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I read recently the original Apollo 11 press release and it mentions that the Saturn V's third stage (used for Trans-Lunar Injection) was deployed into a solar orbit of some kind:

Quote: "Later, leftover liquid propellant in the Saturn third stage will be vented through the engine bell to place the stage into a 'slingshot' trajectory to miss the Moon and go into solar orbit."

(Source: Press Kit - Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Mission. NASA Release no. 69-83K, page 6.)

I know that on other Apollo missions the third stage was crashed into the Moon ahead of the lunar module's landing to trigger the seismometers left behind by previous missions. Which Apollo flights did this and which ones sent their third stages to wander the solar system? For the ones that went into solar orbits, how well were those orbits measured? Do we know where they are now?

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For those interested, the preliminary science report is also damn cool. The images from the press kit's description of the mission profile have been beautifully put to good use in Wikipedia. – Emilio Pisanty Jan 23 '14 at 15:11

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

The third stages of the first four Apollo lunar missions (8, 10, 11 and 12) were placed in a heliocentric orbit, while those of subsequent missions (13 on) were targeted at the moon.

The locations of the orbiting stages are not particularly well known, unless we happen to encounter one, as we did in 2002 when the third stage for Apollo 12 briefly orbited Earth as J002E3, likely due to an incomplete burn resulting in an unstable orbit.

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