Apollo 15, 40 Years On: Five Odd Facts (Including Faulty Peeing, a Very Irked NASA & the Coolest Lunar Experiment

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

Forty years ago today, two Americans were on the moon, getting ready to blast off from home.

Apollo 15 is another of the lesser-known moon missions, although it did introduce the very cool moon buggy.

In the past we've presented five off facts about the moon landing, Alan Shepard's flight and Apollo 14; let's see what Apollo 15 has to offer.

5. The most casual moonwalkers ever Before Apollo 15, crews that reached the moon could not wait to get out onto the surface. Apollo 11 was supposed to have a sustained rest and sleep period once the Eagle landed, but they figured there was no way they were going to sleep anyway so what was the point?

Not Apollo 15. David Scott and Jim Irwin put the Falcon down during Houston's afternoon rush hour and decided to call it a night. They both probably were five-year-olds who first ate a healthy breakfast before looking for Christmas gifts, too.

4. The moon buggy didn't go very far By far the most intriguing thing about Apollo 15 was the moon buggy. Tucked inside Falcon, it was lowered out via a system of pulleys and ropes and then sort of snapped itself together in a proto-Transformers way.

It greatly aided exploration, but not by driving vast distances. The astronauts were allowed to take it only far enough that they could reasonably walk back to the LM if the buggy died. It never got farther than about three miles from the Falcon. Of course, it allowed the astronauts to explore many more spots within that radius.

The lunar land speed record on it, by the way, was set by Apollo 17's Gene Cernan. Even though astronauts were told not to exceed 8 mph, Cernan gunned that ride to 11.2 mph, a record that will likely stand for some time.

Also, the rover camera allowed, for the first time, a view from the distance of the LM lifting off.

4. Like leaving up the toilet seat

As the astronauts snoozed on the moon, Mission Control detected a small but sustained oxygen leak. It wasn't enough of an emergency at the moment to wake the pair up, but when they did get up everyone tried to figure out what caused it. Someone had left a valve open on the Urine Transfer Device.

Leading to this thrilling dialogue, all done on the "non-public" communications system:

Mission Control --- Could you describe the Urine Transfer Device for me? Did the urine go into a holding tank in the vehicle?

Irwin -- I don't think the urine was ever dumped overboard and certainly not drained onto the Moon.

Mission Control -- So it went into a holding tank of some sort? In the descent stage, I would imagine.

Irwin -- Yeah. And it had a metal cap, as I recall, with a rubber ring around it. That was the capping device. We'll read on here, but I think Dave had used it during the night, and I might have, too. But I think Dave was the last one to use it and he just left it in the open position. That's where the oxygen leak occurred -- through that valve. It's surprising that it leaked, even though it was capped...Maybe that cap wasn't that secure. 2. A teachable moment Scott and NASA prepared an easy-to-follow experiment with a great "wow" factor. Galileo had said that in a vacuum, all objects fall at the same speed.

Scott took out a hammer and (appropriately) a falcon feather and said he would drop them. "Hopefully, they'll hit the ground at about the same time"

They did.

"How about that?" Scott laughed.

1. Fired, for all practical purposes

Apollo 15 was considered a great success in all aspects but one: public relations. And NASA does not like to look bad in public relations.

Scott, Irwin and Al Worden took along about 400 stamps with them, with plans lined up to sell them on the open market. They said they wanted to set up trust funds for their kids.

Astronauts had done such things before, but this was a little more blatant, and NASA reacted swiftly. None of the astronauts was fired, but none ever flew again.

Worden, pitching a new autobiography, says he has no idea where the stamps are now: "Lord only knows. Some of them sold, some of them are still in a safety deposit box. They're probably all over the world by now."

Follow Hair Balls News on Facebook and on Twitter @HairBallsNews.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.