming close enough to cause any concern for our 9:53 PM launch time. That launch will be aiming Apollo 17 for the Taurus-Littrow area of the Moon. This area is named after the Taurus Mountains. These in southern Turkey and the Austrian astronomer, Littrow. The site is expected to yield some of the oldest and some of the youngest lunar samples returned during the Apollo flights to the Moon. Now T-24 minutes 50 seconds and counting. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:20:00 (21:32EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control T-minus 20 minutes 55 seconds and counting. Short time from now we we'll begin chilling the propulsion systems aboard the second and third stage of the Saturn V vehicle. This necessary to condition them for the flow of the super cool liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. Just a few moments ago the crew aboard spacecraft America was doing an updated weather forecast. Cernan reported I hope it's as beautiful out there as it is in here. Countdown continuing to move smoothly at T-minus 20 minutes 24 seconds and counting. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:15:00 (21:37EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control, T minus 15 minutes 52 seconds and counting. The Vice-President of the United States, Spiro Agnew has entered the launch control center now. He'll observe the final portions of the countdown from here and also the launch. Arming and checking of the Service Module reaction control system has now been completed and in progress is the chill down of the S-II, or second stage start tank. Checkouts continuing to go well, some running a little bit ahead of schedule, all on time. T minus 15 minutes 20 seconds and counting, this is Kennedy Test Control.

-000:10:00 (21:41EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control at T-minus 10 minutes 55 seconds and counting. At this time some computer checks being run with the launch vehicle. The spacecraft has now gone to full internal power. Up to this point the spacecraft fuel cells have been sharing the power load with an external source. Also going on at this time are some checks of the astro corem circuit. This is the circuit which is used by the launch operations manager spacecraft test conductor Stony and the three astronauts at launch time. This is to ensure that they are not getting any extraneous voices or are having to listen to any of the other network which might be carrying on a conservation which they don't need at that time. Countdown proceeding smoothly T-minus 10 minutes 15 seconds and counting. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:08:00 (21:44EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control T minus 8 minutes and counting. T- minus 8 minutes and counting. The Vice-President in the firing room at the launch control center, observing the final minutes of the countdown and he'll watch the launch from here. The countdown has proceeded smoothly since picking up at 11:53 A.M. this morning. Weather continues to look good as we aim toward a 9:53 P.M. Eastern Standard Time launch. Now T minus 7 minutes 37 seconds and counting, this is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:05:45 (21:47EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Launch Control. T-5 minutes 54 seconds and counting. At this time entering the final phases of the countdown various elements of the team reporting into Test Supervisor Bill Shick with the go no-go for launch. At launch time a water deluge system at the pad will spray water over the entire area of the pad, some 400 000 gallons of water. More than the average family would use in three years will be spread over the pad and the swing arms protecting them from the searing flames of the Saturn V first stage. Various elements reporting in now. First stage reporting they are GO. Range Safety, Superintendent Range Operations they are GO. Launch Operations Manager reports he is GO for launch. Launch Director Walter Kapryan has given a GO for launch.

-000:04:55

Launch Control: We've passed the 5 minute mark, T-4 minutes 55 seconds and counting and swing arm No. 9 now coming back to the fully retracted position. The launch escape system setting atop the spacecraft, spacecraft named America by the crew now could pull the crew to safety if there were any problem while the vehicle remains on the pad or during the early portions of the flight. At the T-4 minute mark we'll be standing by for word from the Launch Vehicle Test Conductor Norm Carlson, giving a clear for launch for the launch vehicle ignition. At T-3 minutes 7 seconds we'll go on an automatic sequencer. It's called the terminal countdown sequencer. The astronauts on the Astro corn circuit now reporting and thanking the launch team for all their prayers and all their help.

-000:03:40

Launch Control: T-3 minutes 55 seconds and counting. Apollo 17, the launch team wishes you good luck and God speed, reports the launch operations manager over the Astro com circuit. T-3 minutes 40 seconds, the countdown continuing to go on smoothly. Once we go on the terminal countdown sequencer, the countdown will be automatic from there on out. The countdown sequencer will initiate the various functions from that time on; however, the men here in the firing room will be monitoring their consoles, watching temperatures, pressures, various readouts. They could override that terminal sequencer if necessary. Moving up now to the time when we'll go on that terminal sequencer.

-000:03:10

Launch Control: T-3 minutes 10 seconds and counting. Spacecraft ready light has come on indicating that the spacecraft is ready. We are now on the terminal sequencer. Launch sequence has started. The flowing of that water on the pad will begin at the 1 minute mark flowing on the flame deflector below the launch vehicle on the launch pedestal itself and along the swing arms which will be coming back at liftoff. Instrument unit ready light has come on. Emergency detection system ready light is on.

-000:02:30

Launch Control: Ail indications are we are GO for launch as we approach the 2 minute 30 second mark. Pressurization of the various propellant tanks now aboard the space vehicle is starting. At two, our second stage liquid oxygen tanks now pressurized. These propellant tanks are pressurized with helium to insure that during the flight the fuel flows properly down through the engine. It's quiet here in the firing room now as the men are monitoring their consoles, looking at the temperatures, checking pressures and a variety of parameters to ensure everything is in a GO condition. Pressurization continuing on the fuel tanks at this time we'll go to the critical power transfer at the T-50 second mark in the count down. At that time we'll transfer external power source to the flight battery aboard the space vehicle. The final action by the crew aboard the spacecraft America will be a final guidance alignment conducted by the Spacecraft Commander Gene Cernan. The flight of Apollo 17 will be able to be seen depending on weather conditions, some 500 miles away as it goes into Earth orbit. Pressurization continuing, liquid hydrogen tanks now aboard the second stage have now been pressurized, all propellants aboard the second stage now pressurized. A cover aboard the que ball. This is the que ball system on top of the launch escape system will be pulled off just shortly before launch. First stage propellant tanks have been pressurized.

-000:01:00

Launch Control: Now past the 1 minute mark and we are going on internal power. Now all systems to internal power. We'll be looking for the engine start sequence at the 8.9 second mark in the countdown. Engines will build up to a thrust of 7.6 million pounds.


Schmitt: (Oral History 2000) We went into the final countdown and got to thirty seconds, and everything had come alive beneath us. The gimbals were moving and the rocket, you could feel it. You're lying there on your back, you could feel the engines moving down a football field below you or more, as it prepared for ignition.


-000:00:30

Launch Control: T-minus 30 seconds, we have a cutoff, we have a cutoff at T-minus 30 seconds. We are standing by at T-minus 30 second mark. We'll bring word to you just as soon as we get it. We have a cutoff at T-minus 30 seconds. T-minus 30 seconds and holding. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

[ At T-3 minutes and 7 seconds, the automatic sequencer took over. This sequencer, the oldest and most reliable piece of automation on LC-39, chose this moment in the launching of the last Apollo to cause trouble. At T-30 seconds it went into an automatic cutoff indicating that one of the essential operations leading to the launch of the space vehicle had not been properly completed. Besides halting the countdown, the cutoff started a series of "safing" procedures which included the return of swing arm 9 to a standby position. Moonport ]


[edit] Cutoff and hold

-000:00:30

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're holding at the 30 second mark. This was an automatic cutoff. Cutoff by the terminal sequencer as mentioned this sequencer initiates various actions, Each action must take place and must be completed before the next one can be initiated. If anything does not get completed in time there will be an automatic cutoff. This cutoff was automatically done by the sequencer. We're standing by now to check just what the problem was. Now at T-minus 30 seconds and holding. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:00:30

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. The astronaut crew aboard the spacecraft going through their various safing now. Safing of all systems and the launch team here continuing through their emergency procedures. We'll be standing by to check out the problem just as soon as we can get word. T-minus 30 seconds and holding. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:00:30

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. The safeing procedures continuing at this time. Up to the T-minus 30 second mark the countdown had been proceeding smoothly. Weather conditions at launch were predicted to be and appears to be good at that time. However, we had an automatic cutoff from the terminal countdown sequencer and we're standing by to see just what caused that automatic cutoff. All systems being safed at this time. T-minus 30 seconds and we are in a hold. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:00:30 (20:59CST)

Launch Control: This Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're continuing in our hold at the 30 second mark, while the launch team assesses our problem. The swing arm, swing arm number 9 will be brought back to its park position, which is 12 degrees back from the space vehicle. Continuing the safing procedures this time and assessing the problem, holding at T minus 30 seconds, this is Kennedy Launch Control.


Schmitt: (Oral History 1999) The one thing that you don’t want to do is have a aborted launch on a launch pad and have to recycle and come back a month later and go through another month of simulator training. You’re ready to go when you’re ready to go. And I think everybody felt that way.

