Apollo 13 Case Study 2

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Apollo 13
“Houston We've Got A Problem”
12/1/11

Apollo 13 was supposed to be the third mission by NASA to land a space shuttle onto the moon. The crew aboard the ship consisted of James A. Lovell, Jr., John L. Swigert, Jr., and Fred W. Haise, Jr. (KSC). The launch date for Apollo 13 was set for April 11, 1970 at 13:13 Houston time (James A. Lovell). The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum summarizes the events of the Apollo 13 incident as “An explosion in one of the oxygen tanks crippled the spacecraft during flight and the crew was forced to orbit the Moon and return to the Earth without landing.” That explosion of the oxygen tank caused the other tank to fail which also caused the command module's normal supply of electricity, light and water to be lost, and they were about 200,000 miles from Earth (NASA). If you have seen the movie Apollo 13 then you would know that it was a story of survival, action, suspense, and adventure. The movie shows how mission control handled the situation with the crew stuck on Apollo 13 and how they achieved the impossible to get the crew home safely. Nick Greene and even NASA called Apollo 13 a “successful failure” from what was accomplished during the mission. Learning from your mistakes is a good way to put it, but can you really call failure a success? What if the Apollo 13 rescue mission didn't go according to plan and the crew had been stranded in space? The lives of the astronaut crew had been put into jeopardy because of the faults in the Apollo 13 spacecraft. It wasn't just a slight miscalculation for the crew of Apollo 13, it was a matter of life or death. The events that conspired on the Apollo 13 lunar mission could have easily turned from a “successful failure” into a “horrible and tragic failure”. The question I would like to ask is if this whole incident could have been avoided and if it could have how? I am hoping that the research conducted on the Apollo 13 incident will shed some light and give the answers I am looking for. To answer these questions I will start with a more in depth investigation as to what exactly happened with the spacecraft and how it happened. The main key point is to talk about the shuttle itself. Apollo 13 was a part of the series of Apollo spacecrafts and was the third manned spacecraft to attempt to land on the moon. It was built in a similar but improved version of the previous models. (Williams) So it is common knowledge that parts similar to the previous models were put onto the Apollo 13, but there was on part in particular that was directly taken from one of the older models and put onto the new one. That of course was none other then the oxygen tank that started the whole catastrophe. “The No. 2 oxygen tank, serial number 10024X-TA0009, had been previously installed in the service module of Apollo 10, but was removed for modification and damaged in the process. The tank was fixed, tested at the factory, installed in the Apollo 13 service module and tested again during the Countdown Demonstration Test at NASA's Kennedy Space Center beginning March 16, 1970. The tanks normally are emptied to about half full. No. 1 behaved all right, but No. 2 dropped to only 92 percent of capacity. Gaseous oxygen at 80 pounds per square inch was applied through the vent line to expel the liquid oxygen, but to no avail. An interim discrepancy report was written, and on March 27, two weeks before launch, detanking operations resumed. No. 1 again emptied normally, but No. 2 did not. After a conference with contractor and NASA personnel, the test director decided to "boil off" the remaining oxygen in No. 2 by using the electrical heater within the tank. The technique worked, but it took eight hours of 65-volt DC power from the ground support equipment to dissipate the oxygen. Due to an oversight in replacing an underrated component during a design modification, this turned out to severely damage the internal heating elements of the tank.” (NASA). Also...
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