THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 172

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 172

…“I am relieved about Gus!.” Francine is all too aware that Gus is the one suffering most by the loss of his parents…

Suffering by Paula Heffel

“I am not going to waste our time together squabbling over that necktie.” Their 17 month marriage remains solid, as most do, in spite of the ongoing McKinney heartbreak, career shifts, and the blinding glare of the national spotlight. Like those ships in the night, passing near not seeing, “We can’t waste this time.”

Space Academy

“Speaking of not seeing someone, how did Deke & Gus do on their Academy exams?” Co-surrogate father Roy would give anything short giving up on the election to be there to help the boys with the critical Space Academy simulator tests; the single biggest factor in becoming an astronaut candidate. Braden King is a ground expert, but has little to offer the two rapidly maturing space-aspiring young men.

The adults’ combined mission is to help them attain those desired goals.

“Gus barely got by the book test, then A-ced the simulator.” she tells Roy. “Deke lost his gyro-control, hit an asteroid and he will never live it down. It turns out that the professor rigged his test by inserting THE QUARKIAN QUANDARY, I believe he called it.”

NASA Top Gun

NASA“They only pull that on the Top Guns. I bet Deke had already been promoted.”

“I am relieved about Gus!.” Francine is all too aware that Gus is the one suffering most by the loss of his parents.

“The way I see it Francine, Gus knows that his flying skills are the only way he graduates from the Academy; it’s hard to keep up with his genius brother.”

“Whatever the reason,” she concludes as their Ford Hydrogen vehicle pulls up to the Hilton Hotel & Casino, “I think that Celeste would be pleased as punch and Sammy Mac is screaming at the top of his lungs … somewhere out there.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 172


page 163

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 166

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 166

…“Mission Control, there is a problem…

“This is Rescue Mission 2A-1B, the New Mayflower approaching Mars orbit, range 225,200 miles and closing.”

To say that this April day has been anxiously anticipated is a colossal underestimation. Few like comparisons can be made, with the almost three month build up to this historic moment.

“We have been attempting to make contact, but Tycho is giving us an away message. Image result for emotional rollercoaster gifThe signal is strong and there is no sign of distress. She’s a good sight for sure!”

Roy Crippen, Braden King, and the entire GLF staff are poised to witness a watershed moment in the agonizing saga of Space Colony 1. The minimum expectations of the rescue mission involve flattening the emotional roller coaster that has been this colossal project, one that has dominated the past two years in everyone’s’ life.

High-highs followed by the lowest of lows are not a healthy prescription for the faint of heart. Braden can attest to how mounting mental pressures can manifest itself into the physical.

And hope is the most powerful drug at our disposal and you do not need a medical doctor to prescribe it. Suppressing it today would require a cold wet towel or a badass, who-cares attitude. To have gotten the mission organized and off the ground, overcoming relentless interference from determined enemies, and reach this point is a testament to the audacity of hope.

“Take it down to 200 miles and make two orbits at 0º degrees latitude. When you have a good fix on Tycho, use the Plain of Xanthe as a landing strip, just like we did out at White Sands {Missile Range N.M. simulator).”

“We still have not established voice or visual Roy.”

“Let’s not borrow trouble now Rick. Take her down on the smoothest 200 yards you can find.”

This newest incarnation of the Mayflower circles Mars at its equator twice, the first orbit locates Tycho; the second has trouble locating anything that resembles smooth. An area to the left of the lander has the appearance of a recent Xanthe neighborhood to-do.

“Mission Control, there is a problem…..”


THE RETURN TRIP

Emotional Rollercoaster – fightingwithstrength.com

Episode 166


page 157

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 159

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 159

…A weak field of contenders leaves the door wide-open for a simple astronaut with the honest face, gorgeous wife, and a perfectly vetted past…

Good Horses and Wide Open Spaces by Tim Cox

It is mid-2030, the time for Presidential contenders to step forward and declare their intentions for 2032.