Schmitt: (Oral History 2000) You certainly don't want to recycle for another month. That was the first thought we had on the launch pad when we did, in fact, have a delay, was that, well, let's hope that we don't have to go through this for another month. You would have gotten into it and done it and then never noticed the difference, but still at the immediate point of being ready to launch, you're ready to launch, there's no question about that.


-000:00:30 (22:04EST)

Launch Control: (dead air)

-000:00:30 (21:12CST)

Launch Control: (dead air)

-000:00:30 (22:15EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're at T minus 30 seconds and continuing our hold. The problem was with the terminal countdown sequencer, which failed to give the command to pressure, pressurize the third stage lox tank. The crew in the firing room, realizing this were seeing this happen pressurized the tank manually, but this did not happen fast enough to satisfy the automatic sequencer. As was mentioned earlier, during this sequence everything must happen at a certain time, before the next step in the sequence can take place. The next step that was to take place was the retraction of swing arm 9 and at the time that was to take place the terminal sequencer had not had an indication that the third stage lox tank had been pressurized. The plan now is to recycle to the T minus 22 minute mark in the countdown. Now this recycling procedure will take an additional 35 to 40 minutes. This still puts us well within our launch window. While we're recycling, we'll continue to review the data to determine just what the problem is and whether or not we can proceed from the T minus 22 minute mark for a launch later in the window.


Schmitt: (Oral History 2000) Somewhere in the deep dark past of computer programming, a programmer had told the final sequencing checks that the computer was going to do — to look to see if a signal to pressurize a booster oxygen tank had been sent. Not whether it had been received and acted upon, but had the signal been sent.

Schmitt: (Oral History 2000) Well, when they went through that particular point where that signal was supposed to have been sent and the tank pressurized, the signal didn't get sent. The computer didn't send the signal, but the person in the launch control center saw that that didn't happen and just pressed a button and pressurized the tank. So everything was fine, but the computer didn't know it. When they went through the final sequence, the computer saw that that signal hadn't been sent, and it said "Hold."

Schmitt: (Oral History 2000) So the computer just shut everything down. That's what you want them to do, it's just that it was programmed wrong. Garbage in, garbage out. So what they did, they actually went into the launch computers, tracked down that point and hard-wired around that particular sensor so that the next time the computer went through, it would believe that the signal had been sent. Sure enough, it believed it, and off we went. We were two hours and forty minutes late, but, nevertheless, we were on our way.


Launch Control: The crew aboard the spacecraft has been alerted to the problem and understand what is happening. They're standing by there at this time. Now at T minus 30 seconds and holding, this is Kennedy Launch Control.


Launch director Skip (Clarence) Chauvin explained the situation to the crew. Schmitt managed to nap during the delay.

Schmitt: (Oral History 2000) Right at thirty seconds, Skip Chauvin came over the line and said we have a hold. I think Gene was more concerned than the rest of us, because none of us knew whether everything in the spacecraft and in the rocket knew we were in a hold. But we went through that thirty-second period and it was quiet for a few minutes. Then Chauvin came back on the line and said, "We have a problem with the launch computer. It's not a major problem. We're going to fix it and when we have it fixed, we'll recycle." I think it was eight minutes for a planned hold and then go through it again. That is exactly what happened.

Schmitt: (Oral History 2000) At that point I felt very comfortable. I'd worked with Skip in many chamber tests and things like that, so we knew him very well, and from the sound of his voice, it didn't sound like anything that wasn't going to be fixed. So I fell asleep. Anytime you put fans humming or a little bit of vibration, things like that, I can go to sleep. There's no problem. So I got an hour or so dozing sleep while we were waiting for that problem to be fixed.


-000:00:30

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're remaining still in the T minus 30 second mark. We'll remain here for some period. It will take approximately 35 to 40 minutes to recycle back to T minus 22 minutes, where we'll resume the count. To explain again what has happened was we were in what was called the terminal countdown sequencer. At 3 minutes 7 seconds in the countdown we go on to an automatic system called the terminal countdown sequencer. This countdown sequencer initiates various actions, the final actions in the count. Each of these must occur on schedule and in sequence. Now what happened at this particular time was, the third stage liquid oxygen tank was not automatically pressurized as it should have been. The launch crew here in the firing room, when they saw this, manually pressurized that system, but it was too late to satisfy the sequencer. The next event in the sequence was the retraction of swing arm number 1, swing arm going over to the first stage and at that time, the sequencer did not see that the tank had been pressurized and sent an automatic cut-off. So we had an automatic cut-off at the 30 second mark. We're standing by at the 30 second mark to go back to T minus 22 minutes and we are reevaluating the problem, looking at the, what caused the sequencer not to automatically pressurize that tank, seeing what that problem is and seeing if there is a possibility if we go ahead and do this manually early in the sequence, if that will satisfy the sequencer and we can proceed. Now holding at the T minus 30 second mark in our countdown, this is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:00:30 (22:25EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're continuing to stand by here at the T-minus 30 second mark in the countdown. The crew remaining perfectly calm in their spacecraft. They have gone through their safeing checks. The various safeing checks of the launch vehicle have been completed. We are now going through preparations for recycling to the T-minus 22 minute mark. Standing by at this time at T-minus 30 seconds. T-minus 30 seconds and holding in the countdown for Apollo 17. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:00:30 (22:30EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're continuing our hold at the 30 second mark. We'll recycle to the T-minus 22 minute mark. The T-minus 22 minute mark is chosen as the recycling point because this is the point where we start the chill down as was mentioned during that point in the countdown. We start the chill down of the second and third stages to prepare them for the influx of the liquid hydrogen, the cold liquid hydrogen and the cold liquid oxygen. This chill down has some very specific parameters and must be started at a certain time and cannot go beyond a certain time. So it's best to go back to that point in the countdown under these circumstances and to resume our countdown at the T-minus 22 minute mark. When a determination is made that we can resume. Continuing to look at the data here is see exactly what happened. There is no indication of ignition. Ignition was scheduled to come at the 8. 9 second mark. Here in the control room a number of the people were looking through the remote cameras which have the capability out at the pad of zooming in on specific areas and a number of people here were looking right at those first stage engines and there was no indication whatsoever of engine ignition. We're continuing to evaluate all the data at this time as we hold at the T-minus 30 second mark. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

Image:S72-54881.jpg
Gene Kranz (center) briefs Neil Hutchinson (left) and Gerry Griffin (right) during the 2 hour 40 minute launch delay.
-000:00:30 (22:35EST)

Launch Control: This Apollo Saturn Launch Control still in our hold at the 30 second mark. While the launch team here is busy recycling to the T-22 minute mark, the mission team out at the Manned Spacecraft Center also preplanning some of the new time for the mission. They are also at this time busily preplanning the new launch azimuth. The azimuth now if we go at the next opportunity would be the 81.06 degrees. This will be automatically fed into the instrument unit of the Saturn V vehicle from the Manned Spacecraft Center. All elements of the launch team now putting everything together, checking over data and doing their best to put us back into a recycle position ready to pick up the count at the T-22 minute mark. Still evaluating data, however, and we have not at this time been given a GO for that resuming of the countdown. T-30 seconds and holding at this time. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:00:30 (22:40EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. Continuing our hold at the 30 second mark back at the mission control center in Houston the flight controllers returning to their seats now after some consultation. They're back now giving status check and getting ready in case we are - it is determined that we can pick up the count. In the firing room here, the Apollo Program Director Rocco Petrone has moved into the viewing area where the President - Vice President Spiro Agnew and NASA administrator James Fletcher are and he is giving them a briefing and a run down on our problem. We are standing by at this time. The clock has now been recycled to the T-minus 22 minute mark; however, we have not picked up the count at that mark. We are now at T-minus 22 minutes and holding. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:22:00 (22:45EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control, continuing to stand by at the T minus 22 minute mark in the countdown. Recycling operations have gone well. We're back to the T minus 22 minute mark and at this mark which we will pick up the count if we are given a go to resume. Check has been made of the Mission Control Center team at the Mission Control Center in Houston. All elements of that team reporting that they are ready to resume as soon as they get the word. Now standing by here at Kennedy Space Center, while data is reviewed and determination will be made if and when we can resume our countdowm for Apollo 17. Now at T minus 22 minutes and holding, this is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:22:00 (22:49EST)

