This Manual Saved the Power to Keep Apollo 13 Alive

Illustration for article titled This Manual Saved the Power to Keep Apollo 13 Alive

On April 13, 1970—321,860 kilometers into its Moon trip—an oxygen tank exploded in the Odyssey's Service Module. James Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise had a really big problem. These pages saved their lives.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled This Manual Saved the Power to Keep Apollo 13 Alive

These pages described how to power down the electric systems in the spacecraft, to save energy that was going to be needed during the final approach to Earth. After oxygen tank number two exploded and oxygen tank got damaged, they lost their ability to produce electricity using the service module fuel cells. which combined that oxygen and hydrogen to generate power.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled This Manual Saved the Power to Keep Apollo 13 Alive

It worked. The crew was able to power up their ship again with the limited power stored in Odyssey's batteries, and despite the fact that water condensation was everywhere after they turned the heaters off as part of their power saving measures. In April 17, 1970—18:07:41 UTC—the Apollo 13 crew splashed safely in the Pacific Ocean.

The pages—with notes from Lovell—will be up for auction April 13 at Bonhams in New York. [Bonhams and Wikipedia]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

gordon-mcalpin-old
Gordon McAlpin

This reminded me of another problem Apollo 13 face, which I (like most people my age) found out about from the movie.

The (true) scene where NASA's brains had to figure out a way to prevent the astronauts from (probably) dying from CO2 inhalation gets me worked up every time.

[www.youtube.com]

(For some extra background: [history.nasa.gov] )

What I love about that scene — and these manual pages — is that it makes it so clear that the astronauts aren't the only heroes in the space program; it's all of the scientists who get the astronauts up there in the first place.