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Mission or Study ID:   Apollo 15
Saturn V
Launch/Start Date:
Landing/End Date:
12 days
Apollo 15 Crew Patch

The first of the longer, expedition-style lunar landing missions was also the first to include the lunar rover, a car-like vehicle that extended the astronauts' range of lunar surface exploration. The lunar module Falcon touched down near the sinuous channel known as Hadley Rille. Commander, David R. Scott, and Lunar Module Pilot, James B. Irwin rode more than 27.36 kilometers in their rover, and compared to earlier lunar astronauts, had a free hand in their geological field studies. They brought back one of the prize trophies of the Apollo program -- a sample of ancient lunar crust nicknamed the 'Genesis Rock'. Apollo 15 also launched a small subsatellite for measuring particles and fields in the lunar vicinity. On the way back down to Earth, Command Module Pilot Alfred M. Worden, who had flown solo on board Endeavour while his crewmates walked on the surface, conducted the first spacewalk between Earth and the Moon to retrieve film from the side of the spacecraft.

The crewmembers were monitored inflight and their health was assessed pre- and postflight through ground-based testing. The Flight Crew Health Stabilization Program, deemed essential after the exposure of an Apollo 13 crewmember to German measles, was continued on the Apollo 15 mission. The Apollo 15 crew was the first crew to experience any serious physiological difficulty during a mission. However, this crew's reaction differed so radically from those of other crews, that these results stand out as an anomaly in the Apollo program. During flight, irregular heartbeats (including bigeminies and premature atricular and ventricular contractions were detected). Also, recovery time on Earth was longer for this crew than prior crews. As with other Apollo missions, the biomedical monitoring and assessment of the crew?s condition was determined by a combination of pre- and postflight testing and inflight monitoring.

Before and after Apollo 15, researchers studied several physiological systems. Investigators evaluated the crewmembers' cardiovascular response to exercise pre- and post flight, using a bicycle ergometer and other exercise equipment, and studied the response of the cardiovascular system to weightlessness using lower body negative pressure and passive stand tests.

The clinical aspects of crew health and safety were investigated by performing medical examinations and conducting inflight medical monitoring as evaluation methods. Investigators also studied musculoskeletal changes, clinical disorders in space due to imbalance between bone formation and resorption, inflight weight loss and inflight caloric intake. Another important aspect of crew health and safety is the protection against radiation, so one experiment focused on analyzing natural and man-made radiation encountered in space, with the goal of finding ways of limiting the astronauts? exposure to radiation. Vestibular system experiments not only aided researchers in gaining a better understanding of the mechanisms that provide balance and coordination, but also contributed to alleviating the symptoms of space adaptation syndrome.

The endocrinology experiments sought to understand biochemical changes in crewmembers by studying the balance of fluids and electrolytes, regulation of calcium metabolism and the adaptation of metabolic processes to the space environment. Investigators also sought to determine the life support requirements during extravehicular activity (EVA) by studying metabolism and heat dissipation.

Scientists also utilized specific laboratory data to assess the health status of the astronauts prior to their commitment to space flight. This allowed them to detect and identify any alterations in the normal functions of the immunological and hematological systems which could be attributed to space flight exposure and to evaluate the significance of these changes relative to a person's continuing participation in space flight missions. Biochemistry data, when integrated with the data obtained from a complete history and physical examination of each crewmember, permitted an objective assessment of crew physical status.

The detection of potentially pathogenic microorganisms was attempted, so that associated medical problems could be identified early and preventive measures could be established. These objectives included the identification of medically important microorganisms recovered from ill crew members to aid in diagnosis and treatment.

One interesting experiment conducted during this mission (and on several other subsequent Apollo flights), called the Apollo Light Flash Investigation, investigated reports by crewmembers since the beginning of the space program of seeing short-lived bright spots or light flashes while in a dark environment during space flight. It was suspected, and later deduced, that the light flash phenomenon was produced by cosmic radiation penetrating and stimulating the optic nerve.

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