Revisiting Key Apollo 13 Mission Moments ~ Part 3

Well folks, what can I say… other than… “Houston, I’ve had a problem!” (Houston = WordPress Readers)…

Not unlike the actual, original Apollo 13, mission (04 / 11 – 17 / 1970), my originally planned mission to blog about… recreate / relive… the key moments of this flight had all started out well, but, within days, the problems began to pile up.

You see, against the backdrop of our raging global pandemic, I had prioritized that damned subject matter too damned much. I wound up losing sleep over it… so much so that, instead of keeping up with my detailed Apollo mission timeline transcript, I wound up snoozing through too many of the very events I should’ve been covering.

Obviously, since I could not go back in time to fix the problem (i.e., to synchronize / top off my posts with the appropriate WordPress timestamps), my premise “lost air”… not unlike how, following an explosion, the crippled Apollo Service Module had vented life sustaining oxygen into the unforgiving vacuum of deep space.

Fortunately, all’s not lost. There’s still one key event, ISO a timestamp, that’ll neatly wrap up this pandemic truncated series…

Yes, indeed, the very finest moment of the Flight of Apollo 13 occurred on this very day, when Command Module pilot Jack Swigert successfully navigated Apollo 13 through that unforgivingly narrow, 2° wide, reentry corridor. Following a fiery reentry through Earth’s atmosphere, Swigert, along with crewmates Jim Lovell and Fred Haise, finally made it home, splashed down in the South Pacific Ocean (coordinates 21°38′24″S 165°21′42″W) at 18:07:41 UTC or 12:07:41 CST… or stated more conventionally, at approximately 12:08 p.m. Houston time. From that moment, onward, the Flight of Apollo 13 would be dubbed: NASA’s successful failure mission.

A brief aside re our above clip… I’ve opted to go the Hollywood route because Director Ron Howard’s film far better captures the palpable tension and raw human emotion of the moment… and all set to the swell of a symphonic musical score that’s even backed by an angelic choir. We even get to witness the steely-eyed missile man, Flight Director Gene Kranz (portrayed by actor Ed Harris), blink back tears upon the realization that he / his entire ground crew’s ceaseless, concerted efforts had saved all three astronauts’ lives.

To this day, I still shudder at the mere thought of how Lovell, Swigert, and Haise had been one error in judgment away from becoming entombed within the inky, icy void of outer space… throughout eternity.

Checking my wristwatch I see this post’s “splash down” time is nearing… with just enough time for a few parting thoughts…

• NASA’s historic and heroic team effort… their flawless, improvised (literally on the fly) rescue mission… had been… still is… and shall… perhaps, throughout perpetuity… represent human ingenuity and resolve at it’s very finest.

• Seeing how, at present, humankind has monumental stumbling blocks to overcome, inclusive of an unpardonable, political leadership vacuum (of astronomical proportions), only God knows how long it’ll take before we Americans can even begin to reclaim our can-do spirit. It’s likely that the half-century old high bar, which NASA had established during Apollo 13’s week long mission shall remain out of reach for the foreseeable future.

• For now, from a technological standpoint, April 17, 1970 / 18:07:41 UTC, will remain humanity’s finest hour. We can only hope that someone… maybe some inventive soul, who’s yet to even be born… can equal or top this feat long before the final sentence of the final page of our story gets written.