Friday, April 10, 2009

Launching Apollo 13

On April 11, 1970, the US launched what may be (in our day) the Apollo mission that more people have heard about than any others - Apollo 13. Thanks to Ron Howard's film, the words, "Houston, we have a problem" - even though a misquote of Jim Lovell - are just about as famous as Neil Armstrong's words on his first step onto the Moon.

Apollo 13 lifted off from Pad 39A at 13:13 Houston time. The ascent into orbit was far from ordinary. As the second stage pushed the craft toward orbit, violent "pogo" oscillations caused the center engine to cut out 2 minutes early. Had the engine not cut out, the entire vehicle might have been torn apart by vibrations that reached 68 times the force of gravity. The other four engines burned longer to compensate for the loss of thrust, and Apollo 13 eventually achieved a normal orbit.

The crew felt that this brush with danger was their major glitch for the flight. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and thought that things would go smoothly for Apollo 13 from there on out.

The first badge on this post was an access pass for official guests to view the launch. The other two badges gave access to the Firing Room, the headquarters at Kennedy Space Center which is responsible for overseeing the launch of a vehicle. Once the vehicle has "cleared the tower," responsibility for the mission is passed on to Mission Control in Houston.

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