Saturday, April 17, 2010

40th Anniversary of Apollo 13


On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13 launched, carrying Commander James Lovell, Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert, and Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise.

When an oxygen tank exploded two days into the mission, a moon landing was no longer possible, and getting the crew back to Earth became the mission objective. The sometimes exhausted but always innovative astronauts and ground crews worked as a team to find solutions, and the mission ended as a "successful failure" with the dramatic splashdown on April 17, 1970.

That was 40 years ago today.

Apollo 13 Astronauts
Fred Haise, Gene Kranz & Jim Lovell at
JSC’s 40th Anniversary for Apollo 13

It gives me chills to think that if certain events had occurred with only slight differences, the crew would never have made it home. Even while some things seemed like "bad news" at the time, later events would show oddly fortuitous coincidences that helped save their lives. Maybe even Charlie Duke's measles!

Universe Today's Nancy Atkinson teamed with NASA Mission Evaluator (and co-creator of Apollo alarm systems) Jerry Woodfill to bring us 13 Things That Saved Apollo 13, a wonderful and moving series I encourage everyone to follow! Timing, a stubborn hatch, LM status, navigating without a computer... it's quite amazing how the events unfolded from a mission control perspective.

UT also managed to acquire some never before published images of Apollo 13 recovery on the deck of the USS Iwo Jima.

Apollo 13 40th Anniversary Coin
Commemorative Coins Distributed at
JSC’s 40th Anniversary for Apollo 13

Hey, remember when we accidentally dropped a space station on Australia and they issued us a ticket for littering? Almost as funny-slash-appalling was how the Grumman Aerospace Corporation decided that Apollo 13's mishap was no reason not to charge for services rendered.

Grumman, builder of Apollo Lunar Modules, issued a bill for $312,421.24 to North American Rockwell, builder of the Command Modules. Their line item? Towing fees!

They estimated that a 20% discount was fair, and generously suggested that Rockwell could also save 2% if they paid cash -- for Grumman's LM to "tow" their CM around the moon and back to Earth. Unsurprisingly, Rockwell refused to pay.

Rockwell: "Yeah, we towed three lunar modules to the moon without charging you. Would you like us to go back and issue an invoice for those in return?"

: "Um. Nevermind."