4.6 Apollo 14
Following Apollo 13's near disaster, it took 9 months for NASA to re-
The mission timeline can be found here http://history.nasa.gov/SP-
During the mission, 1342 images were taken on 15 magazines, but the vast bulk of these were taken on the two EVAs, and also of the Descartes region, which was an area deemed of sufficient interest to help move the landing site from Littrow, the orbital parameters for which would not have allowed Descartes to be observed.
Like Apollo 12 before it, the location of the landing site towards the western limb of the lunar face (as viewed from Earth) means that for there to be a reasonable amount of daylight to be available, the moon would need to be ¾ full, which also means that the Earth needs to be ¼ full by the time the astronauts land, and this limits the number of useful photographs available for this analysis.
In fact, very few images of Earth were taken at all during this mission, and some of those are of very poor quality, possibly a product of a problem with one of the Hasselblads that prevented its use. A number of NASA affiliates were approached to find better quality copies of those currently publicly available, but unfortunately only the same standard of image was made available.
It is a great pity that this image (figure 4.6.1) and the others in its sequence showing the LM Antares on the lunar surface proved unsuitable for analysis here. Even the 44Mb TIFF image held at http://archive.org did not reveal any more detail than lesser copies elsewhere.
Figure 4.6.1: AS14-
It is a shame because apart from the obviously useful juxtaposition of Apollo hardware and the Earth, this series of images from magazine 64 has been shown to show Venus. The reader is referred to this website for full explanation of this: http://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a14/a14Venus.html.
It is possible, however, to zoom in on one of the images in that sequence (AS14-
Figure 4.6.2: AS14-
The series of images of which this Apollo one is a part took only a few minutes to complete, so the actual time of this specific image would be around 12:06, as shown in the image. Very little cloud is recorded for this region on that particular day, but while an area of darkness corresponding to roughly where the Indian coast would be can be seen, it would not be wise to claim any degree of certainty as to whether the image is revealing actual detail or just features from image processing. It would certainly not be possible to compare any weather systems on it.
As for what satellite data are available ITOS 1 images are available from here: ITOS 1. ITOS 1 was launched on 23/01/70, and occupies the same orbital tracks as ESSA satellites. The introduction to the ITOS data collection describes its operation. NIMBUS 4 had become fully operational by this time, data for which can be found here NIMBUS 4.
ATS satellites had, by now, finished their regular visual imaging programme and are unavailable.
Occasional images from satellites can be found in journals and other publications covering this period. This journal article contains a much clearer ITOS image from the day of Apollo 14's splashdown, as well as a synoptic chart. A February 4th ITOS image is also available in Satellite Activities of NOAA 1971. The Mariner's Weather log also contains an image from the 8th: Weather Log. As with previous sections, these are given more as an indication that the information presented here has always been available, should diligent researchers have cared to look for them, rather than an indication that they will be used.
Another interesting document is Weather Support to the Apollo 14 Mission from September 1971, which describes the role of weather forecasters during the mission (the launch was delayed thanks to bad weather). It also features synoptic charts and ITOS & NIMBUS images from during the mission. This document describing how satellite images can be used in weather forecasting also has images covering the mission, but again they are of little use. 3D reconstructions will be used where appropriate and where the data are available.
Given the lack of images with clear views of Earth, no synoptic charts will be examined.
4.6.1 Satellite comparisons
Unlike previous missions, no images were taken of Earth until the craft was in (or very close to) lunar orbit. This combines with the fact that those images that are available are of such a narrow Earth crescent and and/or of poor quality that it is very difficult to carry out any meaningful analysis on them. There was a TV broadcast made on February 3rd showing Earth but this is overexposed and no detail can be made out. Figure 4.6.3 shows a screenshot of that broadcast, together with a press photo from that date that wrongly identifies Earth as the moon.
