Monday, December 19, 2022



Reentry for Apollo 17 took place on Wednesday afternoon December 19th, 1972. This was my last “Apollo day-off from school” and for the first time during the mission the TV coverage was pretty extensive. That was good for me because the lightweight coverage of the rest of the mission had left me with about a half hour of audio tape to fill.

There was an interesting “first” that happened during Apollo 17’s reentry. For the first time NASA PAO allowed us to all hear what the astronauts were actually saying inside the spacecraft, in real time, during the reentry and recovery phase. Apparently they allowed Ron Evans to go on open microphone, or “VOX” with the other crewmen in the background. Either that or Evans had a stuck microphone, no matter, it was still pretty cool. The only time that he could not be heard was during the black-out portion of the reentry. As soon as the black-out cleared, however we could hear him again.

I was entranced! It was so cool to hear them talking to each other and Evans making calls. I did not even care that I did not know what most of it meant; I would figure it out later when I played the tapes over and over driving my family insane. Splashdown was a work of art and the impact of the spacecraft was captured up-close by a TV camera on one of the recovery helicopters. Later we saw close-up pictures of the crew exiting the vehicle and flopping into life-rafts. The images were so good that you could see Schmitt scoop a hand full of the blue Pacific water and toss it gleefully at Evans. In short order the crew were on the deck of the carrier TICONDEROGA making short speeches. I considered Cernan’s statement about Apollo 17 being the end of the beginning. It rang hollow, even to a 15-year-old; Apollo 17 was over, and so was the Apollo program. 

The networks went back to their beloved regular programming, because that is what people were “really” interested in, and I packed up my recording gear and my models and went back to my room. I spent the next four hours listening to my Apollo 17 tapes and trying to recreate Apollo itself with my well-worn command module model; it didn’t work.

My model command module- circa 1967

Spool the clock ahead to 2009. While writing my second book on Project Apollo, I glanced over my shoulder and saw my five-year-old daughter in “the play area” of our home rooting through a basket of assorted and well-worn toys. Coincidentally, she came up with an old, partly broken Saturn V toy and, raising it over her head, she was making the “Shhhhoooommm” sound.

“Where ya’ goin’ sweetie?” I asked, expecting an answer about some cartoon show fairyland.

“To the Moon,” she unexpectedly replied.

Without hesitation I dropped my work and turned to her,

“You wanna go to the Moon eh? Well daddy can help.”

With that I dug into my collection of space stuff and soon we had a LEM, a CM and a couple of astronaut action figures from the “Daddy Shelf.” A bit of dusting off and we were down on the carpet playing lunar EVA. Soon daddy asked,

“Do you wanna see real men walking on the Moon?”

“Yeah,” she replied with a wide smile.

I broke out my Spacecraft Films Apollo 17 DVD set and put EVA number one on the big TV. As they worked the ALSEP she asked, “What are they doing?”

I told her that they were setting up experiments.

“We need some experiments,” she said with a glow.

Thus, we gathered old pen tops, toy thimbles, doll chairs and even a packing peanut with a toothpick stuck in it- they all turned into lunar experiments.

“Ya’ know what else we need?” she asked, “It starts with an “R”… rover.”

Gleefully stunned that my kid even knew what an LRV was, Daddy got one of those from his collection too. For the entire afternoon we played being on the Moon. 

At one point she glanced at the TV and asked innocently,

“Are those guys on the Moon right now?”

“No,” I replied and explained that all of that took place long ago when daddy was a little boy and that we do not go to the Moon anymore. Busying her tiny fingers with our “experiments” in our ALSEP on the carpet, she asked,


Indeed, “why?”

How does one answer that to a five-year-old? How does one who had the privilege to watch men walking on the lunar surface, live, on television, explain to the next generation why it is that we as a nation simply gave it up? How does one explain to our children that they will quite likely not have the chance to go and do such things themselves— or for that matter even have the chance to see it happen, live? How does one explain the myth that the money spent on Apollo would be better used to cure all of the ills here on earth if we would just stop going to the Moon? How does one explain to a kid what myopic, self-serving politicians are? How does one explain to future generations that my generation stepped away from the peaceful advancement of human civilization because the TV ratings were low? Perhaps we should use the words of President Barack Obama when he casually defunded the Constellation program's return to the moon and simply, arrogantly state that we no longer go to the Moon because,

“…to put it bluntly, Buzz has already been there.”

Indeed, “why?” will be the next generation’s question and my generation has no good answer.

