Apollo 16 was the tenth manned mission in the Apollo program and the fifth mission to land on the Moon, the first to land in the highlands area. The mission was launched on April 16, 1972, and concluded on April 27. Despite a malfunction in the Command Module which almost aborted the lunar landing, Apollo 16 landed successfully in the Descartes Highlands on April 21.
Young and Duke served as the backup crew to Apollo 13; Mattingly was slated as the Apollo 13 command module pilot until being pulled from the mission due to his exposure to rubella by Duke.
Although not officially announced, the original backup crew consisted of Haise (CDR), William R. Pogue (CMP) and Gerald Carr (LMP) who were targeted for the prime crew assignment on Apollo 19. However, after the widely expected cancellations of Apollo 18 and Apollo 19 were finalized in September 1970 it meant that this crew would not rotate to a lunar mission as planned. Subsequently, Roosa and Mitchell were recycled to serve as members of the backup crew after returning from Apollo 14 while Pogue and Carr were re-assigned to the Skylab program where they later flew on Skylab 4.
8° 58' 22.84" S - 15° 30' 0.68" E
The splashdown point was 0 deg 43 min S, 156 deg 13 min W, 215 miles (350 km) southeast of Christmas Island and 5 km (3 mi) from the recovery ship USS Ticonderoga.
The crew members: John W. Young, commander; Ken Mattingly, command module pilot; and Charles Duke, lunar module pilot. It was a J-class mission, featuring a Lunar Rover. It brought back 94.7 kg of lunar samples. It included three lunar EVA: 7.2 hours, 7.4 hours, 5.7 hours and one trans-earth EVA of 1.4. This was only the second trans-earth EVA ever and was used to bring in film from exterior cameras and conduct an experiment on microbial survival.
The Apollo 16 subsatellite was launched from the CSM while it was in lunar orbit. The subsatellite carried out experiments on magnetic fields and solar particles. It was launched April 24, 1972 at 21:56:09 UTC and orbited the Moon for 34 days and 425 revolutions. It had a mass of 80 lb (36.3 kg) and consisted of a central cylinder and three 1.5 m booms.
En route to the moon, the Apollo 16 astronauts took several photos of Earth. One of which was with North America in the background, with much of the northern portion of the continent under extensive cloud cover.
A malfunction in a backup yaw gimbal servo loop in the main propulsion system of the CSM Casper caused concerns about firing the engine to adjust the CSM's lunar orbit, and nearly caused the Moon landing to be scrubbed. After a delayed first landing attempt, it was determined that the malfunction presented relatively little risk, and Young and Duke (who were already undocked, and flying LM Orion when the problem occurred) were permitted to land on the Moon. However, the mission was shortened by a day (reducing the time in orbit around the Moon after the LM left the Moon and docked with the CSM), as a safety measure.
Young and Duke spent three days exploring the Descartes highland region, while Mattingly circled overhead in Casper. This was the only one of the six Apollo landings to target the lunar highlands. The astronauts discovered that what was thought to have been a region of volcanism was actually a region full of impact-formed rocks (breccias). Their collection of returned specimens included an 25 pound (11.7 kg) chunk that was the largest single rock returned by the Apollo astronauts (nicknamed "Big Muley" after Bill Muehlberger, principal investigator for the mission's geology activities). The scientific results of Apollo 16 caused planetary geologists to revise previous interpretations of the lunar highlands, concluding that meteorite impacts were the dominant agent in shaping the moon's ancient surfaces.
The Apollo 16 astronauts also conducted performance tests with the lunar rover, at one time getting up to a top speed of eleven miles per hour (eighteen kilometers per hour), which still stands as the record speed for any wheeled vehicle on the Moon (listed as such in the Guinness Book of Records).
The Casper command module is currently at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, in Huntsville, Alabama. The lunar module ascent stage separated 24 April 1972 but a loss of attitude control rendered it out of control. It orbited the Moon for about a year. Its impact site on the Moon is unknown.
Charles Duke donated some relics, including a lunar map, to Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. He also left a plastic-encased photo portrait of his family on the moon. As a photograph, it could not be interpreted as 'art', such as Fallen Astronaut.
The circular patch featured an eagle with wings outstretched, perched atop a red, white, and blue shield, over a lunar surface. The vector symbol from the NASA logo was placed on top of the shield, and then across the shield were written the words APOLLO 16. The artwork was bordered in white, with a blue band carrying 16 stars and the crew names. There was a gold border. The patch was designed by NASA artist Barbara Matelski.
"I mean, I haven't eaten this much citrus fruit in 20 years! And I'll tell you one thing, in another 12 fucking days, I ain't never eating any more," John Young, reacting to stomach problems caused by drinking extra orange juice (to prevent an electrolyte deficiency identified in crew of Apollo 15).