Thursday, April 14, 2005

Speaking of Space Nerdery

25 years ago today, the cryogenic oxygen tank on Apollo 13 exploded, putting the lives of Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Pullman Paxton in jeopardy. (Admit it, you couldn't keep Paxton or Pullman straight with a gun to your head.)

Actually, as much as the story of Apollo 13 can be told as a disaster, I prefer to look at everything that went right - the astronauts were able to navigate by using their eyes and a stopwatch (the movie wasn't making that up!), they reentered the Earth's atmoshpere properly (something NASA seems to have forgotten how to do), and they brought the men home alive. All this with a spacecraft where almost nothing was working except the windows and the walls.

In a sense, it's a good thing that the US public had already gone through the trauma of the Apollo 1 fire which killed Grissom, White and Chaffee. If the American public hadn't already suffered that loss (but before actually achieving Kennedy's dream) they might have cancelled the program after 13. That would have been a shame, because a number of important discoveries were made in the later Apollo missions.

I'll just repeat the immortal words of Commander Rick: If we can put a man on the moon... why can't we put a man on the moon, again?

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