Plan B Apollo 13 – WIF Space

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Fascinating Facts

About the

Apollo 13 Mission

Apollo 13 Command Module by RoDuPhotography on DeviantArt

When Apollo 13 lifted off from the John F. Kennedy Space Center on April 11, 1970 on America’s planned third visit to the surface of the moon, the general public greeted the event with a collective yawn. After just two manned visits to the moon the reaction by many to continuing lunar exploration was “been there, done that.” The major television networks broadcast the launch, as was customary, but declined to broadcast planned transmissions from the spacecraft as it journeyed to the moon, due to lack of viewership. After just four Americans had walked on the moon, the general public had lost interest. Serious discussions of canceling the remaining Apollo missions took place in political circles in Washington.

All that changed on April 14, when Jack Swigert (not James Lovell, as depicted in the film Apollo 13) informed mission controllers, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” An explosion and subsequent venting of precious oxygen ended the mission to the moon and threatened the lives of the three astronauts aboard, Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise. The mission to the moon became a gripping drama, as the crew and experts on the ground encountered and overcame problem after problem. The world watched the unfolding tale as it occurred, unsure of whether the three astronauts could be brought home alive.

10. Using the lunar module as a lifeboat was a planned and practiced evolution

The 1995 film, Apollo 13, brought the story of the ill-fated mission back into the popular imagination. The film, based on astronaut Jim Lovell’s book Lost Moon, presented the story with the usual dramatic license practiced by Hollywood (Lovell appeared in the film near the end, as a US Navy Admiral greeting his character as portrayed by Tom Hanks). One fictional aspect in the film was the implication that the Lunar Module (LM) was forced into service as a “lifeboat,” an evolution which was both unforeseen and unrehearsed. Neither was true. Use of the LM to provide shelter for the astronauts due to a casualty had been both envisioned by mission planners and simulated during training, as recalled years later by Ken Mattingly, who was dropped from the original crew at the last minute after being exposed to the measles.

“Somewhere in an earlier sim, there had been an occasion to do what they call LM lifeboat, which meant you had to get the crew out of the command module and into the lunar module, and they stayed there,” Mattingly recalled in an interview with NASA in 2001. Mattingly’s recollection, though admittedly vague, was that the training was intended to simulate unbreathable air in the Command Module (CM), with the astronauts using the LM while the CM was ventilated. During the Apollo 13 mission the LM supported the astronauts for a considerably longer period than had been simulated, but the use of the LM as a lifeboat in space had been foreseen and some procedures prepared before the astronauts experienced the problems which afflicted them on the journey to the moon.

9. Carbon dioxide buildup posed the greatest danger to the crew

The loss of oxygen caused by the explosion of a tank during an attempt to stir its contents led to the assumption that the three astronauts were in danger of running out of air. Loss of oxygen did not present the greatest threat to survival. Nor did a shortage of water, though all three men observed strict rationing and all became dehydrated as a result. Fred Haise was so dehydrated he developed a kidney infection. According to Lovell in his book and subsequent interviews, the single greatest danger posed to the astronauts was from carbon dioxide buildup, which they created through breathing. The scrubbers in the LM, which used lithium hydroxide canisters to remove the carbon dioxide from the air, were insufficient for the exhalations of three men.

The ingenious modifications allowing the use of square canisters in scrubbers designed to use round ones did occur, developed by technicians and engineers in Houston. It, too, had a precedent, practiced on the ground in simulations. According to Mattingly, a similar device was contrived during the training for Apollo 8, coincidentally another mission flown by Lovell. “Well, on 13, someone says,” Mattingly recalled, “You remember what we did on the sim? Who did that?” The engineer who developed the procedure was located, and instructions to construct a similar device in Aquarius (Apollo 13’s LM — the CM was named Odyssey) were radioed to the astronauts.

