I came across this question, which asks about a photo with caption in this 1971 journal (google books link) of Comment: The Relevance of Space, by Arthur Kantrowitz, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 197, 4 April 1971, pp 32-33:

Photo of Apollo 14 3rd stage firing its engine

Apollo 14 (at arrow tip) is nothing more than a speck in the sky at 40,000 miles from Earth. This picture of the spacecraft was taken by Justus Dunlap of Northwestern University’s Corralitos Observatory, and shows the capsule separating from the S4B rocket. The capsule itself is visible as a pinpoint at the apex of the fan and the fan itself is expanding rocket exhaust.

While the article and author look reputable, the photo in combination with the caption set off several red flags.

  • According to the caption, this is a photo of Apollo 14 doing the transposition, docking and extraction maneuver. But at the same time there is a huge exhaust fan, so the S-IVB (Saturn V third stage) main engine is running. The T&D maneuver was (afaik) not done with the S-IVB engine running, and doing so would be a recipe for disaster.
  • This image looks very similar to some of the images shown here of the Apollo 8 trans lunar injection (TLI), which also show a dot at the apex of an exhaust fan, although there is definitely no capsule separation going on during the TLI burn. So the dot there must be something else.

Could it be that the author is mistaken and the photo is actually of a TLI burn instead of a T&D maneuver?

  • $\begingroup$ @Uhoh you might be interested in this $\endgroup$
    – JanKanis
    Commented Dec 23, 2022 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ Of possible interest, this paper ntrs.nasa.gov/api/citations/19760016037/downloads/… has a (low res) reproduction of a picture taken by the same folks slightly later in the flight showing the capsule, the 4 SLA panels, and the third stage during a water dump. The picture in the question is mentioned "Separation of the spacecraft capsule from the SIVB rocket engine was easily observable" but no further details are given. Interestingly one of the authors is J. Allen Hynek of later UFO fame. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble that would be an interesting picture, but I can't make heads or tails out of it. $\endgroup$
    – JanKanis
    Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 12:08


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