Created by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1967, this color film touts the preparation and ultimate success of Apollo 5 — which on January 22, 1968, became the first unmanned flight of the Apollo Lunar Module (LM) as the United States continued its plan to land on the moon. it was the final major piece of Apollo hardware to be tested. The film opens with the module resting atop a Saturn 1B launch vehicle. At mark 01:18, the viewer is told that this very rocket was originally designed to be used a year earlier and launch the crew of Apollo 1 — Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White, and Roger Chaffee — into a low Earth orbital flight, but the January 27, 1967 cabin fire that killed all three astronauts left the Saturn 1B standing at on Pad 37 at the months passed. At mark 01:50, the viewer is shown Mission Control in Houston, and introduced to astronauts Jim McDivitt and Rusty Schweickart (who along with Dave Scott performed the first manned flight of a LM as part of Apollo 9 in March 1969). Astronauts Frank Borman and Bill Anders are introduced at mark 02:00 — Borman, Anders, and Jim Lovell were the crew of Apollo 8, the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth orbit in December 1968.
“Apollo 5 is one of the most complex space missions ever flown. It has been compared to taking a brand new design airplane with brand new design engines, and flying it from New York to Los Angeles by remote control,” the narrator states at mark 02:25, emphasizing the overwhelming complexity of the mission and its importance — determining whether the spacecraft is safe for man.
At mark 03:10, Anders provides the viewer with an explanation of the lunar module and its main job — to successfully land on the moon’s surface and then return the crew to the Command Service Module in lunar orbit. “The LM is really the taxi that provides the transportation between the orbiting Command Module and the lunar surface,” Borman adds at mark 03:58.
Because the LM was designed to operate in a weightless environment, the film explains that testing it against Earth’s gravity posed a problem. The solution came via a man-made vacuum of an engine test stand, shown beginning at mark 04:50. Yet the real test would come only during the flight test.
Borman rejoins the narration at mark 05:33, explaining that great care had to be exercised during the unmanned Apollo 5 test to ensure the safety of the Apollo program moving forward. “This is the first flight of the vehicle; naturally we’ll all be looking at it with very keen interest,” he says.
At mark 06:16, the Saturn rocket ignites and thrusts upward with its fragile cargo into Earth orbit. Beginning at mark 07:05, the NASA film shows a simulation as to what occurred next as aerodynamic shroud covering LM-1 is jettisoned and the module is eventually deployed. Tracking stations on Earth are shown following the spacecraft’s path while back in Houston, engineers perform a series of tests. At mark 09:07, the LM sends out a warning signal as the first planned 39 second descent engine burn was started but aborted by the onboard guidance computer after only four seconds. (Prior to launch there was a suspected fuel leak and a decision was made to delay arming the engine until the time of ignition, which increased the time required for the propellant tanks to pressurize and thrust to build to the required level.) They then performed the "fire in the hole" test and another ascent engine burn. After 11 hours and 10 minutes the test was over, and control of the two stages was terminated. The stages were left in a low enough orbit that atmospheric drag would cause their orbits to decay and re-enter the atmosphere. The ascent stage re-entered on January 24 and burned up; the descent stage re-entered on February 12 and fell into the Pacific Ocean. “Throughout the flight of Apollo 5, the Lunar Module had performed magnificently. All systems operated as predicted or far exceeded the predictions. The inability of an onboard computer to cope with a programming error was overcome by the infinitely more flexible mind of man,” the narrator concludes beginning at mark 15:22. And with that, Mission Control and NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz relax, light up cigars, and keep aiming for the moon.
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This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD and 2k. For more information visit http://www.PeriscopeFilm.com