At the beginning of the mission, the CSM Kitty Hawk had difficulty achieving a hard dock with the LM Antares. Repeated attempts to dock went on for 1 hour and 42 minutes, until it was suggested that pilot Roosa hold Kitty Hawk against Antares using its thrusters, then the docking probe would be retracted out of the way, hopefully triggering the docking latches. This attempt was successful, and no further docking problems were encountered during the mission.
After separating from the command module in lunar orbit, the LM Antares also had two serious problems. First, the LM computer began getting an ABORT signal from a faulty switch. NASA believed that the computer might be getting erroneous readings like this if a tiny ball of soldering material had shaken loose and was floating between the switch and the contact, closing the circuit. The immediate solution—tapping on the panel next to the switch—did work briefly, but the circuit soon closed again. If the problem recurred after the descent engine fired, the computer would think the signal was real and would initiate an auto-abort, causing the Ascent Stage to separate from the Descent Stage and climb back into orbit. NASA and the software teams at MIT scrambled to find a solution, and determined the fix would involve reprogramming the computer to ignore the false signal. The software modifications were transmitted to the crew via voice communication, and Mitchell manually entered the changes (amounting to over 80 keystrokes on the LM computer pad) just in time.
A second problem occurred during the powered descent, when the LM radar altimeter failed to lock automatically onto the moon's surface, depriving the navigation computer of vital information on the vehicle altitude and groundspeed. This was later determined to be an unintended consequence of the software patch. After the astronauts cycled the landing radar breaker, the unit successfully acquired a signal near 50,000 feet, again just in the nick of time. Shepard then manually landed the LM closer to its intended target than any of the other five moon landing missions. Mitchell believes that Shepard would have continued with the landing attempt without the radar, using the LM inertial guidance system and visual cues. But a post-flight review of the descent data showed the inertial system alone would have been inadequate, and the astronauts probably would have been forced to abort the landing as they approached the surface.
After landing in the Fra Mauro formation - the destination for Apollo 13 - Shepard and Mitchell took two moon walks, adding new seismic studies to the by now familiar Apollo experiment package, and using a "lunar rickshaw" pull cart to carry their equipment. Roosa, meanwhile, took pictures from on board command module Kitty Hawk in lunar orbit.
The second moonwalk, or EVA, was intended to reach the rim of the 1,000 foot (300 m) wide Cone Crater. However, the two astronauts were not able to find the rim amid the rolling terrain of the crater's slopes. Later analysis, using the pictures that they took, determined that they had come within 65 feet of the crater's rim.
Shepard and Mitchell deployed and activated various scientific instruments and experiments and collected almost 100 pounds (45 kg) of lunar samples for return to earth. Other Apollo 14 achievements included: first use of Mobile Equipment Transporter (MET); largest payload placed in lunar orbit; longest distance traversed on the lunar surface; largest payload returned from the lunar surface; longest lunar surface stay time (33 hours); longest lunar surface EVA (9 hours and 17 minutes); first use of shortened lunar orbit rendezvous techniques; first use of color TV with new vidicon tube on lunar surface; and first extensive orbital science period conducted during CSM solo operations.
On the way back to Earth, the crew conducted the first U.S. materials processing experiments in space. The Apollo 14 astronauts were the last lunar explorers to be quarantined on their return from the Moon.
Shepard and Mitchell named their landing site Fra Mauro Base, and this designation is recognized by the International Astronomical Union (depicted in Latin on lunar maps as Statio Fra Mauro).
The backup crew spoofed the patch with its own version, with revised artwork showing the Road Runner cartoon character on the moon, holding a U.S. flag and a flag labeled "1st Team," as a gray-bearded (for Shepard, who was 47 at the time of the mission and the oldest man on the Moon), pot bellied (for Mitchell, who had a pudgy appearance), red furred (for Roosa's red hair) Wile E. Coyote flies in place of the astronaut pin. The flight name is replaced by "BEEP BEEP" and the backup crew's names are given. Several were left as "gotchas" on the Kitty Hawk.
"Think you're finks."
Edgar B. Mitchell. (said in response to Cmdr. Shepard's suggestion to turn back during their second EVA, where they came within 65 feet (21 m) of the rim of the 1,000 foot (300 m) wide Cone Crater that they were looking for)
"Tell Cernan, BEEP-BEEP my ass!"
Al Shepard's response whenever one of the crew patches for the back-up crew would float out of a locker. Cernan, Evans and Engle had taken care to stash away patches in every single locker and compartment in the spacecraft.
The Lunar Module Antares impacted the Moon 07 February 1971 at 00:45:25.7 UT (06 February, 7:45 PM EST) 3.42 S, 19.67 W.