8. The average age of the experts in mission control was just 29

The lead flight director for Apollo 13 — that is, the man in charge on the ground — was Gene Kranz. Kranz was just 36 years of age when the accident occurred during the mission. Still, in comparison to the team he commanded, known as the White Team in NASA parlance and dubbed the Tiger Team by the media, he was a grizzled veteran. A second team, the Black Team, performed the same functions when the White Team was off duty. The Black Team was led by Glynn Lunney. The average age of the engineers, scientists, and technicians which made up the teams was just 29. They were the men who established the limits of usage in the spacecraft of water, oxygen, and electrical power. They calculated the lengths of the engine burns to properly position and orient the spacecraft, and prepared modified procedures to restore the CM to operation in time for the astronauts to safely re-enter the atmosphere.

Many were recent graduates, on their first job out of school. They worked around the clock, supported by other astronauts in simulators and laboratories, as well as technical representatives (tech reps) from the primary contractors and subcontractors which built the components which comprised the Apollo spacecraft. In the movie Apollo 13, Ed Harris portrayed Gene Kranz as exhorting the teams, “failure is not an option.” Gene Kranz said he never made that statement during the unfolding of the mission. He didn’t have to. Kranz relied on dedication and talent of the young team around him. “Every person that was in this room lived to flaunt the odds,” he told an interviewer years later. “Watching and listening to your crew die is something that will impress upon your mind forever.”

7. Lovell was on his fourth space flight, Swigert on his first (and only)

At the time Apollo 13 cleared the tower and began its journey to the moon, Mission Commander James Lovell was 42-years-old. A veteran of three previous flights, including two Gemini missions and the Apollo 8 voyage around the moon in December, 1968, Lovell had more hours in space than any other American. The three missions combined to give the former Naval Aviator 572 hours in space. Apollo 13 made Lovell the first person to fly to the moon twice. His companions, on the other hand — though both highly experienced pilots — were on their first journey into space.

For Jack Swigert, 38 and a veteran of the United States Air Force and Air National Guard, it was his first, and ultimately only, trip into space. Swigert was a last minute replacement for CM pilot Ken Mattingly, after his medical disqualification from being exposed to measles. Fred Haise, the designated LM pilot, was 35 and also on his first mission for NASA. Haise was a former US Marine Pilot, a civilian flight researcher for NASA and like his companion Swigert, never flew in space again. The average age of the crew for Apollo 13 was nearly a decade older than the members of the teams on the ground, on whom they relied for a safe return to Earth.

6. Ken Mattingly did help resolve the power conservation and startup problem

The film Apollo 13 depicted a resolved Mattingly (portrayed by Gary Sinise) working tirelessly in a Houston-based simulator to find a series of procedures through which the shut down CM could be restored to life. Mattingly was beset by the problem of needing power in excess of what was available in order to bring the stricken CM back to operation. According to the real Mattingly the scenes in the movie in which he attempts procedure after procedure, only to be frustrated by inadequate power reserves, is a false one. Mattingly did work, with other astronauts, to establish the steps to restore the CM. But the actual manner in which it was done had Mattingly outside of the simulator, reading procedures to astronauts within, in order to create the procedure for Lovell, Swigert, and Haise to use.

According to Mattingly, the astronauts included Thomas Stafford, Joseph Engle, and a third whom he hesitantly speculated may have been Stuart Roosa. Mattingly said the astronauts were put in the simulator and a series of procedures were read to them. “We’re going to call these out to you, and we want you to go through, just like Jack will. We’ll read it up to you. See if there are nomenclatures that we have made confusing or whatever.”

The reading of the procedures to Jack Swigert in the Odyssey was thus first rehearsed by Mattingly using astronauts in the simulator. In the real event, astronaut Joe Kerwin, serving as Capsule Communications (CAPCOM), read the start-up procedures step-by-step with Jack Swigert in the Odyssey.