Figure 4.6.4: AS14-
Figure 4.6.5: Original Earth from AS14-
While not the best quality, the levelled and contrasted Earth suggests that there is a body of cloud in the very south of the planet, above which is a thinner band separated from this mass by a narrow band of sea. North of this relatively thin band is an area of blue, presumably sea, that is narrower at the west than it is at the east. Above this patch of ocean is more cloud, this time narrower at the east than the west. Above the pointed tip of this cloud at the terminator is a lobe of blue ocean, above which is more cloud that extends westwards in an arc to join the cloud below it. We now need to see if these features can be found in an area east of Australia on the 5th of February and this is shown in figure 4.6.6.
Figure 4.6.6: AS14-
As far as confirming timings, the ITOS images follow the same pattern as ESSA and an image dated the 4th will pass over Australia on the 5th. The most appropriate track for the area covered is number 8, which corresponds to orbit 4725, commenced at 04:09. The best coverage of the region by NIMBUS 4 turned out to be the night time IR images, as these were the only ones that covered the area completely (daytime IR and visible spectrum ones give incomplete coverage). On the image dated the 5th, the most relevant pass is number 4071, which was commenced at 11:48.
The mission's preliminary scientific report (Source: PSR) confirms that this image was taken 1 orbit before landing, and the Photographic index (ALSJ) states that it was taken on orbit 12, which started at about 08:11 on the 5th. As an aside, Venus is also recorded in the Earthrise sequence (see here ALSJ) and an analysis of its position here shows that it is consistent with this timing. The 3D reconstruction of ESSA data also seems to confirm the conclusions drawn from the original analysis.
Despite the caveats mentioned earlier, the images do show broad scale features visible on the satellite images. They may not be as clear as those analysed in previous sections, but the logic used to determine which part of the Earth to look at and the features themselves seem to provide a good match. It is important to re-
The next image examined is AS14-
Figure 4.6.7: AS14-
Zooming in on the image reveals much more detail than in the previous image, and therefore only a small altering of levels to bring enhance it is required. The image shows the Americas on the Western limb, and the main weather features are a long band of cloud stretching in from the terminator towards Mexico, which almost a serrated edge. The south western end of this band appears to have another mass of cloud immediately to the north of it. Over north America is a large mass of cloud, and south America shows scattered clouds over Brazil, with a long chain of cloud runs across South America. Cuba is dissected by a thin band of cloud running roughly north-
Analysis of this image is made difficult by the absence of high quality images, but the exact date can be narrowed down somewhat by examining the satellite images for other days. As mentioned, the crescent is much thinner than the Earth seen on the 5th, and the 'serrated edge' cloud does not feature an additional mass of cloud to the north of it, so it is clearly not from them. The image from the 8th shows this same cloud has reached the coast of Central America (it actually developed into a substantial in the gulf storm, causing considerable damage to southern US states), ruling that date out.
This leaves either the 6th or the 7th of February as the likely date. The Stellarium terminator just off Florida suggests a time of around 22:30, at which time on the 6th the crew have just about to jettison the LM ascent stage, and the same time on the 7th the crew are long past TEI, have made a mid-
Figure 4.6.8 shows a comparison of Stellarium terminator lines with the Earth crescent in the photograph in an attempt to pin down the date more precisely. This seems to pin down the date definitively to the 6th. The photographic index cited earlier seems to contradict this by stating it was taken on orbit 14, which was on the 5th and the preceding analysis shows began with Australia in view. The suggestion here is that the evidence of the photograph, rather than the index, is correct, as a 90 minute orbit beginning over Australia would be completed passing somewhere near India .
Figure 4.6.8: AS14-
Having discounted the photographic index evidence and established with a reasonable degree of certainty that the date for this image is the 6th of February, we are left with the problem of a lack of satellite images with which to compare the Apollo photograph. NIMBUS 4 does have an image from the 6th, but only shows a small portion of the gulf in the night time IR image. The visible and daylight IR spectrum images fail to show any portion of the crescent.
We do, however, have images of the southern Hemisphere from the 5th and 7th, and also northern hemisphere images from the 5th and 8th. While not as ideal as in previous missions, it should be possible to demonstrate that the clouds visible on the Apollo image are a good interpolation of what should be there given the weather conditions on days before and after the 6th.