Launch Control: This Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We are continuing to standby at the T-22 minute mark. We are hoping to resume the count shortly. The problem has not been resolved. We're continuing to look into it; however, it has been determined that a resolution one way or the other should be able to be made shortly. So right now we are continuing our recycle procedures hoping to pick up the count perhaps just minutes from now. If the problem is not resolved by the time we reach the T-8 minute mark after we continue to count down, the clock will be held again. Right now we are continuing the recycling procedures hoping to pick up shortly at T-22 minutes. We are now T-22 minutes and holding. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:22:00 (22:52EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're continuing to stand by at the T-minus 22 minute mark. We've been given the word here in the firing room now that the count will be resumed at 1l p.m. at T-minus 22 minutes. At this time there still has not been a resolution to the problem, but we'll continue looking at that. We could continue on counting down while this problem is looked at. To reiterate what the problem was; the terminal countdown sequencer failed to give the command to pressurize the third stage liquid oxygen tanks. The crews monitoring this function saw that that happened and immediately manually pressurized the tanks, but this did not occur in time in the sequence and when swing arm one was to retract it had not received this signal. As a consequence an automatic cutoff was sent. There are several possible work arounds to this they are being looked into at this time, and we plan to resume our countdown at the T-minus 22 minute mark at 11 p.m. Now holding at T-minus 22 minutes. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:21:10 (22:58EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're at T minus 21 minutes 10 seconds and counting. The countdown picked up the launch team here made a quick check of the various elements, all reporting in to the test supervisor Bill Schick, indicating that they were ready to resume the count. Now counting at T minus 20 minutes 53 seconds, and we'll continue to countdown here as we look at the problem which caused the hold at the T minus 30 second mark. Now at T minus 20 minutes 42 seconds and counting, this is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:14:00 (23:05EST)

Launch Control: This Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're at T-14 minutes 35 seconds and counting in our countdown for Apollo 17. Back at the Mission Control Center the men there are updating the launch azimuth. Launch azimuth standing now at 82.54 degrees. This will automatically be feed into the instrument unit. The swing arm, swing arm No. 9, the access arm to the spacecraft, remains at the 12 degree position it will remain there until the T-5 minute mark in the countdown. Going on at this time are the recycling of some of the vents for the liquid hydrogen and the liquid oxygen. These are the vents which allow the venting of the gases as there is some boil-off occuring. It is necessary to continue venting these to ensure they do not freeze in either an open or closed position. The countdown proceeding smoothly now. T-13 minutes 43 seconds and counting. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:09:00 (23:10EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're at T-minus 9 minutes 36 seconds and we are counting. However, we do plan to continue the hold at the T-minus 8 minute mark. We can hold at that point for 20 minutes and plan a 20 minute hold while the launch crew here satisfies themselves that they have worked out a good solution and a work around to the problem, The crew has been alerted aboard the spacecraft. Cernan indicated that perhaps they could start a nice conservation about a good book, Thomas Hardy or something like that, Countdown continuing now aiming toward the 8 minute mark at which time we'll hold. T-minus 9 minutes now T-minus 9 minutes and counting. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:08:00 (23:12EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're now holding at the 8 minute mark, as planned. The hold at this time is planned for approximately 20 minutes. The crew feels that they have, that they have a work around to the problem, working around the indication going to the terminal sequencer that the tank has not been pressurized, when actually it had been done manually. They are checking all of their data, however, to insure that this is the proper method to work around the problem and that this will result in a smooth countdown from here on. Now at T minus 8 minutes and holding, this is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:08:00 (23:15EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're continuing our hold at the 8 minute mark. The launch operations manager has gone over with the launch team their proposed solution a work around. The team appears to be satisfied that it is the proper one. They are now briefing management personnel on the problem and the work around. Out at the pad the liquid oxygen continues to vent from the vehicle and is replenished. Liquid hydrogen is also vented from the vehicle as there is some boil off. However, because it is quite a volital fuel it is vented through a burnpond at the side of the pad. That burnpond is at the north side of the pad and there it can be seen burning in a controlled condition at this time. This is a normal condition, actually during the day this burns in such a pure manner that it cannot be seen. However, at night it is clearly visible. Our countdown continuing to hold at the T-minus 8 minute mark at this time. T-minus 8 minutes and holding this is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:08:00 (23:25EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're continuing to hold at the T-8 minute mark. Meantime the crew is getting a variety of updates in the spacecraft, updating them on various aspects and the changes to their mission due to this hold period. Also, at the Manned Spacecraft Center they are continuing to update the flight azimuth as they get new times for the launch. Launch Operations Manager Paul Donnelly just went through quite an extensive briefing with the spacecraft test conductor to pass ¢,n to the crew what they feel the problems were and how they plan to work around it. The crew aboard the spacecraft indicated that if the launch team was satisfied with these solutions, that they certainly were confident themselves. Now continuing our hold at the T-8 minute mark this is Kennedy Test Control.

-000:08:00 (23:33EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're continuing in our hold at the T minus 8 minute mark. At this time, it's been determined to take an additional 20 minutes, add an additional 20 minutes to that planned hold period. The reason for this is, the crews would like to take the work around that they have devised and at Marshall Spaceflight Center, where the Saturn V launch vehicle was developed, they have what is called a bread board or a system, which is similar to this one and run through the sequence and insure that it does operate properly. The crew aboard the spacecraft was informed of this additional 20 minute hold. They indicated that they expected to use all three stages of this Saturn V and they were happy to have the 20 minute hold if that was going to assure that all three were going to work properly. Now continuing our hold at the T minus 8 minute mark, this is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:08:00 (23:40EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Test Control. We are continuing our hold at the T-minus 8 minute mark. The reason the T-minus 8 minute mark is chosen for this hold as mentioned earlier has to do with the chill down of the thrust chambers in the S-2 or second stage and the third stage. Both of these stages use liquid hydrogen, an extremely cold cryogenic fuel and the thrust chamber must be conditioned prior to flight so that it's ready at the time of ignition inflight to receive these fuels coming in. To achieve the proper temperature the thrust chamber chill down should not exceed 20 minutes, but it must be on for at least 7 minutes and 40 seconds. So rounding that off the hold was called at the 8 minute mark. We can continuously hold it at this point whereas if we continued on down we would have to watch these parameters very closely so that we did not exceed that 20 minute accumulated cooling time. At this point we can continue our hold and that continuation can be determined by the problem and we can pick up then at any time or continue at long as necessary. We're continuing that hold now at T-minus 8 minutes and holding. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:08:00 (23:50EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're continuing in our hold at the T minus 8 minute mark. Back at the Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the crews there are at work on a bread board, or a mock-up of the system in question, where they're putting it through it's paces, checking out the work around solution, that is, jumping around this erroneous signal, and insuring that everything works properly The crew still standing by in the spacecraft, updating various systems there, updating their flight plan, all continuing to go well there. The crew at the Manned Spacecraft Center also doing considerable amount of updating. They'll be continuing to update the azimuth, and the Launch Control Center here at Kennedy Space Center, the launch team manning their consoles, standing by to pick up the count, when we're given the word to go. However, we're standing by still. At this time, we have no word from the Marshall Spaceflight Center. We're expecting that to come within 10 to 15 minutes from this time. Now at T minus 8 minutes and holding, this is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:08:00 (23:52EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're continuing in our hold period at this time. Test Supervisor Bill Shick just announced here in the Firing Room that the hold is expected to last approximately 20 more minutes. Liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen continuing to be replenished aboard the 3 stages of the launch vehicle at this time. That replenishing will continue during the hold period and during the final minutes of the countdown. The countdown continuing in the hold. T-8 minutes and holding this is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:08:00 (23:59EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control at one minute to midnight. We are continuing to hold at the T-minus 8 minute mark. Work is still going on at the Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Updating of the tracking continuing at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. And the launch team here at Kennedy Space Center preparing to pick up the count. Hopefully, we will be given a go ahead to pick up the count in approximately 10 to 12 minutes from this time. We are continuing to stand by waiting to hear from the testing going on at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. To recap the activities earlier today the countdown picked up at 11:53 a.m. after a planned hold period picked up at T-minus 9 hours mark shortly after that time the pad was cleared and we began loading the cryogenic fuels, that's the liquid hydrogen and the liquid oxygen aboard the space vehicle. Those operations actually went a little bit ahead of schedule. The astronaut crew went out to the pad, enter their spacecraft, began checking it out and those operations also running a little bit ahead of schedule. We went on to our terminal countdown sequencer at the 3 minute 6 second mark as scheduled. Everything seemed to be proceeding fine. At the T-minus 30 second mark we got an automatic cut off. It was determined that this cut off came because pressurization of the liquid oxygen tank aboard the third stage was not initiated automatically as it should have been when it was done manually the terminal sequencer did not sense that this had been done and therefore gave the automatic cut off. We're working the problem right now continuing to hold at the T-minus 8 minute mark. T-minus 8 minutes, this is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:08:00 (00:06EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. Continuing to hold at the T-8 minute mark. The hold continues to be planned for approximately 5 to 7 more minutes. However, the launch window should be pointed out tonight extends to 1:31 AM. Now if for any reason we could not make it in that launch window, we could recycle under our present configuration and resume our count aiming for a 9:53 PM EST launch tonight. The window for tonight is the same as it was for last night and this morning - 9:53 PM to 1:31 AM. However, the launch team appears to be optomistic with the solution they've found in the problem and are just waiting for verification and confirmation from the testing going on at the Marshall Spaceflight Center at Huntsville, Alabama. The time now is 7 minutes after midnight, We're continuing to hold at T-8 minutes. T-8 minutes and holding this is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:08:00 (00:20EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control, continuing to hold at the 8 minute mark in the countdown. Still awaiting word from the Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and the result of the test being run at this time up there. Meanwhile, here in the firing room, all elements of the launch team are assessing their position. They are assessing the effect of the hold and this amount of hold time on each of their systems. Everyone, at this time, busily at work here in the firing room, also at the Mission Control Center in Houston, busy there with their flight update. Now continuing to hold at the T minus 8 minute mark, this is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:08:00 (00:15EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control. We're at 15 minutes past the hour continuing to hold at the T-minus 8 minute mark. The supervisor just indicated that we finally pick up the clock at the T-minus 8 minute mark in 10 minutes. Planning to pick up the clock at 25 minutes past the hour. The tests being run or have been run now at the Marshall Space Flight Center and indicate that our system is good the way it has been reconfiguredo All elements during this 10 minutes will be preparing their various systems to pick up the clock at the the minus 8 minute mark. Meanwhile, at the Manned Spacecraft Center the flight controllers there also planning to pick up the clock. We just received a go from the superintendent of range operations indicating that the range has been cleared around the new flight azimuth. The Manned Spacecraft Center Houston flight indicates that they are go to pick up the clock at 25 minutes past the hour. Now at T-minus 8 minutes and holding this is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:08:00 (00:20EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn launch control. We're continuing our hold at the T minus 8 minute mark. We have approximately 5 more minutes remaining in that hold. It has been determined that the workaround is a correct and satisfactory one. A bread board or a sample system at the Marshal Spaceflight Center was used to run through the entire sequence as it now configured and that operated satisfactorily. What happened was the - during the terminal sequencer, the liquid oxygen tank was not pressurized automatically. When this was done manually, the indication did not get to the sensors in time so that we had an automatic cutoff. The liquid oxygen tanksaboard the third stage, it has been determined, will be pressurized manually early in the terminal sequence and jumpers have been installed so that we can then feed the informaticn to the sequencer so that it will not have an indication that the LOX tanks have not been pressurized. This - a bread board situation of this has been constructed at the Marshal Spaceflight Center in Huntsville and this has operated satisfactorily. So, it's been determined to go ahead with our countdown on this basis. We'll be planning to pick up the count at the T minus 8 minute mark some 4 minutes from now. Now T minus 8 minutes and holding. This is Kennedy Launch Control.


