Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13; co-written by Jeffrey Kruger. This book was re-released as “Apollo 13” in 1995 as a tie-in to the movie.
By the time Jim Lovell retired from NASA he had more time in space than any American. This is the story of his famous last mission: Apollo 13, but it is also a story of a teenage boy who wanted to make rockets and then fly in them. The book alternates chapters between, the Apollo 13 mission and Lovell’s memoir. It is not jarring and often it illustrates something from his past that helps him in his current predicament. We learn about Lovell’s boyhood, his time in the Navy as a fighter pilot landing jets at night on dark aircraft carriers; his time as a Navy test pilot; almost becoming a Mercury 7 astronaut, Gemini 4, Gemini 9A, Apollo 8, and finally Apollo 13.
Jeffrey Kruger spends some time on the Apollo 1 fire, which helps the reader understand the mindset of NASA when the oxygen tank explodes on Apollo 13. We are taken to Mission Control where the problems are discovered, worked, solved, tested, and then implemented. We are also taken into the Lovell household, where his wife Marilyn struggles to hold the family together while the entire country (world) holds its breath.
I’ve been following the space program since I was a little boy watching Gemini missions on our B&W television set in the living room. I’ve read dozens of books on the space program and the Apollo mission and yet I still learned plenty about about this one. The movie “Apollo 13” was based on this book, which fills in all the missing details.
Jim Lovell never got to walk on the moon, but he lets us walk in his shoes (moon boots) along with his fellow astronauts: Fred Haise and Jack Swigert, while they face dire circumstances on their way to the moon. It’s a story of courage, but also of engineering and team work.
Excerpts from the book:
From the moment the Brobdingnagian Saturn 5 booster was lit, it was clear to TV viewers that this would be like no other launch in history. To the men in the spacecraft -one of whom had never flown in space before and two of whom had ridden only the comparatively puny, 109-foot Gemini-Titan it was clearer still. The Titan had been designed originally as an intercontinental ballistic missile, and if you were unfortunate enough to find yourself strapped in its nose cone where nothing but a thermonuclear warhead was supposed to be it felt every bit the ferocious projectile it was. The lightweight rocket fairly leapt off the pad, building up velocity and g forces with staggering speed. At the burnout of the second of its two stages, the Titan pulled a crushing eight g’s, causing the average 170-pound astronaut to feel as if he suddenly weighed 1,360 pounds. Just as unsettling as the rocket’s speed and g’s was its orientation. The Titan’s guidance system preferred to do its navigating when the payload and missile were lying on their sides; as the rocket climbed, therefore, it also rolled 90 degrees to the right, causing the horizon outside the astronauts’ windows to change to a vertigo-inducing vertical. Even more disturbing, the Titan had a huge range of ballistic trajectory programmed into its guidance computer, which aimed the missile below the horizon if it was headed for a military target or above the horizon if it was headed for space. As the rocket rose, the computer would continually hunt for just the right orientation, causing the missile to wiggle its nose up and down and left to right, bloodhound-fashion, sniffing for a target that might be Moscow, might be Minsk, or might be low Earth orbit, depending upon whether it was carrying warheads or spacemen on that particular mission.
The Saturn 5 was said to be a different beast. Despite the fact that the rocket produced a staggering 7.5 million pounds of thrust nearly nineteen times more than the Titan the designers promised that this would be a far smoother booster. Peak gravity loads were said to climb no higher than four g’s, and at some points in the rocket’s powered flight, its gentle acceleration and its unusual trajectory dropped the gravity load slightly below one g. Among the astronauts, many of whom were approaching forty, the Saturn 5 had already earned the sobriquet “the old man’s rocket.” The promised smoothness of the Saturn’s ride, however, was until now just a promise, since no crew had as yet ridden it to space. Within the first minutes of the Apollo 8 mission, Borman, Lovell, and Anders quickly learned that the rumors about the painless rocket were all wonderfully true.
