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Apollo 13: The NASA Mission Reports (Apogee Books Space Series, 9) (Vol 2) Paperback – March 1, 2000
All Books, All the Time
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A dream come true for dedicated space buffs, the NASA Mission Reports series pulls together an almost overwhelming array of official NASA press kits, operation reports, images, CD-ROM movies, and even dinner menus from some of the space agency's most momentous missions, from Gemini 6 to the many Mars launches.
Series editor Robert Godwin explains in his introduction why the failed Apollo 13 mission (later of Tom Hanks-Ron Howard fame) is particularly deserving of such detail-intensive attention: "Putting aside the high drama of the events, the following documents reveal a side of NASA that is often overlooked, the talents of the management and administrators." Those talents are nowhere more evident than in the minutes from the House Science and Astronautics Committee hearing, numerous internal NASA memos, and the previously classified technical debriefing of the astronauts. Even the pre-mission materials prove interesting, explaining with extensive diagrams the many experiments that never reached the lunar surface.
As with the other excellent installments in the Mission Reports series, the included CD-ROM backs up the already solid content with searchable documents and choice images and movies, including a long interview with Jim Lovell. (And while the CD works more smoothly on Windows, users on other platforms shouldn't have to work too hard accessing its many jpegs and mpegs.) --Paul Hughes
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Detailed analysis of what chain of little mistakes culminated in the explosion. Details of the recovery plan. And even some insight into the astronauts like part of the debriefing where they tell what they thought of the razors supplied by NASA.
Technical details and analysis into an exciting episode of the manned space program.
Apollo 13 was planned to be NASA's third lunar landing and the first one dedicated to scientific exploration. The Lunar Module was scheduled to land at Fra Mauro with commander Jim Lovell who making his fourth space mission and second to the moon and rookie Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise. Jack Swigert, who was the Command Module Pilot, replaced Ken Mattingly only days before launch remained in orbit.
Like most of the other volumes in this NASA Mission Report series, the book opens with the usual NASA mission press kit. This press kit is more detailed than the previous mission, Apollo 12, because it contains detailed information about the lunar surface activities and experiments. It is interesting to note that due to late addition of Jack Swigert to the crew, Ken Mattingly is still listed as the Command Module Pilot. The next of the book contains the Post Launch Mission Operation Report, which is essentially a moderately technical summary of all the highlights of the mission.
The next section of the book, contains the crew debrief section, and covers about 25% of the book and is 67 pages long. This debriefing was conducted only a few days after the splashdown. As one would expect, much of this section deals with the accident and their flight around the moon and back to earth; however, there many portions devoted to crew training, launch, observation of the moon and more. This section maybe difficult for many to follow, since there are numerous undefined NASA acronyms and references to specific pieces of equipment in the Command Module (individual switches) which probably only the astronauts and the designers of the Apollo capsule know.
The final section of the book is the transcripts of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics Hearings and the report that was submitted to this committee. It is in this portion of the book that contains the most technical descriptions of the accident. There are detailed timelines of the mission and accident, documentation related to the construction of the oxygen tank and numerous photographs.
As usual in all the Mission Reports series, the book contains a CD that includes additional material. The CD contains all the 70mm Hassalblad photographs which includes some spectacular views of the far side of the moon and the crew before and after the oxygen tank explosion. Also included on the CD is an interview with Jim Lovell, the post landing press conference (over an hour long) and several NASA videos.
Some general information that might be useful.
1) These reports are just scanned-in documents from previously released NASA press kits, etc., In order to preserve the spirit of the original reports, all typographical and grammatical errors have NOT been fixed.
2) Proceeds from the book goes to "The Watch" an asteroid impact research project of the Space Frontier Foundation. In other words, Apogee Books is making very little off the sale of US government produced books and documents.
I've only looked briefly at the CD-ROM, but there are additional worthwhile goodies on there (and accessible from a Macintosh despite what it says). My only criticism right now is that there are literally hundreds of photographs taken during the mission without any organization to speak of: if you want to find, for example, the photos of the service module showing the damage, you're just going to have to search through the collection with the only clue being that the photos are in roughly chronological order.
So if you're a total space-aholic like me, you'll find this book fascinating. Others, less devoted, might still find some items of interest here but might be better off reading an appropriate narrative history like Andrew Chaikin's A Man on the Moon or Lost Moon by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger.