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Messages - MadDogBV

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A follow-up post for those who were interested in the actual nitty-gritties of how the flight controllers were planning to mitigate the SHe problem. Here's a briefing from Jay Greene to the SELECT on duty (John "Al" Layton) at 107:45 GET:


A serious amount of documentation (available here on page 118 of the PDF, and here as a separate document) was churned out by the Test Division in trying to figure out why the high-gain antenna failed to lock up with the Apollo 13 spacecraft during the TV pass at 55 hours. In both documents, the specific cause of the antenna failure was not fully identified, although it did note that it was not a manufacturing defect and that the failure likely occurred after transportation from the manufacturing plant.

EECOM Sy Liebergot, listening in to INCO struggling to lock up the high-gain with the spacecraft, calls up the EPS personnel in his backroom to let them know how the high-gain antenna may have been broken - and it's a surprisingly simple explanation.

Even during the Apollo program, accidents did happen!


During a briefing session by FLIGHT Glynn Lunney on the Black Team shift immediately following the accident, off-duty CONTROL Bob Carlton joins the conversation to give the MOCR flight controllers, and not incidentally Glynn himself, the straight talk on just how austere a power/water profile they will need to adhere to in order to get the crew home safely. This chilling opening dialogue really drives home just how grim the situation was:

CONTROL: Glenn, the guys in the back are running this water profile. Right now it looks like it's coming in real tight, the water itself.
FLIGHT: Yeah? Assuming we stay at this level from now on?
CONTROL: Negative. Assuming we power down post PC2.


The BOOSTER engineer (as yet unnamed) reports to a bemused FIDO Jay Greene that it's no longer possible to command to the S-IVB to change its trajectory, and both the guidance platform and computer on board have broken down. He delivers this with report with a demeanor not unlike that of someone whose car has just broken down for the last time.

Later, he reports this to SELECT who is already having difficulty calculating its trajectory due to the noisy Doppler data. They're even more thrilled to discover that the APS (ascent propulsion system) thrusters are still firing and producing rates.


CONTROL Larry Strimple is working his second mission in the MOCR after having been backroom support in the LM SSR for several missions. Maroon Flight Milt Windler has just floated the very, very undesirable prospect over the flight loop of having to periodically (every hour on the hour) fire a 10-second ullage of the DPS in order to alleviate the supercritical helium tank. Obviously, this would wreak havoc on the spacecraft's trajectory, since Aquarius is currently on what is essentially a free-return trajectory with no PGNS, no AGS, and very little tracking data.

It seems CONTROL isn't as worried about this as the rest of the flight controllers are, as FIDO Bill Boone and RETRO Tom Weichel give Larry a taste of just how hard it is to be a flight controller during an anomaly situation.


The sarcastic, singy-songy (if a bit sleepy) tone of this remark from FIDO Jay Greene to SELECT John Layton really drives home all of the difficult, sometimes hurried, oftentimes no-win choices that the flight controllers had to make, especially from a data and telemetry standpoint. There were several major decisions made over the past two days, including whether to power down the S-BAND transponder, when to power up the ranging, etc., and many of these decisions involved a lot of intense negotiation between dynamics, systems, and data branches. So you can just imagine Greene's elbow on the console as he leans his head on his hand, rolling his eyes, as he has to tell Layton it's time to make yet another decision.

Certainly it's not a trivial decision in this case: From this point in the mission, they have roughly 36 hours until EI (entry interface, the time at which the spacecraft programmatically enters Earth's atmosphere). With new procedures and new checklists that have to be devised, they have to cram simulations of both the LM and CSM, sometimes integrated, into this short time span to ensure that the procedures work in practice as they do on paper.

In order to make the sims work, they need to also simulate the data. One can only imagine the computational requirements for flying an Apollo mission in one floor of the MOCR and simulating the same Apollo mission on a separate floor. The problem that Jay presents to Al is one of timing and logistics. Luckily, they both quickly come to a consensus on what to do.

It's ironic indeed that Jack has this discussion; during the Black Team post-accident shift, he admits to a controller (I think someone in SPAN) that this is one of the most frightening moments he's ever been in, in his life. It's probably the only time you hear a controller admit this on a recorded loop.

These sorts of phone calls happen all over the place during the most quiet periods of translunar coast, which is quite amusing and reveals a heretofore unseen "human side" of the flight controllers. During the Gold Team shift at around ~46:00 GET, EECOM Charlie Dumis has a lengthy phone conversation with a woman (her name might be mentioned in the transcript) who went on a road trip through New Mexico. During the same Black Team shift as mentioned in the OP, FIDO Bill Stoval also makes a few calls, including one to Dave Reed.

The mushy phone calls definitely decrease in frequency after 55 GET.

As of 125:46:35 GET - still more than 12 hours away from entry interface and splashdown - the CSM is out of potable water in the surge tank, meaning now there are only two ways to get drinking water for the crew: the PLSS, which people are generally hesitant to use in case it's needed as a backup for the LM; and any water remaining in the LM descent tanks.

The conversation between TELMU and SURGEON on the MOCR loop is polite and considered, but there is obvious strain and tension in their voices as they negotiate between two competing needs - the desire to keep the crew alive by having sufficient water to power equipment in the LM, and the desire to keep the crew alive by having sufficient water to avoid dehydration.