Figure 4.6.9 shows the Earth crescent from AS14-
Figure 4.6.9: AS14-
The NIMBUS image does show a band of cloud (blue arrow) extending across the Gulf towards central America. A band of cloud is also visible across where Cuba should be (green arrow). What is noticeable is that the extra cloud mass at the end of this band in the Apollo photograph is not visible in this image, but as it is an IR based image, it may be that this cloud simply hasn't registered with the camera. The northern hemisphere image from the 5th is obviously more similar to the photograph than the one from the 8th, where the storm mentioned earlier has begun to develop in earnest. The ESSA northern hemisphere image from the 5th shows Cuba in its entirety, with band of cloud across it.
Looking over Central America, NIMBUS shows a couple of thin bands of cloud running across it (red arrow), and these seem to correspond to similar just visible strands in the Apollo image. The cloud cover on the 8th in the ESSA image is much more extensive over this region, while the that from the 5th does bear some similarity.
The southern hemisphere in ESSA shows a much less dense cloud pattern in the image form the 7th compared with the 5th, particularly over Brazil. The most visible feature from the Apollo photograph's perspective is the long band of cloud running first along the Andes before cutting across Chile & Argentina heading towards the south Atlantic (purple arrow). A number of shorter bands can be seen in the the Apollo image running parallel with the this larger band (yellow and cyan arrows), and one of these breaks away from running strictly parallel (yellow arrow).
None of these features are seen exactly in the ESSA image. There are definite resemblances between the two and these have been highlighted where a definite comparison can be seen. The 7th is the most similar, but it would be fair to state that the image taken by Apollo 14 shows a continental weather system that falls somewhere between the two states given in the ESSA satellite mosaics.
Despite not having the precise image available for a given day, the presence of images from preceding and following days allows us still to state the Apollo photograph was taken on 06/02/71 at around 23:00, because had it been taken at that time on the other days the craft was in lunar orbit it would have shown different features. For the record, the NIMBUS pass over the Mexican gulf is on the 6th is number 4081, which was commenced at 06:05 – still some time before the Apollo image. ESSA images over that region are track number 3, which are taken commenced between 19:00-
Initially, the sequence of Earth colour images taken in lunar orbit were thought to be taken at the same time, but careful examination revealed that the first few in the sequence were actually taken earlier. Out of sheer laziness, it was easier to slot them in after the previous image.
The image that gave the game away is AS14-
Figure 4.6.12: AS14-
The width of the crescent in the photograph is roughly the same as that in the previous image, which suggests that it was also taken on the 6th. There are, however, no visible landmass features to allow us to work out where the image is, so we are reliant on weather features as a guide as to where the terminator is falling. The photographic index lists it as being taken in Trans-
The most obvious feature is the large apostrophe shaped weather system in the northern hemisphere, which should at least be easy to find. The bulk of the tropical region seems to be cloud free, before scattered sub-
In analysing this image, we need to use the same technique as the previous image and use those days where there data do exist to cover for days where it is absent. It should be obvious from the previous analysis that the photograph must be later than the 5th, and appears to show a crescent consistent with the 6th of February rather than the 7th. Examination of NIMBUS images from the 6th show that there is are systems resembling those in Apollo photograph in the northern Pacific, as well as the open equatorial oceans and scattered sub-
Figure 4.6.13 shows the analysis on this basis, with a terminator image from here as a reference.
Before discussing the image it is worth pointing out that several sections of the ESSA image from the 5th were over-
Those readers who have actually been bothering to look at the analyses presented previously will probably have looked at the preceding figure and not quite understood the arrows drawn on the ESSA side of things. Arrows have been drawn, but the weather systems they are pointing at bear only slight resemblances to the Apollo image. The NIMBUS side of the figure is much more obvious – the apostrophe shaped system is very evident in the NIMBUS visible spectrum image, as are the thin band of cloud to the east of it and the scattered clouds to the south of it. This suggests very strongly that we have the date correct for the Apollo image. The track covering this cloud system is number 4090, which was commenced at 20:59 on the 6th.
