Tag Archives: Apollo 13

Splashdown of Apollo 13

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the successful safe return to Earth of the Apollo 13 astronauts, Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise. Below is CBS’s coverage of that splashdown, in three videos.

If you are still under Wuhan flu house arrest, spend the time to watch them all. Each will automatically start after the previous ends.

Once again it is astonishing to see the differences from today. Note the shot of the quiet crowds watching the telecast in Grand Central Station, and their calm but joyous applause at their first view of the capsule, its parachutes deployed, gently descending safely to the ocean.

As with the moment when the failure occurred on April 13th, the news coverage continues to be detailed and focused on covering the event, not showing off news anchors and pundits. There are no shots of Walter Cronkite in his studio. He is not the story, and he knows it.

The coverage is also patient. For long periods while the divers are securing the capsule in the water, not much happens. There is no effort to return to the studio, or to break for commercials. The focus is on the story, and the story only.

Will someone please tell this to Anderson Cooper, Jim Acosta, and others of their modern ilk?

Failure on Apollo 13

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the moment during the Apollo 13 mission to the Moon when there was an explosion that badly damaged the service module of the Apollo spacecraft, forcing the crew to use its Lunar Module (LM) as a lifeboat in order to get back to Earth.

Below is CBS’s coverage of that moment.

Because this video was recorded off of an analog television, the visuals are poor, to say the least, including several moments when the television loses vertical hold (a problem typical of early televisions).

However, it is very instructive to watch it, mostly to see the differences from today. Notice how calm everyone is, both at NASA and at CBS. Notice also how positive they are. Rather than hyping the possibility of death and failure, Cronkite is focused on explaining what the engineers are trying to do to save the astronauts.

And notice the detail and accuracy of his reporting. Cronkite has not only made it a point to educate himself on what is involved, he is making a concerted effort to provide this information to his audience. No speculations and opinions, only detailed reporting.

O if only we could see one tenth of such reporting on television today. The country’s mood would instantly improve a million percent.

The 50th anniversary of Apollo 13

Today NASA announced its plans to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of Apollo 13 on April 11, the only Apollo mission to fail in its goal of landing on the Moon while also proving that the engineering design of Apollo was brilliant, making possible under dire conditions the safe return to Earth of the astronauts.

While en route to the Moon on April 13, an oxygen tank in the Apollo service module ruptured. The lunar landing and moonwalks, which would have been executed by Lovell and Haise, were aborted as a dedicated team of flight controllers and engineering experts in the Apollo Mission Control Center devoted their efforts to developing a plan to shelter the crew in the lunar module as a “lifeboat” and retain sufficient resources to bring the spacecraft and its crew back home safely. Splashdown occurred in the Pacific Ocean at 1:07 p.m. April 17, after a flight that lasted five days, 22 hours and 54 minutes.

NASA is celebrating this anniversary in many virtual ways, though all public in-person events have been cancelled due to the Wuhan panic.

Below is a video showing the launch.as covered on CBS (Hat tip reader Mike Nelson).

The visuals are not great, partly because it was broadcast on an analog television, and partly because it appears to be a recording taken by a camera looking at that broadcast. At several points it appears the television loses vertical hold (a problem typical of early televisions). Still, it is worth watching simply to see how news organizations covered such events then, in comparison to today.

If you want to spend some time of your Wuhan house arrest watching more, the video automatically jumps to later videos of CBS’s coverage, including the moment the failure occurred as well as the splashdown. I will post these next week, on the fiftieth anniversary of each event.

A NASA inquiry into the ownership of a variety of space artifacts, including Jim Lovell’s Apollo 13 checklist, has halted their sale at auction.

Power grab: A NASA inquiry into the ownership of a variety of space artifacts, including Jim Lovell’s Apollo 13 checklist, has halted their sale at auction.

In other words, it appears that NASA management has decided that everything ever built by NASA belongs to NASA, forever, even if NASA would have thrown it away at some point.