5. Firing the LM engine for course correction was also practiced before the Apollo missions

During development of the Apollo missions’ flight procedures, the Descent Propulsion System (DPS), was tested as a backup for the Service Propulsion System, the main engine on Apollo 13’s Service Module (SM). Firing, shutting down, and reigniting the DPS was performed in laboratories at both its leading contractor’s facilities and at NASA facilities. However, little research had been done using the LM to power the entire Apollo configuration of Lunar Module, Command Module, and Service Module. Flying the entire spacecraft from the LM was a novel experience, unique to Apollo 13. It was made necessary due to the unknown condition of the engine in the Service Module, and the necessity of shutting down the Command Module.

The DPS was fired to loop around the moon and begin the voyage back to Earth using a technique known as free return trajectory. As the spacecraft approached the Earth the need for a second burn of the DPS arose, to correct the trajectory and ensure the CM, carrying the three astronauts, would splash down in the Pacific near the recovery vessels on the scene. On an ordinary mission, the descent stage of the LM remained on the surface of the moon, the ascent stage crashed onto the lunar surface after delivering the astronauts to the CM for the voyage home. Aquarius, LM for Apollo 13, entered the Earth’s atmosphere entire, and burned up during the descent, after having fully lived up to its name, which means in astrology, the Water Bearer.

4. The astronauts used the Lunar Module engine for multiple burns

The first use of the DPS engine to control the direction of the Apollo spacecraft in space occurred as the astronauts looped around the moon. Prior to shutting down the CM and moving into the LM, the astronauts transferred critical navigational data to the latter’s guidance computers. As the astronauts gazed down at the lunar surface (the second time for Lovell), mission controllers confirmed a burn of the DPS engine for 34.23 seconds placed Odyssey and Aquarius on the necessary trajectory. The LM performed flawlessly as the astronauts emerged from the dark side of the moon. The Earth’s size began to increase through the spacecraft’s windows, the moon receded.

The trajectory to Earth indicated the CM would splash down in the Indian Ocean, where the United States Navy had relatively few of the assets needed for recovery. Nor was there sufficient time to move them there. A second burn was therefore required, to move the splash down near the recovery forces in the Pacific Ocean. The astronauts used the Sun as the fixed point of reference, centering the moon in Lovell’s window for the burn, which lasted 4 minutes and 23 seconds. After the completion of the second burn the LM was almost completely shut down, in order to conserve power for the rest of the voyage.

3. The astronauts used the moon as a fixed point of reference for one burn, Earth for the other

As Apollo 13 flew slowly back to the Earth, various factors caused it to drift slightly off course, necessitating another burn of the DPS engine on the LM. The burn used to establish the course on which they flew, known as trans-Earth injection, had been successful. Yet there was some doubt that the DPS engine would fire a third time, at least according to the film Apollo 13. In the real event, few doubted the DPS would perform as needed. The 14 second burn of the DPS guided the spacecraft to the correct trajectory, with Lovell and Haise using the line of demarcation between night and day on the Earth as their point of reference.

A final course adjustment, using the thrusters on the LM rather than the DPS engine, occurred just before the Service Module detached. It last 21.5 seconds, again using the day-night demarcation for reference. Once the course adjustment was completed the astronauts observed for the first time the damage sustained by the SM from the explosion. Lovell reported an entire panel missing, and Haise observed damage to the SM’s engine bell. Another problem arose over the release of the LM, a procedure which normally took place in lunar orbit. Grumman, the lead contractor for the LM, assigned a team of engineers at the University of Toronto to the problem; their solution was relayed to the astronauts, who applied it successfully. Aquarius was released just as re-entry began.

2. The temperature within the spacecraft dropped to 38 degrees, not freezing food

A major plot device in the film Apollo 13 was the cold conditions within the spacecraft, with condensation freezing on panels in the Command Module, windows frosting over, and food freezing hard. The spacecraft was cold and damp, but it did not freeze. The temperature dropped to about 38 degrees Fahrenheit. The astronauts were subject to the cold conditions, which Lovell and Haise fought by wearing the boots in which they had planned to trod on the lunar surface. Lovell considered ordering the crew to wear their spacesuits before rejecting the idea, believing they would be too cumbersome and hot. Swigert donned a second set of overalls, though he suffered from cold feet.