In some cases, as with Roy Crippen, you may be touted as a frontrunner, never having expressed public interest in the nation’s highest office. He is as popular a man there is around the country, even more so in Texas and with Southerners in general. It is a well-known fact that he is not content merely fronting the heroic rescue effort in an otherwise failed NASA project.

And as much as he is going to see the McKinneys back into Earth’s embrace, he is surprised that he cannot ignore the ovations of the Republican National Committee. A weak field of contenders, many of whom are dodging the label of “hawk” or falling all over themselves to appeal to the “Minority Majority”, leaves the door wide-open for a simple astronaut with the honest face, gorgeous wife, and a perfectly vetted past.

He does not take that bold step into the political arena lightly, with the bitter taste of Space Colony 1 on everyone’s palate and the stench of a potential nuclear war wafting over continents and oceans.

One has to wonder what the American public would think, if it came about that Sampson and Celeste McKinney were stranded on Mars, instead of being rescued. Who then takes the blame, the evil empires or Roy Crippen?


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 159


page 150

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 149

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 149

…any time Strategic Air Command’s name is invoked, it does not mean that the USA is merely recalling their embassy personnel…

“The country would not stand for news of the McKinney deaths… they adore that couple,” President Sanchez makes a politically generic statement.

“This should have nothing to do with Time Magazine Online “Most Influential People” issue and everything to do with putting reprobate rulers in their place.” Roy moves to move the President of the United States of America into action. The man is stuck on how this latest development makes his administration look, instead of recognizing the threat to the welfare of the planet itself.

“Chances are Pete,” using his first name for effect, “that armchair diplomacy or economic sanctions will not work here.”

Sanchez should ask himself why, in retrospect, that the very same type of jealous admiration exhibited by Korea, were one and the same as his quest for the United States Senate, lo those many years ago. As a younger, more idealistic politician, Sanchez had practiced a suspicious mudslinging campaign against the incumbent Senator, in the primary election that year. And though Sanchez did not get the nomination and the other party ultimately won the general election, it ruined the man’s reputation unnecessarily.

It is a lesson for those who are lame ducks or out of favor; there may be someone or some country lurking, ready to ruin his legacy or bring down the entire nation he is ultimately responsible for.

“I guess we need to flex our muscles.”

“And forget about that gratuitous speech you are about to deliver,” Roy whispers under his breath. “And you know that we at NASA and SAC will be vigilant, Sir.”

No sooner than the phone goes dead, Roy wonders if the President meant yet another dreaded commodity embargo or economic isolation; neither of which work against those determined to make, in this case, outer space mischief.

Francine is privy to one side of the conversation, but any time Strategic Air Command’s name is invoked, it does not mean that the USA is merely recalling their embassy personnel. She is aware that stakes of the game have changed and she will have a front row seat to it all.

It is getting late at Lovell and making the trip home to Houston less desirable than usual, but in these times of fear and doubt, where better to spend the night but at King Ranch, “I’ll give Braden a heads up about an incoming Canadian-made helicopter with a Russian sounding name (Sikorsky) and two tired NASA people aboard,” she states.

Home is where the heart is; a tired old phrase with new meaning for Francine and Roy. Their days of freewheeling solitude are coming to an end; work like a dog, return to an empty apartment, check all social outlets, make sure the world hasn’t gone mad, grab a quick bite and do it all over again tomorrow.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 149


page 141

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 140

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 140

CHAPTER SEVEN

Pick a Pew

AL, the computer generated intelligence  continues to develop a personality, like that crazy uncle who gets passed on from one generation of system to the next

Personality by Portus Ojomo

The tactical changes to New Mayflower have been craftily made by the three-man crew, as prescribed by Aldona Afridi, the newly branded NASA SOL Engineer. With that task complete, implementation is being robotically transmitted back to Earth by AL. The computer generated intelligence not only does his programmed functions, but continues to develop a personality, like that crazy uncle who gets passed on from one generation of system to the next. In this case it is from deep-space Chronicle and Space Colony 1 to deep-space New Mayflower, with this continuing incarnation furthering the tradition of doing things that were not programmed.