[edit] Countdown

-000:08:00 (00:25EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control, we are now resuming the count ... T minus 7 minutes 54 seconds and counting. At this time in the Spacecraft update is being given to the Spacecraft Commander, Eugene Cernan. The swing arm is still at the 12 degree postion, that is the park position, standing by at the Spacecraft. That will be brought to the full retract position at approximately T minus 5 minutes in the countdown. The flight director just ran through the - his team - a status report from his team at the Mission Control Center. That team all reported they are in a go condition. Now, at T minus 7 minutes 20 seconds and counting this is Kennedy Launch Control.

-000:05:40 (00:27EST)

Launch Control: This is Apollo Saturn Launch Control T minus 5 minutes 40 seconds and counting. At this time the various elements of the launch team have been reporting in to Bill Shigby, test supervisor, indicating that we are GO to continue. Mission director Chet Lee just verified that we are GO for launch. Safety indicates that we have a GO. First stage test conductor, this is the man who has charge of those five first stage engines which will give us the lift off, has indicated a go for launch. Launch Operations Manager, Paul Donnley, also giving us a GO for launch, and finally the Launch Director, Walter Kapryan says we are GO for launch.

-000:05:00

Launch Control: We've passed the five minute mark now and swing arm number nine, this is the access arm to the spacecraft, is coming back to the full retract possition. It moves back along side the mobile launch tower and it will remain there now through the final portion of the countdown and the launch. At the T-minus 60 second mark 20 nozzles will start flame deflector deluge of 13 000 gallons per minute of water pouring down on that flame deflector, so a great deal of what is seen at launch time, which looks like smoke, is actually steam as this water is burned off. This water's to cool the pad area and to cool the equipment along side the launch tower as the water also pours across the swing arms in the launch tower.

-000:04:05

Launch Control: We are approaching the 4 minute mark in the count down now, T-minus 4 minutes 5 seconds and continuing to count. At the 4 minute mark we'll stand by for a final GO from Norm Carlson, Launch Vehicle Test Conductor. He has given a GO. The Launch Operations Manager now switching over to the astro COMM circuit, this is the circuit that the astronauts, the launch operations manager and the spacecraft communicator will remain on. They have this private circuit to keep extraneous talk off of their circuit. They are checking in, they are checking in now on the astro comm circuit indicating that they are GO. Spacecraft has indicated they are ready. Instrument unit ready light has come on. SIC at the first stage preparations are now complete as we approach the 3 minute mark. There is quiet in the firing room now as the engineers and technicians are monitoring their consoles. They are monitoring the various rates, pressures, temperatures, they can over ride the terminal sequencer if they sight a problem that it has not picked up.

-000:02:47

Launch Control: We are on that terminal sequencer now, we have passed the 3 minute mark T-minus 2 minutes 47 seconds and counting as we are on the terminal sequencer. At the T-minus 50 second mark we will be looking for that critical power transfer. This is where we transfer from the external power source, which has been feeding the 3 stages of the launch vehicle to internal power to the flight batteries aboard the space vehicle. It's expected that they given proper weather conditions people will be observing this flight from as much as 500 miles away This includes a large portion of the southeastern United States, the northern tip of Cuba and the Bahama Islands.

-000:02:00

Launch Control: Now approaching the 2 minutes, 2 minute mark, mark T-minus 2 minutes and counting and the countdown continues to move along smoothly now in the terminal countdown portion. The automatic sequencer has stopped the replenishing of the liquid oxygen and the liquid hydrogen. We're standing by now to begin pressurization of the fuel tanks, the second stage fuel tank pressurized, third stage fuel tank pressurized. The countdown continuing to move along smoothly.

-000:01:30

Launch Control: T-minus 90 seconds, T-minus 90 seconds. Countdown continuing smoothly. S-IVB propellent pressurized, the indication now using the work around showing the S-IVB propellent has been pressurized. Now looking at the liquid hydrogen tank, as they become pressurized LH2 aboard the second stage pressurized, all propellents now aboard the second stage pressurized as we approach the 1 minute mark in the countdown.

-000:01:00

Launch Control: Mark T minus 1 minute and counting. Now, in the final minute of the countdown - at T minus 45 seconds Gene Cernan will make the final guidance alignment - this is the -

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) The count and lift-off, through the yaw and the roll program, were nominal once we got through T-0. Distinction of sounds in launch vehicle sequence countdown to lift-off - I think the only thing that really comes across in there is that at some point you get a good vibration. At some point in the countdown, you get a good vibration as you're sitting up there. It's not part of the CSM's operation, so you're not sure what's going on. And this happened in the CDDT and, of course, all we did was check and find out we were doing something with the booster.

Evans: (Technical Debriefing) When they ran through some gimbaling programs.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) The major portion of the launch count has to do with checking out the systems, so the commander stays very busy and many times on separate loops. The entire EDS system checked out very well. We only checked it out once in the initial count and during most of the recycle we stayed in EDS AUTO and then we de-armed EDS AUTO but still maintained a manual EDS capability to abort during that recycle time. We picked EDS AUTO as part of the T minus 20 recycle for final lift-off.

-000:00:45

Launch Control: Mark T minus 45 and Gene Cernan made that final guidance alignment. That's the last action taken by the crew aboard the space vehicle. Now approaching the half minute mark. T minus 33 ...

-000:00:30

Launch Control: T minus 30 seconds and continuing on now -

-000:00:26

Launch Control: continuing on at T minus 26 seconds ...

-000:00:25

Launch Control: Mark T minus 25. We'll get a final guidance release at the T minus 17 second mark.

