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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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  • by FlyByPC ( 841016 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @03:44PM (#12263577) Homepage
    Convert a LEM into a lifeboat, work out the proper equipment sequence to keep the power drain down to a minimum level, determine the correct trajectory with a "computer" roughly as powerful as a modern wristwatch, cobble together some CO2 scrubbers to fit where they weren't supposed to, and save three lives in the process. Tops pretty much anything else I've seen.
  • by Future Man 3000 ( 706329 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @03:47PM (#12263592) Homepage
    If you look at all the stuff we were doing in space, including the heroics that successfully brought the Apollo 13 home, isn't it self-evident that was absolutely within our ability to land on the moon forty years ago?

    Now we're looking at Mars, but there's only so much duct tape we can wrap around these shuttles. I wish some of the enthusiasm and can-do attitude towards space that we had in the early days would return so that this next trek could be adequately funded and researched.

  • by tquinlan ( 868483 ) <[moc.nalniuqsamoht] [ta] [mot]> on Sunday April 17, 2005 @03:48PM (#12263601) Homepage
    ...and was born after the actual mission, that movie is "what I remember" about the Apollo 13 mission. Thankfully, it was well done, and reasonably accurate. It's good to see that we've got further background thanks to the Slashdot story.

  • Re:True geeks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PriceIke ( 751512 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @03:49PM (#12263604)

    What I loved about the movie "Apollo 13" was that it celebrated the true heroism exhibited by the "geeks" at NASA. I remember reading editorials from feminist man-haters whining about how all the men in the movie were, well, men, and white men, which is somehow worse. That kind of criticism really made me ill. I felt really sorry for the kind of person who would attack a movie for being sexist or even cheuvanist simply because it shows a group of white men being heroes, even if it is historically accurate.

    It's not often you see a group of actual, Coke-bottle-glasses, pocket-protector, polyester-pants GEEKS acting in concert to save lives presented in movies these days. (Usually they are sexed-up CSI-types. Yeah, sure.) But damnit, those boys (and girls) at NASA really do have people's lives in their hands, and each and every successful, boring old manned mission is a tremendous risk and a testament to the genius and sheer balls of the American Nerd.

  • by Rick Zeman ( 15628 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @04:21PM (#12263783) all of our science is just to build better weapons systems. Sigh.
  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <{richardprice} {at} {}> on Sunday April 17, 2005 @04:32PM (#12263852)
    I did Science at GCSE level (UK highschool exams), and went on to do chemistry and physics at ALevel (2 year further education before University) and on the first day at Alevel standard, they told us 'forget everything youve learnt up until now, its all untrue, just a means of getting some basic science education'. And true to form, everything that we had learnt at GCSE wasnt any help at all at Alevel standard.

    And Ive been told that if you went on to do degree level physics and chemistry, you are pretty much told exactly the same. Whats the point, why not just teach the real facts at all levels?!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:11PM (#12264056)
    If I were a mission controller and asked about this stuff, it would probably go like this:

    asked within 5 years: good informative details
    asked after 5-10 years: less details: you'd have more if you asked earlier
    asked after 10-15 years: way less details: you'd have much more if you asked earlier
    asked after 15-20 years: refuses to answer: this is pointless, you should have asked me when it was fresh in my mind
    asked after 20-25 years: refuses to answer
    asked after 25-30 years: refuses to answer
    asked after 30-35 years: I don't remember anything significant, but let's talk about it, old people like to talk!!
  • by Eminence ( 225397 ) <akbrandt@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:29PM (#12264155) Homepage all of our science is just to build better weapons systems.

    You think it was all "peaceful scientific exploration"? Wanna see a list of weaponry that was developed in those days?

  • Sad... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eminence ( 225397 ) <akbrandt@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:40PM (#12264243) Homepage

    All those Apollo anniversaries make me sad. 35 years is my whole life, I was born the same year Apollo 13 made its epic return to Earth. And what happened through my whole life with space exploration? Are we further than we were in 1970? All that's left from the grand dreams of the period are some old shuttles, that make news when they fly at all, a space station which we wouldn't be able to operate without Russian (paid) help and a huge, costly government agency that produces lots of nice animations, small droids and very, very little substance - and tons of SF movies. In our silver screen dreams we have already conquered whole galaxy, in reality we hardly moved.

