|Space Travel 101: Fundamentals of Space Travel|
This American mission was to gather information and pictures from the moon. There were several problems that resulted in a dangerous explosion. However, the crew managed to safely return to Earth.
Apollo 13, launched April 11, 1970 , was an American mission that was to be the third manned mission to land on the surface of the Moon. John Swigert Jr. was the pilot of Odyssey, the command module. Commander James Lovell, Jr. and lunar module pilot Fred Haise, Jr. accompanied him. As they journeyed to the moon, several overlooked problems resulted in a catastrophe. Faulty equipment led to an explosion that took out both oxygen tanks. This resulted in heavy damage to other systems, and they had to abort the mission. Fortunately, the crew members escaped on the lunar module to safety.
The faulty oxygen tank used in Apollo 13 had been one that was removed from Apollo 10 during its modification. While the tank was being removed from Apollo 10, it was dropped a short distance of two inches. This unknowingly jarred an internal fill line.
Another problem was that although all oxygen tanks and components were converted from running off of the 28 volt DC power to using the 65 volt DC ground power at the Kennedy Space Center , the heater thermostatic switches were overlooked. When the tank temperature reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit, these switches are supposed to open and turn off the heater.
During pre-flight testing, probably as a result of the damaged fill line, the faulty oxygen tank did not empty properly. The heat in the tank was increased to produce pressure to keep the oxygen flowing. However, a constant heat could not be maintained, because the electricity used to generate this heat was more powerful than the switches (that had not been converted) could handle, damaging the switches. The temperature soared to over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. This, too, went undetected, because the thermometer only indicated temperatures up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The oxygen tank was soon empty. However, the insulation on the wires of the fans in the tank had been severely damaged.During the mission, when it was time to stir the oxygen inside the tank, the exposed wires shorted and the damaged insulation caught fire. In this pure oxygen environment, fire spread rapidly, and the entire tank blew up. As a result, the other oxygen tank exploded, as well as parts of the service module and a bay cover.
Without oxygen, the command module could not be used, and the crew escaped to the lunar module Aquarius. As they left, they took pictures of the damaged command module. Although the lunar module was designed for only two people to use for 50 hours, the three of them survived for 95 hours. They carefully rationed water to six ounces a day and fought the bitter cold.
The original plans for Apollo 13 were to explore the Fra Mauro region of the moon; inspect, survey, and sample material from this region; perform lunar surface experiments; and photograph possible lunar exploration sites. Although the majority of these objectives were not accomplished, the crew did manage to obtain some photographs, and despite all problems returned safely back to Earth.