Apollo 13 "Houston, we've got a problem."

Page 3

picture of 
Astronauts and flight controllers anxiously monitoring consoles 
during the Apollo 13 mission

Astronauts and flight controllers anxiously monitor consoles during the Apollo 13 mission.

SC--And it looks to me, looking out the hatch, that we are venting something. We are venting something out into space. It's a gas of some sort.

Current from the remaining fuel cell dropped slowly.

CAPCOM--We'd like you to . . . power down until you get an amperage of 10 less amps than what you've got now.

SC--It looks like 02 tank 1 pressure is just a hair over 200.

CAPCOM--We'll confirm that.

SC--Does it look like it's still going down?

CAPCOM--It' s going slowly to zero, and we're starting to think about the LM lifeboat.

SC--Yes, that's something we're thinking about too.

Minutes earlier, and only a little more than an hour after Swigert's first report of trouble, had come the laconic announcement to a breathless world:

"Here in Mission Control we are now looking toward an alternate mission, swinging around the Moon and using the Lunar Module power systems, because of the situation that has developed here this evening."

The digital clock above the flight control team showed 57 hours 11 minutes since launch--11:24 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday, April 13. Apollo 13 was 207,000 miles from Earth and moving away at 2100 miles an hour.

CAPCOM--We figure we've got about 15 minutes worth of power left in the Command Module. So we want you to start getting over in the LM and getting some power on that.

Three days from home, the spacecraft had electricity for only 15 minutes under normal procedures.

CAPCOM--We'd llke you to start making your way over to the LM now.

SC--Fred and Jim are in the LM.

The tunnel into the Lunar Module cabin from the Command Module had remained open after Lovell and Haise went into the LM for a planned check on its instruments earlier in the evening, just before the incident.

SC--I got LM power on.

CAPCOM--I have an activation procedure. I'd like you to copy it down.

Step by step, following instructions from the ground, Haise and Lovell powered up the Lunar Module, which the crew had named Aquarius, and Swigert shut down Odyssey, the Command Module, apparently undamaged, to save its batteries, oxygen, and cooling water in hope they could ultimately be used for reentry and landing.

It was necessary also to maintain the integrity of alignment on the inertial guidance platform. It is this gyroscopic device which "remembers" the spacecraft's position and velocity and thus aids in computine necessary course corrections to stay on the desired trajectory. Swigert drew on battery power to keep the alignment in Odyssey alive, until the alignment in Aquarius could be brought into correspondence with that in Odyssey. It had to be done fast, but it was accomplished.

Lovell remarked later that the transfer of alignment from Odyssey to Aquarius was the first big turning point. Since the optical systems of Aquarius are less sophisticated, and never intended for use in deep space navigation, it would have required movement of the entire spacecraft to get a sighting. Had they lost Odyssey's alignment, the only way to get another alignment would have been to use the Sun and Moon and Earth. The gaseous cloud which had formed around the spacecraft prevented star sightings.

These preliminaries were accomplished, and it was conceded that Apollo 13 had faile, as a lunar mission. Success now would be measured by the outcome of the struggle, world-wide, and deep in space, to get three men home alive.



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