My little girl is all grown up now and in college where her minor is Space Studies. On November 16, 2022 she stood on the river bank just outside of Titusville, Florida and along with her school mates screamed "GO BABY GO!" as the Artemis I launch vehicle boosted the next generation of lunar spacecraft, Orion, to the moon. Yet once again critics from my generation arise in myopic opposition to the program. Wine may get better with age, yet NASA critics just maintain a predictable, worn-out ignorance.

Get your copy of Growing up with Spaceflight, signed and personalized at


Wednesday, December 7, 2022


 The following is an excerpt from my book "Growing up with Spaceflight, Apollo Part Two" and is protected by Copyright 2015 Wes Oleszewski. No part of this may be republished in any form. 

Taurus-Littrow was the name of the landing site for Apollo 17. Located near the southeast rim of the Moon’s Sea of Serenity, the site is a meandering valley between three mountains called “massifs” (pronounced mass-eefs) in a range dubbed Taurus. Littrow is the name attached to a nearby crater. Overall, the lunar EVAs would be the longest ever and I could hardly wait for them to take place.

In order to tape record the mission, as I had recorded Apollos 14, 15 and 16, I had been saving up what money I could in order to buy what I believed to be “the best” quality cassettes. In my arsenal I had two Memorex 120-minute cassettes and two off-brand 60-minute cassettes. The Memorex tapes were for the actual mission audio and the off-brands were to capture the “extras” that the news media may just toss out here and there. Yep- I had it all covered from flight broadcasting to contingency broadcasting. This time I would be using the best of everything… right? Well, 30, years later in 2002, when I went to take my carefully stored “Apollo Tapes” and transfer them to digital CD, the only ones that gave me trouble were those expensive Memorex cassettes! They were so bad that I had to take apart freshly bought modern cassettes and physically cut the Memorex 120-minute tapes in half and then place the historic tapes into the modern, off-brand, cases in order to get them to play. Meanwhile, my off-brand cassettes from the Apollo and Skylab era still play just fine. Yet, in December of 1972, I thought that I had it all covered.

It was clear from the beginning that the TV coverage of the Apollo 17 mission would be at a bare minimum. NBC, for example, came on the air at 9:45 pm, just 13 minutes before the scheduled launch time. For Apollo 16, NBC’s launch coverage had started nearly a full hour before launch time. But Apollo 16 had launched on a Sunday at mid-day when most network affiliates were showing old movies on some sort of “Award Theater.”  Apollo 17, however, was supposed to launch in “prime-time” and most network executives would have blood shooting out of their eyes at the thought of losing even a minute of prime-time to cover a spaceflight. Thus, their Wednesday evening viewers were now scheduled to missed only the end of "Hec Ramsey.”  ABC and CBS were both on at 9:30 with launch coverage; meaning that their viewers would miss the last half hour of "The Movie of the Week" and "Medical Center" respectively. Either that or the executives at those two networks had a greater sense of history and the news coverage thereof, yet perhaps their eyes did not bleed as easily as those of the suits at NBC.

It was the plan of all of the networks, however, was to catch Apollo 17 getting off the ground and into orbit, which was scheduled to take a total of 11 minutes and 46 seconds, and then switching at the top of the hour to, “…our regularly scheduled program, already in progress.,” Thus, the executives at the networks would be keeping those prime-time advertising dollars and ratings points firmly in their pockets as well as keeping the shooting of blood from their eyes to a minimum. They would also rob us space-buffs of scads of spaceflight TV watchin’ in the process. After all, they figured, no moon flight had ever suffered any sort of a technical delay, so their bet on the timing of this coverage seemed to be a sure thing. The network suits would win, and the space-buffs would get skunked once again. It was well planned by the three big networks- who were all we had to watch in this era before wide-spread cable TV. Of course, events of that Wednesday evening would cast immense suffering upon those network suits- especially at NBC.

