Lunar and Planetary Institute

Apollo 16 Mission

Apollo 16 Mission Patch

Mission OverviewNavigation arrow
The successful Apollo 16 manned lunar-landing mission was the second in a series of three J-type missions planned for the Apollo program. These missions were characterized by a larger scientific payload, increased hardware capabiblity, and the battery-powered lunar roving vehicle. These additions resulted in benefits to the Apollo 16 mission, such as a mission of 11.1 days, a stay on the lunar surface of 71 hours, a lunar surface traverse distance of approximately 27 kilometers, and a scientific instrument module containing equipment for orbital experiments and photographic tasks. The crew were on the lunar surface for 20.2 hours and collected approximately 96 kilograms of samples.

Apollo 16 site: Earth-based telescopic view

Landing Site Navigation arrow
On April 21, 1972, the lunar module Orion landed at the western edge of the Descartes Mountains approximately 50 kilometers west of the Kant Plateau. The Apollo 16 mission accomplished the first landing in the central lunar highlands, and the crew successfully explored and sampled a kind of terrain never before visited on the lunar surface. The landing site was selected as an area characteristic of both terra plains and rugged hilly and furrowed terra.

Second Extravehicular Activity
Surface Operations Navigation arrow
During their 71 hours on the Moon, the Apollo 16 crew conducted three extravehicular activities totaling about 20.3 hours on the lunar surface. These EVAs included performing lunar rover traverses totaling 26.7 kilometers, collecting lunar samples at 11 sites, deploying or performing nine experiments, and examining and photographing the lunar surface. The following map of the landing area shows where these activities took place.

View eastward from Earth orbit

Mission Photography Navigation arrow
The photographic objectives of the Apollo 16 mission were to provide precisely oriented mapping camera photographs and high-resolution panoramic camera photographs of the lunar surface, to support a wide variety of scientific and operational experiments, and to document operational tasks on the surface and in flight. These photographic tasks were integrated with other mission objectives to achieve a maximum return of data from the mission.

THe Radioisotope Thermal Generator

Science Experiments Navigation arrow
In addition to their studies on the lunar surface, the Apollo 16 crew performed intensive studies of the Moon from lunar orbit. In addition to photography performed with hand-held cameras in the Command Module, a series of experiments were carried in the Scientific Instrument Module on the Service Module. The same suite of SIM bay instruments was also flown on Apollo 15.

In addition to their geologic studies, the Apollo 16 crew performed several experiments on the lunar surface. The results of some of these experiments were either radioed to Earth by the crew or returned to Earth for laboratory analysis.

Apollo 16 sample 60025

Lunar Samples Navigation arrow
Apollo 16 landed in the Cayley Plains in the central highlands of the Moon's nearside. The geology objectives for this mission were to study two geologic units, the Cayley Formation and the Descartes Formation. These two formations cover more than 10% of the Moon's nearside. Prior to the mission, they were thought to be volcanic plains that are comparable in age to the Imbrium impact basin. The Apollo 16 crew collected 731 individual rock and soil samples, including a deep drill core that included material from 2.2 meters below the Moon's surface, with a total mass of 96 kilograms. These samples provided the biggest scientific surprise of the entire Apollo program.