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Apollo 13 "Houston, we're got a problem."

Page 13

The Ill-Fated Space Odyssey of Apollo 13.

copyright Time Inc. 1970


On the ground. possible future maneuvers were tried out in flight simulations at Houston and Kennedy Space Center by their fellow astronauts: disappointed Ken Mattingly, Apollo 14 Commander Al Shepard, LM Pilot Ed Mitchell, CM Pilot Stu Roosa, Apollo 12's CM Pilot Dick Gordon, Gene Cernan of Apollo 10, Dave Scott of Apollo 9, John Young, Vance Brand, Ron Evans and Joe Engle.

Maneuvers that still remained to be executed were simulated in complete detail. The big burn to get the quicker return and splashdown in the Pacific was simulated: placing the simulated spacecraft in the correct attitude, firing the Aquarius DPS engine, and checking the results by computer. Similarly, the astronauts went through the simulated maneuvers of dropping the Lunar Module, dropping the Service Module and putting the Command Module into the correct attitude for reentry into the atmosphere for safe landing.

Engineers in Downey, Calif., where Odyssey was built, ran emergency problems through computers. A team of 30 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the Apollo guidance system was designed, worked through the night. Ten phone lines were kept open between Mission Control and a room staffed with 70 LM experts at the manufacturer's plant in Bethpage, Long Island.

President Nixon cancelled appointments and kept in touch. He was briefed by former astronauts Mike Collins of Apollo 11 and Bill Anders of Apollo 8.

He phoned Lovell's and Haise's wives in Houston and Swigert's parents in Denver. He drove out to the Goddard Space Flight Center, in Maryland, primary switching center for NASA's worldwide tracking and communications network.

As the men in Apollo 13 experienced what no men had undergone before, millions followed the developing drama by radio and television in public squares, private homes, schools, offices and factories. Pope Paul, at an audience in St. Peter's Basilica for 10,000 Romans and tourists, said "We cannot forget at this moment the lot of the astronauts of Apollo 13. We hope that at least their lives can be saved." Prolonged applause followed. Prayers were said at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall and on the floor of Chicago's Board of Trade.

On Tuesday, April 14, the U.S. Senate adopted a resolution which urged all businesses and communications media to pause at 9 p.m., their local time, to "permit persons to join in prayer for the safety of the astronauts."

Offers of assistance with ships to aid in the recovery came from many nations. The Associated Press quoted the Russian news agency Tass as saying that four Soviet ships were steaming toward the splashdown area, one of them the Chumikan, a missile tracker equipped with a helicopter. Tass said the Chumikan and fishing trawler No. 8452 were ordered to join the cargo carriers Academician Rykachev and Novopolotsk converging on the Pacific target area.

Premier Aleksei N. Kosygin sent a message saying: "I want to inform you (U.S. Government) the Soviet Government has given orders to all citizens and members of the armed forces to use all necessary means to render assistance in the rescue of the American (Apollo 13) astronauts."


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