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back to article Hunt for long-lost Apollo 10 moon lander adrift in space

Kids have been invited to join the hunt for a NASA mooncraft that has been lost in space for more than 40 years. Snoopy as seen from Charlie Brown Snoopy as seen from Charlie Brown. Picture by NASA Astronauts jettisoned the lunar module Snoopy into solar orbit from Apollo 10 before splash-landing in the Pacific in command …

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Bronze badge

Solar orbit?

"jettisoned the lunar module Snoopy into solar orbit"

Really? Isn't it more likely in a lunar orbit. In the unlikely event there was enough fuel on board to take Snoopy out of lunar orbit into a solar one, I think we can safely say it's likely to be lost for ever.

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Anonymous Coward

Fuel

The LM itself wouldn't need enough fuel to get it out of Lunar orbit as it was re-attached to the CSM (whilst in lunar orbit) in order for the two 'nauts to transfer back to it, and the CSM (+ LM) certainly did have enough fuel to escape lunar orbit.

The CM module for Apollo 10 can, of course, be seen in the Science Museum.

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Anonymous Coward

Peanuts

It was put in an heliocentric orbit which is an orbit around the Sun.

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Ru

Oh please

Lunar and solar orbits aren't easily confused... this isn't like inches and centimetres, you know.

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"Isn't it more likely in a lunar orbit[?]" No.

If it were in a lunar orbit, it wouldn't take a whole lot of finding, would it?

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For quite a lot of the trip from the Moon to the Earth the dominant gravitational force is the Sun, not the Earth or Moon. So it's likely to be in a solar orbit that's similar to the Earth's. There are several Saturn upper stages in the same situation, they were used to get the capsule, lander and service module on the way to the Moon, then jettisoned.

There's an excellent space flight simulator on the web - Orbiter. It's the closest most of us will get to doing this.

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Silver badge

Nope definitely a solar orbit

Snoopy's ascent engine was reignited after being let loose from Charlie Brown and allowed to burn until empty. This let NASA test that the engine could be restarted in an emergency. There was enough thrust to inject it into a solar orbit. Had it been put into a lunar orbit it would have crashed by now because of the Moon's irregular gravitational field.

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Silver badge

Imagine if they had landed

"Hello Houston, this is Tranquility Base. Snoopy has landed"

Doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

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That's exactly why all of the later missions had very serious and patriotic names for the command and lunar modules.

Not quite as bad as Apollo 9 - Spider and Gumdrop!

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No Fuel

For takeoff - so they'd have been committing suicide...

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Interesting bit of trivia, that :)

I wonder if they were sent up without that component not only to save costs/weight but also to prevent them just going 'sod it, let's do it - it'll be totally worth losing our jobs for!' and landing anyway...

Also, is the lack of fuel the key contributing factor for their speed record, as subsequent missions all had the extra weight?

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Snoopy has landed

Ouch... painful memories of Beagle 2 (they never got to say "the Beagle has landed.")

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He'll be the one...

...in a dog fight with the red (dwarf) baron...

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Oh Dear...

In the genre, isn't it always an astronomy-minded schoolkit that spots the Earth-shattering comet/asteroid/alien craft?

The hills- run for them!

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Security by obscurity is false protection :)

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Silver badge

Don't bother

the hills will be vapourized as well

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Angel

@Don't bother

Yes we know, were going for a better view.

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Me! Me! Me! Me!

Screw the kids...I want in on this too - how cool is this?

Part of me wishes they do find it, and it has become a Star-Trek style sentient being, hell bent on assimilating it's creator...

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Well that just sucks ass!

Why can't I play with the big telescopes?

Damn school kids get all the fun stuff, and only a small number will actually use it properly while the rest just try and break the thing.

Harumph!

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TRT
Silver badge

Think it's a long way down the road to the chemists?

That's just Peanuts to space.*

*with all credit to Douglas Adams, RIP.

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Vger

Obviously, the LM will eventually return to Earth orbit with all the other space -crap melded to it, calling itself Snpy and then threaten to destroy our planet unless we let it speak with the Creator...

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Silver badge

Charles Schultz?

Could be tricky - he's been dead a few years now...

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Silver badge
Coat

"Could be tricky - he's been dead a few years now..."

That was the major premise of both the Star Trek plotlines (one in the original series, and the first ST movie) that had Earth-originating probes returning after being made sentient.

Mines the one designed by William Ware-Theiss.

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This thing called Google... these people called NASA

" The LM descent stage was jettisoned into lunar orbit. The LM and CSM rendezvous and redocking occurred 8 hours after separation at 03:22 UT on 23 May.

Later on May 23 the LM ascent stage was jettisoned into solar orbit, ..."

http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/masterCatalog.do?sc=1969-043A

I'm quite sure they were paying attention. Actually, at the time, so was I.

There is a marginally interesting question buried in the assumptions there - which is what the delta-V is for leaving lunar orbit into solar orbit.