However, we can see from the Fourmilab terminator that the time of the image will have been taken at approximately 02:00, and it seems reasonable to suggest that this would be in the early hours of the 7th. Part of this reasoning is based on the fact if the Apollo image was taken at 02:00, then it should match almost exactly with the ESSA image taken on the 5th, as Alaska would have been imaged at roughly the same time. The remainder of the logic behind dating this image relates to the position of the clouds on the image dated the 5th from ESSA and how they compare with those on the NIMBUS image. To explain this better, figure 4.6.14 shows a close up of the area off the Alaskan coast.
Figure 4.6.14: ESSA image dated 05/02/71 (left) and 08/02/71 (centre) and NIMBUS image dated 06/02/71.
The weather system under discussion is highlighted by the green arrow in the NIMBUS image. The initial temptation was to assume that the cloud pattern on the 140 degrees west longitude line was the same one. However, by going through other images covered by the mission, it was soon established that the edge of the orbital track covering that weather system in the NIMBUS image is also on the 140 longitude line. This effectively means that for the clouds in the ESSA image on that line to be the same ones, the weather systems would effectively be going in reverse – travelling in the opposite direction to the prevailing winds – extremely unlikely.
The clinching observation, however, is the cloud pattern to arrowed in green on the ESSA image from the 5th and the NIMBUS image – they are clearly the same, and this makes much more sense in terms of how weather patterns behave. The NIMBUS image was taken some 18 hours after the ESSA image on the 5th, which allows plenty of time for the system picked out in blue in figure 4.6.11 to move eastwards to its new position in the NIMBUS mosaic, and for the weather patterns picked out in figure 4.6.10 to move to their new position in the early hours of the 7th.
If we refer to the Apollo mission transcripts and timelines, we can see that (assuming our deductions are correct) at that time the crew had completed their TEI burn (which would have been taken on the far side of the moon as the craft performed one last orbit), and were actually engaged in lunar photography. At 148 hours and 48 minutes (just a couple of minutes after AOS) the mission commander tells capcom that they are
“making like tourists with the cameras right now”
Again, despite missing key elements of the data, logical deduction allows us to make reasonable assertions using the data that are available. We have a photograph taken at Earthrise followed by other images indicating the Moon falling away from the Apollo craft, a crew stating that they are taking photographs, and a weather system photographed at around the same time that doesn't match the same area the day before or two days later. It’s also worth mentioning that the 3D reconstruction again bears out the analysis.
One final image is available to us for Apollo 14. Shown in figure 4.6.15, AS14-
Figure 4.6.15: AS14-
This was an in-
At 16:00 on the 8th, the crew are asked how they are proceeding with the in-
In the photograph itself, once levels are adjusted to remove the over-
There is mention of Earth dark side photography taking place at 02:47 on the 9th, 18 hours before re-
Looking at the land masses that are covered by the timespan available to us, the most likely looking area is around the Asian coast between China and Thailand, which would be on the terminator between 09:30 and 12:00. A terminator here would descend through Indonesia, giving an alternation of land and sea areas suggested in the photograph, and it would also be at the right latitude. Australia would be at the thinnest part of the crescent. As before, however, we have to rely on an ESSA image taken some 14 hours later than the suggested time for the Apollo picture.
Using this as a basis, figure 4.6.16 shows the analysis. There does seem to be a degree of correspondence, but again there can not be absolute certainty in the exact location covered by the Apollo image. For the record the NIMBUS orbit (4112) was commenced at 13:05. ESSA's southern hemisphere image track for the 7th (number 9, pass 4764) would have been commenced at 07:01 on the 8th. The northern hemisphere ESSA image was taken 24 hours later, and will obviously not be a completely accurate picture of conditions for the day before, but will be a development of it.
Before signing off for Apollo 14, it’s worth pointing out another sequence of Earth images taken after the second EVA using Magazine 66. AS14-
The image in figure 4.6.17 below shows the level adjusted Earth from each of these photographs compared with what Stellarium shows for the same time and date.
Figure 4.6.17: Level adjusted cropped views of Earth in AS14-
To make life even more difficult, the satellite data for this time and date show that very little in the way of cloud would have been visible, and all we can really infer from the images is that it the crescent is consistent with the suggested time from the Venus analysis. If we ever get a better scanned photograph, we might be able to do more with it!
