In 1970, when I was 34 years old, I was given the title CAPCOM, short for Capsule Communicator. As CAPCOM, I was the only person that had direct contact with the crew of Apollo 13 during their space flight. In 1966, NASA signed 19 experienced astronauts including me and made me an assistant to the Apollo 9, 10, and 13 missions (Jack Robert Lousma). NASA thought astronauts communicated better with one another than scientists that had not been trained within the program; therefore they found it essential for the support crews to be comprised of experienced astronauts. I vividly remember the Apollo 13-launch day like it was yesterday. We were at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center located in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was 12:45 p.m., April 11, 1970. The scheduled launch of the spacecraft Apollo 13 was set for 1:13 p.m. Our goal as the third intended space mission to land on the Moon, was to explore the Fra Mauro crater (Apollo 13). “Hello, this is Mission Control. I am Jack Lousma and will be the CAPCOM for this voyage.” “This is commander James Lovell speaking, I’m looking forward to communicating with you for the next few days throughout our expedition, Jack. In our crew, we also have lunar module pilot Fred Haise and command module pilot John Swigert.” “You guys have thoroughly trained for this mission and we, Mission Control, have the utmost confidence in your abilities as competent and dedicated astronauts.” “Thank you Jack, and we trust your adeptness to guide us safely from Earth to the Moon and back.” “Speaking for all of Mission Control, we will do everything in our power to assure you guys a safe and successful exploration.” “Thanks again Jack, and we are looking to get home safely as well.” “Alright then. Scheduled takeoff time is in less than fifteen minutes. I suggest you guys check if everything is running accordingly.” The crew carefully checked the spacecraft for anything unusual. “Everything seems to be sticking to plan and we are ready for launch.” “Good, launch will occur in approximately five minutes. Any last preparations should be made to ensure a comfortable journey into space.” The spectators anxiously awaited the launch of Apollo 13.
“Departure in 5...4...3...2...1...LIFTOFF! Have safe flight Apollo 13 and we wish you the best of luck!” “Thank you Jack, we are looking forward to returning safely back to Earth.” This was our last conversation before the Apollo 13 crew headed into space for the exploration of the Fra Mauro Crater. Throughout the first two days, the crew ran into some minor obstacles but nothing detrimental. At this point in time, Apollo 13 was looking like the smoothest flight program to have been executed. Around the two-day mark I told the crew, “The spacecraft is in real good shape as far as we are concerned. We’re bored to tears down here.” This was the last time anyone would mention boredom for a long time. “55 hours and 46 minutes into flight, the crew completed a 49-minute TV broadcast showing how comfortably they lived and worked in weightlessness, Lovell said, ‘This is the crew of Apollo 13 wishing everybody there a nice evening, and we’re just about ready to close out our inspection of Aquarius and get back for a pleasant evening in Odyssey. Goodnight.’ (Dunbar)” At this point in time, Apollo 13 looked in great shape during their expedition. However nine minutes later, oxygen tank No. 2 blew up, ultimately causing No. 1 tank to fail as well. This explosion caused a shortage of electricity, light, and water for the command module. While 200,000 miles away from Earth, this was not an easy fix (Apollo). On April 13 at 9:08 p.m. the crew was rattled by a loud bang and strong vibration. When Swigert saw a warning light that accompanied the bang he said, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” Then James Lovell came on and told the Mission Control, “We’ve had a main B bus undervolt.” (Apollo 13 Chronology) Reacting quickly to the situation, the crew tried to close the hatch between the CM...
Cited: "Apollo." Space Sciences. Ed. John F. McCoy. 2nd ed. Vol. 3: Humans in Space.
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