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Co-Winners: the Driver and Lena, followed by Tom, Rosebud, and Pluto

Lena, an au pair from Potsdam (that’s East Germany, not upstate New York) joined us tonight and showed how good the German education system is.

Before the game, Pluto beseeched Lena: “This is a game of American trivia. Please don’t win. You will make us all feel like village idiots.” She then proceeded to finish tied for first in regulation and became our first international winner.

Good Question!: Which Apollo mission had an oxygen tank explode?

Choices: a. Apollo 7   b. Apollo 13   c. Gemini   d. Apollo 11

 

Answer: Apollo 13

“Houston, We Have a Problem”

On April 11, 1970, NASA launched the Apollo 13 mission to send three astronauts to the moon and mark the third manned lunar landing. The mission aimed to send commander Jim Lovell and lunar module pilot Fred Haise to the lunar surface, while command module pilot Jack Swigert remained in orbit. But on April 13, the mission suffered a crippling explosion that would nearly doom the spaceflight and its crew.

Apollo 13 carried an oxygen tank with a troubled history. The tank had been damaged in testing, but the spacecraft builders were not aware of a problem. At about 56 hours into the flight of Apollo 13, Jack Swigert was instructed to “stir the tanks,” or agitate the super-cold liquid oxygen. Moments later, oxygen tank 2 exploded. Photos taken near the end of the flight reveal the extent of the damage. “One whole side of the spacecraft is missing!” exclaimed Lovell. The command module’s normal supply of electricity, light and water was lost, and they were about 200,000 miles from Earth.

The explosion was accompanied by a sharp bang and vibration at 9:08 p.m. April 13. Swigert saw a warning light that accompanied the bang and said, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

Grumman Lunar Module Saves the Day

With the command module losing power fast, the astronauts had to move into the lunar module, or LM, to use it as a lifeboat. This was the lunar module built right here on LI by your neighbors, who worked at Grumman.This was the same Grumman that had caused Vice Adm. John McCain Sr. to say during World War II: “The name Grumman on a plane is like sterling on silver.”

Designed for two, the LM’s cabin was a tight fit for three people, with Swigert keeping mostly to the small section at the rear of the cabin.

The LM did not have enough carbon-dioxide-scrubbing chemical canisters to keep the air breathable for three men all the way back to Earth. The astronauts had to build a crude adapter using spare parts on board, to make use of canisters meant for the command module.

At the time of the accident, Apollo 13 was on a path that would cause it to miss Earth by 2,500 miles (4,023 kilometers). To return home the astronauts had to fire the lunar module’s big landing engine several times to get back on the right trajectory.

The near-disaster of Apollo 13 was a stunning reminder of the perils of human spaceflight and how NASA, through ingenuity and perseverance, managed to overcome the incident and save the mission’s three-man crew. In 1995, director Ron Howard would retell the Apollo 13 story in the film “Apollo 13” starring Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell.

This is a wonderful, very tense 3 minute clip: “Houston We Have a Problem”

 

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