-000:00:17

Launch Control: T minus 17, final guidance release. We'll expect engine ignition at 8.9 seconds

-000:00:10

Launch Control: . . . 10 ... 9 . . . 8 . . . 7 . . . ignition sequence started- all engines are started - we have ignition 2, 1, zero -


 Apollo 17 liftoff viewed from the launch tower. (NASA photo, scan by Kipp Teague)
Apollo 17 liftoff viewed from the launch tower. (NASA photo, scan by Kipp Teague)
 Apollo 17 liftoff (NASA photo, scan by J.L. Pickering)
Apollo 17 liftoff (NASA photo, scan by J.L. Pickering)

[edit] S-IC First Stage

000:00:00

Launch Control: we have a liftoff. We have a liftoff and it's lighting up the area, its just like daylight here at Kennedy Space Center as the Saturn V is moving off the pad. It has now cleared the tower.

Flame from the five F-1 engines of the Apollo/Saturn first (S-1C) stage illuminates the nighttime scene as the huge, 363-feet tall Apollo 17 space vehicle is launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 12:33 a.m. EST, December 7, 1972.
Flame from the five F-1 engines of the Apollo/Saturn first (S-1C) stage illuminates the nighttime scene as the huge, 363-feet tall Apollo 17 space vehicle is launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 12:33 a.m. EST, December 7, 1972.
000:00:03

Cernan: Roger. The clock has started. We have you. (Laughter) Clear the tower. Roger; tower. Yaw's complete. We're into roll, Bob.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) Countdown - It was dark and we didn't see anything until S-IC ignition.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) The S-IC ignition - The lights started going out at 7 seconds, and somewhere around 3 seconds they were completely out. You could feel the ignition. You could feel the engines come up to speed. Just prior to lift-off and during the first few seconds of lift-off when we were near the pad, both the CMP and I could see the reflection of the engine ignition out the left-hand window and the hatch window in the BPC. We could not see the fire but could see a red glow through the windows reflecting apparently off the surface. Ignition was like a big old freight train sort of starting to rumble and shake and rattle and as she lifted off. We got a good tower clear.

Evans: (Technical Debriefing) I really wasn't watching the lights because I guess I didn't expect the thing to shake quite as much as it did. To me, I felt like I was really vibrating. I wanted to find out what was making me vibrate. I wasn't expecting that much vibration when the S-IC lit off. At lift-off, again, once it got vibrating, I didn't feel the yaw. I was watching the needle on the thing but didn't feel the yaw, though.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) Powered flight - During the actual powered flight of the S-IC you could not see anything at all. You couldn't see out the cockpit, as we had the lights up fairly bright.

000:00:17

Overmyer: Roger, Geno. Looking great. Thrust good on all five engines.

000:00:20

Cernan: Okay, babe. It's looking good here; roll is complete. We are pitching.

(unidentified): Wow woozle!

Evans: Okay, babe. Let's check the angles.

Public Affairs Officer: This is Mission Control. Gene Cernan reporting the launch vehicle maneuvering to the proper attitude, everything looking good at this point.

Evans: Thirty seconds. We're going up. Man, oh, man!

000:00:36

Cernan: Thirty seconds, and 17 is GO.

000:00:38

Overmyer: Roger, 17, you're GO.

Public Affairs Officer: First stage looks good. Altitude 1.1 miles. Booster says we look good. We are now at 2.5 miles.

000:00:45

Evans: Okay, 1 minute, 68 degrees.

Cernan: Okay.

Schmitt: Everything looks great over here, Gene.

Cernan: Okay. Okay, stand by for ... we're coming through for ... We'll be up ...

Evans: ... looking for.

Cernan: Okay.

Overmyer: 17, stand by for Mode I Bravo -

000:01:01

Overmyer: MARK. Mode I Bravo.

000:01:04

Cernan: Roger. I Bravo; we're GO at 1 minute.

Overmyer: 17, you're looking great. Right on the line.

Public Affairs Officer: Everybody says "Looking great - Right on the line". We're now 1 mile down range. Launch vehicle 4.2 miles high.

Cernan: Okay, we've got the RCS command.

000:01:11

Overmyer: Gene, you are feet wet - feet wet.

S-IC first stage beginning to separate in a cloud of vapour during the Apollo 11 launch, photographed by airborne tracking camera at about 40,000 feet altitude. This image has been adjusted to enhance the visibility of the shock wave and plume.
S-IC first stage beginning to separate in a cloud of vapour during the Apollo 11 launch, photographed by airborne tracking camera at about 40,000 feet altitude. This image has been adjusted to enhance the visibility of the shock wave and plume.
000:01:13

Cernan: Roger. Feet wet.

Public Affairs Officer: Coming up on maximum dynamic pressure at this point. 4 miles down range, 8 miles high and the velocity approaching 3000 feet per second.

Evans: Hey, this thing shakes like a ...

Cernan: Yes, that's max q, wait until we get out of max q; stay down there, q ...

Evans: Okay.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) As you go through max-q, as in the past, it gets very rough and much noisier, but I don't think we ever had any trouble hearing each other in the spacecraft. I had my intercom very high and all my S-bands and tweaked everything up prior to lift-off. We went through max-q and the only unusual thing going through max-q, considering wind components that we had was that I saw 25 percent on the ALPHA going through max-q. The yaw needle was right on, but the pitch needle had dropped to a degree and a half at the most. I guess I didn't really expect it because of the predicted wind components. After we got through max-q, you could still certainly tell the bird was burning as we pressed on toward staging, but it got much quieter and it was very evident that you were through max-q when that time came.

Evans: (Technical Debriefing) The shaking increased a little bit up to max-q and then there was a different type of shaking. It was more of a vibration, I think, going through max-q. And there was more noise associated with going through max-q.


Schmitt: (Oral History 2000) I think everybody [who] rode a Saturn V was tremendously stimulated by the experience. It's a very heavy vibration. Very slow acceleration at first, but heavy, heavy vibration as the five F-1 engines in the first stage, the S-IC, are fighting each other to some degree. You build up, over two minutes and forty-five seconds, about 4 Gs' acceleration.

Evans: 01:30, about 50 degrees.

Cernan: 50 degrees. Okay, right on.

000:01:34

Cernan: 01:30, and we are GO, Bob.

Overmyer: Roger, Gene. You're looking great.

Cernan: ... 2 g, 2-1/2 g. See, it quiets down after max q.

Evans: Yes, quiets down.

Cernan: Pushing 3 gs.

Evans: Okay, I can't hold my hand up there any more (laughter).

Cernan: Yes. Okay, we're out of max q.

Evans: Okay.

Schmitt: Cabin's still looking good .... PC.

Cernan: Okay, stand by for - -

Overmyer: Stand by for Mode 1 Charlie, 17.

Cernan: Mark, mode 1 Charlie.

Overmyer: Mode 1 Charlie.

Public Affairs Officer: And the flight dynamics officer says we look good on all sources, right on the trajectory.

000:02:00

Cernan: Roger. 1 Charlie; 2 minutes and EDS is OFF and we are GO.

000:02:06

Overmyer: Roger, 17, you're go.

Evans: ... does pull a couple of g's.

Cernan: Three g's; 3-1/2. Stand by for inboard.

000:02:11

Overmyer: 17, you are GO for staging.

Cernan: Roger. We are GO here.

Public Affairs Officer: Flight Director, Gene Kranz, taking a status for staging, we say we look good for staging.

Cernan: Did you get your VERB 82?

Evans: No.

Cernan: Stand by for inboard.

Evans: Okay, that's VERB 82.

Schmitt: Yes.

000:02:22

Cernan: Inboard cutoff.

Overmyer: Stand by.

000:02:23

Overmyer: Roger. Inboard.

Public Affairs Officer: Inboard engines shutting down on time as planned. Crew will experience maximum G forces of about 4 Gs at shutdown. Coming up on first stage shutdown.

Cernan: Okay, now hold on to that staging.

Schmitt: Stand by, gang.

Cernan: Okay.

Evans: Here's 20, where's the ...?

000:02:26

Cernan: Okay, it's 19.

Cernan: Now at 41.

Evans: 41, okay.

Cernan: 3-1/2 g's. Hold on.

Evans: Okay.

Cernan: Five seconds. Pushing 4 g's.

Evans: 4 g's.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) If you want to put them in more layman terms, I think the S-IC acted and performed like some big, old, rugged, shaky, big monster. It has to be noisy, has lots of vibration, and smoothed out somewhat after max-q, but still was a rumbling bird.

Schmitt: (Technical Debriefing) I think that it is good to do a lot of simulation about malfunctions during launch, but up through max-q it is a little bit unrealistic to think that you are going to analyze a malfunction in the spacecraft.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) To sum up the S-IC, I personally didn't think it was any different than my previous ride on the S-IC and up through this point being a night launch really didn't make any difference at all. The only thing I did different that I hadn't really though a lot about until I sat on the pad and began to think about staging was, just prior to staging, I took my hand off the abort handle and held the support arm rather than the translation control handle until after staging. I did this just a couple of seconds prior to staging. I had talked about it with John Young a little bit prior to the flight and it turns out that's what he did, also. Probably a good thing.