To those of us not in the firing room at KSC, the final minutes of the countdown, appeared to be moving along smoothly for Apollo 17. That included the crew which consisted of Commander Gene Cernan, Command Module Pilot Ron Evans and Lunar Module Pilot Jack Schmitt. What only a few people in the firing room knew was that there had been a glitch at the 2 minute and 47 second mark in the count. At that point the automatic sequencer failed to send the signal to pressurize the S-IVB third stage’s liquid oxygen (LOX) tank. Controllers in the firing room quickly moved to manually pressurize the tank and it did come up to pressure, but their action was not swift enough to satisfy the sequencer and at T-30 seconds the count was “cut-off” by the sequencer itself. There was a great deal of confusion in the media as the NASA Public Affairs Officer, Chuck Hollingshead, went into low-flow mode. The public was left guessing as to what the problem was and whether or not there would be a launch tonight. It soon became clear that that those “regularly scheduled programs” were not going to be seen tonight and the well-planned broadcast schedule of those network executives turned to toilet paper. Before the evening was over, they would lose their 10 o'clock hour and broadcasting "The Julie Andrews Hour," "Cannon" and "Search" all because of the Apollo 17 launch sequencer. It was a rough night to be a TV broadcast executive, but an intense night to be a space-buff.

AS-512, the Saturn Booster that was supposed to send Apollo 17 to the moon just sat there, venting LOX in that familiar white trail of vapor; commonly called “goxing.” Of course, as the countdown clock stood frozen at the T-30 second mark the controllers in the firing room were already working the problem and actually had in place a “work around” solution. First, however, the countdown and the sequencer needed to be recycled to the T-22-minute mark. This recycle was a long involved, procedure-rich activity that would take nearly a full 40 minutes just to complete. Naturally, I was glued to our family TV as everyone else in the family went to bed- with the exception of my dad who worked midnights on the railroad. He just wished me luck by saying to me,

“I hope you get that one off the pad tonight,” as he left for work.

Dad always had a keen sense of how involved I was in spaceflight- even if it was just through a TV set located 1,042.93 miles away from Launch Complex 39A.

Before going to bed for the night, my mom left me alone in the living room with a clear warning,

“No matter how late you stay up for that tonight,” she half snarled in a firm parental tone, “yer’ still gettin’ up and goin’ to school tomorrow.”

Indeed, our deal had been that I could only stay home from school to watch the critical parts of the mission that took place during school hours. Now she had me on a technicality.


I kept CBS tuned in during this phase of the mission. The other networks had good people working the flight, but a good space-buff always kept Cronkite and Schirra tuned in during an anomaly; provided, of course, that they could actually get a CBS station. Meanwhile, the broadcasters did their best to make something out of the nothing that PAO was spooning out. Unknown to us all was the fact that the engineers in the firing room were all set to implement their work-around and by-pass the sequencer. This was not a work-around in the sense that we would see in the Space Shuttle era. This was a “bread-board” work-around. A bread-board is a term for a type of tool used in electronics to study and test circuits. Components are connected together with “jumpers” which consist of a single wire with either clips or plugs on each end. Those jumpers can be used to either connect or by-pass a given component or circuit. In the case of the Saturn V sequencer, (and you electrical engineers reading this please forgive me for over-simplifying here, but I’m writing for “normal” people), there was no big master computer teaming with scads of hard drives. Much of what the sequencer did came down to open relays and closed relays which executed each action that needed to be done by triggering additional relays down the chain. Each of these banks of circuits had a one-hole jack on one side and a similar jack on the other. If the circuit, or its associated relay should fail to trigger its task by closing, a technician could by-pass it with a switch or a by-pass could be done by inserting a jumper with a banana plug on each end into the two holes and thus “jump” across the circuit.  The system hardware had actually been built with this option in mind.

 Basically what had happened was that when the sequencer looked, at the speed of light, for the S-IVB pressurization trigger it saw that K577, the “S-IVB LOX Tank Pressurized” interlock relay was open rather than closed because it did not receive the signal to close. Although the tank had been pressurized manually, the sequencer instantly, seeing the open relay, cut-off the count. It never got as far as the switch that the technician had closed. In the work-around, inserting the jumper would show the sequencer a closed circuit at the open relay as well as the manual switch. The sequencer would then be satisfied and simply move along and launch the Saturn V.

There was, however, one last hang-up that delayed the launch even farther. The folks at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama- who had designed and constructed the Saturn V and the sequencer- needed to convince themselves that the bread-board work-around would actually work safely. This was, however, an expected delay by the ever cautious MSFC engineers and while the team in the firing room at KSC waited, they successfully rolled the countdown clock back to T-22 minutes and began counting down again. They could now go as far down as T-8 minutes, where the chill-down of the J-2 engines in the second and third stages had to be started. If they had no decision from Huntsville by then, they would have to hold until the launch window was violated by through what remained of the countdown. The count did indeed tick down to T-8 minutes and then was held again awaiting word from MSFC.

