What happened to Apollo 13 crew is a famous instance of how bravery and professionalism can save lives from the most dire and life-threatening situations. Learn more about what transpired during the famous mission and learn how the Apollo crew struggled for their lives.
Everybody heard the line “Houston We have an issue,” coming from Apollo 13 near-disaster — it’s not just a movie but actually from a space mission. What really happened during this disastrous launch? And what happened in real-life? We will provide an overview of what transpired with Apollo 13 and how its crew was able to return home.
Apollo 13 crew & pre-mission setbacks
Apollo 13 was the 7th astronaut mission to the Moon It appears that the notoriously unlucky date began impacting the 13th mission long before it was launched. The first thing to note is that the original Apollo 13 crew had to be replaced by the 14th mission crew due to the crew’s health. In the end, NASA named James Lovell as mission commander and John Swigert and Fred Haise became Apollo 13 command module and lunar module pilotsrespectively.
It is interesting to note that John Swigert was a reserve crew pilot when the original commander module pilot Thomas Kenneth <> Mattingly contracted measles two days prior to the mission’s launch. These, however, were minor setbacks in comparison to the imminent Apollo 13 incident that made everyone else drool with breath.
Launch of the mission and what caused Apollo 13 accident details
Apollo 13 Mission crew took off from Kennedy Space Center on April 11, 1970, around 06:06 UTC. The initial issue was discovered five minutes and a half into the flight when the second stage engine shut down in a hurry, about two minutes ahead of the time that was scheduled. But, the Saturn V heavy rocket had already reached its required acceleration by the time it was triggered therefore the Apollo crew solved the issue by starting the side engines.
At times, it was apparent it was it appeared that the Apollo 13 mission, aiming to gather lunar soil samples it was operating normallyuntil the 13th of April which was when its crew fixed the first explosions aboard. Oxygen Tank 2 was destroyed when its sensor level was blown out of the range at the 56th minute during the Apollo 13 flight. The explosion destroyed three fuel cell batteries and deprived of the Apollo Command Module of power which made the Moon landing unattainable. But this, however, was not the primary issue because at the time the astronauts were facing a much bigger challenge that was causing a decrease in oxygen levels and the need to return to Earth. In a leap of faith how did the crew from Apollo 13 survive? It was a good thing they did, however three astronauts and NASA’s mission control centre were in the midst of some stressful hours to say the least.
In the aftermath of the incident, it was hard to determine what was the cause of the incident. It initially appeared to be that Apollo crew delayed the destratification process for tanks which was needed to mix hydrogen and oxygen for about nine hours to allow for an announcement to Earth. A further investigation revealed that it was not the case since the Apollo 13 crew flew with tanks from the Apollo 10 mission onboard. Orbital Today reports that the tank was accidentally dropped shortly before the launch of the 10th lunar mission (according the NASA) and then returned for repair. The retesting by NASA also suggested the removal of any oxygen remaining from the tank, which damaged the Teflon insulation. At the time Swigert began to work on Apollo tank destratification process, a spark had caused a fire in the already damaged layer of insulation and ultimately led to the explosion.
Apollo 13 Rescue Mission Efforts & Alternative Scenarios
The Apollo 13 crew was able to survive not only due to its resilience and courage however, it was also due to the tremendous analytics efforts of NASA Emergency Rescue Headquarters. Within a short time they devised five scenarios for returning the Apollo 13 crew back home before settling at the most secure one. The only downside was that it extended the duration of the mission by nine hours. This under the harsh conditions of freezing temperatures and slowly declining oxygen levels, presented risk from its own. What was the time it take for Apollo 13 to get home? The total time from launch until splashdown in the Pacific was 142.54 minutes. However, all major decisions were to be made within the first six hours following the tank’s explosion. Moreover, the space and ground crews were required to wait an additional six days before seeing the final outcome of their plans. What exactly was the way in which did the crew of the mission get back?
The first step was that the Apollo crew had to transfer to their Aquarius moon module and then to their Odyssey commander module. The major issue in Aquarius was that the Apollo 13 capsule was not built to filter the air for three members of the crew for a prolonged period of time. The engineers on the ground devised a an easy adapter design that astronauts assembled onboard.
Another problem was the an ongoing cold spell and a lack of water. The situation was further exacerbated by an explosion inside the Aquarius module that destroyed some of the battery systems. The mission team was able to complete all the necessary steps to connect to Odyssey to fill it with the necessary weight (since the calculations for return included 100 pounds lunar soil samples which weren’t taken) and then unload the service modules.
Following a series of trajectory adjustments and activating a landing navigation system and a landing navigation system, the Apollo crew sank into the Pacific Ocean on April 17 in 1970 at 18:07:41 Houston time. The landing was just 8 km away from an emergency ship which picked up the Apollo 13 crew and returned it to the NASA base. The entire crew on both the space and on Earth were later awarded the most prestigious civilian honor within the United States — the Medal of Freedom.