“Thank you for sending that circuit update to Mission Control, AL, although I was going to call it in myself,” Rick Stanley speaks into thin air and magically communicates with the computer.

“YOU WERE BUSY PREPARING FOR HYPER-SLEEP COMMANDER RICK. I AM PROGRAMMED TO ASSIST YOU TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY.”

The 2nd in command calls to question, When did AL start calling you by your first name?

“He did call me Commander and maybe he calls his programmer papa.”

“WE CAN HEAR YOU TALKING ABOUT US.”

“And now it’s “we” instead of I.”

“We air breathers will be seeing the inside of our eyelids in 15 minutes, forget about AL for now.”

“GOODNIGHT GUYS.” —

— Ten million miles go by, accompanied by the “curse” that sleep brings, the garbage can of the human mind called dreams. Some people don’t remember them, while others not only remember them, but in living color to boot. Advanced dreamers can wake up, remember their colorful dream, fall back asleep and pick the storyline where they left off. Still others have recurring nightmares and purposely stay awake, as to wipe their semiconscious slate clean.

Hyper-sleep has been likened to suspended animation, born out of necessity, the need to pass the time on these “short” interplanetary trips, unlike those intra-galactical excursions of the NEWFOUNDLIANS, as long as Earth-space- travelers are bound to the nagging-ly slow sub-light speeds.

Hyperactive is the best way to describe AL, no need for the male-slanted voice of the shuttle fleet main computer system to slumber. AL was intended to be totally interactive, mildly intuitive, and always at the ready. “His” recent First Person reference of “we” is a leap ahead from “I”, implying that his singular function is morphing into one of feeling like he is part of the team.

“Feeling” is the operative term here. Somewhere along the way, perhaps an evolutionary step brought on by the demise of his “brother” aboard the Chronicle, AL must have decided that independent action is necessary for self-preservation.

10 million miles is the equivalent of 2 weeks of space real estate covered and “they” must be ever vigilant.


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 140


page 132

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 136

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 136

…Someday maybe we’ll find other intelligent life out here, but for now we have exactly two living reasons for hauling butt out to Mars…

“We have lost that echo Cmdr. Stanley. That bogie did not change course with us,” assures the 2nd in command, hurtling toward Mars.

“There is no way it could keep up, but we still have to make the changes that Roy sent over. This stuff is genius as long as you want to turn the New Mayflower into a Romulan Warbird and this ECM {electronic counter measure} stuff is right out of Starfleet Command.”

“I didn’t know you were a Trekkie Rick?”

“We all are, whether we watched the show or movies or not. Fortunately or unfortunately there is no such thing as THE UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS to defend. The planet Earth seems to be on its own in the Universe.”

“So it would seem.”

Someday maybe we’ll find other intelligent life out here, but for now we have exactly two living reasons for hauling ass out to Mars!”

Having two days crammed into one, while spanning the Caribbean basin and Gulf of the Americas from all points of the compass, Roy takes off from Elgin AFB by his lonely old self. He has burned 3000 gallons of high octane turbojet fuel chasing righteousness, freedom, and dreams, not necessarily in that order.

When yesterday turns into tomorrow and he has done everything possible to secure his sphere of influence, it is time to go home. Just what defines home is up for interpretation. He has already left his Panhandle pad behind him and really has no interest in his Houston high-rise at this point, so no better excuse can there be for making a beeline for King Ranch.

This once solitary man, bothered not with factoring romantic emotion in any matter of his life, now must face the female element head on. Not only has he just spent significant time with Francine, he has entrusted the children {of indisposed friends} with her and on top of that, offered that same woman a job.

Below is classic 1-2-3/a-b-c formula for his private life in reverse {with a twist}:

3. Elucidate his concept of Francine employment

        c) To her and NASA.

2. Clarify the status of the McKinney boys care

        b) As neither he or Braden can do it right now.

