The Story of Apollo XIII for Kids

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The Apollo IX mission test-flew the command module and lunar module together in Earth orbit. But the truth was closer to the outtake here, with Scott emerging as the spacecraft flow over the nighttime side of the Earth, a solitary man almost lost in shadow, venturing from the safety of the Apollo burrow into the killing cold of space.

Spaceflights were often reconnaissance missions and dirty portholes could make that job impossible.

Gas trapped between layers of glass or moisture picked up on the way out of the atmosphere could make windows impossible to use, though the fogging or streaking would often clear up as the sun warmed the spacecraft skin. The public saw only the pretty pictures shot through clear windows, but here the Apollo 12 crew took a shot to show NASA the challenges they faced. The cockpit of the LEM was supposed to be a bright and active place, but on Apollo XIII it became a darkened still lifeboat, as the crew shut down nearly all of its power and took refuge in the hope of getting home after an explosion disabled their command module.

A blue light beneath it was supposed to flash on the moment the lunar module made contact with the lunar surface. The Apollo program was a pencil-and-paper enterprise.

Apollo 13 Movie Review

The missions were conceived and flown in the era before calculators and touch screens and heads-up displays. Flight plans, which would today be loaded on a tablet, were similarly low-tech—printed on heavy fireproof paper bound in loose-leaf form. During all of the lunar flights except the last, crews surveyed the ground below to study future landing sites. Heavily cratered regions like these, photographed by the Apollo XVII crew, dominate the far side of the moon and frame the so-called seas on the near side.

They were no-go zones for landings since the ground was so uneven. It was the seas—which are actually great plains that resulted from ancient lava bleeds—that were the first targets.

Houston, we Have a Solution: the Story of Apollo 13

Like the volcano fields on the Hawaiian island Hilo, some regions of the moon have preserved the state of the landscape just as it was when the lava that flowed across it hardened. Snaking channels like the one that twists about a third of the way up the image from the bottom of the frame might have been lava riverbeds. Apollo missions never flew during a full moon, since the far side would have been blacked and on the near side, the overhead sun would have eliminated shadows, which, as in this image, can help highlight topography.

The lunar module was a whimsically ugly machine. Here, the Apollo XI LEM has separated from the command module and hangs, seemingly upside down though there is no upside down in space before the camera of Michael Collins, left alone in the command module.

Apollo 13: Facts About NASA's Near-Disaster

The rods extending from the foot pads are contact probes. When one of them touched the lunar surface, the contact light would flash on in the cockpit, telling the commander to cut the engine. From some angles, the irregularly shaped LEM could achieve a certain doily-like symmetry. The dark circle at the center of the roof is the docking port, where the nose of the command module would connect, allowing a tunnel to be opened between the two ships.

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Apollo XV almost came to ruin the second it touched down. Meanwhile, Lovell's wife has a nightmare in which her husband is sucked out of the capsule into space, and freaks out when her wedding ring slips off her finger and down a plughole. Dramatically convenient though these premonitions may seem, the real Jim Lovell has confirmed that they both really happened. The zero-gravity scenes in the movie are extremely convincing, because they're real.

Appropriately enough, up in space, Haise pukes. Don't puke in space. It floats off everywhere in horrible little chunks. Then we are treated to Lovell's urination ritual. It's all fun, games, billions of taxpayer dollars and swirling bodily fluids until Swigert performs a routine stir of the oxygen tanks. There's a loud bang, and Lovell gets to utter the famous words: "Houston, we have a problem.


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Does anybody get their lines right in space? Swigert has noticed it's worse: "If this doesn't work, we're not going to have enough power left to get home. His main point was that the film makes it look like "we invented a lot of stuff". Then the repressurized CM was successfully powered up after its long, cold sleep.

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The heavily damaged service module was shed, and one hour before re-entry the LM was disengaged from the CM. Just before 1 p.


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