Cernan: Told you to hold on. Look at that son of a gun.

Evans: Man .... criminy (laughter).

Acceleration during S-IC outboard engine cutoff, measured at the Command Module. The four to five hertz oscillation was typical of the Saturn V's first longitudinal vibration mode.
Acceleration during S-IC outboard engine cutoff, measured at the Command Module. The four to five hertz oscillation was typical of the Saturn V's first longitudinal vibration mode.

Evans: (Technical Debriefing) Of course, with the shutdown of the S-IC, I think that was about 4-1/2g.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) We pushed 4g.

Schmitt: (Technical Debriefing) Just pushing 4g on the thing and it quits just like that. I was prepared for it because Gene had said, "Hey, brace yourselves because it is going to happen," and it happened all right. It just flat quit when we went from 4g to 0.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) The great train wreck.

Schmitt: (Technical Debriefing) I think in all those booster cutoffs, it's hard to see how rapidly the g-level decreases.


Schmitt: (Oral History 2000) Very slow acceleration at first, but heavy, heavy vibration as the five F-1 engines in the first stage, the S-IC, are fighting each other to some degree. You build up, over two minutes and forty-five seconds, about 4 Gs' acceleration. At that point everything shuts down. You drop off the first stage and then you ignite the second stage, the S-II, and you're back on your way, but only at one and a half Gs. So there's a big change, it's from 4 Gs to minus one and a half, as the whole stack unloads, to plus one and a half, as you go on on the second stage. And that all happens in just slightly over a second. So that is probably the most dynamically exciting point in the mission, certainly in the launch part of it. From then on it's pretty straightforward. You get into orbit in about ten minutes using all three stages.



[edit] S-II Second Stage

000:02:49

Schmitt: Okay, Bob. I guess we got all five (Laughter). They're looking here - looking good.

The Apollo 11 spacecraft and Saturn V second (S-II) and third (S-IVB) stages pull away from the expended first (S-1C) stage at an altitude of about 38 miles, some 55 miles downrange from Cape Kennedy, July 16, 1969. This image has been cropped and manipulated to enhanced the plumes.
The Apollo 11 spacecraft and Saturn V second (S-II) and third (S-IVB) stages pull away from the expended first (S-1C) stage at an altitude of about 38 miles, some 55 miles downrange from Cape Kennedy, July 16, 1969. This image has been cropped and manipulated to enhanced the plumes.
Skirt separation: Still from film of Apollo 6 test flight showing interstage between the S-IC first stage and S-II second stage falling away.
Skirt separation: Still from film of Apollo 6 test flight showing interstage between the S-IC first stage and S-II second stage falling away.
Launch escape tower and boost protective cover jettison.
Launch escape tower and boost protective cover jettison.

Public Affairs Officer: And we've had shutdown on time on the first stage.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) We had center engine shutdown on time. We had staging on time. ... At staging, the S-IC shut down, something that you don't see in the daylight is that the fireball overtook us.

Evans: (Technical Debriefing) It sure did.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) When the S-II lit off, we literally for a nanosecond flew through the bright yellow fireball that was left over from the S-IC. ... I don't think it's ever been recorded on a daylight launch before, but as soon as the S-IC shut down during the time involved in recycling and getting the staging sequence going and the S-II lit off, apparently the trailing flame of the S-IC overtook the spacecraft when we immediately went into that zero-g condition. And, for just a second, as the S-II lit off, we went through the flame. It was very obvious. We could see it out of both windows. I particularly could see it out of the left-hand rendezvous window of the BPC. It was not a smoke; it was not an orange fireball; it was just a bright yellow fire of the trailing flame of the S-IC; and it happened for just a split second. Then we got off on the S-II and things got very quiet and very smooth and was a very long, quiet, smooth ride.

Evans: Okay; stand by to tower.

Schmitt: Sure felt like it. Stand by; hold it. I think we saw them all from here.

Overmyer: Roger, Jack. And the thrust is GO on all five of them. They're running good.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) The S-II ignition was very smooth.

000:03:02

Cernan: Okay; 3 minutes and we're GO.

Overmyer: Roger, 17.

Evans: Say, this is smooth.

Schmitt: Okay. I got the tower switches on ...

Cernan: Come on, baby. Go.

Evans: Okay, 15 (13?). There she goes.


000:03:15

Schmitt: Okay. we just had skirt sep.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) We got skirt sep right on time. I could feel skirt sep going.

000:03:18

Overmyer: Roger. We confirm skirt sep.


000:03:21

Schmitt: 19, 16, 17, 18, 15, 13.

Cernan?: Watch it Jack. There goes the tower!

(multiple speakers): There goes the tower! There she goes!

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) We had tower jett, which was really sort of spectacular at night. I think the LMP is going to add something to it, but from the left-hand rendezvous window, I could not only see the flame, but the inside of the BPC seemed to be lit up. Of course, it doesn't stay there very long; it's gone in just a split second. But it was a very spectacular sight at night to see that tower go against the blackness of space out there.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) Tower jett was very evident. You could see the flash and I could see the entire BPC. I could see underneath it. It was lit up underneath. The whole thing was lit up.

Schmitt: (Technical Debriefing) On the tower jett, I wouldn't say a split second. As a matter of fact, I was surprised it lasted as long as it did. It was a few seconds.

Evans: (Technical Debriefing) I couldn't see the rocket go. All I could see was an orange glow out the center window.

000:03:24

Overmyer: Roger. The tower. You're Mode II.

Cernan: Roger. Mode II.

Schmitt: And the steam pressure is taken care of.

000:03:33

Cernan: Okay; MAN ATTITUDE is RATE COMMAND. Okay; I'll put the - -

000:03:37

Overmyer: The steering has converged. The CMC is GO. You're going right down the pike, 17.

Public Affairs Officer: That's the automatic guidance system, the inertial guidance system, performing properly.

000:03:39

Cernan: Okay, Bob, I just confirmed guidance.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) We could see guidance come in very definitely. It was not as big a pulsation as I've seen on the simulator but I did see the needle and the spacecraft did change its attitude slightly. You could see the mixture ratio shift. It was just a long, smooth, quiet ride.

Schmitt: And the ELS SEP circuit breakers when you get a chance to, Gene.


000:03:45

Cernan: Okay, Bob. I got the ELS SEP circuit breakers, and we've seen it all: ignition, staging, and tower.

Overmyer: Roger. Got you.

Public Affairs Officer: Apollo 17 now 65 miles high.

Schmitt: By the way, the cabin sealed.

Cernan,Schmitt: (Laughter)

Cernan: Okay, guys. We got a long way to go.

Schmitt: Okay; ... I'll see what in heck went wrong here. Let's see.


000:04:03

Cernan: Okay; 4 minutes and we're GO here, Bob.

000:04:06

Overmyer: Roger, Gene. We're going round the room. Looks GO here.

000:04:08

Cernan: Twenty-one degrees. We're Mode II, Ron.

Evans: Okay; Mode II.

Overmyer: You're looking real good, Gene. Right down the line.

Cernan: Okay. It's a - it looks pretty good.

Evans: We got a freeze here on the 04:30.

Evans: I can't - barely see that, let's see.


000:04:29

Cernan: Okay; 04:30, and we're still GO on board.

Overmyer: Roger, 17. You're GO.

Cernan: Let me tell you, this night launch is something to behold.

Public Affairs Officer: Coming up on 5 minutes. Everything still looks very good in the launch of Apollo 17. The launch vehicle spacecraft now 80 miles high, 230 miles down range.

Schmitt: Okay; H and H DOT are good.

Cernan: Okay; I don't know if you'll be able to pick up any horizon.

Schmitt: Well, it's too dark - too light in here.

