Rare Apollo 14 Recovery Map with Related Ephemera
An original map used in the recovery of the Apollo 14 astronauts after splashdown in the South Pacific on February 9, 1971. The map is accompanied by numerous keepsakes and ephemeral items including an original embroidered patch with the Apollo 14 insignia showing the Moon and the Earth surrounded by the names of the three mission astronauts: Shepard, Roosa, and Mitchell. Also, the "Apollo 14 Guests Telephone Directory" (4 mimeograph sheets) used on board the USS New Orleans, which lists the names of NASA personnel and members of the press who were on board during the recovery mission. And an 8-page mimeograph Apollo 14 press pool "Information Memo #2" signed in print by D.D. Griffin and dated 14 January 1971. Plus two unused "Go Navy" bumper stickers commemorating Apollo 14 and an unused stationery envelope for the recovery ship.
The near disaster of Apollo 13's aborted moon landing highlighted the importance of a successful outcome for Apollo 14 and its special lunar mission. While being the third Apollo mission overall to successfully land on the moon, Apollo 14 was the first to land in the lunar highlands. In the wake of the aborted Apollo 13 mission, Apollo 14's landing site was changed from a location near Littrow crater in Mare Serenitatis, to the more scientifically important site of Fra Mauro, originally to have been the landing site for Apollo 13.
Alan Shepard, a veteran astronaut from the original Mercury missions who had been the first American to enter space on May 5, 1961, served as mission commander for Apollo 14. The other astronauts on the mission were Stuart A. Roosa, Command Module Pilot, and Edgar D. Mitchell, Lunar Module Pilot. Mitchell's later statement about Apollo 14 underscored its importance to the survival of the entire Apollo program:
We realized that if our mission failed - if we had to turn back - that was probably the end of the Apollo program. There was no way NASA could stand two failures in a row. We figured there was a heavy mantle on our shoulders to make sure we got it right.
After a successful lunar landing and reentry to the Earth's atmosphere, the command module of Apollo 14, designated Kitty Hawk, splashed down in the South Pacific Ocean on February 9, 1971, some 900 miles south of American Samoa. The Navy spearheaded the recovery operation with the USS New Orleans serving as the primary recovery ship. The crew was flown to Pago Pago Airport, then to Honolulu, then to Ellington Air Force Base near Houston aboard a plane containing a Mobile Quarantine Facility unit before they continued their quarantine in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory. They remained there until being released from quarantine on February 27, 1971. The Apollo 14 astronauts were the last lunar explorers to be quarantined after Moon travel.
The color lithograph map was prepared especially for NASA and has the caption title:
Apollo Mission Plotting Chart (AMP) / 4th Apollo Edition, January 1969 / This chart obsoletes 3rd Apollo Edition August 1968
Prepared under the direction of the Department of Defense by the Aeronautical Chart and Information Center, United States Air Force, for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Lithographed by ACIC 1-69.
The map has detailed technical annotations in pencil, yellow felt pen, and red and blue colored pencil, suggesting it was used by a Naval official directly involved in plotting or pinpointing the location of the Kitty Hawk splashdown location in the South Pacific. The emendations refer to start and end burn TSP, with elevation angles noted in yellow felt pen. Pencil marks triangulate the Apollo 14 splashdown location south of the Samoa Islands, which is marked with a hexagon drawn in red ink.
These materials belonged to Lt. Roger C. Ramsey, a Vietnam veteran who was assigned to the special Navy mission aboard the USS New Orleans tasked with recovering the astronauts from the ocean.
A unique collection of original materials relating to Apollo 14, including the rare NASA-prepared recovery map actually used by Navy personnel in pinpointing the location of the three astronauts upon their return to Earth.
Apollo 14 was the third Apollo mission to reach the moon and the first immediately following the disastrous Apollo 13 mission. This mission targeted the same area as the ill-fated previous one: the Fra Mauro highlands. This was the first mission to land in lunar highlands and, as such, provided new scientific insights.
The mission was conducted by Alan Shephard, Edgar Mitchell, and Stuart Roosa, the first two of which landed on the moon while the third remained in lunar orbit. The presence of Alan Shephard in a space crew is notable as he was the first American in space. He had been grounded for several years due to inner ear problems and had been cleared to fly again two years prior to this 1971 mission. Upon landing, his first words were "and it's been a long way, but we're here."
This mission was the last of the "H-missions," two-day lunar missions. The final three lunar missions would be three-day ventures, involving slightly more sophisticated technology. During this mission, Shepherd and Mitchell ended up spending 33.5 hours on the moon, 9.5 of which outside the lander. In addition to scientific pursuits, Shepherd shot some golf with a makeshift golf club and two balls he had brought from earth, recorded in a video that still captivates the world.
Targeting the highlands was useful as the previous two missions had both landed in "mares," expansive young basaltic planes. Highlands appeared very different to astronomers, but their exact histories were unknown. The Fra Mauro highlands were targeted due to the presence of the Cone Crater, a recent impact that provided a natural borehole.
The samples collected by this mission were of particular geological importance for the insights they provided on meteoric history and surface flows of the moon. The samples were mostly breccia, a type of rock that can be produced by meteoritic impacts, useful for showing Fra Mauro was formed as a result of impact ejecta. The rocks collected in this area were substantially older than those collected in the mare areas of previous missions. These samples helped to put a lower bound on the age of the moon, much older than the age suggested measuring lunar retreat.
One of the samples collected by this rock, nicknamed "Big Bertha," was later shown to be a likely earth-sourced meteorite. This is determined from the presence of evolved minerals such as quartz and feldspar, in addition to the isotopic signatures of zircons. Dated to approximately four billion years, this ranks as one of the oldest terrestrial rocks, slightly younger than the 4.28 billion-year-old date given for the formation of the protoliths for some Canadian metamorphic rocks. Crucially, this rock has not been altered to such a high extent. This provides scientists with extensive information about the early earth, complementing the information gained from studying terrestrial rocks. If life already existed by the time this meteorite was ejected from the earth, it would have been able to survive the short moonward journey and would be an early short-lived example of extraterrestrial life.