“The first stage was very smooth, and this one is smoother!” Borman exulted midway through the ascent, when the rocket’s giant F–1 engines had burned out and its smaller J–2 engines had taken over.
“Roger, smooth and smoother,” Capcom answered.
The thin yellow sheet (Tom) Kelly had been passed was a copy of an invoice that Grumman would send to another company when Grumman supplied it a part or service. In this case, the company being billed was North American Rockwell, the manufacturer of the command module Odyssey.
On the first line of the form, underneath the column headed “Description of Services Provided,” someone had typed: “Towing, $4.00 First mile, $1.00 each additional mile. Total charge, $400,001.00.” On the second line, the entry read: “Battery charge, road call. Customer’s jumper cables. Total $4.05.” The entry on the third line: “Oxygen at $10.00/lb. Total, $500.00.” The fourth line said: “Sleeping accommodations for 2, no TV, air conditioned, with radio. Modified American Plan with view. Prepaid. (Additional guest in room at 58.00/night.)” The subsequent lines included incidental charges for water, baggage handling, and gratuities, all of which, after a 20 percent government discount, came to $312,421.24.
Kelly looked at the controller who had handed him the form, then looked back at the paper and smiled, despite himself. The men at Grumman would love to send this out, and the men at Rockwell would hate to receive it. For that reason, as much as any other, Kelly guessed that someone was actually going to put this thing in an envelope and mail it to Downey, California.
He figured there was nothing wrong with taking advantage of any opportunity to tweak the boys at Rockwell provided, of course, that the tweaking took place well after splashdown. The form that was amusing the room at Grumman seemed funny enough now, but it wouldn’t seem nearly so funny if something else went wrong with either Rockwell’s Odyssey or Grumman’s Aquarius between now and then. Kelly was about to pass the paper on, but before he did, he looked at it once more. This time he noticed a line typed near the bottom of the page that he had overlooked before.
“Lunar module checkout no later than noon, Friday,” the line read. “Accommodations not guaranteed beyond that time.” Kelly, for one, was a little surprised the crew’s outlandish “accommodations” had lasted this long.
|GET*||Date||Mission Event||Houston Time|
|00:00:00||Sat. 4/11||Liftoff||1:13 pm|
|02:35:46||Sat. 4/11||Translunar injection||3:48 pm|
|30:40:50||Sun. 4/12||Mid-course correction burn to leave free-return trajectory||7:53 pm|
|55:11:00||Mon. 4/13||Beginning of last TV transmission||8:24 pm|
|55:54:53||Mon. 4/13||Oxygen tank two explodes||9:07 pm|
|57:37:00||Mon. 4/13||Crew abandons Odyssey||10:50 pm|
|61:29:43||Tue. 4/14||Aquarius’s engine fired for return to free-return trajectory||2:43 am|
|77:02:39||Tue. 4/14||Spacecraft disappears around far side of moon||6:15 pm|
|79:27:39||Tue. 4/14||Aquarius’s engine fired for PC+2 speed-up burn||8:40 pm|
|86:24:00||Wed. 4/15||Crew begins constructing lithium hydroxide adapters||3:38 am|
|97:10:05||Wed. 4/15||Battery two in Aquarius explodes||2:23 pm|
|105:18:28||Wed. 4/15||Aquarius’s engine fired to correct trajectory||10:31 pm|
|108:46:00||Thu. 4/16||Aquarius’s helium disk bursts||1:59 am|
|137:39:52||Fri. 4/17||Aquarius’s attitude jets fired to correct trajectory||6:52 am|
|138:01:48||Fri. 4/17||Service module jettisoned||7:14 am|
|141:30:00||Fri. 4/17||Aquarius jettisoned||10:43 am|
|142:40:46||Fri. 4/17||Reentry begins||11:53 am|
|142:54:41||Fri. 4/17||Splashdown||12:07 pm|
*Note: Ground Elapsed Time