There were some people who wondered why America’s first man in space Alan Shepard, at age forty-seven, having acquired fame, wealth, and status as an American hero, would risk his life to go to the moon.
After a shaky but successful S-IVB burn Apollo 10 was on the way to the Moon. Now the first order of business was for John Young to move to the command module pilot seat.
On May 18th 1969, a king, some congressmen, other distinguished guests, and a hundred thousand other watchers waited at scattered vantage points around the Cape area. At 49 minutes past noon, Rocco Petrone’s launch team sent Apollo 10 on its way to the United States’s second manned rendezvous with the moon.
John Young enjoyed the longest career of any astronaut thus far. Over the course of 42 years of active NASA service he made six space flights and is the only person to have piloted, and been commander of, four different classes of spacecraft: Gemini, the Apollo Command/Service Module, the Apollo Lunar Module, and the Space Shuttle.
Thomas P. Stafford was the first member of his Naval Academy Class of 1952 to pin on the first, second, and third stars of a General Officer. He flew six rendezvous in space; logged 507 hours and 43 minutes in space flight and wore the Air Force command Pilot Astronaut Wings. He has flown over 127 different types of aircraft and helicopters and four different types of spacecraft.
Although the contractors had shipped excellent spacecrafts, preparations at Kennedy did not go quickly from the assembly building to the launch pad. Testing was delayed several days in order to stay out of the way of Apollo 9 pre-flight activities. Also during maintenance to the Launch Control Center, the electrical power was switched off to replace a valve. The Apollo 10 launch vehicle’s pneumatic controls sensed the power outage, opened some valves and dumped 20,000 liters of fuel on the launch pad.
The biggest concern before Apollo 9 was the docking maneuver. In early 1969, at NASA there was little confidence in the docking system. At a January program review, Phillips said that problems encountered during probe and drogue testing worried him…
“The S-II stage was a nightmare the minute it was conceived, and it only got worse from there. During the course of its creation, it would grind up people and careers the way the transcontinental railway devoured laborers. Though the methods and materials used to build the S-II were reasonably well known, nobody had ever tried to apply them on such a titanic scale. Originally, it was to be somewhere around 8 stores tall with a diameter of 22 feet, but the width ballooned from there to 27 feet before the contract was even signed, then to 30, and finally to 33 feet. And all the while as the size of thing increased, NASA was trimming the allowable weight.” Harrison Storms of NAA.