 Meanwhile excess hydrogen from the S-IVB and S-II stages was being drained off and sent to a “burn pond” adjacent to the launch pad where it was set aflame. Cronkite went to great lengths to assure the viewing public that this was an intentional, necessary and totally harmless fire. For more than an hour, everyone, from the news broadcasters, to the firing room engineers, to a little kid in Saginaw, Michigan all waited tensely for the count to resume.

Swing Arm Number 9, which was the access arm to the command module, had been swung back to the 12 degree “park position.” I wondered what it was like inside the Apollo 17 command module as the crew waited out the protracted delays. In his later book, “The Last Man On The Moon,” Gene Cernan summed it up by reporting that CMP Ron Evans, "… didn't think the delay was any big deal and he went to sleep, his relaxed snore a deep undertone to the chatter on the radio net."

Somewhere near 20 minutes after midnight Eastern time, MSFC finally transmitted their blessing upon the KSC work-around that the folks at Huntsville who had actually, themselves, designed into the system. The count began again at 25 minutes after midnight and progressed to the point where the S-IVB LOX tank was to be pressurized. Again the console operator manually pressurized the tank. Then when the sequencer looked toward the K577 relay it electronically saw the jumper and thus concluded that the relay was closed. The count continued to ignition and liftoff- which took place at 33 minutes past midnight.

It was impossible to grasp the full glory of a Saturn V night launch through our family television set, but the voice of Chuck Hollingshead as he called the liftoff gave a good indication of what was taking place.

“It’s just like daylight here at Kennedy Space Center…!” he shouted with the greatest of excitement as the TV cameras that had focused on the vehicle were video-smeared by the brightness.

 NBC reporter/anchorman John Chancellor afterward stated, “… …The whole sky became pinkish-green, like nothing I have ever seen. It looked like a hazy day… it was as bright as the sun with a flaming tail, maybe half a mile long… every car in the parking lot here, in the middle of the night at the press site was clearly identifiable, the license numbers could be read…”

Boost of the S-IC first stage on Apollo 17 was completely nominal, yet Cernan sat in his CDR’s position with the abort handle in his left hand almost daring the guidance system to fail. That was because he knew that if he turned the “T” handle counterclockwise he could activate the abort system and the escape tower would fire, but if he turned it 45 degrees clockwise he could disconnect the IU from its guidance duty and the Saturn V would be commanded by the CDR’s joystick hand controller that was in his right hand. That would allow Cernan to achieve every pilot’s dream and hand-fly the most powerful flying machine ever to successfully take to the sky.

 At staging the firing of the eight retro-rockets shot out a brilliant halo of yellow flame that seemed to be a few thousand feet across as it expanded in the near-vacuum of the upper atmosphere. From that point on, Apollo 17 was little more than a white dot on our TV set. For the last time an Apollo crew was thrown against their straps by the Saturn V. It was also the only time that Cernan took his hand off of that abort handle, he knew the jolt was coming and did not want to accidentally trigger an abort.

I listened intently to all of the onboard reports and calls. “Mark, 1 Bravo,” an abort mode, “Skirt Sep.” the point where the interstage skirt that had held the first stage to the second stage separates. If it had not dropped away the crew would have to abort using their escape tower. “Tower Jet,” since the skirt departed cleanly, the launch escape tower was no longer needed, and was jettisoned to save weight. Now all three astronauts could look outside. Prior to this the Command Module had a Boost Protective Cover (BPC) over it. But, when the tower jettisoned it took the BPC with it. Later in the second stage burn as its fuel and oxidizer drained away, the stage’s level sensor was armed and prior to that the crew was given an expected time for “Level Sense Arm.” Level sense referred to a set of five probes in the S-II LOX tank’s bottom that while whetted remained neutral, but when any two of these were uncovered they signaled the Saturn V’s Instrument Unit (IU) to begin the sequence of engine shutdown and staging. The system was not armed until late in the stage’s burn to prevent a false shutdown. Level Sense, shutdown and staging for Apollo 17 took place as planned.

As separation of the second and third stage took place a series of four retrorockets buried in the S-II to S-IVB’s adapter ignited while at the same time two posi-grade ullage motors on the stage S-IVB fired. These were all solid propellant rocket motors that burned briefly; the retros to separate the two stages and the ullages to seat the S-IVB’s propellant fuel and oxidizer. Once expended the ullage motors were jettisoned to scrub weight. In the end the S-IVB’s lone J-2 engine shut down some three seconds early, but Apollo 17’s parking orbit was fine. Unlike previous lunar missions, Apollo 17 would alter the timing of its Trans-Lunar Injection in order to help make up for the delayed launch at the beginning of its third orbit some three hours after launch.

