"HOUSTON, WE'VE HAD A PROBLEM HERE." THE FLOWN APOLLO 13 FLIGHT PLAN
- Apollo 13. Flight Plan. Part No. SKB32100082-350. S/N: 1001. [Houston: Manned Spacecraft Center, March 16, 1970]
- paper, ink
WITH MANUSCRIPT NOTATIONS BY ALL THREE CREW MEMBERS, RECORDING IN EXACTING DETAIL THE ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE CREW DURING THE MISSION, INCLUDING THE CRUCIAL CHANGES TO THE FLIGHT PLAN COMMUNICATED TO THEM BY CAPCOM AFTER THE EXPLOSION, AND THE INNOVATIVE PROCEDURES THAT SAVED THE CREW'S LIVES. AN INCREDIBLE EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE MOST DRAMATIC AND HARROWING MISSION OF THE APOLLO PROGRAM. THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS DOCUMENT CANNOT BE OVERSTATED.
The Apollo 13 mission was meant to culminate in a third lunar landing, with Mission Commander James "Jim" Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise voyaging to the lunar surface on board the Lunar Module Aquarius while Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert orbited in the Command Module Odyssey. Things did not go according to plan. At just under 56 hours into the mission, an oxygen tank explosion resulted in a major loss to electrical power to the Command and Service Module, forcing the crew to cancel the lunar landing and move into the Aquarius, using it as a lifeboat in order to survive a four day journey around the moon and return back to Earth. With people on the ground from both NASA and the contractor team working around the clock, an alternate flight plan was developed, as recorded in the present document, and various procedures were developed resulting in the safe return of the Crew despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The mission stands out as a paragon of teamwork and first-class training.
The caricatures depict Lovell in his spacesuit pointing to a list of rules for the mission "Repeat after me...", Fred Haise with a hose dripping water protruding from the neck of his spacesuit, captioned "My 'UCTA' [Urine Collection & Transfer Assembly] never seems to fill!", and Jack Swigert standing on a soapbox on the lunar surface, mouth open wide saying "Mah fellow constituents...". Swigert was elected to Congress after leaving NASA, but died before being sworn in. NASA and the astronauts were a fun-loving bunch, and in fact they were known to sneak cartoons or pictures of Playboy bunnies into flight plans or cuff checklists. It is remarkable to note, that even in the midst of very serious events, the crew still kept their humor, as can be seen on page 3-35 for example, when Lovell notes "Haise took one hour to shave - suggest a beard for him next time."
The drama that unfolded during the Apollo 13 mission is well known, in large part due to the eponymous blockbuster Hollywood film, which was an adaptation of the book by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger, Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13. As is often the case with film adaptations of books, it is sometimes necessary to simplify or change certain details in order to best adapt a story to film. Such is the case involving the front cover of the present Flight Plan. In the film, when a procedure is devised to make the Command Module's square filters work in the Lunar Module's round receptacles in order to deal with the dangerous levels of carbon dioxide in the spacecraft, CAPCOM, in relaying the procedure tells Fred Haise (played by Bill Paxton) to "Rip the cover off"; Haise in turn tells Jack Swigert (played by Kevin Bacon) "He wants you to rip the cover off the Flight Plan." Swigert does so, saying "With pleasure." This scene is not however, a precise accounting of events. If one carefully reads over the NASA Apollo 13 Air-to-Ground Voice Transcription, one can clearly see that the crew was in fact instructed to use an "LM Cue card", and that they did in fact use the "LM EVA Cue Card" and NOT the cover of the Flight Plan:
03 18 09 17 CAPCOM: "Okay, I think the equipment you'll need will be two command module lithium hydroxide canisters, a roll of gray tape, the two LCGs, because we're going to use the bags from the LCGs, and one - one LM Cue card - one of those cardboard cue cards which you will cut off about an inch and a half out from the ring. Now I think that's all we'll need. Over"
03 18 10 53 COMMANDER: "Okay. That's two lithium hydroxide canisters, one roll of that special gray tape, two LCGs which we're going to use the bags from, one LM cue card and..."
03 18 10 53 CAPCOM: "Okay. That's affirmative, Jim. If you'll just cut the cue card, which is a handy piece of stiff paper the right size, about an inch and a half from the rings. Just cut off the ring holes, in other words, and you'll have a card about 11 inches long and probably 6 inches wide, something like that."
03 18 37 32 CAPCOM: "Okay Jack. The next step is to get the EVA cue card and use it to form an arch over the top of the canister... You see Jack, what we're going to do is slip the bag over this whole assembly and the cue card will serve to keep the bag from being sucked down against the screen..." (see Tapes 61/1 p 410-62/5 p 421 of the Apollo 13 Technical Air-to-Ground Voice Transcription for the complete procedure.)