Swigert had collected and bagged as much water as he could as the astronauts shut down Odyssey and moved into Aquarius. During the process, in which he drew water from the tap in the CM, his feet became wet, and in the cold, damp, conditions never fully dried. Despite his efforts gathering water, the crew sustained themselves with a ration of just over 6 ounces per day for the remainder of the flight, leading to significant dehydration and weight loss for all of them. They also consumed as much of the juices found aboard as they could, and what little they ate came from foods labeled as “wet-pack,” indicating some water was contained.

1. Apollo 13 led to several design changes for subsequent missions

The lessons learned from Apollo 13 led to several changes to the configuration of all three components of the Apollo spacecraft, the Command Module, Service Module, and Lunar Module. Additional water storage was added to the CM, and an emergency battery for backup power was installed. Modifications to simplify the transfer of electrical power between the LM and CM were adopted for future missions. The oxygen tank which exploded — creating the crisis — was redesigned with additional safety features installed. Monitoring for anomalies improved both aboard the spacecraft and in the control panels and telemetry screens of mission control.

None of the three astronauts ever flew in space again, with Lovell retiring from NASA in 1973. Haise was scheduled to command Apollo 19, but the mission was canceled. Only four more missions to the moon were carried out before Apollo 17 ended the manned lunar explorations in December 1972. By then public interest in the space program had again waned, the burst of national pride initiated by the successful return of the Apollo 13 astronauts having proved short-lived. Now 50 years later, Apollo 13 remains one of the most dramatic stories of humanity’s short experience working in outer space, a story of disaster, ingenuity, courage, and perseverance.


Plan B Apollo 13

WIF Space

Computer Generated Imagery… Not!

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Practical Effects

You Thought Were

Computer Generated

One of the most important aspects of the film-making is keeping the audience immersed in the world it’s being shown. Whether the characters are in a fantasy world or jumping out of a moving car, the audiences’ willingness to go along with the story is, in large part, due to the viewer’s willingness to suspend disbelief. The goal of a filmmaker is to keep the audience so entranced that it’s only afterward that they begin to question or wonder how some of the amazing feats were accomplished.

And because of the advancements in CGI, many audience members simply write off the incredible as ordinary. Many believe that the stunts are simply CGI when, in fact, some of the most powerful scenes in recent memory have been real, practical, extremely dangerous stunts.

10. The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan is something of a realist. One of the best directors of his generation, he has resisted the switch to digital and has continued to shoot on film; it’s not surprising, then, that he’d do everything in his power to make CGI as limited as possible in his blockbuster works. A daring filmmaker who continues to tell stories in a unique narrative style and voice, Nolan was at the helm of the revitalization of the Batman franchise. In one of the most iconic scenes from The Dark Knight, Batman attempts to save Harvey Dent from the Joker, who is determined to blow up a police escort. In the well-known tunnel sequence, the Batmobile rams into a garbage truck. The scene left many scratching their heads, marveling about the realism of CGI. The truth is that it was real. Every bit.

Nolan and his team constructed a one-third scale model of the Batmobile, as well as the truck and that particularly part of Chicago’s lower Wacker Drive. Nolan’s stunt team placed both models on a guide and smashed them into each other to create the scene. The same strategy was used for the semi-trailer truck that flips on its head. All in all, the plan was executed brilliantly and viewer is left marveling at the world they created.

9. The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan was at it again in the final installment of his Batman trilogy. According to Nolan, one of his proudest moments was executing the opening scene, where Bane escapes from the CIA plane, mid-flight. It’s an exhilarating sequence, that – again – did not use CGI. The scene was filmed in Scotland, over the Cairngorm Mountains of the Scottish Highlands. It’s the highest mountain range in the UK and is described as incredibly cold, with incessant winds and an unforgiving climate. The CIA plane used in the film was a Lockheed C-130 Hercules, commissioned by the US military. It was a perfect fit for the stunt with a stall speed as low as 111 miles per hour. Nolan and his camera crew were able to follow the plane in a helicopter, recording the exterior action. The particulars are so difficult to describe in detail that when Nolan was asked about the stunt, he said “It was sort of an incredible coming together of lots and lots of planning by a lot of members of the team who worked for months rehearsing all these parachute jumps.”

