Apollo XIII: If they do return to Earth, we will have failed

Apollo XIII: If they do return to Earth, we will have failed

“It was the most exciting day of my life,” Nixon said before receiving the three atronautas who survived for 50 years, a rescue space with limited oxygen, tdark and restricted communications, which kept the world in the air.

“Houston, we have a problem!”. This was the phrase uttered by astronaut Jack Swigert, 50 years ago, during the eventful journey that would lead to “Apollo XIII” and its three crew on the surface of the moon. Moments of great tension, fear and chaos that made the whole world set its sights on what was going on up there in the stars, after the “cold and professional voice” of the astronaut echo in the Houston Space Center: “We a problem here.”

They had it very seriously. A power failure occurred after hearing an explosion in the command module of the spacecraft manned by Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Swigert also forced to stop suddenly, the moon landing in flight, scheduled for April 16, 1970 . ”A tense drama back chairs and recovery operations of the astronauts on the Space Center Houston, could be read on the cover of ABC-sharing tension around the world, expectant and painfully surprised.”

It was not for nothing. Space Center scientists initially believed that a meteorite had hit the unit, more than 200,000 miles away from “home”, crippling its electricity, oxygen tanks and communications, “cutting the umbilical cords with Earth and its atmosphere. ”

“Lovell, Haise and Swigert, with limited oxygen, the dark and restricted communications to save energy, maintain high morale,” it says.

However, the tension achieved on Earth by the plight of those space travelers was enormous.The whole world looked to the moon for a possible space tragedy.

Christopher Kraft, NASA engineer, said the situation of these three men as “the most serious known in spaceflight.” ”If we can bring them back to Earth,” he added, can not be said that the mission was a failure. ”

Houston ordered two of the crew take refuge in the lunar module, leaving one man in the cockpit to drive the vehicle, “with the precision possible, be guided by the stars, keeping it stocked the oxygen generated by the lunar module, to give one back to the Moon and go to Earth. ”

What was the problem?
ABC gave other possible scenarios of failure, “the fumes of protons released to space and the sun during periods of increased energy activity” or an internal fault in the same facilities, “always possible, but not very likely because of the reliability coefficient, reaching 99%. ”

The remaining 1%, however, got away with it. After a long investigation, a committee identified the cause of the explosion in 1965, the command module had been amended several times to raise the voltage heaters allowed in oxygen tanks, but the thermostat switches were not modified to adapt to this voltage increase, so that high temperatures (500 ° C) that endured on this trip, causing a short circuit.

“Safe and sound ‘
On April 18, 1970 ABC read the cover of a huge “Safe and sound.” Indeed, the ‘arrogance operation’ back and rescue the crew of Apollo XIII “pulled the United States, according to the correspondent,” a grim nightmare of four days and has returned to the confidence in their engineers, technicians, astronauts, hardware and software for the conquest of space.”

“It was the most exciting day of my life,” Nixon said before decorate the three astronauts.