NASA’s Apollo programme through the 1960s and 1970s was full of moments both hilarious and frightening. A NASA insider has now told Express.co.uk how one of the most memorable moments occurred during the Apollo 16 Moon landing. NASA’s Apollo 16 saw Commander John Young and crew-mates Charlie Duke and Ken Mattingly fly to the Moon shortly before the programme was cancelled in 1972. But for Dr David Baker, a space scientist who worked with NASA during the Apollo programme, Apollo 16 was memorable for a different and much more hilarious reason.
Dr Baker said: “Throughout the programme, there were both serious and humorous moments.
“One of the funniest was when for several days John Young lost his wedding ring in the spacecraft and could not find it anywhere, fearing it was probably still in the Lunar Module which had been left on the Moon.
“When the harsh was opened on the way back to Earth for a colleague to conduct a weightless spacewalk to retrieve film cassettes, lo and below, the ring went floating out the door and eluded Young as he made a grab for it.
“On it floats sedately, hitting his colleague’s helmet squarely on the back of the head and bouncing straight back in a perfect return path into Young’s hand.”
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Commander Young walked on the surface of the Moon on April 21, 1962.
After the untimely conclusion of the Apollo programme, the astronaut went on to lead the first Space Shuttle mission.
After his death at the age 87 on January 5, 2018, NASA hailed the “pioneer” of spaceflight for his “bravery and commitment” to the cause.
NASA’s acting administrator Robert Lightfoot said after his death: “Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.”
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But there were other moments during the Apollo programme, which also stand out to Dr Baker 50 years later.
He said: “Another time, a crew trying to sleep on the lunar surface heard banging noises from somewhere inside the Lunar Module as if caused by someone trying to see if they were still awake.
“In hushed tones each asked the other if they could hear it, not wanting to be found still awake until one of them some out loud: ‘Why are we whispering?’ Earth habits die hard.”
Dr Baker worked with NASA on the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programme between 1965 and 1990.
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Over the years, he has authored more than 100 books on the history of space flight, military technology and aviation.
In 1986, NASA flight boss George Mueller made Dr Baker a member of the International Academy of Astronautics.
In 2005, the space expert won the Arthur C Clarke award and in 2017, Dr Baker was awarded the American Astronautical Society’s Frederick I.
Dr Baker is now the editor of Spaceflight magazine and most recently co-authored the Haynes NASA Moon Missions Manual.
Ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing on July 20, 1969, Dr Baker said the Moon landing was a significant leap into the future.