1. Describe his feelings for her

        a) When he doesn’t fully understand it.

0. Pray that she feels the same about him

        Ÿ) Now that he has left himself open for a huge fall.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 136


page 128

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 132

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 132

…“Russia is like a rotten cousin; you have to invite them to family gatherings, but you serve them cheap beer instead of fine wine…

“I have fashioned a schematic for you to forward to the crew of the New Mayflower, if it’s not too late. They must construct a circuit in that vehicle with an anti-laser deflection field. I can be fairly positive that Sang-Ashi’s path may be on an intersecting course.”

“They have had a small shadow following them ever since they got a million miles past the moon. Do you have any idea what that could be? Does Sang-Ashi have a twin?” asks Roy Crippen.

“I know that the Russians were ready to launch their own probe, Uralsk I think it’s called, but I only know this because of a launch conflict with an astronaut exchange to the old International Space Station.” ISS is still in orbit, though its usefulness has long since been relegated to space lab experiments. “They claim that it is headed for Uranus, but if that was the case, they’ve missed their mark by 10 million miles, like they were aiming for the elliptical, but used parabolic calculations.”

“Can they be that bad? They are truly like the Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”

“They will claim to have had Mars in mind the whole time, who would know the difference. And I don’t think any harm can come from a country whose Soyuz continued to be the workhorse of the ISS, ever since the United States stopped the shuttle program and until privatization came along. Regardless, my system must be implemented.”

Russia is like a bastard cousin; you have to invite them to family gatherings, but you serve them cheap beer instead of fine wine.” United States’ relations with the Great Sleeping Bear has been as chilly as the original Cold War, but has warmed since they put Putin in the ground in 2028.

“Okay Aldona, I will forward this plan to Rick Stanley, before they go into hyper-sleep.” Roy Crippen trusts this man’s insider instincts, even though the verdict is still officially out on the fate of SC1. “As for you, my friend, I am getting you an office at Lovell and your family will be set up here at Elgin—you are officially onSOL-logo the payroll, with an eye on placing you in the SOL Project.”

“Do you mean speed of light?”

“Can you dig it Mr. Afridi?” Roy is retro-hip.

“Working for NASA seemed like a foolish dream to me and now it has come true!”

“We can use your expertise and any tidbits about the Korean factor.” — hipster Roy.


THE RETURN TRIP

Robert McCall, NASA Artist (1919-2010)

Episode 132


page 124

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 124

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 124

you have seen what these people are capable of, so do not underestimate their reach or cunning

Cunning by Skia on DeviantArt.com

“In opening, my only question for you is, did you recognize the man who shot you?” asks the Man in Black

That is a stupid question from someone who should already know the answer, considering that the hail of bullets sailed through the closed door of the lavatory, while the victim was seated on the stainless steel pedestal.

“No I do not.”

Related image“Was there anyone on your flight who looked familiar to you, suspicious or otherwise?”

“I did recognize that pop singer my daughters are so crazy for, the one that has all those tattoos…”

When a bad-guy can board an international flight with a weapon and a covert agency of the USA cannot identify him, it is an insecure feeling.

It is obvious that neither Afridi nor his family can be of any help, at least for the Man in Black. He motions to the other non-family interested party, who has her own set of questions.

“My name is Sandi Gilbert, a close associate of Roy Crippen, here at Lovell and at Galveston and we would like for you to tell us about the revelation you flew all this way to share.”

Lieutenant II Gilbert has been leading the Incident Audit Team {Space Colony 1.20.2030} from the beginning and the older sister of KHST’s NASA Expert Randi Gilbert. All the evidence supporting the accidental destruction of the Mars orbiting Colony has been peeling away, one pungent layer at a time. Unlike the Space Shuttle Challenger that exploded on a frosty Florida morning in 1986 or Shuttle Columbia’s re-entry miscalculation in 2003, both of which happened with wide-eyed witnesses in Earth’s atmosphere Space Colony 1 disappeared into the abyss of space, without Earthly observation. NASA has been out of the disaster business since the funding drought began in 2009 and the Mars mission inception a decade ago.

