The Docking Test
The decisive test with the undocking, removal and redocking of the two spaceships is carried out on the 5th day of flight. In the NASA film documentation of the flight, from which these recordings were taken, a NASA director has placed the sounds of Johann Sebastian Bach’s orchestral suite under the scenery. During my work in the National Archives, I found this combination of image and music particularly moving. It underlines how the thrust into space was felt at that time. It took an incredible amount of daring to get several hundred miles away from the Apollo capsule in the lunar module “Spider”. Only the mother ship Gumdrop can return to Earth.
The astronauts James McDivitt and Russell Schweickart had to put everything on one card in the Spider. After undocking, the two spacecrafts move a good 180 kilometres apart. Then the astronauts blast the lander part “Spider” with its spider legs from the lunar ferry and ignite the engines to fly back to Gumdrop. The coupling to the gumdrop capsule works perfectly. Everything goes well. The Apollo system has passed the decisive test for the moon landing. Only 4 months later Apollo 11 launches to the moon.
The name “Gumdrop” was invented by NASA engineers when the packaged Apollo capsules arrived at Kennedy Space Center. A film shows the arrival and unpacking of the modules.