NEW YORK – One of the most exciting pieces in our 20 July Space Exploration sale is the Flown Flight Plan from the Apollo 13 Mission. Used by the crew on the spacecraft during the mission, it bears the handwriting and detailed notes of all three crew members, with Mission Commander James Lovell’s writing in black felt-tip pen, Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise’s notes in pencil and Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert’s notes in blue ballpoint pen.
(LEFT) CARICATURE OF APOLLO 13 MISSION COMMANDER JAMES LOVELL IN HIS SPACESUIT POINTING TO A LIST OF RULES FOR THE MISSION "REPEAT AFTER ME...”. (CENTRE) CARICATURE OF APOLLO 13 LUNAR MODULE PILOT FRED HAISE WITH A HOSE DRIPPING WATER INTO THE NECK OF HIS SPACESUIT, CAPTIONED "MY 'UCTA' [URINE COLLECTION & TRANSFER ASSEMBLY] NEVER SEEMS TO FILL!". (RIGHT) CARICATURE OF APOLLO 13 COMMAND MODULE PILOT 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.
The document records 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. It is an incredible eyewitness account of the most dramatic and harrowing mission of the Apollo program.
Ken Mattingly, whose handwriting appears in the flight plan in red ink, was originally slated to be Command Module Pilot. After unwittingly being exposed to the German measles, he was pulled from the mission despite Lovell’s protests, and replaced with Jack Swigert. NASA had Johnson Space Centre artist Barbara Matelski hand-draw and sign caricatures of the crew members, and inserted them in the flight plan as a surprise prank.
PAGE 3-34 OF THE FLIGHT PLAN, WITH DETAILS ON HOURS 47:00-49:00 OF THE MISSION. TO THE RIGHT IS THE NOTE "O2 NO 2 [OXYGEN TANK #2] PRESS[URE] GAUGE FAILED AFTER CYRO STIRRING" – THIS WOULD LATER LEAD TO THE EXPLOSION OF THE OXYGEN TANK, WHICH CAUSED THE SPACECRAFT TO LOSE POWER.
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.
PAGE 3-38, SHOWING HOURS 55:00-56:00, THE TIME OF THE OXYGEN TANK EXPLOSION. CDR LOVELL HAS SCRATCHED OUT THE PRINTED PLANS, AND WRITTEN IN THE NEW PLANS, WHICH INCLUDE ENTRY INTO THE LUNAR MODULE AQUARIUS. HE NOTES "INSURE PROPER O2 CONCENTRATION IN LM."
The explosion forced 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.
PAGE 3-44, WITH PENCIL NOTES MADE BY LUNAR MODULE PILOT FRED HAISE, CONSISTING OF THE NEW PROCEDURE RELAYED TO HIM BY CAPCOM TO POWER UP THE LM BEFORE MOVING OVER FROM THE CM. BLUE BALLPOINT PEN NOTES MADE BY COMMAND MODULE PILOT JACK SWIGERT, CONSISTING OF THE NEW POWER DOWN PROCEDURE RELAYED TO HIM BY CAPCOM.
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 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 grey 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 grey 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." (see Tapes 61/1 p 410-62/5 p 421 of the Apollo 13 Technical Air-to-Ground Voice Transcription for the complete procedure.)
The flight plan was signed and inscribed by the Apollo 13 crew, and presented by them as a gift to Turnage Robert "Bob" Lindsey, the Lead Flight Planner for Apollo 13: "TO BOB - A TRULY PERFECT FLIGHT PLAN AS FAR AS WE GOT. WE KNOW IT WOULD HAVE LED US BY THE HAND THE REST OF THE WAY ALSO. THANKS FOR THIS REMARKABLE DOCUMENT WHICH WE CARRIED TO THE MOON ON ODYSSEY 11-17 APRIL 1970. FRED HAISE. JAMES LOVELL. JACK SWIGERT."
For Flown mission artefacts such as this, provenance is everything, and the inscription on the front cover is not only a wonderful association, but also key to being able to legally own or transfer title of the artefact. Until just five years ago, there was no clear legislation pertaining to the ownership rights of artefacts received by US astronauts. This changed in 2012 when President Obama signed H.R. 4158 into law, granting US astronauts who participated in the Gemini, Mercury or Apollo programs “full ownership of and clear title to” artefacts that they received during participation in the space missions. It further “prohibits the federal government from having any claim or right to ownership, control, or use of (1) any artefact in the possession of such an astronaut; or (2) any such artefact that was subsequently transferred, sold, or assigned to a third party by such an astronaut.
The effects of this law on this Flight Plan will be particularly interesting. Prior to the law’s passage, in 2011, Heritage Auctions offered the Flown Apollo 13 Lunar Module Activation Checklist – it sold for $388,375, but the sale was cancelled after NASA made a claim against the astronaut who consigned it, claiming that he did not have title to the artefact (according one of the auction house’s representatives). The new law is very exciting, because it means that prospective bidders for this conservatively estimated artefact (Estimate $30,000–40,000) can bid with full confidence that their title to the item will be clear and fully protected by law.
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To learn more about the technical details of this flight plan and the Apollo 13 Mission, see the following publications, which are all available via NASA’s website online:
BANNER IMAGE: COURTESY OF NASA
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