Apollo 17 commander, Apollo 10 lunar module pilot, Gemini 9 mission pilot, with a total of 566h and 15min in space Eugene "Gene" Cernan’s experience is invaluable to NASA’s Constellation programme plans for a return to the Moon by 2020.
Talking to Flightglobal at the Autographica event in London on 12 October Cernan outlined his involvement and experience so far with the US space agency's new Constellation lunar lander project office's work: "We’ve been asked to come back and give our opinions…Some of these young really smart engineers with this new technology can build on what we did and hopefully not do some of the dumb things that we did, and we did make a few mistakes along the way."
NASA set up its new lunar lander project office in May, recruting new staff. According to a timetable obtained by Flight, the lander project office planned to conduct its Lunar Design Analysis Cycle studies one, two and three by this week. After which the work would be independently reviewed, leading to an updated baseline design by mid-February 2008. However the US agency has already started the process to develop a main ascent engine.
Above: A concept Constellation lunar lander's ascent stage launches
Cernan is impressed with the technology that is available to the engineers: "They’ve got some ideas, quite honestly some are very good because they can apply some of the new technology…They can employ that technology on the design of the spacecraft themselves and the operational techniques that we want to use."
"Some of them have got some crazy and in fact dumb ideas because we’ve been there and done that kind of thing and it doesn’t work. No matter what kind of technology you got. So that’s what we’re trying to do, to prevent re-inventing the wheel. It’s been four decades, some of these engineers weren’t even born when I made the final steps on the Moon."
Watch the entire video interview with Cernan on Flightglobal tomorrow. During the course of this week Flightglobal will be posting video interviews with other NASA astronauts. See the clip where Cernan talks about his involvement in the Constellation programme below