APOLLO 11: Preparing for the Unthinkable

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park. 

An earlier post described the involvement of the Department of State with manned spacecraft launches.  Among other things, it discussed the possibility of a mission-related disaster that forced an aborted landing on the land or in the territorial waters of another nation and the existence of the Search and Recovery (SAR) unit that would be used to make a recovery.  SAR units were specially trained organizations created specifically for the purpose.  They were briefed on the design of the spacecraft to such specific aspects as the beacons used to locate them and the pyrotechnics and toxic fuels on board the spacecraft.  Department of Defense prepositioned SAR aircraft at critical sites to effect a recovery in case of an emergency landing. 

The following is the basic Operations Plan 7066 prepared by the U.S. Air Force Strike Command to recover astronauts and the capsule in the Middle East, Southern Asia, or Africa, south of the Sahara.  Initially issued June 1969, the version here reflects updates through March 1971.

Source:  Strike Command CINCAFSTRIKE OPlan 7066, March 30, 1971, Entry P-413B: Operations Plans and Related Records, 1970-1975 (NAID 1226682011), RG 342: Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations, Tactical Air Command.  The annexes are present in the file but not included here.  I thank my colleague Patrick Osborn for bringing this document to my attention.

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