Aldona Afridi is shell-shocked, both literally and figuratively. What an odd path:

  • He had successfully defected from his Far East homeland, at great risk to life and limb
  • Navigated The Orient Express all the way to its Istanbul railhead
  • Made few friends and many enemies along the way
  • Tried and did to warn NASA about a space probe with bad intent
  • Got a ride out of the Near East for him and his family, for safe asylum in the United States only to be shot to pieces while using a Turkish Airlines toilet

Not a bad month’s work for someone who isn’t employed by anyone in particular.

“You may want to check the flight path of Sang-Ashi. It was never intended to continue on out of the solar system. I believe it used Mars gravity to slingshot itself back in the direction of Earth.”

“I’m still not sure what that has to do with NASA or you ignoring a global manhunt to speak to someone,” Lt. Gilbert is trying to blend compassion with curiosity.

“You have a rescue mission underway, do you not?”

“The New Mayflower is on its way; yes that is no secret?”

The New Mayflower

The New Mayflower

NASA

“You would be well advised to compare the flight paths of your Mayflower and the Sang-Ashi probe.”

“NASA can do that Mr. Afridi, especially since a security breach was uncovered in the Mission protocols.”

“Then you have seen what these people are capable of. Do not underestimate their reach or cunning.”

“I will pass on your concerns.” Sandi Gilbert removes her flight cap to add, “Please excuse me for saying so, but whoever “they” are, have been dogging your ass ever since you left Talibanistan.”

“Thank you for noticing… now can I see my family?”

— Some lessons can only be learned the hard way and for NASA, a non-warring agency of peaceful exploration, it is difficult to shift mental philosophies mid-mission.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 124


pages 118 + 119

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 95

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 95

…Subscribing to the “strength in numbers” axiom, the guest list has been expanded to include a variety of acquaintances, from the past, present and those not met

edgar-wallace-entertains-a-few-of-his-acquaintances

by HENRY MAYO BATEMAN

These past 2 action-packed days, from the point when the McKinneys attached the deep-space Chronicle to Space Colony, then go and pile on the current theatrics, will distort a person’s concept of the passage of time. Plus or minus 48 hours have drawn 2 days out to what seems to be a week, weaving and knitting every second into a patchwork quilt…

By the grace of God, the succeeding identical period of 48 hrs. streaks by and King Ranch logobefore you know it Wednesday 9 January 2030 A.D. has arrived. For visitors to Braden’s King Ranch, they are treated to the atmosphere of 19th Century American Old West, the date and place chosen to celebrate the combined birth of Deke McKinney, born 6 January 2015 and Gus McKinney born 11 January 2016.

The event was conceived out of love by the ranch’s owner to ease the pain of separation, for both children and parents alike. If everything had gone “according to space-birthday-001Hoyle”, Sampson & Celeste would have been back aboard the Colony and through the miracle of accelerated space communication, they would have been linked to the party by voice and by sight.

Regrettably, Mom & Dad are otherwise occupied.

barbecue_pin_up

Gus’ BBQ Fantasy Guest

Subscribing to the “strength in numbers” axiom, the guest list has been expanded to include a variety of acquaintances, from the past, present and those not met. Friends, relatives, well-wishers and those pesky party crashers have gathered at King Ranch. The menagerie gathers around BBQ hour, which could be any random time of day, and has a few surprise guests; Grandma Savta Bergestrom from Sweden (the country) and Aunt Sassy McKinney, Sampson’s crazy Scottish/Irish sister from Great(er) Britain.

The turnout of GLF and LSC personnel is impressive, with the boys having grown up in front of their eyes as they tagged along with Mom & Dad over the years. Admirals and Generals have reason to be jealous of this Who’s Who crowd. There are two late arrivers to the festivities: ??? + ???


THE RETURN TRIP

snows-bbq-jon-flaming

by Jon Flaming

Episode 95


page 90

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