Apollo Expeditions to the Moon



The trip was marked by discomfort beyond the lack of food and water. Sleep was almost impossible because of the cold. When we turned off the electrical systems, we lost our source of heat, and the Sun streaming in the windows didn't much help. We were as cold as frogs in a frozen pool, especially Jack Swigert, who got his feet wet and didn't have lunar overshoes. It wasn't simply that the temperature dropped to 38 F: the sight of perspiring walls and wet windows made it seem even colder. We considered putting on our spacesuits, but they would have been bulky and too sweaty. Our teflon-coated inflight coveralls were cold to the touch, and how we longed for some good old thermal underwear.

A photo of two flight controllers at Mission Control Center
A beautiful sight! Two flight controllers at the Mission Control Center watch the parachute deployment as Odyssey floats down toward a gentle landing in the Pacific near American Samoa. Splashdown, at 1:07 p.m. EST, brought down the curtain on the most harried and critical emergency of the entire manned space program.

A photo of three astronauts on a life raft
The charred command module splashed down less than four miles from the recovery ship USS Iwo Jima. Three very tired, hungry, cold, dehydrated astronauts await a ride up into the recovery helicopter. They were aboard the recovery ship less than one hour after touching down in the Pacific.

The ground, anxious not to disturb our homeward trajectory, told us not to dump any waste material overboard. What to do with urine taxed our ingenuity. There were three bags in the command module; we found six little ones in the LM, then we connected a PLSS condensate tank to a long hoses and finally we used two large bags designed to drain remaining water out of the PLSS's after the first lunar EVA. I'm glad we got home when we did, because we were just about out of ideas for stowage.

A most remarkable achievement of Mission Control was quickly developing procedures for powering up the CM after its long cold sleep. They wrote the documents for this innovation in three days, instead of the usual three months. We found the CM a cold, clammy tin can when we started to power up. The walls, ceiling, floor, wire harnesses, and panels were all covered with droplets of water. We suspected conditions were the same behind the panels. The chances of short circuits caused us apprehension, to say the least. But thanks to the safeguards built into the command module after the disastrous fire in January 1967, no arcing took place. The droplets furnished one sensation as we decelerated in the atmosphere: it rained inside the CM.

Four hours before landing, we shed the service module; Mission Control had insisted on retaining it until then because everyone feared what the cold of space might do to the unsheltered CM heat shield. I'm glad we weren't able to see the SM earlier. With one whole panel missing, and wreckage hanging out, it was a sorry mess as it drifted away.

A photo of astronauts,Haise,Lovell, and Swigert Haise, Lovell, and Swigert step off the recovery helicopter to the Iwo Jima in the South Seas. The crew lost a total of 31.5 pounds; Lovell alone 14 pounds - records in both cases. Dehydroted and exhausted, Haise was invalided three weeks by infection.

A photo of astronaut,Lovell, greeting wife In Honolulu Lovell is joyously united with wife Marilyn after she and Mary Haise and bachelor Swigert's parents had flown from Houston with President Nixon. During the Apollo 8 mission sixteen months earlier, Lovell had nicknamed a crater on Moon "Mount Marilyn".

A photo of astronaut,Fred Haise and wife Mary Fred and Mary Haise draped with Hawaiian leis. A physician had accompanied pregnant Mary Haise to Honolulu in the event Air Force One should have its first airborne birth. However, the Haise's fourth child Thomas did not arrive until ten weeks later.

A photo of astronaut,Lovell reading the newspaper "We didn't realize the complete magnitude of this flight", said Lovell, "until we got back home and started reading about it." Christian Science Monitor said: "Never in recorded history has a journey of such peril been watched and waited-out by almost the entire human race."

Three hours later we parted with faithful Aquarius, rather rudely, because we blasted it loose with pressure in the tunnel in order to make sure it completely cleared. Then we splashed down gently in the Pacific Ocean near Samoa, a beautiful landing in a blue-ink ocean on a lovely, lovely planet.

Nobody believes me, but during this six-day odyssey we had no idea what an impression Apollo 13 made on the people of Earth. We never dreamed a billion people were following us on television and radio, and reading about us in banner headlines of every newspaper published. We still missed the point on board the carrier Iwo Jima, which picked us up, because the sailors had been as remote from the media as we were. Only when we reached Honolulu did we comprehend our impact: there we found President Nixon and Dr. Paine to meet us, along with my wife Marilyn, Fred's wife Mary (who being pregnant, also had a doctor along just in case), and bachelor Jack's parents, in lieu of his usual airline stewardesses.

A photo of President Nixon giving a speech
In Houston the 37th President pays tribute to the men who performed miracles in Mission Control to save Apollo 13. To President's right are NASA Administrator Thomas Paine and Mrs. Nixon. To his left: Flight directors Eugene Kranz, Gerald Griffin, Milton Windler (the fourth, Glynn Lunney, is behind lectern), then Chief Astronaut Donald K. Slayton, James A. Lovell III (in uniform), and Sigurd Sjoberg, Director of Flight Operations, who in behalf of "the ground" received the Nation's highest award, Medal of Freedom.

In case you are wondering about the cause of it all, I refer you to the report of the Apollo 13 Review Board, issued after an intensive investigation. In 1965 the CM had undergone many improvements, which included raising the permissible voltage to the heaters in the oxygen tanks from 28 to 65 volts DC. Unfortunately, the thermostatic switches on these heaters weren't modified to suit the change. During one final test on the launch pad, the heaters were on for a long period of time. "This subjected the wiring in the vicinity of the heaters to very high temperatures (1000 F), which have been subsequently shown to severely degrade teflon insulation . . . the thermostatic switches started to open while powered by 65 volts DC and were probably welded shut." Furthermore, other warning signs during testing went unheeded and the tank, damaged from 8 hours overheating, was a potential bomb the next time it was filled with oxygen. That bomb exploded on April 13, 1970 - 200,000 miles from Earth.

A cartoon picture of an eagle with a bandage on it's wings A collective sigh of relief rose from the millions following the drama of Apollo 13 when the Odyssey splashed down. The CM-shaped bandage on this eagle cleverly depicts the flight home. "Only in a formal sense will Apollo 13 go into history as a failure", editorialized The New York Times.

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