One loss caused by the delayed launch was that there would be no TV coverage of the Transposition and Docking event- where the CSM separates, moves out, turns and then goes back to dock with and remove the Lunar Module from the S-IVB. The tardy launch left the earth-bound antennas that would normally receive the onboard TV, out of position- so there would be nothing to watch. I packed it up and went to bed with two thoughts heavy on my mind; 1) this was the last time that humans would launch aboard a Saturn V and fly to the moon, and 2) my mom was going to wake me up in about five hours so that I could trudge off to waste yet another day in the mayhem of Webber Jr. High School.

For the record, five decades later, I remember every detail about the launch of Apollo 17 that night- but I don’t recall a damned thing that went on at that “school” the following day.

Monday, November 14, 2022



Armstrong in the LLTV

With the coming 50th anniversary of the Apollo 17 mission it's important to note that the final flight of the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle (LLTV) took place on December 13, 1972. The pilot was Gene Cernan.

I've seen TV documentaries that love to express how dangerous the LLTV aircraft were. Several talked about how the astronauts "hated it." Another said that it was so hazardous that NASA cancelled its use.

In fact I've talked to several Apollo moon-walkers who, when asked, said that this was a very useful training device. The proof of that is the fact that the LLTV was in use right up until the final Apollo lunar mission.


Monday, September 5, 2022


While everyone in the media is talking about the LH2 (Liquid Hydrogen) leak in the Space Launch System’s quick release connector, one small detail is somewhat overlooked.

When the current lunar launch window closes on Tuesday September 6, 2022, the certification date for the batteries in the vehicle command destruct system also expires. There is no way to re-certify the system at Launch Complex 39B because there is no access arm to that area of the booster. The only way to re-certify the system is by way of the access platforms in the VAB.

Thus, conjecture as to if or not the engineers need to construct some sort of weather shelter in order to service that leaky quick-disconnect in order to repair the LH2 leak at the launch pad is mooted unless they can get it all done and launch before the command destruct system expires.

Although the VAB provides plenty of shelter from Florida’s weather, the downside to a roll-back and repair indoors is that once the repair is finished there is no way to completely test the fix. The only way to test that fitting is to roll the vehicle all the way back out to Pad 39B where the LH2 can be fed into the system.

Additionally, although it has been discovered that the August 29 scrub caused by readings that one of the core stage’s RS25 engines was not being properly chilled was caused by a faulty sensor- it is important to point out that the KSC weather rules went red 16 minutes before the launch window opened. The weather continued in the red through most of the launch window. So, faulty sensor or not, the launch was scrubbed for weather before it ever got started.


Sunday, September 4, 2022


The Space Launch System is on the pad... fueled and... scrubbed... twice.

To some arm-chair, self-proclaimed spaceflight experts this means that the whole thing is horribly troubled- a waste of money... as they peck feverishly away at their keyboards. After all, it disappointed nearly a million people who came to see it launch. And isn't that the whole point of this? 

Indeed to many myopic usernames on social media that is what the SLS/Artemis is... another Florida thrill-ride. You go there, tailgate at the causeway or along the river, and you get rewarded with big show. The sound of thunder as the vehicle rides a pillar of fire into the sky and out of sight.

And of course we have the SpaceX zealots who readily toss apples and oranges into the sky and call them the same thing. Surely Elon can do it better, and his massive rocket will be flying any day now. Never mind the fact that the sands at Boca Chica are mixed with both sea shells and stainless steel bits from that booster's development.

In fact the SLS/Artemis 1 launch is one and only one thing. It is an all-up FLIGHT TEST... period. 

Flight test is where you weed out those tiny weaknesses in the system. It is where you find those small buggy components that cost a lot of money to develop and now cost a lot of time to fix. Each can be frustration for the spacebuff to witness, but to the engineer each is simply a problem to be solved.

For those with history myopia, who scoff that Apollo never had such issues because everything was better then... I'd like to offer a look into the actual history. 

For example, AS-201 the first Saturn IB vehicle to be flown suffered from delays due to things such as mismarked electrical equipment and about 100 cables that were the wrong length being sent from Huntsville. Then wet-test was glitched by LH2 refusing to flow from the ground storage tank. Worst of all were the countless breakdowns in the RCA 110A computers that controlled the entire system. When the vehicle's Instrument Unit (IU) arrived at the cape it had scores of issues. IBM engineers benched it in hangar AF and fixed most of the problems on-site before the IU was stacked. Yet still the RCA 110A was filled with glitches. The results were months of launch delay.

