Background

The Apollo Program

Apollo 13 was the seventh manned launch in the Apollo program. It was the third such mission to land on the moon. Apollo program had 3 unmanned missions before beginning with manned Apollo 4. Apollo 1 (posthumously named) was the attempted manned mission by Gus Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee that ended in the tumultuous launch pad fire that killed the entire crew. Apollo 11 of course is the most well known of the Apollo missions crewed by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins when man first walked on the moon. The Apollo program was originally slated to run missions all the way to Apollo 20. However after Apollo 13’s disaster the program decided to end with Apollo 17. It would have potentially been cut even shorter had it not been for the fact that the next four missions had been mostly budgeted and well under progress by the time of Apollo 13’s launch.

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The Apollo 13 Mission

In 1970 the Apollo 13 mission was scheduled to land on the moon on the Fra Mauro formations in the 3rd lunar landing. Originally the mission was assigned to Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa, and Edgar Mitchell however after Shepard was still recovering from an inner ear surgery. The mission was then handed over to the crew originally slated for Apollo 14, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Ken Mattingly.

The original Apollo 13 crew. From left: Lovell, Mattingly, Haise
The original Apollo 13 crew. From left: Lovell, Mattingly, Haise

This roster would change once more when unfortunately Charlie Duke of the backup crew contracted rubella from his children and infected both crews unknowingly. All members were cleared except Mattingly who was grounded in fear he would show symptoms in space. (Mattingly would again get the chance to go to space in the Apollo 16 mission.) Jack Swigert from the back up crew then joined Lovell and Haise on the official mission. Jim Lovell the commander of the mission had been to space in 3 previous missions, both Haise and Swigert had never been to outer space.

 

Haise, Swigert, and Lovell
Haise, Swigert, and Lovell

 

 

The Apollo 13 mission launched on April 11th 1970 without an issue. The flight path and all systems maintained normal until April 13th when the Oxygen tank two exploded.1 As power levels and oxygen levels fell the crew and mission control had to take action. From that point it was clear the lunar landing would not happen. In order to compensate for the loss of power and resource after great deliberation a solution was resolved and the Apollo13 astronauts powered down the Odyssey command module and continued the flight in the Aquarius Lunar Exploration Module. The problems increased from there in a variety of ways including need to accomplish several PC+2 Burns and correct the trajectory.2  Ultimately the crew was able to splashdown safely on April 17th.

 

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Jack Swigert- Command Pilot     Fred Haise- LEM Pilot

 

 

Citations:
1Lovell, Jim. Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994, 95.
2 For further reading on the Apollo 13 Mission:

Lindsay, Hamish. “Apollo 13.” Accessed November 13, 2016. http://www.honeysucklecreek.net/msfn_missions/Apollo_13_mission/index.html. Lindsay’s essay includes actual audio clips from the Apollo 13 mission as well as insider
Liebergot, Sy, and David M. Harland. Apollo EECOM: Journey of a Lifetime. Pap/Cdr edition. Ontario, Canada: Collector’s Guide Publishing, Inc., 2008. Liebergot’s book is a technical approach to the mission through his experience as the EECOM on duty for the initial event.
Image Citations:
“Apollo13_insignia.jpg,” The Project Apollo Image Gallery. Accessed November 14, 2016. http://www.apolloarchive.com/apollo_gallery.html.
“S69-62231_t.jpg,” The Project Apollo Image Gallery. Accessed November 14, 2016. http://www.apolloarchive.com/apollo_gallery.html.
“70-HC-541_t.jpg,” The Project Apollo Image Gallery. Accessed November 14, 2016. http://www.apolloarchive.com/apollo_gallery.html.
“S69-62241_t.jpg,” The Project Apollo Image Gallery. Accessed November 14, 2016. http://www.apolloarchive.com/apollo_gallery.html.
“S69-62238_t.jpg,” The Project Apollo Image Gallery. Accessed November 14, 2016. http://www.apolloarchive.com/apollo_gallery.html.
“S71-52266_t.jpg,” The Project Apollo Image Gallery. Accessed November 14, 2016. http://www.apolloarchive.com/apollo_gallery.html.