Chapter 3 - On The Moon

Back at the project headquarters, Sammy Jo had all the Apollo 18 data 
organized with three technicians handling the paper shuffling. Most of the 
data was still on hard copy after all these years. Al talked Sam through
the basic housekeeping type duties and got him through the use of the space 
sextant for the mid-course correction. Of course the data they needed was
all ready known in their historical database. After two days of crash
training and the genius mind of Sam Beckett, Sam was fairly confident he could 
complete the Apollo 18 space mission ahead of him. 

As the moon filled more of my window with every passing minute, the crew of 
Apollo 18 and I were very close to LOI, the point at which we would slow
down and drop into lunar orbit. I would be revolving around the thing that 
usually only astronomers and lovers ever took a close look at. And I would
be looking at it very closely. It was Thoreau that said, "The youth gets
together his material to a bridge to the moon...the middle-aged man concludes to
build a  wood shed with them." I had climbed that bridge built by the spirit and
youth of the sixties and one reformed middle aged man was showing his youth and 
excitement while starring down from the height of a childhood fantasy. 

"Roger, cap com. We are twenty seconds from LOS. (Loss of signal). Read outs
tell us that the Service Module engine is A OK. See you on the other side," 
reported Commander Calavicci.

"Roger, Enterprise. Good luck. We'll see you on..(Static)" replied the cap
com.             .

"It's just you and me guys alone 240,000 miles from earth. Break out the 
dancing girls! Scratch that. I could use something a little more
stimulating. Maybe a stripper or a..scratch that. Check the pressure reading for the SM 
engine. We have to drop this baby into the slow lane. Forty seconds to
said the younger Al.

"Get me away from the mikes and I'll revert back to the Calavicci you know 
and love, Sam!" observed the other Al. "I was really thinking about this 
little cocktail waitress back in Cocoa Beach with this great set of after

The sensation of gravity only lasted thirty seconds, but after two and a
half days of weightlessness it was especially hard on the arms and lungs. All
that mass had been there but the weight was a shock even though I had dealt with
it every other day of my life until I became an astronaut.

"Beautiful. Beautiful!" said Joe Benson "We have a perfect orbit."

"It's so dark down there," said Sam admiring the backside of the moon.

"No atmosphere, no light. It's about as dark as it can get," said Joe.

"And we are totally alone right now," said Al gazing at the starry sky.

"Hey, how about when you guys are down there. I am all by myself.
3000 miles from another human being," said Joe.

"After eighteen months of solitary confinement in Hanoi, I found solitude 
not very comforting. That's why Ron and I are heading for the lunar surface 
together," said Al the younger.

"No sweat. This is my ship and I need some time to clean it up all the 
peanut shells Ron left here," said Joe.

"Peanut shells?" asked Sam.

"Remember the peanuts you were eating in the T-38 trainer on the way 
back from Houston at Christmas time? I stopped suddenly on the runway 
and the all the shells flew forward pelting me in the back of the head,"
said Joe laughing at the memory.

"Oh, yea. Sorry about that," said Sam confused.

"(Static) Eighteen, Houston, we see your orbit is 53 by 170. You 
are go for at least thirty orbits. Welcome back," said the cap com.

"Thanks, Houston. Good to hear an earthly voice. Too many Martians and 
misfits up here," said the younger Al kidding.

"Oh stop with he corny remarks. That one about Martians ended up on the 
front page of the National Enquirer!" said Al the observer a little peeved
at his younger self.

Sam just sat there smiling thinking about two Calavicci's arguing with 
each other. 

"Enterprise, Houston. Ready for navigation update and celestial check," 
said the cap com.

"Going to internal navigation mode," reported Joe 

"Sam, in a little bit you have to check out the LEM status. I'll walk you 
through it. You'll check monitoring the readouts and making sure the 
switches are in the right positions. Then you're heading for the lunar
surface. I really envy you," said Al the observer. "But then I WILL be following
you every step of the way."

"But you're coming with me!" said Sam a little worried.

"In about twenty minutes. Keep your shirt on, Firefly. Go into the LEM 
if you want to. I'll finish up here," said Al the younger patting him on the

"Go ahead, Sam I'll be right there with you. But I'll really be standing in
the Imaging Chamber and not feeling the movement and vibration of your decent. There's nothing 
like it my little Buck Rogers!" said Al the observer.

"Buck who?" asked Sam.

"Don't you remember anything? He was.. Oh forget it. Can't even remember 
the greatest Saturday afternoon movie serial of all time. Of course that was
before your time, Swiss cheesed or not. Just don't forget what we went
over the last couple of days. It's not easy to fly, but just follow the
checklists. Sammy Jo and I will get you through it," said Al puffing away. "Ziggy, 
center me in the LEM."

Al the younger and Sam, assisted by Al the observer, separated the Lunar 
Module Constellation from the Command Module Enterprise.

"Houston, Enterprise. I am reporting a new Constellation on the horizon," 
said Joe now alone in the Enterprise.

"Houston, Constellation. Roger, copy. The  Constellation is away and heading
for the moon. Hoo-yah!" said Al the younger.

"Constellation. Houston. Tanks are pressurized and were heading down the 
freeway. Looks like traffic is light, today," said Al the younger.

"Houston. Constellation. Traffic copter reports no major backups between 
here and Arsitodres. Safe journey," said the cap com.

"Constellation, Enterprise. Good luck and God speed," said Joe who had 
passed by them as they slowed down and descended to the lunar surface.

Even though Sam had title of lunar module pilot, he really only monitored 
the LEM systems while Al the younger had his had on the joystick.

