Craning to look through the triangular window for a glimpse of the land ahead, Scott saw no sign of Hadley Rille.
The SPS engine was used for all the future burns. It was the astronauts ticket home. Any doubt as to whether it could fire raised the question as to whether the mission could continue.
For Scott all feelings were forgotten. All senses except sight were subordinated. All Scott’s concentration was focused on hearing information from Irwin, Worden and Mission Control about the status of the spacecraft and the Saturn V.
The last face they saw was Guenter’s, smiling and waving an enormous crescent wrench. Then the heavy hatch closed with a deep thunk.
As Command Module Pilot for Apollo 9, Scott’s responsibilities were heavy. The Lunar Module was to separate from the Command and Service Module during the mission; if it failed to return, Scott would have to run the entire spacecraft for reentry, normally a three-man job.
Dave Scott showed incredible presence of mind during the unexpected events of the Gemini 8 mission. Even in the middle of an emergency, out of contact with Mission Control, he had thought to reenable ground control of the Agena before the two vehicles separated. This allowed NASA to check the Agena from the ground and use it for a subsequent Gemini mission. Scott’s competence was recognized by NASA when, five days after the brief flight, he was assigned to an Apollo crew and was promoted to lieutenant colonel.
The twelve day Apollo 15 mission was scheduled to launch on July 26, 1971. It would be the fourth United States human exploration of the Moon. As compared with earlier missions, Apollo 15 would double the time and extend by a factor of ten the range of lunar surface exploration.
The abort system had two basic control modes, “attitude hold” and “automatic.” In automatic, the computer would take over the guidance and start looking for the command module, which was certainly not what the crew intended to do at that moment. While correcting for a minor yaw-rate-gyro disturbance, the astronauts accidentally switched the spacecraft to the automatic mode, resulting in frantic gyrations.