There is one more opportunity to examine the weather on the way home from the moon, namely in the very last leg of the journey from re-
This youtube video shows the footage taken, with the drogue chutes opening at 04:10 and the full chutes opening at 05:00.
The point of re-
Figure 4.6.18: ESSA (top centre), ITOS-
The still shown on the left is the earliest of the two, and the direction of the frames before and after both of the stills shown suggest that we are looking towards the west. Such is the nature of the clouds beneath Apollo 14 that it is difficult to be certain exactly what system we are looking at, nor is it easy to work out how far into the distance we are looking.
That said it isn’t unreasonable to suggest that what we are looking at is consistent with the weather systems along the corridor, particularly those about half way between the ‘official’ point of re-
The preceding analyses represent all that can be examined for Apollo 14. It is conceded that there is an element of doubt over them, such is the poor quality of the images available. If the only source of data available were the satellite and Apollo images, it would have been extremely difficult to derive timings for any of the images based on observed weather systems, but the availability of other sources (notably the mission audio and transcripts) allow some certainty to be gained. We also have the invaluable evidence provided by Venus.
The reader is, as always, invited to perform their own analyses from the available data. As the crescent Earth is so thin for most of the mission photographs and the weather systems less than clear, it was decided that a comparison of synoptic charts would serve little purpose, and so the discussion of Apollo 14 ends here.
It’s a bit fiddly trying to get the views exactly right on a mobile phone app, but you get the idea: the view of the Earth at the time of the broadcast is exactly what you would expect given its location in cislunar space.
Moving on to the rest of the mission, those few images that are suitable will be examined, but the results should in most cases be regarded with a degree of caution. More enhancement of the images is required than has been the case so far, but the process will be explained in each case and the reader is free to replicate it. The procedure is rendered even more difficult by the absence of images from the 6th (neither hemisphere) and 7th of February (southern hemisphere only) in the ITOS 1 record, which means that for much of the period when photographs were taken, only the less clear NIMBUS images are available.
In the end, it was determined that only 4 days were covered by identifiable images of Earth, the 5th to the 9th of February. The logic of these deductions is outlined below. AS14-
The image is part of a series of photographs, but is one where image enhancement gave the best results in terms of recognisable features. Figure 4.6.5 shows the original zoomed and cropped Earth compared with the Earth after levels had been altered, and brightness and contrast values changed and the image sharpened.
Figure 4.6.3a: Earth as seen on the TV broadcast 3/2/71 (above) and in a press image of the broadcast mis-
Figure 4.6.10: AS14-
The crescent that is available is analysed in figure 4.6.11.
Figure 4.6.11: Restored Nimbus image from February 6th 1971 compared with AS14-
Apollo image has been level adjusted and sharpened to bring out detail.
We haven’t bothered adding the ESSA images from adjacent dates, partly because it’s confusing but mostly because the NIMBUS one has all we need. The sharpened detail identifies the northern coast of South America as well as the larger Caribbean islands, which means we must be looking at a time earlier than the previous image, probably by about an hour.
That time of roughly 22:00 would be about 144:57 MET, which would put Apollo 14 at just around AOS on orbit 33, making this a post-
In addition to these colour images of Earth from lunar orbit, there is a black & white series of an Earthrise that must also have been taken before leaving orbit on the 7th. AS14-
Figure 4.6.13: AS14-
Figure 4.6.16: AS14-
We can at least see if it matches what should be visible, which we can see in figure 4.6.3b.
Figure 4.6.3b: Stellarium view of Earth at the time of the TV broadcast as seen from the lunar surface.
It should be obvious there that the view from the moon suggests that we should be seeing an almost half Earth, but we aren’t, and as in other cases where we’ve examined this it’s because of the viewing angle. The astronauts aren’t on the moon, they are on the way to where the moon will be in roughly 48 hours. Astronomy app ‘Sky Safari’ has an add on that allows you to view the Apollo trajectories throughout each mission, and here’s what we get if we plot Apollo 14’s position on the morning of the 3rd (figure 4.6.3c)
Figure 4.6.3c: Approximate views of Earth from the moon and Apollo 14