Apollo docking system

apollo15_csm_dockApollo XV CSM Endeavour in lunar orbit, as seen from LM Falcon.  August 2nd, 1971.

I have always wondered about the mechanical specifics of how the Apollo command/service module (CSM) and lunar module (LM) docked.  Specifically, when you see photos of the CSM pre-docking, it has this spindly, pointy thing (known as the docking probe) poking out the very top (or front) of the capsule.  And yet the same area also forms part of the docking tunnel with the LM, allowing the crew to transfer internally between the two spacecraft.

So what happened to the docking probe after docking, when the crew needed to transfer?  Did NASA just hire extremely thin contortionist astronauts, who could squeeze by it?

Nope, the probe is a tab too bulky for that.  Turns out that the probe is removable, and collapses like an umbrella.  The astronauts remove it by hand after the automatic docking latches lock on to the LM and seal the two spacecraft together.  Before they undock, they reinstall it.

Through the magic of the internets, the man responsible for the design and development of the docking system, Mr. Ken Bloom, describes the mechanism in a 4-page article here.

Category: Aeronautics, Historica  Tags:
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