Three American astronauts sped smoothly toward a risky moon adventure Saturday and watched as a spent rocket hull was sent fleeting ahead to a lunar collision that may reveal secrets of the moon’s interior. Apollo 13 astronauts James L. Lovell, Jr., Fred W. Haise, Jr., and John L. Swigert, Jr. firmly on their path to the moon despite a launch marred by a pre-mature rocket cut off, watched as the spent second stage booster rocketed away.
It will hit the moon Tuesday night with the force of 11 tons of dynamite and will be recorded there by a seismic device left behind by the Apollo 12 crewmen.
Earlier, the astronauts beamed a color television signal earthward as they delicately maneuvered the command module into a nose to nose lineup with the moon landing craft. They separated the combined craft from the booster stage and a signal from the ground sent the rocket hull fleeting toward its’ self-destruction on the moon. “We’ve got a groovy TV picture,” called out a delighted controller as the television from space began. Haise pointed the camera at his crewmates, and Lovell and Swigert could be seen working the controls of the command ship they call Odyssey. The television camera was pointed out the window, too, giving a clear view of Aquarius, the lunar craft Lovell and Haise will ride to hazardous landing in a highland valley on the moon.
The television show, which lasted an hour, was not seen live by home viewers. None of the networks interrupted scheduled programming, but workers in mission control got an intimate view of the moon-bound spacecraft. Haise pointed the camera toward the receding globe of the Earth. “Showing a beautiful view of Earth out the window, said the astronaut. “Good deal,” replied the ground. Man’s third mission to the moon proceeded smoothly through the first day after a launch marred slightly when a rocket engine shut off prematurely. Officials, mystified by the failure, stated fuel safety margins were satisfactory and the astronauts were not endangered. The center of the five engines on the second stage of the Saturn V shut down two minutes early. Officials said other engines burned longer than planned to compensate for the loss of thrust.