Apollo 4, the first all-up Saturn V launch was delayed repeatedly while on the pad. First it was assorted computer issues. Then a monitoring system for propellant loading failed and a total of 1.9 million liters of propellants and LOX had to be drained from the vehicle. Problems in a gaseous helium regulator caused a delay and later a defective battery heater in the S-II caused a delay. In total there was a 17-day delay in what was only an Earth orbital mission. Had Apollo 4 been a Lunar mission, the individual  delays would have added up to several months as the Lunar launch windows came and went.

Of course you'll now say, "Oh sure, but that was long ago before they really knew how to do this and it was a new rocket. The SLS is made out of leftover Shuttle parts."

Wrong. The SLS is a new vehicle. The only true leftover shuttle parts are the four RS-25 core stage engines. Sure we have plenty of experience with LH2 handling, but it is still tricky stuff, especially when used in the quantities needed for the SLS. This launch will be the firing of the most powerful rocket ever launched by the United States. 

Take the delays- and get it right. Let's go to the Moon.


Saturday, April 23, 2022


 The following are excerpts from Wes Oleszewski's book "Growing up with Spaceflight, Apollo Part Two" It is protected by copyright 2015 Wes Oleszewski, no part may be reused without the author's permission- publication here does not imply such permission.



Saturday’s EVA started around noon and to my delight all three networks were covering the events a bit more completely, probably due to the fact that weekend daytime programming was easier to pre-empt than the weekday programming. Also to my approval was the fact that my entire family was now gone to the Civic Center and the rodeo. As Mom worked in the concession stand and Dad sold programs little brother and sister wore cowboy hats and tried to look western… I guess. Such big events only came to the arena a few times each year and, again, that one month delay of the Apollo 16 mission back in January had worked out to my advantage. While my kin folk were away playing cowboy, I was at home watching the moonwalkers and playing Descartes Highlands on our living room carpet— life was as it should be for a space-buff.

EVA number two saw the crew making the maximum use of the LRV as they headed uphill toward South Ray crater. The crater itself was not the objective of the excursion, instead they were to stop at points where the rays from the crater crossed their path and sample those areas. It did not take long to conclude that these bright rays consisted mostly of large blocks thrown out by the impact that created South Ray itself. Through the day there was clearly more TV coverage than there had been on Friday. CBS even kept with the mission as the crew drove between sampling stations 5 and 6 and then again between 6 and 8 while the camera on the LRV was turned off. The slopes were steep, the blocks were big and often fractured. Finally, upon returning to the landing site with a 10 minute EVA extension, the crew got some additional ALSEP work done before getting back into the LEM. Both the crew and Mission Control were highly satisfied with the EVA and I was a great deal more satisfied with the TV coverage- at least there were no soap operas involved.

Following the second EVA I went to bed with the hum of the lunar communications background noise echoing in my ears. The next day’s EVA would be the last for this mission and would take the crew up the steep side of North Ray crater and right up to the rim. I tried to imagine how amazing it must be for them to be inside the LEM at that same moment- looking forward to another adventure tomorrow morning. I wondered how they could possibly sleep.

“Hell,” I thought, “I’d have been up with my nose plastered to the LEM window if I were there.”

I could hardly sleep here on Earth just imagining the whole experience. What I did not know was that both John Young and Charlie Duke had climbed into their hammocks inside Orion and slept like someone had smacked them in the head with a hockey stick- they were exhausted.

Sunday’s EVA started at 10:25 in the morning Lexington Drive time. This traverse was scheduled to be two hours shorter than the first two EVAs in order to accommodate Orion’s lunar liftoff that was to take place at 8:26 pm. The abbreviated EVA was the result of the late landing, but everyone, including us space-buffs, knew that it was better to have that short EVA than to lose it completely like we had feared Thursday evening.

Once more, the rest of my family was down at the Civic Center at the rodeo and I had the house all to myself. Aside from a short bulletin stating that all was well, TV coverage of the EVA did not really begin until the crew got all the way up to station 11 on the rim of North Ray- nearly two hours after the EVA had started. Rats! Nothing to do until then, thus, I decided that my living room carpet was just not cutting it as a simulation of the Descartes Highlands. So, I went outside to make my own moonscape. Our above-ground pool had suffered some ice damage to the liner over the winter and my Dad had to take the pool down until we could get a new liner for the summer. Now our backyard had an 18-foot diameter sand pit where the pool was supposed to go. It was the perfect place for a lunatic 14-year-old to build a model of the Apollo 16 landing site.

