Apollo 5 (AS-204)

January 22, 1968 and the unmanned Apollo 5 blasted into space. The launch vehicle was Apollo-Saturn 204, the same launch vehicle that was to take Apollo 1's CM-012 and Grissom's crew into Earth Orbit.

AS-204 had been at The Cape since August 1966. It was then taken down in March 1967 after the Apollo 1 fire and left there. When Apollo 5 needed a launch vehicle, the launch preparation crew, inspected the booster for corrosion or any other damage it might have sustained during its long stay on the pad, and then erected it ready to take Apollo 5 on its journey.

This mission was the first time NASA was to test the new Lunar Module. As Apollo 5 only carried the LM, it looked very stubby without the CSM, all it had was a nose cone on top of the LM adapter. The LM its self only arrived at The Cape in June 1967 after a very lengthy delivery from Grumman.

The objectives of Apollo 5 were:

  • Test the operation of the Lunar Module Ascent and Descent engines
  • Evaluate Lunar Module staging
  • Evaluate S-IVB instrument unit performance
  • Test the LM-1's guidance system
  • All the mission objectives were achieved. Both engines were fired twice and no problems were found. Ground Control signalled the descent engine to fire for 38 seconds. Four seconds later, LM-1's guidance system sensed that the vehicle was not going fast enough and stopped the engine. The cut-off was a planned feature - in a manned flight, it would give the crew time to analyse the situation and decide whether the engine should be restarted to continue the mission.

    The LM (without the landing legs, as it wasn't going to land anywhere) re-entered the atmosphere, and its fiery remains plunged into the Pacific several hundred miles southwest of Guam on 12 February.

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