It isn't much, for an object already in lunar orbit. Less than the delta-V required to bring a CSM back, I think.

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Orbit? Tosh.

It's in a hanger somewhere in the Nevada desert along with the CSM and was reused for the fake Apollo 11 footage ;)

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Anonymous Coward

Don't know where Snoopy went

But there's a huge alien craft entering the solar system calling itself S-py.

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Silver badge

Lagrange points?

I assume that these will be the first places to check.

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Bronze badge

Could be tricky! objects don't just fall into a Lagrange point, its not a black hole attracting stuff. They are equi-gravitaional-potential zones.. You can orbit these zones, Problem is there are at least a Billion different Lissajous curve or Halo Orbits!

see More here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lissajous_orbit

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_orbit

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Don't think so

L1,2 and 3 are dynamically unstable (which means stuff doesn't stay there) L4 and L5 are a pretty fair whack from the moon (60 degrees) and aren't that strong gravitationally...I mean you could create a burn to drop you into L4 or L5 with a small enough relative velocity to be captured..but you'd have to be aiming to do it.

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Anonymous Coward

AndrewG

Don't tell the JWST! (its going to L2) Stuff can stay there in orbit (ie halo) it's only the Exact point that is relatively unstable, therefore the further the orbit the less of an effect. There are many satellites at L1 & L2 already. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagrangian_point#Past_and_present_missions)

As for L4 & 5 not being gravitationally strong that's the point all the points are gravity Neutral, and you can orbit them all by insertion burn only. They generally do not capture very well as they are voids not masses. It is generally believed that Trojans exist in the L points due to them having always been there, rather than being captured there.

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Bronze badge

Set the controls for the...

...heart of the sun, but be careful with that axe, Eugene Cernan.

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Coat

careful with that LM, Eugene...

...and whatever you do, don't engage the interstellar overdrive.

Mine's the one with the copy of "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" in the pocket. Thanks.

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Shame

We, as a race seemed to do so much in the 1960's and 1970's, Landing on the moon, Concorde, etc What happened?

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Anonymous Coward

Someone invented the Internet, someone put porn on it, and all progress ground to a halt.

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What happened

........the bean counters took control.

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Anonymous Coward

So we have a random piece of junk (no offence intended for these historic events) flying around space an no idea where it is? sounds a bit like Earths Orbit too me,, you know, some poor sod one day in the future will "find" it, hope he has insurance :)

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FAIL

a basic misunderstanding of gravitational & (weak) electro-magnetic force

i agree with first commenter steve jones — the LM ascent stage, or as it was nicknamed, "snoopy," was jettisoned into what nasa referred to as a heliocentric or solar orbit. but this was done between the gravitational pulls of both the earth and the moon, and "snoopy" was no longer a powered satellite or deep spacecraft like voyager, etc. (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/apollo10.html). try as they might to "aim" it toward a "heliocentric orbit" (this just may be a nasa euphemism for the space equivalent of tossing something by the side of the road, or that we took aging, sick doggie out to "live on a farm"), without the power, it more than likely eventually got re-pulled into either the earth or the moon's gravitational force, and either crashed into the moon or burned up completely on re-entry into earth's atmosphere (it had no shielding, like the saturn v capsule or the later space shuttle, to protect it from atmospheric re-entry, it was only ever meant for the moon's non-atmosphere & much weaker gravitational force). this sounds like a lot of building up false hopes in school children & sending them on a wild goose chase. not that i want to discourage in any way creating scientific inquiry & "gee-whiz" curiosity in young minds, there are just so many other _current_ nasa and other deep space, astronomy and astro-physics missions i think they could do experiments with in concert with what is being done (any given research currently going on with the hubble space telescope comes to mind) that would actually be fruitful & a much better use of their education time.

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Paris Hilton

Is this guy Cave Johnson in disguise?

Howes said. "Plus we'll be doing great science anyway."

Paris, cos she can suck a lemon.....

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Silver badge
Happy

Snoopy...

... Come Home!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snoopy,_Come_Home

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Thumb Up

Sorry to change tack

but isn't this a great way to enthuse kids about science and engineering. I hope some of the kids involved get so fired up they want to actually carry on doing it ...

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The S-IV-B was not taken to the moon...

Someone needs to check their apollo mission profile.

http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-350/profile.html

As to the orbital trajectory of the Lunar Ascent Module - I would assume they would have spent as little energy as possible to get rid of it. The mission profile specifically states that the LM and CM were separated PRIOR to trans-earth injection manoeuvres. So the delta applied to the CM/SM would not have affected the LM and only a small impulse must have been applied (snaps to Adrain Midgley 1 above)

Now as to the S-IV-B: It was already in a trans-lunar trajectory when it was jettisoned - so falling into a solar orbit was probably more like falling off a log.

The error with the article in my opinion is... "Snoopy did an eight-hour lunar orbit, descended and ascended, re-docked and was jettisoned towards the Sun along with the S-IVB engine before Charlie Brown returned to Earth."

Those two events did not happen together.

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