After two days of watching the mission coverage I had a pretty fair idea of what the Descartes site looked like and I also had the image of the landing site that had been published in TV Guide; so I went to work. With my TV Guide at my knees I was almost done making my Descartes in the sand by the time the real EVA reached North Ray. I was busy sculpting that area when I heard a man’s voice speaking over the top of the stockade fence that surrounded our yard.

“What in the world are you doin’?” the voice asked.

It was my older cousin Tommy, who was a Saginaw City police officer. 

I told him I was making the Descartes Highlands where Apollo 16 was right now.

“Yer’ what?!” he exclaimed.

I explained that the astronauts were there right now.

“They’re right about here now.” I said pointing toward the southern slope of my version of North Ray crater.

He just shook his head, snickered and looking down, he said that my parents had asked him to drop by and check up on me.

“I’m gonna tell ‘em yer’ nuts,” he laughed.

 “Okay,” I just shrugged and agreed.

On the Saturday immediately following the Apollo 16 splashdown I was indeed forced from space-buff euphoria into the cold hard reality that Apollo 16 was really over. That was when my Dad discovered the moonscape that I had sculptured out of the spot where our backyard pool was supposed to reside. 

I was handed a rake and ordered to “level it.”

My Dad had a saying that, “The mess you make is the mess you clean up.”

He shot that one at me.

“It’s not a mess,” I told him, “it’s the Descartes Highlands of the Moon.”

Without missing a beat Dad replied,

“The Moon you make is the Moon you clean up.”

You can find Wes' complete and detailed account of Apollo 14 through 17 in his book Growing up with Spaceflight Apollo Part Two HERE or on Amazon

Thursday, April 21, 2022



The following is an excerpt from Wes Oleszewski's book "Growing up with Spaceflight, Apollo Part Two" It is protected by copyright 2015 Wes Oleszewski, no part may be reused without the author's permission- publication here does not imply such permission.

Few people can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing on a specific date in time... let along a half century ago. Well, this is where I was and what I was doing an April 21, 1972...



Coasting toward the Moon, Apollo 16 was, again, making it look easy. Those of us on the earth saw very little of the transit between the Earth and the Moon as the big networks simply did not find it worth their time on the evening news. Still, the mission continued to unfold in my favor as each critical event just fell right into place on my calendar. Lunar orbit was entered on Wednesday, April 19th and the lunar landing was scheduled to take place on Thursday afternoon at 3:41 Eastern time with the first EVA scheduled to begin that same day at 7:19 in the evening. The second EVA was scheduled to start at 5:44 Friday Evening and the final EVA was set for Saturday evening at 5:17 followed by lunar liftoff at 4:34 Sunday afternoon. An issue with the CSM TVC would cause a delay in the PDI, and reshuffle the EVA schedule. Yet, this all worked for me because my folks would give me Thursday off of school for the landing and the rest of the events fell into a good place for me for one big reason... the rodeo was in town!

Okay, so you may be asking yourself, “Rodeo? In mid-Michigan? How the heck does that fit into Apollo 16?” The fact is that I have about zero interest in rodeos or anything associated with them and the same was true in April of 1972. My parents, however, at that time both worked at the newly opened Saginaw Civic Center and the rodeo coming to town was a huge event for the arena. Mom and Dad were going to be completely occupied from early in the morning until late in the evening working at the Civic Center from Wednesday until Sunday. Mom worked the commissary and Dad huckstered programs- they made a good deal of extra money over and above Dad’s full-time job as a railroad engineer for the C&O. The best part was that on Saturday and Sunday, they were taking my brother and sister with them. They would both get cowboy hats, and I would get Apollo 16! So it was that on Friday April 21, 1972 the scheduled first EVA for Apollo 16 was mine alone at home to enjoy and tape record.

In order to make up for the power used in the near six hour delay prior to PDI, the crew had been directed by Mission Control to execute an extensive power-down. Following that, the orders were for the astronauts to go to sleep. The entire lunar activity schedule was being re-written on the spot and the first EVA was now set to begin 11:30 am, Eastern time the following morning rather than taking place at 7:19 pm this evening as originally planned. Of course, the delay meant that the 7:19 time had already passed- so the first EVA’s start time was already moot. That rescheduling struck gold with me- now I had a reason to stay home from school on Friday too!

