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Space United States Science

35th Anniversary of Apollo 13 Splashdown 197

orac2 writes "35 years ago today, the crew of the Apollo 13 mission splashed down in the Pacific, after a harrowing four days following an oxygen tank explosion aboard their spacecraft. If you've only seen the Ron Howard movie, IEEE Spectrum has an article about what really went on in mission control to save the crew, with interviews with Gene Kranz, etc,and including a previously unreported hack the lunar module controllers had to come up with in real-time just to turn on the LM."
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35th Anniversary of Apollo 13 Splashdown

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  • Re:Anniversaries... (Score:5, Informative)

    by orac2 ( 88688 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @03:51PM (#12263617)
    will we have to see this article every 5 years

    Perhaps, but sadly unlikely because the Apollo mission controllers are beginning to pass away at an increasing rate. At lot of them are still in good health, but Sy Liebergot has a list of deceased controllers in his 2003 autobiography, Apollo EECOM [] that's a page long, and he's said recently that if he released a second edition he'd have to add another bunch of names already: for example, Don Puddy, who played a key role in the post Apollo-10 sim lifeboat procedures team, passed away last November.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17, 2005 @04:06PM (#12263714)
    Cameras must be focused on what they are to capture, and particularly the blurring of the vastness of space overpowers the tiny points of light from stars in a monochrome camera. Of course in simulation computer addition of space to stage in films is simple and contains all details, but it is what is fake.
  • by orac2 ( 88688 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @04:17PM (#12263762)
    Quite a few: I'm not dissing Howard's movie: you can't tell a four day (actually, eight year) story in two hours without taking some dramatic license. Hence the article.

    It's important to realize how much what-if planning work was done up front, before Apollo 13, so that during the accident, the controllers weren't just making it all up as they went along. In particular, the efforts of the lunar module controllers in this regard are absent from the movie, as are a lot of other key contributions.

    Other issues: the CSM power-up sequence was not devised primarily under astronaut Ken Mattingly's auspices, but under EECOM John Aaron. Nor did Mattingly come up with the idea of running power back into the CSM from the LM: Bob Legler, a LM controller, came up with that idea months previously. In the movie, the crew were thrown around by the oxygen tank explosion: in fact it took a few minutes for everyone to realise something very serious had happened. And Kranz never said "Failure is not an option!"
  • by EQ ( 28372 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @04:19PM (#12263769) Homepage Journal
    Failure is not an Option [] By Gene Kranz -- the link goes to a google search for the book. (Choose your own bookseller - no amazon link whoring).

    Gene Kranz (the guy with the serious crewcut) tells the whole story of how they got to the point to where the "geeks" could make a life and death difference in this situation, and then how they managed to pull it off. Its a great study of real engineering by real engineers under incredible time pressure, with the lives of people and the hopes of the nation in their hands.
  • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @04:22PM (#12263785)
    "How secret is it, not even you elected Senators can gain access."

    Civilians are normally denied access to secure military areas. I'm sure your Senator wouldn't be allowed to wander around the Pentagon either, but I can't regard this as evidence of a big secret conspiracy.

  • by October_30th ( 531777 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @04:31PM (#12263844) Homepage Journal
    On the DVD there's a nice commentary track by Jim Lovell and his wife and he points out some of the inaccuracies.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:04PM (#12264016)
    Howard Dean, is that you?
  • Nikon F? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ellis D. Tripp ( 755736 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @07:41PM (#12264946) Homepage
    The Apollo crews used modified Hasselblad 500EL/M's loaded with 70mm film, not a standard 35mm SLR... po llo.photechnqs.htm 11 /a11-hass.html
  • by quacking duck ( 607555 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @08:44PM (#12265235)
    I doubt it was as simple as "substitute the descent engine for the CSM main engine and change the signs"...

    Not to mention, we're (probably) not talking a simple "scroll down a bunch of pages and replace appropriate variables." While I'm pretty sure they weren't forced to use punch cards to program the simulation, we're still talking about mid-to-late 60's technology here, even if it was state-of-the-art for its time.

  • Re:True geeks (Score:2, Informative)

    by LadyLucky ( 546115 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @08:51PM (#12265270) Homepage
    you should also watch 'The Dish'. It's very good.
  • by orac2 ( 88688 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @09:28PM (#12265470)
    That footage--the LM ascent stage blasting off--is from one of the later Apollo missions (possibly the last, but my memory isn't certain), and the camera was mounted on a lunar rover, and controlled from mission control by Ed "Captain Video" Fendell. Because of the lag between Earth and Moon he had to time his control movements a little ahead of time, a tricky job.
  • by corngrower ( 738661 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @10:47PM (#12265949) Journal
    YOu realize, that the big F-1 engines on the Saturn-V were a revison of ones designed for the military. The rockets for the mercury program were basicaly ICBM's. The whole program wouldn't have been done if it the research and development didn't have immediate miliatry applications. The military wanted to be able to put up spy satellites, and develop improved ICBMs. That's why the space program was so important.
  • by colonist ( 781404 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @01:25AM (#12266782) Journal

    This year marks the 35th anniversary of Apollo 13, but it's also the 10th anniversary of Ron Howard's "Apollo 13".

    There's an Apollo 13 Anniversary Edition DVD [] out, which includes the IMAX version!

    There's more info at IMDB [] and Google Reviews [].

    Good quote:

    From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. And it's not a miracle, we just decided to go.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2005 @02:05AM (#12266957)
    They switched to a thinner skin, in preference to tiles, for many sections. Too many tiles were falling off during the mission. (It was rare for a mission to be completed without literally dozens of tiles being missing.)

    The skin was too thin, too fragile and far too ineffective to be used over the whole shuttle. If it had been, the disaster might never have happened. Which indicates that once NASA had the skin, they didn't put enough funds into R&D to improve on it.

    The first shuttle explosion was also due to insufficient R&D. NASA had been expecting a fuel tank explosion, from day 1. On the launch pad, the crew have special escape wires they can slide down to deep bunkers, in the event of an explosion being considered likely. The lack of escape equiptment in the capsule was also due to not bothering to find ways of making something light enough to carry. (At least some of the crew survived the explosion itself. Death in those cases was likely caused by the impact with the water.)

    You can't build a reliable telecoms company with just tin cans and string. Why Congress believes you can build a manned space program from not much more, I don't know.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!