'World is fading away' as Apollo 10 flies to moon

By Al Rossiter Jr.

CAPE KENNEDY -- Apollo 10 hurtled away yesterday on its lonely mission to skim over the craters of the moon, the last daring test for a lunar landing this summer. They beamed back brilliant and unprecedented color television pictures of the Earth, hanging 26,000 miles away like a blue and white ball, and of themselves inside the cabin.

"Just for the record, it looks like a pretty fair place to live," said astronaut Eugene A. Cernan of his home planet.


"The world is fading away," Command Pilot Thomas P. Stafford, 38, had called earlier as he, Cernan, 35, and John W. Young, 38, rammed out of 's the safety of Earth orbit at more than 24,000 miles an hour to begin their eight-day voyage.

The amazing 13-minute telecast from 26,000 miles away showed:

-- Alaska "pretty well socked in" by white clouds.

-- The brown Rocky Mountains extending from New Mexico into Colorado.


-- The Earth sitting in an atmosphere that was "the blackest black that you could ever conceive."

-- Brilliant blues that extended from Baja, Calif., across large parts of the U.S.

-- Smog over Los Angeles.

As they linked Apollo 10 with the spidery lunar lander carried aloft atop the third stage of their Saturn 5 rocket and pulled it free, the astronauts sent the first color television pictures from space.

Everything was going smoothly for Apollo 10, which must answer the final moon-flight questions in its 32 lunar orbits, to clear the way for Apollo 11 to land two astronauts on the moon's desolate Sea of Tranquility, perhaps on July 20.

"Slam, snap and we're there," said Stafford as Apollo 10 linked gently with the lunar lander, watched by millions on television in the United States and throughout Europe.

An hour later, 14,000 miles " from Earth, Apollo 10 backed away from the rocket's third stage, pulling the lunar lander

The last major maneuver of the day was completed at 5:29 p.m. when a brief burst from the commandship's main rocket moved Apollo 10 away from the spent rocket stage. It was a crucial test of the engine that will get Apollo 10 in and out of lunar orbit.


The color pictures from Apollo 10 were so sharp that small numbers could be read off the orange-bordered window of the moon lander.

"What a way to watch a sunrise," exclaimed Cernan when the five-and-a-half minute blast of the third stage engine accelerated Apollo 10 by 6,850 miIes an hour flinging it out of Earth orbit over Australia. "That world is incredible."

The mission of Apollo 10 was to carry man closer than he has ever been to the moon, 237,000 miles from Earth. The astronauts of Apollo 8, the only others ever to fly around the moon, came no closer than 69 miles to the dead planet's surface,

The 363-foot space machine blasted away from its ocean-side pad at Cape Kennedy, obscured by haze, right on time at 12:49 p.m.

"What a ride, what a ride," cried Cernan as the vehicle soared into its 116-mile high "parking orbit" around earth, where the astronauts made final checks before committing themselves to the moon-flight.

"Just like old times," observed Young, who like his companions is a veteran of space travel.

When Apollo 10 kicked out of Earth orbit two and a half hours after liftoff, Stafford radioed: "Would you believe the world is starting to fade away?"


"Chris (chief flight director Chris Kraft) says there ain't no backing out now," said ground communicator Charles Duke.

"That's for sure," agreed Stafford.

Apollo 10 is scheduled to reach the moon in 75 hours, braking into a 69-mile high lunar orbit at 4:35 p.m. Wednesday. Then the astronauts will rest before carrying out the main mission.

Stafford and Cernan will crawl into "Snoopy," borne through space on "Charlie Brown's" nose, and break away, leaving Young alone in Apollo 10. The two lunar module pilots, operating exactly as if they were headed for a landing, will swoop twice to within 50,000 feet of the moon.

After eight hours in the airliner-height orbit of the moon closely watched by Young high above them Stafford and Cernan will dump their landing stage and begin the rendezvous with Apollo 10. Should something go awry with "Snoopy," Young in Apollo 10 has the capability of making the rendezvous himself.

After rejoining the command ship and leaving the rest of "Snoopy" to drift in space, the astronauts will spend another day and a half in lunar orbit before returning to a May 26 splashdown in the Pacific.

As the three Apollo 10 astronauts hurtled through space, launch crews already were preparing to roll another Saturn 5 rocket to the launch pad for the Apollo 11 moon landing mission in July.


The rocket, now fully assembled inside the cavernous Saturn hangar here, will roll the 3 miles to the launch pad standing upright atop a tank-type crawler-transporter as big as a baseball infield.

If Apollo 10 is successful, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin Aldrin will attempt to blast off July 16. Aldrin and Armstrong are scheduled to touch down on the moon for man's first walk on the lunar crust

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