Astronomy Picture of the Day
August 28, 2012

Beginnings... (from AS 04-01-391)
Beginnings... (from AS 04-01-391)

Credits: NASA/JPL-Apollo 4 - Lunar and Planetary Institute; additional process.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF

The Apollo 4, (also known as Apollo-Saturn 501 and/OR AS-501), was the first Test Flight for the Saturn V Rocket, such as the Launch Vehicle which was ultimately used by the U.S./NASA Apollo Program to send the first Astronauts on to the Moon. Apollo 4 flew without a crew, and was a so-called "all-up test" (meaning that all the Rocket Stages and Spacecraft would have been fully functional on the initial flight): a first for NASA. It was the first time the S-IC First Stage and S-II Second Stage flew. It also demonstrated the S-IVB Third Stage's first in-flight restart. The mission used a Block I Command Service Module (or CSM), duly modified to test several key Block II revisions, including its Heat-Shield, at simulated Lunar-Return Velocity and Angle.

The launch, which occurred on November 9, 1967, was the first one from the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida. The mission, that lasted almost 9 (nine) hours, ended with a splash down in the Pacific Ocean, and achieved all mission goals. As a matter of fact, NASA deemed the mission a complete success, because it proved that the Saturn V Rocket worked: an important (perhaps the MOST important) step towards the achievement of the Apollo Program's Primary Objective, such as landing Astronauts onto the Moon, and bringing them back safely before the end of the decade.

The Command Service Module contained an automatic 70 mm film camera which captured photographs of almost the entire Earth. For a period of two hours and thirteen minutes, as the Spacecraft approached and passed its apogee, a total of 755 color images were taken through the Command Pilot's (left-hand) forward-looking window, at altitudes ranging from 7295 to 9769 Nautical miles (such as from 13.510 to 18.092 Km). The photographs were not of sufficient resolution to obtain detailed scientific data, but they were still good enough to make Scientists obtain quite a few remarkable information of Geographic, Cartographic, Meteorologic, Oceanographic, Geologic and Hydrologic interest.

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