I did not even have to work at convincing my parents to give me the day off. As they dragged themselves in from working at the Civic Center, I simply told them that the EVA had been rescheduled to tomorrow morning. Mom simply yawned and said,

“Have fun on the Moon dear.”



Friday morning arrived and with my brother and sister gone to school and my folks gone to the Civic Center, I had the whole day by myself with nothing but continuous coverage of Apollo 16’s lunar EVAs on the TV… or so I thought.

NBC started their coverage at noon, but by then both astronauts were already on the surface and working after having popped the hatch at 11:47 am Sheridan Park time. There was no news coverage of John Young’s first step onto the lunar surface nine minutes later due to a failure in the LEM’s high-gain antenna. Without that antenna, no television could be transmitted, so no TV equated to no TV ratings and thus no TV interest from the network news producers. Young’s first words as he became the ninth human to set foot on the Moon and looked around were,

“There you are, our mysterious and unknown Descartes Highland plains. Apollo 16 is gonna change your image.”

Instead of Young’s historic first steps onto the lunar surface, what we here on earth got was a 60 second blurb of Roy Neil telling us that Young was on the surface and Duke was still “…inside the cabin…” In fact, listening carefully to the tape, Duke’s voice can be heard in the background telling Houston that he is, “…makin’ little footprints here…” which were some of his first words on the surface, thus Charlie Duke was also walking on the Moon at that moment. Roy Neil announced that TV pictures would be had as soon as the lunar rover was set up and its camera was turned on; that would be accomplished, “…in about an hour.”

“Okay,” I reasoned, “a break in coverage due to a high-gain antenna failure, I can see that.”

What I did not know was that the networks had decided to do away with the “gavel-to-gavel” coverage of the lunar EVAs, similar to that given to political conventions. So instead of being able to watch the moonwalks in an eight-hour marathon, as had been the case with Apollo 15, now we would get short segments inserted into regular programming. For daytime TV addicts it was probably a huge annoyance, for space-buffs it was a huge disappointment and another example of the networks turning their backs on Apollo and the peaceful advancement of human civilization in favor of game shows and soap operas.

Just before one o’clock the camera on the rover was activated and the networks cut into “Let’s make a Deal” “As the World Turns” and “Three On A Match” to show us the men walking on the lunar surface. Young and Duke were loading up the rover and obviously enjoying every moment of it. The pictures from the lunar surface were amazingly clear due to a new image enhancement process that NASA had contracted prior to the mission.

After the crew set up the American flag, both astronauts took their turn getting their photo taken standing next to it- at least that was what was in the mission plan. John Young went first and rather than standing there and giving a salute, he jumped straight up about two feet and saluted. Duke snapped one photo of his jumping commander and then Young jumped for a second shot. Next it was Charlie Duke’s turn to salute. As that was happening CAPCOM, scientist astronaut Tony England, called to report that he had good news. The United States House of Representatives had just passed the Space Budget by a vote of 277 to 60 and that budget included the funds for the Space Shuttle.

“Beautiful!” Both astronauts exclaimed.

“This country needs that Shuttle mighty bad,” Young added, “you’ll see.”

At that moment, John Young had no idea that he would command the first Shuttle mission nearly a decade later as well as the ninth mission two- and one-half years after that. Likewise, CAPCOM Tony England would go on to fly on the 19th Shuttle mission STS-51F as a mission specialist.

I spent the rest of the day busily spinning the rotary dial, switching between the three channels on our TV set, 5, 12 and 25, in the hope of being able to catch some coverage whenever whatever network saw fit to present it. Bringing out my black and white portable TV helped as I could leave it set on one channel and scan the other two with the big set. Still, it made for an aggravating afternoon- the worst part of which was having to watch the dribble that was being broadcast between the segments of EVA coverage. Nothing could be worse than a space-buff being stuck watching soap operas and game shows while a lunar EVA is in progress. Since the birth of humanity people have dreamed of walking upon the Moon and now, when it is finally happening, we got to watch soap operas.

I turned the sound off and began reciting my own dialogue to the shows,

“Doctor, he has a hangnail.”

“Quick, prep him for surgery, we’ll have to remove his gonads.”

“But Doctor…”

“Don’t argue with me nurse, I’ve had six months of medical ROTC.”

The details of the EVAs I've saved in my book, "Growing up with Spaceflight- Apollo Part Two" which you can get on Amazon or get autographed at