April 16 marks a historic day in the history of mankind’s space conquests, with this year marking the 47th anniversary of NASA’s penultimate, manned moon mission. On this day, back in 1972, the Apollo 16 mission took off on a Saturn V rocket on a three-day cruise to the moon, from the iconic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. It marked the penultimate mission of the Apollo space programme, and lasted for a total of 11 days, one hour, 51 minutes and five seconds, from lift-off to landing.
The mission was manned by mission commander John Young, command module pilot Ken Mattingly, and lunar module pilot Charlie Duke. After a three-day cruise to the moon, Young and Duke proceeded to land on the lunar highlands, becoming only the second lunar module to do so, as Mattingly stayed behind in the command module. The objective of the mission was to collect volcanic rocks from the lunar surface. However, the astronauts failed to locate any, but instead returned to Earth with 200lbs of other lunar rock samples, for scientists to observe.
Alongside this, a second significant part of the Apollo 16 mission was a one-hour spacewalk, conducted by Mattingly, in order to retrieve several film cassettes from outside the command module. The mission also deployed a subsatellite from the command module, on its way back to Earth. The module landed back on Earth in the South Pacific Ocean, on April 27.
It is incredible to note how far technology has come in the past 47 years, and appreciate the entire set of technological struggle that the NASA scientists had gone through nearly five decades ago, as the first era of the space race unfolded. Today, as we take on a new era of privatisation of space, the Apollo 16 missions serve as a reminder of the sensitive nature of the final frontier, and the massive significance of space missions that never fail to mesmerise.