Apollo 10 doesn’t get much attention. On the rare occasion people talk about the mission right before the first lunar landing, it’s lumped into the “pre-Apollo 11” category and dismissed as one of the stepping stones on the bridge to the Moon. But it was far more interesting than just a mission that preceded Apollo 11.
My latest appearance on CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks was all about Apollo 10, but first, a little background on the mission.
In October of 1968, Apollo 7 flew the command-service module (CSM) in Earth orbit. In December of that year, Apollo 8 took the same spacecraft (well, not literally the same flight article) into orbit around the moon. Apollo 9 took the first full Apollo stack for a test drive — it tested the CSM and the lunar module (LM) in the relative safety of Earth orbit, going through a full simulated lunar landing mission to make sure the hardware was up to the task.
All that was left was to take it all to the moon and land, right? Not quite. There were still a lot of unknowns, namely how the two spacecraft would behave in lunar orbit because low Earth ...