    I know it's a harsh judgment. But technologically speaking we could have been walking on Mars a decade ago, we could have been visiting Moon regularly, we could have been sending dozens of automated probes each year not just a few. Isn't that sad?

    I think it is each time I have to ask myself: will I live long enough to see anything to even match, let alone outshine Apollo achievements?

  • Re:True geeks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SYFer ( 617415 ) <syfer@syfe[ ]et ['r.n' in gap]> on Sunday April 17, 2005 @05:44PM (#12264274) Homepage
    Hear hear. Well said sir. I'm a pretty cold fish and have gotten teary eyes maybe a half dozen times in my adult life, but I was certainly teary when I saw the movie and the excellent documentary. As a glasses and polyester wearing (at least back in the day) nerd, the performance of the ground crew at NASA then (and in every mission, really) is the most inspiring thing thing I've seen in my life. To each their own, but for me, the space program, especially in the old days, is truly Heroic. It's the source of my patriotism. Truth be told, I'd probably give up everything I have for even an insignificant job at Johnson just so that, when I died, I could say I had given something to that magnificent organization. *sigh* Maybe next time around.
  • by WolfWithoutAClause ( 162946 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:04PM (#12264419) Homepage
    Presumably they had to change about two lines in the program; where it had the mass of the vehicle and the thrust of the lunar lander engine, and recompile/reassemble. Then they ran the program. Can't have been much more to it than that, if they got the answer in 2-3 hours...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:11PM (#12264465)
    I don't know the details but I'd hazard it's little more complex than that: for example determining the center of mass and the turning moment about that center. I doubt it was as simple as "substitute the descent engine for the CSM main engine and change the signs"...
  • Re:True geeks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by orac2 ( 88688 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:16PM (#12264489)
    The article says it was Ed Smylie plus his team, but they'd begun working on it themselves almost immediately after they heard the crew were in the LM. It wasn't an issue of mission control giving them the job after they noticed the CO2 going up, as the movie shows, but mission control finding that, when they needed help, someone had already been working on the problem for hours, saving a lot of time. It's that kind of proactive culture that really made the difference, just as with the the LM lifeboat procedures.
  • Re:Sad... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bungley ( 768242 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @07:06PM (#12264772)
    I have to concur, especially in the wake of the clearly premature retirement of concorde.

    What was it, a single single failure in over 30 years?

    Technology really is moving backwards.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17, 2005 @08:00PM (#12265031)
    You're quite phenomenally ignorant.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17, 2005 @08:52PM (#12265276)
    The leadership did not say, "Sorry Apollo 13, you're dead, and we won't spend any resources in a futile attempt to save you." Two shuttle disasters later due to bureaucracy and they don't even have the balls to save Hubble let alone mount a human trip to Mars.

    Lets review this statement and break it down shall we? Yes the bureaucracy was to blame for both disasters. They created an atmosphere of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. That is in fact a problem. However abandoning the Hubble space telescope isn't the same as giving up on a crew.
    The truth of the matter is Nasa doesn't have as big a budget as they need to do everything. Nasa has to choose between spending money on a new system or upgrading. If you want to talk about balls lets talk about the new Telescope they are working on. They are going to try to assemble one working mirror out of 20 smaller mirrors at a la-grange point. Not only is that tricky, but if it doesn't work it's going take them years, if ever, to fix it. So they still have some balls
    Oh and about going to the Mars, it's again a money issue. Going to the moon cost America about 5% of the national governments budget. Sure we could probably do it for cheaper this time around. Certainly it something we need to do for the future of humanity. Now imagine trying to sell that one in congress. Now add giant deficits and a failing economy. It won't fly, NASA will probably never get that kind of a budget again. Short of killer asteroid being found tomorrow that is.
    That and from a scientific stand point, sending people doesn't make any sense what so ever. For a lot less money you can get a lot better science with robots. So the only reason to go to mars in person is for human adventure and exploration. That's not something governments do with out a very strong reason.
    No the kinda of space exploration you want to see is in a new frontier now, the commercial sector. It's business that drove the re-discovery of america. It's business that will take us into space.
    Don't get me wrong NASA still has a role to play, but it will continue to be a less important one. For better or for worse thats the way it is. However there really isn't any need to insult them. Unless you're just going for the Management at NASA. I'm cool with that, they have made some gross mistakes.

Basic is a high level languish. APL is a high level anguish.