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16th of April 2020
50th Anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission, with crew members Jim Lovell, John Swigert and Fred Haise. The dramatic events of the mission are re-told by Hamish Lindsay in an essay on the honeysucklecreek.net website.

The explosion of the oxygen tank damaged the high gain antenna on the CSM, and the Honeysuckle Creek tracking station immediately detected the loss in signal power, having to lock onto the signal from a smaller omni-directional antenna. Hamish Lindsay recalled "The first indication of the seriousness of the crisis to us at Honeysuckle Creek was when Mission Control in Houston called the Operations Supervisor at Honeysuckle Creek and asked, 'How long would it take to get Parkes up?' Parkes [... had not been] called up for the Apollo 13 mission because the astronauts now used a big portable umbrella antenna for communications from the lunar surface. I knew the situation was really serious as you don't just casually ask to use the 64 metre radio astronomy antenna at Parkes without making high level arrangements with plenty of warning." Parkes swung into action, removing the receiver in the focus cabin and reinstalling the NASA gear which remained on site from earlier missions. John Bolton commented "We accomplished in 10 hours what normally took close to a week."

The Lunar Module, with all three astronauts on board, was developing a new problem, with carbon dioxide building up to dangerous levels. The ground crew devised a system to join the Command Module's square lithium canisters, which clean the carbon dioxide from the air, to the Lunar Module's round system using only the tape, plastic and cardboard available on board. The image above shows Jim Lovell (left) and Jack Swigert (right) working on the temporary hose connections, with the contraption holding the carbon dioxide scrubbers in the background. (The image is a combination two images taken by Fred Haise, courtesy of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, joined into composite image by Colin Mackellar at honeysucklecreek.net.)

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