The action inside the plane was much more straightforward. It was accomplished by building a simulator, where Nolan could rotate, shake and twist the fuselage, making the actors almost weightless inside the device. Put together, Nolan was able to add another jaw-dropping scene to his filmography.

8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

One of the most highly anticipated films in recent memory, Star Wars: The Force Awakens made sure to capitalize off the hype, introducing several real props, creatures, and locations. Probably the most notable prop was the droid BB-8. JJ Abrams and crew made sure they had a BB-8 for whatever sequence they were filming. They constructed a BB-8 that could show emotion when held be actors, a BB-8 that could be thrown around and stay upright, a BB-8 controlled by rod puppeteers, and even a fully functioning droid that could roll around like a possessed bowling ball.

Abrams and crew didn’t phone it in with CGI when they really probably could have, either. Don’t get us wrong; there’s obviously a ton of CGI in a movie featuring literal spaceship battles. But even small effects like Rey’s food materializing was real. A sequence that was on screen for seconds took more than 3 months to develop and execute. And while it may not seem worth it, the smallest things can take a viewer out of a world, and The Force Awakens did a great job of refusing to allow the audience to easily fall astray.

7. Apollo 13

One of the best films depicting NASA astronauts is Ron Howard’s Apollo 13. Starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton, the film depicts the aborted 1970 lunar mission, which became a mission of survival. Instead of using CGI, Howard wanted to create an atmosphere or experience that allowed viewers to truly appreciate the fear and unease that the astronauts experienced. Howard utilized NASA’s “Vomit Comet” KC-135 airplane, designed for one purpose: creating a zero-G environment on Earth.

In order to accomplish such a feat, the KC-135 does a series of parabolic arcs at very fast speeds; this results in a window of weightlessness for the passengers. According to reports, it took more than 600 arcs for Howard to get the take he liked. It’s now clear that he knew what he was doing: the movie was nominated for 9 Academy Awards and grossed more than $355 million worldwide.

6. Skyfall

Good filmmakers certainly know how to catch an audience’s attention. The opening scene from Skyfall is no different. Every kick and punch thrown in the scene is actually performed by Daniel Craig and his counterpart on top of a speeding train. The only thing keeping them from falling is a wire that’s as thin as one’s finger. Bond films are notorious for real stunts that push the boundaries.

In Spectre, the follow-up installment in the Bond franchise, filmmakers set a Guinness record for stunts in a single production. So next time you’re watching a Bond film, make sure you take a second to appreciate the risks that some of these men and women are taking for our entertainment.

5. Mad Max: Fury Road

This is one of the most unique examples on our list because of its utilization of both CGI and real stunts to make compelling scenes. In that iconic scene where Tom Hardy is dangling perilously close to the ground, that’s completely real. All that was keeping Hardy from being roadkill was a thin cable. The sequence in question was also filmed while Hardy’s son was on set, too. Director George Miller, when asked what would happen if the cable snapped, remarked, “He’d probably go under the wheels.” Good one, George. Miller is known for pushing the limits of ordinary film practices. He hired “Cirque du Soleil performers to rock around on Chinese acrobat poles while a camera rig weaved through them at up to 100 mph.”

If that wasn’t enough, the film’s production also saw the invention of a new way to flip a car: a “nitrogen-powered metallic blade” was designed to pop down on the car, forcing it to make those ridiculous flips in the movie. Not bad for the director of Happy Feet and Babe: Pig in the City. That’ll do, George. That’ll do.