Nearer the surface Sam, prompted by Al the observer called out the
spacecraft status.

Cap com: Enterprise, Houston. We expect to lose their high gain sometime 
during the powered descent. Over.

Joe: Enterprise. Roger.

Sam: Houston, Constellation. How do you read?

Cap com: Five-by-five, Constellation. How's your burn? Over. 

Sam: Roger. The burn was on the money. The residuals before nulling: 
minus 0.1, minus 0.4, minus 0.1.

Cap com: Enterprise, Houston. We've lost Constellation. Have him try 
the high gain. Over.

Joe: Constellation, this is Enterprise. Houston lost you again. They're
requesting another try at the high gain. 

Sam: Houston, Constellation. We are recycling the high gain protocol. How do
you read?

Cap com: Constellation, Houston. We have you now. Do you read? Over.

Sam: Clear as a bell.

Sam: Houston, we got a 450 alarm early in the program. Sequence recycled and
we are go. Over.

Cap com: Roger. We saw that, Ron. Thank you very much. If you read, you're
Go for powered decent. Over.

Sam: Roger. We are Go for descent. Elevator is going down.

(Sam looks funny at Al, injecting own personal style through Sam.)

Cap com: Initiate descent checklist.

Sam: Roger. Stabilization and Control circuit breakers. DECA Gimbal AC,
Closed. Circuit breaker, On. Command Override, Off. Gimbal Enable. Rate Scale, 25. 
Thrust translation, four jets. Balance couple, On. TCA throttle, Minimum.
Throttle, Auto, CDR. Prop button, Reset. Prop button. Okay. Abort/Abort Stage, Reset.
Att Control,three of them to Mode Control. Okay, Mode Control is set. AGS is reading 400
plus 1. Sequence camera coming on.

Cap com: Constellation, Houston, Checklist complete.

Sam: Roger. Engine Arm, Descent. 40 seconds

Younger Al: Descent armed.

Sam: Proceed. Three, Two, One, Zero.

Younger Al: Ignition.

Older Al: Ariatacheus. Here we come!

Sam: Ignition. Thrust 10 percent. Throttle up looks good.

Cap com: Constellation, Houston We've got you now. It's looking good. Over.

Younger Al: Okay, rate of descent looks good.

Cap com: Constellation, Houston. Our recommendation is that after
yaw-around, use pointing angles: S-band pitch, minus 9, yaw plus 18.

Sam: Copy, Houston. 

Younger Al: Two minutes; going good.

Sam: RCS is good. No flags. DPS pressure is good. Altitude's a little high.

Younger Al: Looks like were down range a little far.

Sam: AGS is showing about 2 feet per second greater descent rate 

Younger Al: Altitude rate looks right down the groove.

Capcom:  Roger. You are Go to continue powered descent.

Sam: Roger. Attitude, 33,000 feet.

Cap com: 6 plus 25, throttle down.

Sam: Roger. Copy.

Cap com: Roger. Delta-H is looking good to us.

Sam: Throttle down.

Cap com: At 7 minutes, you're looking great to us, Constellation.

Younger Al: And I have the window. Looking out the window. 16,000 feet. 

Cap com: You're at 7000, (garbled). Looking good at 8:30.

Younger Al: Okay. 5000 feet. 100 feet per second is good. Going to check 
my attitude control. Attitude control is good

Sam: 35 degrees. 35 degrees. 750. Coming down at 23 feet per second.

Younger Al: Okay.

Sam: 700 feet, 21 feet per second down, 33 degrees.

Younger Al: Target area in sight.

Sam: 600 feet, down at 19.

Sam: Okay, 400 feet, down at 9 forward.

Younger Al: Right on the money  

Sam: 350 feet, down at 4. 

Sam: 330, three and a half down.

Sam.: 300 feet, down 3 , 47 forward. Slow it up.

Sam: 1  down. Ease her down.

Younger Al: 270. Okay, how's the fuel?

Sam: A OK. Set her down.

Younger Al: Okay. Let's park her over there.

Sam: 250, down at 2 1/2, 19 forward.

Sam: 11 forward. Coming down nicely.

Sam: 200 feet, 4  down.

Sam: 5  down.

Younger Al. Heading for that little knoll.

Sam: 160 feet, 6  down.

Sam: 5  down, 9 forward. You're looking good.

Sam: 120 feet.

Sam: 100 feet, 3  down, 9 forward. Fuel five percent.

Sam: Okay. 75 feet. And it's looking good

Cap com: One minute of fuel.

Sam: 60 feet, down 2 1/2. (Pause) 2 forward. 2 forward. That's good. 

Sam: 40 feet, down 2 1/2. Kicking round some dust. 

Sam: 30 feet, 2  down.
Sam: 4 forward. 4 forward. Drifting to left. 20 feet, down a half.

Cap com: 30 seconds.


Younger Al: Shutdown

Sam: Engine Stop. ACT out of Detent.

Cap com: Roger. Landing control indicates contact.

Younger Al: Engine arm is off.  Houston, Constellation Station
reporting from Ariatacheus. We're on the Moon!

Sam: We DIDN'T crash.

Cap com: Constellation, Houston. Roger the non-fatal impact mode.

Al the observer: That is not going into the history books under the inspired

first words category. But I know how you feel, fellow. You did great kid.

Al the younger: (Off mike) We didn't crash? Firefly, I never doubled it for
a minute!

Sam: Then how come the two dowels? 

Al the younger: Double the luck, double the fun, the Volaskey twins for
(Mike on!)  Constellation ready to down load the housekeeping list changes.