Luna 16 was the first robotic probe to land on the Moon and return a sample of lunar soil to Earth after five unsuccessful similar attempts.
“Three brave astronauts are alive and on Earth because of the mission operations teams’ dedication, and because at the critical moments the people of that team were wise enough and self-possessed enough to make the right decisions. Their extraordinary feat is a tribute to man’s ingenuity, to his resourcefulness and to his courage.” President Richard Nixon
“During blackout every team member does his own soul searching, reviewing the decisions and the data, knowing they had to be nearly perfect and knowing how tough perfection is.” Gene Kranz
To Kranz and his team, this crew was special. They just could not lose them. Failure was not an option.
Three hours before dawn, Gene Kranz’ White Team took its place next to Windler’s Maroon Team controllers. The eighty hours of uncertainty were now past and mission control was down to Apollo 13’s final shift.
While the Mercury 7 were fulfilling their roles as symbols of space exploration, Korolev was once again offering the real thing. He now prepared to undertake the most demanding mission yet. The mission that would accomplish the next step in Korolev’s program of lunar exploration. He would attempt to photograph the far side of the moon.
As If there were not enough problems, Houston still had not completed the command module power up checklist.
From beneath the Lunar Modules floor there was a thud, then a hiss, then another thump that vibrated through the cabin.