Thursday, October 09, 2014

"Apollo 13: To the Edge and Back": PBS documentary feature preceded Ron Howard's blockbuster film


Apollo 13: To the Edge and Back” (1994) is a PBS-WGBH documentary directed by Noel Buckner and Rob Whittlesey, 82 min, is a good supplement to the acclaimed film by Ron Howard from Universal, simply “Apollo 13”, which I saw twice (once on a flight back from San Francisco in late 1995, with a passenger audience that cheers).  The film seems to be narrated by Will Lyman, who does the Frontline series. 

The crew comprised Lovell, Sweigert and Haise. The film points out that Jack Sweigert was the only bachelor.

Two days into the mission, as the compound craft approached the Moon, there was a cascading failure, leading to fire and explosion, and progressive loss of fuel and oxygen from the Commnd/ Service Module.  The crew had to cramp together in the Lunar Module until re-entry, which was accomplished by allowing a sling-shot around the Moon, allowing gravity and orbital mechanics to work naturally.

The documentary focuses a lot on the pressure on the computer workers back in Houston and also on Long Island.  It’s amazing how far technology had advanced in 1970, twenty years before the Internet.  Civilization has changed course, emphasizing communication, as the idea of putting “Man in Space” (almost a trademark of Dan Fry’s “Understanding” group in Arizona in the 1970s, which I sometimes attended) became more elusive.

When I was substitute teaching in the fall of 2004 at a middle school, the eighth graders watched the main Universal film “Apollo 13” (for science class) and had to write a paper suggesting how the accident might have been prevented.  One kid, as I recall, wrote a particularly lucid answer.


(The YouTube featurette above comes from NasaFlix.)
  
I watched the film on a Netflix rental. 
  
Wikipedia attribution link for Apollo 13 passing moon, here. Second picture is mine, the full Moon the day after a lunar eclipse.  The "ring" is an artifact of the photo. On a clear dry night you can see the mountain scenery on the Moon with the naked eye from a very "high" perch. 
    
I must say, I’m looking forward to Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar”. 

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