National Geographic : 1972 Feb
To the Mountains of the By KENNETH F. WEAVER ASSISTANT EDITOR 9 FIFTEEN, does it look like you are going to clear the mountain range ahead?" asked F "We've all got our eyes closed; we're pulling our feet up," replied the three men above the moon. The exchange was lighthearted, but edged with excitement. Only a short time before, on the moon's far side, the men of Apollo 15 had fired their braking engine and dropped into an orbit that now skimmed only ten miles above the dark lunar "sea." Directly ahead, glowing in the early-morning sun, the long Apennine range thrust up sudden peaks as high as 15,000 feet. And just beyond lay the target, a little basin hemmed in on three sides by the mountains and on the fourth by a deep gorge, the Hadley Rille (page 249). There, within hours, Astro nauts David R. Scott and James B. Irwin would undertake to land. To reach their goal, Scott and Irwin would have to separate from the command module, come in even lower over the peaks, brake quickly in a steep plunge to the surface, and bring their frail LM-the lunar module-to a stop just short of the rille. It would be man's first attempt to reach the lunar mountains and the most difficult landing yet for Apollo. More than difficulty, however, set Apollo 15 apart. This was the most ambitious, the most challenging, the most complex of all space missions. The twenty-fifth United States manned space flight was the most extensive effort yet to explore the moon.