Cernan: Okay; let's keep on 1 g. I got some stars out the right, but I don't see - -

Test firing of a J-2 engine. The J-2, developed by Rocketdyne under the direction of Marshall Space Flight Center, was propelled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. A single J-2 was utilized in the S-IVB stage (the second stage for the Saturn IB and third stage for the Saturn V) and in a cluster of five for the second stage (S-II) of the Saturn V. Initially rated at 200,000 pounds of thrust, the engine was later uprated in the Saturn V program to 230,000 pounds.
Test firing of a J-2 engine. The J-2, developed by Rocketdyne under the direction of Marshall Space Flight Center, was propelled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. A single J-2 was utilized in the S-IVB stage (the second stage for the Saturn IB and third stage for the Saturn V) and in a cluster of five for the second stage (S-II) of the Saturn V. Initially rated at 200,000 pounds of thrust, the engine was later uprated in the Saturn V program to 230,000 pounds.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) While we were on the S-II, we would see no indication of light from the engines. We were just thrusting out in the darkness of space. I tried to see stars for potential mode IV and, of course, at that time, mode II abort and turned the lights down on the left side once or twice. But even with the lights down on (we had the LEB lights relatively low), in my estimation, it would have required all the lights in the spacecraft to have been off and certainly more than a few seconds to become night adapted to be able to see through the windows and pick up stars that would have been able to help in an abort situation had you lost the computer and the SCS. We had looked, potentially planned to use those stars in an abort condition if we had to. We had excellent constellations to look at. They obviously were there, but I could not see through the low glow reflection on the window even with our lights, floodlights, turned almost all the way down. I even went to the extent of trying to shield my eyes on the S-II and looked out the window and I still could not pick up anything that I could have recognized for an abort. I also could not pick up any night horizons during that point in time which I thought I might be able to base on seeing where the stars cut off and where they do not.

Schmitt: (Technical Debriefing) We had another indication of that during entry when we were looking for a night horizon and finally saw it, but it was extremely hard to find.

000:05:02

Overmyer: Five minutes, Geno, and you're GO down here. You're looking great.

Cernan: What's that? Okay. Okay, Robert. We're go here at 5.

Evans: Coming up on S-IVB to COI.

Cernan: You guys believe me about that S-I staging now?

Schmitt: (Laughter) I can't believe how smooth! I can't believe how smooth - -

Cernan: Okay. Let's keep this burn. We got a long way to go. We're only halfway there.

000:05:26

Overmyer: 17, Houston. Your times are nominal. Level sense arm at 8 plus 36. S-II shutdown at 9 plus 20. Nominal times.

Cernan: 8 plus 36 and 9 plus 20. Roger.

Public Affairs Officer: Capcom, Robert Obermeyer, advising Gene Cernan and the crew aboard Apollo 17 the second stage shutdown at about 9 minutes 20 seconds elapsed time. We'll have that shutdown in about 3 and a half minutes from now.

Evans: (Onboard) Coming up on gimbal motors, Geno.

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay.

Cernan: (Onboard) Are we getting anything yet, Ron?

Evans: (Onboard) No.

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay. We're still Mode II. Coming up - -

000:06:00

Overmyer: Stand by for S-IVB to COI capability.

Overmyer: MARK. S-IVB to COI capability.

000:06:02

Cernan: Roger. S-IVB to COI. We're GO at 6.

Overmyer: Roger, Geno.

Public Affairs Officer: Apollo 17 still right on the nominal trajectory at an altitude now of about 92 nautical miles.

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay; gimbal motors?

Evans: (Onboard) Go ahead.

Cernan: (Onboard) PITCH 1.

000:06:08

Evans: (Onboard) Got it.

Cernan: (Onboard) And YAW 1.

000:06:10

Evans: (Onboard) Got it. Go ahead.

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay. Wait a minute. I'm checking. PITCH 2.

000:06:17

Evans: (Onboard) Got it.

Cernan: (Onboard) And YAW 2.

000:06:19

Evans: (Onboard) Got it.

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay; you got a minus 0.58 and a plus 19.

Evans: (Onboard) That 's affirm.

000:06:22

Cernan: Okay, Bob. We got four good motors, and we're GO at 06:20.

Overmyer: Roger. And, 17, we copy the gimbals and watched them and they look good.

Evans: (Onboard) One g? (Laughter) Just like sitting on the pad, isn't it? That's all there is to her.

Schmitt: (Onboard) Okay; our calibration on that tank changed a little bit again, apparently.

Evans: (Onboard) Okay.

Schmitt: (Onboard) Down to about 9 - 90 percent.

Evans: (Onboard) 90? Oh, on the tank 2?

Schmitt: (Onboard) No, on the hydrogen tank.

Evans: (Onboard) Hydrogen tank 3, then.

Overmyer: Stand by for S-IVB to orbit capability.

Cernan: Roger, Bob.


000:06:51

Overmyer: MARK. S-IV to orbit capability.

Cernan: S-IVB to orbit.

Overmyer: And we'd like OMNI Delta, Jack.

Schmitt: Roger. You've got it.

Overmyer: Roger.

Public Affairs Officer: Now 7 minutes in and we have sufficient velocity to make orbit with the Saturn third stage should we have an unexpected early shutdown of the second stage.

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay; 7 minutes, 6 degrees. Yes - -

Cernan: (Onboard) 7, and 6 degrees. How does that sound?

Evans: (Onboard) Okay; that's good. That's 723. Let's see, 119 - -

Cernan: (Onboard) We got altitude. We're going to start - -

Evans: (Onboard) We're half a mile, half mile high.


000:07:08

Cernan: Seven minutes, Bob. We're looking good on board.

(unidentified): (Onboard) (Cough)

Overmyer: Roger.

Public Affairs Officer: We're now less than 2 minutes from second stage shutdown and ignition of the Saturn third stage. And the center engine will be shutting down as scheduled in about 10 seconds.

Cernan: (Onboard) Am I glad I took my hand off that abort handle.

Evans: (Onboard) (Laughter) Man!

Schmitt: (Onboard) So am I - I'll tell you (laughter).

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay; we got to get through this one and then through staging. Stand by for inboard. Okay.

000:07:29

Evans: (Onboard) Okay. Inboard at 07:41 - -

Tank pressure is good.

Cernan: (Onboard) Stand by for inboards.

Evans: (Onboard) Okay.

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay; we're g and a half. Stand by.

000:07:41

Cernan: We have inboard cut-off.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) Inboard cutoff was right on time. You could feel it, a definite physiological feeling. Of course, the g-meter saw it also.

Overmyer: Roger, Gene. Inboard on time.

Public Affairs Officer: And that inboard shutdown looked to be on time. Apollo 17 now 625 miles downrange, 93 miles in altitude.

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay; and she pitches up just like the simulator.

Evans: (Onboard) Yes. Sure does, doesn't she?

Schmitt: (Onboard) Uh-huh.

Evans: (Onboard) Is that hard to reach, Jack?

Schmitt: (Onboard) Yes. Why don't you take it out. I can't quite - g and a half (laughter).

Evans: (Onboard) Yes (laughter).

000:08:03

Cernan: Eight minutes, and we are GO.

Overmyer: Roger, 17. You're looking great.

Public Affairs Officer: The spacecraft guidance systems agreeing very closely with the Saturn guidance. It looks good.

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay. Everything's okay.

Evans: (Onboard) Gosh, these ... are really good.

Schmitt: (Onboard) 17-03409: Yes.

Cernan: (Onboard) Stand by for a PU shift.

Evans: (Onboard) Is that what that was?

Cernan: (Onboard) Yes, I think it was.

Evans: (Onboard) Yes, I think that was it.

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay, Ron. Level sense arm will be at 36.

Evans: (Onboard) Thirty-six. Okay.

000:08:22

Overmyer: 17, Houston. You are GO for staging.

000:08:28

Cernan: Thank you, Bob. We are GO for staging up here.

Public Affairs Officer: Staging now less than 1 minute.

(unidentified): (Onboard) (Cough)

Evans: (Onboard) Little over a g.

Cernan: (Onboard) Yes, there's a little chug.

Evans: (Onboard) Yes.

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay. We got to get through this one. Coming in. We're in level sense arm now.

000:08:39

Overmyer: You have level sense arm this time, Gene.

Cernan: Roger, Bob. Level sense arm.

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay, Ron. Our next thing will be stand by for Mode IV, and we'll have staging - I'll call it out to you. And, little S-IVB; burn, baby, burn.

Evans: (Onboard) ... on the S-II.

Public Affairs Officer: Apollo 17 traveling at 21 000 feet per second. It's achieved about 83 percent of the velocity required for a minimum orbit.

000:08:59

Cernan: Nine minutes, Bob, and 17 is GO.

000:09:03

Overmyer: Roger, 17. You're GO here.

Public Affairs Officer: And about 10 seconds to staging.

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay. Stand by; 10 seconds.

Overmyer: Stand by for Mode IV capability.

000:09:15

Cernan: (Onboard) S-II cut-off.


[edit] S-IVB Third Stage

000:09:16

Overmyer: MARK. Mode IV capability, and we copy cut-off.

Cernan: Roger. Mode IV. And we do have S-IVB ignition.

Overmyer: Roger. We see it, and the thrust is looking good on it.

Evans: (Onboard) Jack, did you see that glow - -

Schmitt: (Onboard) Gee !

