Friday, May 21, 2010

Memoirs: Houston We Have a Problem

We all know the story of Apollo 13 right? We've all seen the movie. An oxygen tank explodes while Apollo 13 was enroute to the Moon, the Lunar  Module was used to keep the astronauts alive, and all three made it back to Earth safely. A shining moment of human ingenuity and survival in the face of extreme adversity. Simple right?

Well not so simple. Why did the tank blow up? Why wasn't the tank declared faulty ahead of time? Exactly what was done to allow the astronauts to get back to Earth successfully?

Last year a video made the rounds. James Lovell and Fred Haise talked about the mission of Apollo 13 and what happened before Apollo 13 during an event at the Kennedy Space Center. The video helps explain what happened and why. Unless you are a die hard space junkie I guarantee you'll learn something from listening to James Lovell speak.

Even more startling is that when you dig into it the oxygen tank was only one of the problems Apollo 13 had. The mission may not have even made it to orbit thanks to an unresolved problem in the second stage rocket engines. Don't believe me... then check out a 13 part series 13 Things that Saved Apollo 13.

I used to dream of going into space. Now... I'm not so sure. Whether by rocket or one of the new suborbital space planes... I have my doubts. Considering the harshness of the vacuum of space and the tiny little crafts designed to keep me alive if I travelled there... I don't think I could avoid remembering a quote from John Glenn's speech when he retired as a US Senator:
I guess the question I'm asked the most often is: "When you were sitting in that capsule listening to the count-down, how did you feel?" Well, the answer to that one is easy. I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of two million parts -- all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract.

1 comment:

Janet said...

not to switch topics on you or anything... but it's been bugging me lately that everything seems to be the result of the lowest bidder. I like to save money, but everything just seems to be crap... and that's not even taking into account ethical issues.