4. Mission: Impossible (Pretty Much the Whole Film Franchise)

Tom Cruise is notorious for doing most of his own stunts in his films. Shooting the upcoming installment in the Mission: Impossible series, Cruise even broke his ankle trying to jump to an adjacent rooftop. This wasn’t the first time Cruise has put himself into harm’s way. In the original, he dangled from a ceiling; in the sequel he hung off the side of a cliff. In Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, he scaled the side of Burj Khalifa. And in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, he clung to a side of a flying plane.

Each of these stunts was performed by Cruise, without the use of stuntmen. Talk about courage (or lunacy… or maybe a little bit of both). In Rogue Nation, Cruise only had wires attached to his body as he gripped the side of a flying plane. We suppose that’s why they pay him the big bucks.

3. The Amazing Spider-Man

One of the unique bits of the Spider-Man reboot was director Marc Webb’s decision to make the web-slinging aspects of the film real. In past Spider-Man movies, the web-slinging was mostly all CGI and it became apparent in scenes that took many viewers out of the movie. Instead, The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel relied mostly on stuntmen and Andrew Garfield himself, who was willing to participate in the action. Stunt coordinator Andy Armstrong described in an interview the difficult process of executing such a stunt. Through his research, he found that the difficulty in the execution was based, in part, on the past versions of Spider-Man depicting his downward swing as the same as his upward motion.

Armstrong and his team constructed “a track being pulled by a high-speed winch to help emulate Spidey’s web-swinging ways.” He’d go on to describe it as cracking a whip. A stuntman would “drop into the bottom of the pendulum, and as he reached the bottom of his arc, someone driving the winch would pull a dolly along to the next spot.” With a little digital effects to boot, The Amazing Spider-Man films created a whole new way of looking at one of our favorite superheroes.

2. The Matrix Reloaded

Don’t jump down our throats. We know The Matrix Reloaded relied on a heavy amount of CGI. However, it’d surprise most readers to know how many of the action sequences actually relied upon real stunts. One of the most memorable sequences in the entire trilogy, the Agents chasing Morpheus and Trinity on the highway, was no exception.

Although the Agent seen jumping from the hood of a vehicle was added later in post production, the chain reaction of car crashes and the actual implosion of the car was real. The Wachowskis managed to oversee the use of special rigs, cannons, and ramps to create the massively destructive sequence. The filmmakers choice to use real stunts and props is one of the major reasons The Matrix series has, for the most part, continued to stand the test of time.

1. Inception

Hey, we couldn’t end our list without another Christopher Nolan movie. The uncompromising auteur has managed to consistently create stunning visual sequences without relying on CGI. Probably the most memorable scene in Inception was Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page’s characters conversation at a coffee shop in Paris. Suddenly, an explosion sends debris, and broken glass into the air. All the while, DiCaprio and Page remain in the center of the storm.

The sequence was executed by production designer Chris Corbould, shooting a series of air cannons while director of photography Wally Pfister shot at 1,500 frames per second. It made for one of the most memorable parts of the movie, introducing the audience to the idea of Inception. Not to be outdone, later in the film there’s a fight scene featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a hotel room and hallway, in which the room continues to rotate, allowing the combatants to run up the walls and on the ceiling. As you’ve no doubt guessed by now, particularly if you watched the video up above, that was all done entirely with practical sets and stunts.


Computer Generated Imagery… Not! –

WIF Gadgets

Every Problem May be a Punny One (#21)

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Just My Type

 

 

Dalai Lama XIV

“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”
Dalai Lama XIV

 

“Every problem is a gift – without problems we would not grow.”
Anthony Robbins

Anthony Robbins

 “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

Robert Frost

“The best way out is always through.”
Robert Frost

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Not being able to iron out all of his problems made the dry cleaner very depressed.
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After his computer problems he decided on a Crash course in security.
 

 1) To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

2) If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.

3) Give a young boy a hammer, and he will treat everything as a nail.

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Every Problem May be a

pun-catalog-001

Punny One (#21)