Apollo 10: A Dress Rehearsal

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The Apollo 10 Command Module, "Charlie Brown," as seen from the detached Lunar Module, "Snoopy." (NASA)

A Smithsonian Curator Reflects on Apollo 10, the Mission That Made Landing on the Moon Possible

by Jay Bennett Smithsonian.com

“I keep telling Neil Armstrong that we painted that white line in the sky all the way to the moon down to 47,000 feet so he wouldn’t get lost, and all he had to do was land. Made it sort of easy for him.”

So said Eugene Cernan, the last human to set foot on the moon, and before that, the lunar module pilot of Apollo 10. Along with commander Thomas Stafford and command module pilot John Young, Cernan crewed the critical dress rehearsal, the mission to do “everything but land.”

Apollo 10 will forever serve as the crux between two of the most extraordinary accomplishments in human history: the first flight to the moon on Apollo 8, and of course, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first steps on the lunar surface during Apollo 11. The mission was the last chance to test the critical hardware and software that would take people to the moon, including the all-important lunar module, which was making its first trip to lunar orbit. On the next, it would land.

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