Chapter 10: The return

The Trinity

The Return 

Houston, we’ve had a problem (James A. Lovell).

Ask and you shall receive (Mt 7:7).

On April 11, 1970, the seventh manned mission in the US space program, Apollo 13, was launched from the John F. Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 2016). The astronauts on board the mission were James A. Lovell, jr., Commander; Fred W. Haise, jr., pilot of the lunar module, Aquarius; and John L. Swigert, jr., pilot of the command module, Odyssey (National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA], 2009). The mission was intended to be the third lunar landing attempt and Apollo 13 was set to land in the Frau Mora highlands of the moon (US Congress, 2010). But the unexpected took place.

Two days into the mission, which had been characterized by uneventfulness and being “bored to tears” (NASA, 2009) as reported by the capsule communicator, John Kerwin, the second oxygen tank on board the service module exploded after it had been stirred as part of routine maintenance procedures. The explosion resulted in the failure of the first oxygen tank. The mission of Apollo 13 became crippled.

Critical supplies of electricity, light, and water were lost aboard the spaceship. The oxygen supply started being vented out into space in an uncontrollable manner at a high rate per second and the fuel cells started to die. The entire Sector Four panel of the service module had been blasted away by the explosion and wreckage was hanging out. Aquarius became a ‘lifeboat’ for the crew, despite having been designed to hold no more than two men for just two days[1] (The New York Times, 1970). The astronauts were 200,000 miles away from the earth.  Continue reading “Chapter 10: The return”