Evans: (Onboard) - - go - go in past us?

Cernan: We saw that one, too, Bob.

Overmyer: Roger.

Evans: (Onboard) Did you see it go past us?

Schmitt: (Onboard) Yes. We're right in the flame.

Cernan: (Onboard) Yes, that's what the Titan used to do, used to fly through the flame of that thing.-

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) The S-I cutoff, as Jack said, is again very sharp, almost instantaneous, from almost 4g to 0. But on the S-II, although it's sharp and a very hard hit, you don't unload the entire stack like you do when you're on the S-IC. The staging was very smooth. It did not seem like an exceptionally long time before we separated and the S-IVB lit off.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) I could see nothing on S-II until S-II shutdown. I could see the glow of S-IVB ignition. I say the glow of S-IVB ignition, it very easily could have been the fireball of S-II which tried to overtake us but couldn't quite make it. But there was a glow right during the period of S-II shutdown to S-IVB ignition. During the S-IVB burn, you could see the glow of the aft engines throughout the burn and throughout the orbital [operation?]

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) We got lit off on the S-IVB, and, unlike the flame we flew through on the S-II, we did not do that on the S-IVB. I don't know where the reflection came from, but I could see the reflection from somewhere out the forward window. Either it was the S-II trailing flame trying to overtake the vehicle but didn't quite make it, or it was S-IVB ignition reflecting off the S-II because there's no atmosphere up there at that point. But I did not see a flame, but a residual back light out that window just for a short period of time, either right at staging or just at S-IVB ignition. As I think back, my best guess would be that the same thing happened on the S-II, that the trailing flame, when you go from 4g to 0 instantaneously, tends to overtake the vehicle. But in the case of the S-II, it's not nearly as big a pattern and just didn't quite make it up the stack. I just saw some of the glow of it. That's my best guess. After the S-IVB ignited, we never saw anything except the APS firing throughout that burn. You could see the mixture ratio shift.

Schmitt: (Technical Debriefing) But PU shift, both vehicles, was surprisingly noticeable.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) The S-II was a Cadillac: quiet, less than 1g flight most of the time until we built up our g-load prior to staging. It was quiet, smooth, had very little noise, or feeling of rumbling or anything else.

Public Affairs Officer: We're up to 23 000 feet per second - we'll be shooting for something over 25,000.

Cernan: (Onboard) Let's - let's press on here. We got - -

Schmitt: (Onboard) Okay. Okay.

Cernan: (Onboard) - - a lot to do. We're Mode IV?

Evans: (Onboard) Yes.

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay. We're at a little less than a half a g.

Evans: (Onboard) Less than 1/2 g, sir.

Coming up on - -

000:09:51

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay. 10 minutes, Ron, I'll be at about 40 - -

000:09:54

Overmyer: 17, the steering has converged, and the OMC is GO. You're looking great.

Schmitt: (Onboard) - - ... at 13 ...

000:09:58

Cernan: Roger. The CMC is GO; 10 minutes, and 17 is GO on board.

Evans: (Onboard) Okay; starts a little bit low, but not bad.

000:10:06

Overmyer: 17, Houston. You are GO for orbit. GO for orbit.

000:10:10

Cernan: Those are kind words, Robert. We're GO for orbit here.

Overmyer: Good show, Gene.

Public Affairs Officer: Coming up on 10 minutes 30 seconds after liftoff and the spacecraft launch vehicle now 11,000 - 1,100 miles, rather, downrange, altitude 93.4 miles.

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay; coming up on 30, Ron. Let's - -

Evans: (Onboard) Okay.

Cernan: (Onboard) - - doublecheck everything.

Evans: (Onboard) 30, 347 degrees; 93.5 - Okay, we're a little bit high.

Cernan: (Onboard) Couldn't read a star if I had to.

Schmitt: (Onboard) I couldn't either.

Evans: (Onboard) Velocity is a little high.

000:10:32

Cernan: Okay; 10:30, and we're GO.

Evans: (Onboard) H-dot's a little high. Little bit low.

Overmyer: Roger, 17. You're looking great.

Public Affairs Officer: And we're about 1 minute from shutdown, about 1 minute from orbit insertion.

Cernan: (Onboard) Okay, the cut-off is VI plus 100... copy ... - -

Evans: (Onboard) VI plus 100. Okay, I'll catch that.


000:10:49

Cernan: (Onboard) I Just want to hit the ... that's all there is to it. [Tape 17-03456: LMP I sure don't want to hit this handle.]

Evans: No ... 25 - -

Schmitt: Apogee.

Cernan: Mode IV right now; coming up on 11 minutes.

Evans: Okay, 11 minutes and I'm 344 degrees. That's right on the money. How's the cabin, Jack?

Schmitt: Cabin's great.

Evans: Okay, velocity's a little bit high; H-dot's a little bit negative.

000:11:05

Cernan: Eleven minutes and we are GO.

000:11:07

Overmyer: Roger, Gene. And cut-off will be at 11 plus 47, 11 plus 47.

Evans: H-dot's a little high. But that's all right.

000:11:13

Cernan: 11 plus 47. Roger.

Evans: ... okay, 500 feet to go.

Evans: ... 500.

Schmitt: .... Apogee they're checking it whether ...

Evans: (Laughter) Oh, yes?

Schmitt: ... I'd like a ...

000:11:32

Cernan: Okay; 11:30 and we're GO here. And - standing by.

Overmyer: Roger, Gene. Cut-off time is still holding good, 11 plus 47.

Schmitt: Okay, ... you on a ...

Cernan: Why?

Evans: ... There she goes!

000:11:42

Cernan: Okay, cut-off at 42.

Evans: Don't worry. Well, that's the ... - -

Overmyer: Understand. Cut-off at 42. Roger. We copy.

Public Affairs Officer: And that looked like a near nominal shutdown. At shutdown we show 25,600 feet per second. That also looks very close.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) Communications throughout the booster phase were excellent. I never had any problem hearing either Stony or CAPCOM. Controls and displays performed super. Crew comfort through powered flight - I felt very comfortable throughout the entire flight in orbit.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) As far as I'm concerned, there was no pogo on the burn.

Evans: (Technical Debriefing) No, none.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) Summing up the birds. If you want to put them in more layman terms, I think the S-IC acted and performed like some big, old, rugged, shaky, big monster. It has to be noisy, has lots of vibration, and smoothed out somewhat after max-q, but still was a rumbling bird. The S-II was a Cadillac: quiet, less than 1g flight most of the time until we built up our g-load prior to staging. It was quiet, smooth, had very little noise, or feeling of rumbling or anything else. The S-IVB: a light little chugger is probably the best way I can describe it, which is not different than I remember it in the past. It just sort of rumbled on, not anywhere near the extent of the S-IC, but just sort of continued to rumble on through the burn. After a while, especially during TLI, it got to be a very pleasant, warm feeling that she was burning like she should burn.

Evans: (Technical Debriefing) Chugging, I think, has two different connotations. I felt the S-IVB was more of a very light rumble in the background, something that is kind of rumbling as opposed to chugging. A chug to me is a bang-bang type thing, and to me it was more of a rumble.

Schmitt: (Technical Debriefing) I agree, it may be a sense of rumbling but the ride was smooth. I could sense some activity behind it, but I wouldn't have said that it was chugging.

Cernan: (Technical Debriefing) I'll modify chugging to say it was a hummocky chug, just a rolling type. Nothing different, and, as I say, the best recollection, similar to the S-IVB I had the opportunity to ride on before, but probably even more steady and continuous flow of light rumbling.

Members of Government-Industry team that launched Apollo 17 Saturn V space vehicle applaud remarks by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew in launch control center.  72-HC-888 ...
Members of Government-Industry team that launched Apollo 17 Saturn V space vehicle applaud remarks by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew in launch control center. 72-HC-888 ...


< Preparation for flight ^ Travelling from the Earth to the Moon > Earth orbit and translunar insertion

References:

    This is NOT the official Apollo 17 Flight Journal (yet)

    This site documents my research on the flight of Apollo 17. Once I'm satisfied the material here is documented and reasonably complete, I'll submit it to NASA for review, and, I hope, as my contribution for when they create the real Apollo 17 Flight Journal. The NASA History Division publishes the only official Apollo Flight Journal; I owe a huge debt to Eric Jones and his superb Apollo Lunar Surface Journal, and David Woods and Frank O'Brien for the Apollo Flight Journal. Additional Apollo Journal content, by Jones, Woods, O'Brien, Ken Glover, Joseph O'Dea, Kipp Teague, Lennie Waugh and Robin Wheeler, is reproduced by permission. The NASA material used here is not protected by copyright unless noted. New material by Eric Hartwell is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License.
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