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Apollo 15: “Stand by for a Hard Impact”

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Posted August 8, 2013

On this day in history, the crew of Apollo 15 returned home from their mission to the Moon. But the splashdown in the Pacific Ocean wasn’t without a little drama. One of the three parachutes failed to open fully, but astronauts Dave Scott, Al Worden, and Jim Irwin didn’t know it until they were almost ready to hit the ocean.

Only two of three parachutes worked correctly for the return of Apollo 15. Credit: NASA.

Only two of three parachutes worked correctly for the return of Apollo 15. Credit: NASA.

“Apollo 15, this is Okinawa. You have a streamed chute. Stand by for a hard impact.”

(You can read the entire transcript here.)

The recovery ship, USS Okinawa radioed to the crew that one parachute was not inflated. Technically, the Apollo capsule really only needed two chutes to land, with the third being for redundancy, but still, the landing was harder than other Apollo missions. However, no damage or injury resulted.

Experts looking at this photo say that two or three of the six riser legs on the failed parachute were missing, and after looking into the issue, it was determined that excess fuel burning from the Command Module Reaction Control System likely caused the lines to break.

Apollo 15 landed about about 320 miles (515 kilometers) north of Hawaii.

Source: Universe Today, story by Nancy Atkinson

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