Monday, December 10, 2012

Flight training for Apollo: An interview with astronaut Harrison Schmitt

Apollo 17 lunar module pilot (and future U.S. Senator) geologist-astronaut Dr. Harrison "Jack" Schmidt, December 14, 1972, soon after close-out of the the mission's third and final walk on the Moon. This week marks the 40th anniversary of Apollo 17, the last mission to the Moon and the last time manned spaceflight left Earth orbit. AS17-134-20530 [Gene Cernan/NASA].
Jason Catanzariti
The Space Review

Harrison “Jack” Schmitt was selected by NASA as a scientist-astronaut in 1965. Unlike the Space Shuttle era, all astronauts at that time had to qualify as pilots. Trained as a geologist and having never flown an airplane before, he joined a class of cadets for the year-long Undergraduate Pilot Training program at Williams Air Force Base.

The syllabus began with small propeller planes, later moving on to jets, including the supersonic T-38 Talon. Schmitt would have a long relationship with the T-38, as NASA astronauts used them for pilot proficiency and travel. He also received helicopter training that was overseen by the Navy.

Schmitt eventually flew as lunar module pilot on the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972. During the liftoff from the Moon there was a communications problem, and it was his job to solve it. I spoke with Dr. Schmitt about his experiences learning to fly, and how they impacted his actions during his flight to the Moon.

Read the interview, featured this week at The Space Review, HERE.

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