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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 orac2 ( 88688 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @03:55PM (#12263642)
    To be strictly accurate, the heavy lifting on the trajectory side was done by a bunch of mainframes on the ground, in Houston's Real Time Computer Complex. But as the article says, they didn't have the software to compute how the trajectory of thecojoined CSM and LM would behave using the LM descent engine, so they had to call in a bunch of people to write new software! Then the burn parameters were passed up to be entered into the computer.
  • by ExtraT ( 704420 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @03:59PM (#12263662)
    It always amazes me how much more interesting and captivating a truthful and detailed account is, than any kind of "sexed up" hollywwod adaptation of it!
  • Re:True geeks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by orac2 ( 88688 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @04:01PM (#12263685)
    As the article points outs, the controllers agree that Howard's movie points out the sense of what went on, even if they also all agree it fictionalized a fair amount of what happened: for example it was John Aaron, not Ken Mattingly, who did the heavy lifting on the CSM power up sequence, and the idea of getting power from the LM to support the CSM, by running power backward through the umblicals, was developed months beforehand by Bob Legler.
  • Re:Anniversaries... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17, 2005 @04:04PM (#12263697)
    Do you have any sort of idea just how amazing of a technological feat the apollo missions were?

    Buckminster Fuller commented that we made the same progress in about 20 years technologically that we did in the 2,000 years prior to the mission.
  • MBAs loved the movie (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bubblehead ( 35003 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @04:05PM (#12263701) Homepage Journal
    I was going to MIT in 1995 when the film was released. Everybody at the adjacent Sloan School of Management was talking about it and called it a perfect case study of great project management and team work. The article confirms that - great read.
  • by Space_Soldier ( 628825 ) <> on Sunday April 17, 2005 @04:05PM (#12263704)
    I wish that NASA of today was as exciting and had the same respect as back then. 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.
  • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @04:09PM (#12263727)
    " I wish that NASA of today was as exciting and had
    the same respect as back then."

    Those of us who were around back then remember it being no less controversial, with just as much skepticism, and the same low regard from the Republicans over a program that was pressed by Democrats.

    The main mitigating factor was the idea that the space program would help stem the tide of Communism.

    The space age had an enormous impact on popular culture, but the politics were pretty much the same.
  • by Banner ( 17158 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @04:55PM (#12263972) Journal
    In the late 80's (Flight Test Engineer). A lot of the guys who worked on the LEM and where there during the accident were still around. Some sat next to me. I got to hear some really great stories about what happened, and the things they had to do.

    My favorite was that they (Grumman) got everyone who had anything to do with the program rounded up, put in a large room, and then they put an armed guard at the door. You could leave to go to the bathroom, that was it. They all stayed in there working on solutions and answering questions until Apollo landed, and apparently noone even complained.(Try that these days!)

    Also it was a tradition at Grumman to point to the LEM and what it did, and how well it was made. It set a very high standard that we were all expected to live up to, and were often reminded of.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:00PM (#12264389)
    > "Twelve amps is about as much power as a vacuum cleaner uses."

    No, that's the amount of *current* a vacuum cleaner *might* use. It says nothing about its power at all.

    I'm such a pedant.
  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @11:27PM (#12266175) Journal
    One thing that struck me from reading that article is the enormous amount of flexibility in both materials and design of the spacecraft then compared to spacecraft now. I know many many people here on slashdot have pointed out that the escape systems on the shuttles were dropped in order to save money, but that's not the entire problem.

    From what I gather, the guys in mission control had to jump through many hoops to get things to work after the explosion, but firstly, they had practiced almost every possible problem, (the use of LM power to run the mission shortly after launch although it was blocked because of dead CM batteries and the CO2 filters which were recognised as necessary immediatley by one guy as soon as he heard the LM was to be used).

    The design and materials were extremely primitive by today's standards, but relays are a lot easier to reconfigure than a modern computer chip and the simplicity of the filters meant that with basic materials they could be reconfigured.

    In other words, the machines were vastly more robust than modern systems.

    And then there's the planning. They had actually taken, although not seriously enough initially, but later someone had decided to check that contingency out all the same.

    With the shuttles, there has never been a way to fix anything if the machine would fuck up in orbit. Nada. Costs too much. And what really absolutely amazes me is that NASA, that spends around $400 million on a single shuttle launch never thought about renting or buying 2 or 3 Russian Soyuz craft to be ready on a permanent basis in case something happened in orbit, and that even though Soyuz launches only cost a tiny fraction of shuttle launches, are far easier and faster to prepare and launch, and don't even cost much at all if they aren't launched and everything goes well.

    And no one, even after Challenger in 86, thought about checking out the shuttle regularly in orbit.

    In some ways, it's almost criminal neglect. What happened to NASA?

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