Saturday, April 18, 2009

Farewell Aquarius, and we thank you

April 17, 1970 saw the crew of Apollo 13 return to Earth after their harrowing journey.

This photo commemorates one of the heroes of Apollo 13, the Lunar Module Aquarius, which helped to bring the crew home safely. Aquarius provided shelter, oxygen, and water, which kept the crew alive, and an engine, which brought the crew home.

The inscriptions on this photo tell a little of Apollo 13's story. First, Jack Lousma, who was the CAPCOM at the time of the accident, communicated to the crew that the Command Module wouldn't be able to keep them alive, saying, "We're starting to think about the LM lifeboat." In the lower right corner, Joe Kerwin, who was CAPCOM at the end of the Apollo 13 voyage, has written what he spoke just after Aquarius was jettisoned and before the Command Module re-entered: "Farewell, Aquarius, and we thank you!"

Two of the crew members, Jim Lovell and Fred Haise, would have flown Aquarius to the lunar surface, also inscribed this photo. Lovell has written on this photo, "LM Aquarius, jettisoned 11:43 am EST, 4/17/1970 - She was a good ship!" and Fred Haise added, "Our lifeboat!"

Aquarius was a space vehicle that was pressed into service to do things it was never intended to do - keep 3 crew members alive for 4 days - and did them remarkably well.

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