Apollo Expeditions to the Moon|
TIRED, HUNGRY, WET, COLD, DEHYDRATED
The trip was marked by discomfort beyond the lack of food
and water. Sleep was almost impossible because of the cold. When
we turned off the electrical systems, we lost our source of heat,
and the Sun streaming in the windows didn't much help. We were as
cold as frogs in a frozen pool, especially Jack Swigert, who got
his feet wet and didn't have lunar overshoes. It wasn't simply
that the temperature dropped to 38 F: the sight of perspiring
walls and wet windows made it seem even colder. We considered
putting on our spacesuits, but they would have been bulky and too
sweaty. Our teflon-coated inflight coveralls were cold to the
touch, and how we longed for some good old thermal underwear.
A beautiful sight! Two flight controllers at the
Mission Control Center watch the parachute deployment as Odyssey
floats down toward a gentle landing in the Pacific near
American Samoa. Splashdown, at 1:07 p.m. EST, brought
down the curtain on the most harried and critical
emergency of the entire manned space program.
The charred command module splashed down less
than four miles from the recovery ship USS Iwo Jima. Three
very tired, hungry, cold, dehydrated astronauts
await a ride up into the recovery helicopter.
They were aboard the recovery ship less than
one hour after touching down in the Pacific.
The ground, anxious not to disturb our homeward trajectory,
told us not to dump any waste material overboard. What to do with
urine taxed our ingenuity. There were three bags in the command
module; we found six little ones in the LM, then we connected a
PLSS condensate tank to a long hoses and finally we used two
large bags designed to drain remaining water out of the PLSS's
after the first lunar EVA. I'm glad we got home when we did,
because we were just about out of ideas for stowage.
A most remarkable achievement of Mission Control was quickly
developing procedures for powering up the CM after its long cold
sleep. They wrote the documents for this innovation in three
days, instead of the usual three months. We found the CM a cold,
clammy tin can when we started to power up. The walls, ceiling,
floor, wire harnesses, and panels were all covered with droplets
of water. We suspected conditions were the same behind the
panels. The chances of short circuits caused us apprehension, to
say the least. But thanks to the safeguards built into the
command module after the disastrous fire in January 1967, no
arcing took place. The droplets furnished one sensation as we
decelerated in the atmosphere: it rained inside the CM.
Four hours before landing, we shed the service module;
Mission Control had insisted on retaining it until then because
everyone feared what the cold of space might do to the
unsheltered CM heat shield. I'm glad we weren't able to see the
SM earlier. With one whole panel missing, and wreckage hanging
out, it was a sorry mess as it drifted away.
Haise, Lovell, and Swigert step off the recovery helicopter
to the Iwo Jima in the South Seas. The crew lost a total
of 31.5 pounds; Lovell alone 14 pounds - records in both cases.
Dehydroted and exhausted, Haise was invalided
three weeks by infection.
In Honolulu Lovell is joyously united with wife
Marilyn after she and Mary Haise and bachelor
Swigert's parents had flown from Houston
with President Nixon. During the Apollo 8 mission
sixteen months earlier, Lovell had
nicknamed a crater on Moon "Mount Marilyn".
Fred and Mary Haise draped with Hawaiian leis.
A physician had accompanied pregnant Mary Haise to Honolulu
in the event Air Force One should have its first
airborne birth. However, the Haise's fourth
child Thomas did not arrive until ten weeks later.
"We didn't realize the complete magnitude of this flight",
said Lovell, "until we got back home and started reading
about it." Christian Science Monitor said: "Never in recorded
history has a journey of such peril been watched and
waited-out by almost the entire human race."
Three hours later we parted with faithful Aquarius, rather
rudely, because we blasted it loose with pressure in the tunnel
in order to make sure it completely cleared. Then we splashed
down gently in the Pacific Ocean near Samoa, a beautiful landing
in a blue-ink ocean on a lovely, lovely planet.
Nobody believes me, but during this six-day odyssey we had
no idea what an impression Apollo 13 made on the people of Earth.
We never dreamed a billion people were following us on television
and radio, and reading about us in banner headlines of every
newspaper published. We still missed the point on board the
carrier Iwo Jima, which picked us up, because the sailors had
been as remote from the media as we were. Only when we reached
Honolulu did we comprehend our impact: there we found President
Nixon and Dr. Paine to meet us, along with my wife Marilyn,
Fred's wife Mary (who being pregnant, also had a doctor along
just in case), and bachelor Jack's parents, in lieu of his usual
In Houston the 37th President pays tribute to the men
who performed miracles in Mission Control to save Apollo
13. To President's right are NASA Administrator
Thomas Paine and Mrs. Nixon. To his left: Flight directors
Eugene Kranz, Gerald Griffin, Milton Windler (the fourth,
Glynn Lunney, is behind lectern), then Chief Astronaut
Donald K. Slayton, James A. Lovell III (in uniform),
and Sigurd Sjoberg, Director of Flight Operations, who in
behalf of "the ground" received the Nation's highest award,
Medal of Freedom.
In case you are wondering about the cause of it all, I refer
you to the report of the Apollo 13 Review Board, issued after an
intensive investigation. In 1965 the CM had undergone many
improvements, which included raising the permissible voltage to
the heaters in the oxygen tanks from 28 to 65 volts DC.
Unfortunately, the thermostatic switches on these heaters weren't
modified to suit the change. During one final test on the launch
pad, the heaters were on for a long period of time. "This
subjected the wiring in the vicinity of the heaters to very high
temperatures (1000 F), which have been subsequently shown to
severely degrade teflon insulation . . . the thermostatic
switches started to open while powered by 65 volts DC and were
probably welded shut." Furthermore, other warning signs during
testing went unheeded and the tank, damaged from 8 hours
overheating, was a potential bomb the next time it was filled
with oxygen. That bomb exploded on April 13, 1970 - 200,000 miles
A collective sigh of relief rose from the millions
following the drama of Apollo 13 when the Odyssey splashed
down. The CM-shaped bandage on this eagle cleverly depicts
the flight home. "Only in a formal sense will Apollo
13 go into history as a failure", editorialized
The New York Times.