NORMAN — When the crew of the Apollo 13 moon mission returned safely to Earth in 1970, it was the result of a series of minor miracles, crew member Fred Haise told a crowd at the University of Oklahoma on Wednesday.
But it was also the result of countless hours of training preparation, the design of the ship, and the efforts of the three-man crew and the people who staffed the Mission Control Center at Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, Haise said.
“It ... was based on sound process and methodology,” Haise said.
Classified as a “successful failure,” the Apollo 13 mission was NASA's third lunar landing attempt. It was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded, leading to a number of system failures. The accident left NASA officials with the task of keeping the crew alive and getting ship safely back to Earth.
Haise's presentation at OU fell on the 43rd anniversary of the day the ship splashed down in the Pacific Ocean near American Samoa. Decades later, the anniversaries of key dates from the mission are still special, Haise said — he always speaks with mission commander Jim Lovell on what the two call “Boom Day,” or the anniversary of the day the ship's oxygen tank blew.
For weeks before the launch, the crew, along with the alternate crew members, went through a series of flight scenarios in simulators. In each of the scenarios, the crew would experience a different set of malfunctions and failures, and would need to find a solution to those problems.
In any given day, Haise said, the crew might go through launch simulations for half a day, then stop and go through each failure and discuss how to deal with them.
We basically went to the moon with that machine that had a total memory of about one-tenth of a megabyte. You've all got more memory on your phones than Mission Control had.”