Link 1 (SURGEON, 125:46:35):
Link 2 (SURGEON, 125:52:02):

A flight dynamics assistant during the Gold team shift just prior to re-entry at 123:11 GET calls up FIDO Bill Stoval essentially to ask if he can go home early due to fatigue. He had been off his game all night, including a really serious blunder earlier in the evening that resulted in GUIDO Bales and RETRO Spencer arguing over whether a REFSMMAT stored in the RTCC was the same one as earlier in the morning. It had been stored incorrectly.

Amidst all of the technical jargon on the FIDO loop, clips like these really show the human impact that the Apollo 13 incident had on the flight controllers who were trying to manage the situation on the ground, many of them not getting enough sleep or just outright pulling all-nighters.


Apollo geeks and flight dynamics nerds brace yourselves - this is going to be your lucky day.

This is by far the highlight of the FIDO loop. During the Black Team shift starting at around 110-112 GET, FIDO Dave Reed, RETRO Chuck Deiterich and GUIDO Ken Russell are manning the trench along with YAW Will Pressley. This will also be the same group of personnel that works the White Team's shift during re-entry.

Dave, a stickler for organization and "doing the right thing", sets aside time with Chuck and Ken to draft a re-entry checklist for the flight dynamics team during the hours leading up to entry interface. This is required due to the massive amount of work needing to be done in a very short timespan, getting both the CSM reactivated and aligned, the service module and LM jettisoned, and the midcourse correction required to stay in the corridor.

What follows from this point on is truly remarkable: an unbroken three-way discussion that goes on for over an hour, essentially a planning meeting taking place on a live MOCR loop. During this time, Dave has backup personnel respond to inquiries from other flight controllers so that his team can focus on drafting the checklist. Presumably, he got permission from Lunney to do this since even FLIGHT avoids bugging him with questions. (AFD is not so lucky when he tries later on.)


General Discussion / Re: Identifying speakers/ Mission Control teams
« on: March 20, 2024, 08:37:54 am »
It's a webhost issue; the files are still technically there, just inaccessible and locked off until the webhost makes them available again. I did save a local copy. Here it is:

As others have mentioned, the MOCR manning situation is a mess post-accident and it's not out of the realm of possibility to hear two or more distinct voices on a loop during any given shift (Greene, Boone, Stoval, and Reed can all be heard on the FIDO loop throughout the GET 90+00 White team shift.

It is now 8:43AM local time. FAO Bob Lindsey is reaching out to RETRO (but instead getting FIDO Bill Boone) to ask whether there's going to be an 8am re-entry meeting. Boone doesn't know about that - but he does know about Bill Tyndall's data priority meeting, and he wonders if perhaps that's what FAO means?


Apollo 13 was on its way back to Earth. Although the PC+2 abort burn was executed as correctly as could be under the circumstances (with subsequent tracking indicating that a MCC5 would still be necessary), flight control still had one major problem to contend with: re-entry - all the activities that would be needed in the last six hours of flight.

One of the most key aspects of Apollo 13 after the oxygen tank disaster is the total, industry-wide mobilization that occurred in order to solve rapidly-developing problems that urgently needed an answer by a certain timeframe. From one end of the Manned Spacecraft Center to the other, there was one practice that was a near-constant throughout the mission: Meetings. Meetings. Meetings. Sometimes planned, but more often improvised, all to tackle different problems, all vacuuming up different flight controllers with all of their varying levels of expertise.

This is why when listening to the FD loops after the abort burn, you sometimes can hear up to 3 or 4 different officers manning one station during a single shift. They frequently had to be swapped out as managers such as Gene Kranz, Bill Tyndall, Neil Hutchinson and Jerry Bostick yoinked controllers and brought them from one meeting to the next.

Within three minutes of the free return burn, FLIGHT Glynn Lunney suddenly notices that the wall clock in the MOCR is off by a large amount. Once RETRO Tom Weichel provides a countdown from his retro clock indicating the time left before the burn, Glynn suddenly becomes a lot more animated over the loop.

It was shortly thereafter determined that the wall clock had been improperly set by the comm staff, and that both the spacecraft and the retro clock were properly synchronized to the burn time.


As an addendum, later before the PC+2 burn, FIDO Bill Stoval (also in the MOCR at the time of the free return burn, sitting next to Bill Boone) reminds Bobby Spencer to check the wall and retro clock to make sure both are aligned - "I'd hate to get zapped on that one again."

This is prompted by a question from Jim Lovell, who wanted to know how the command module will be aligned for re-entry, particularly with the LM still hanging onto it. As far as I know, these are the absolute first ever words spoken over the Flight Director loop regarding the actual techniques involved. It comes across as a somewhat informal conversation, with GUIDO Gary Renick essentially walking through the process and CAPCOM Jack Lousma repeating his own interpretation of the words back to him (off the loop), to make sure that his understanding is correct for when he passes it up to the crew.

There's a lot of background noise on the GUIDO and CAPCOM loops, so for the sake of ease on the ears, this is just the isolated flight director loop.


General Discussion / Re: Accurate edition of Apollo 11 (2019) movie?
« on: November 27, 2023, 09:30:18 am »
Documentary authors have to weave a difficult line between being making a film that is appealing and compelling in the narrative sense, which does involve taking creative liberties, versus being as historically accurate as possible. Once upon a time, I thought it was more important to adhere to the latter principle, but I've come to realize that when most film reviewers - be they a professional like Roger Ebert or just the word of a friend whom you trust - scrutineer documentaries about topics such as the space program, they're not so concerned about whether or not the biomed readings were accurate. They are more focused on ensuring that the drama, ambition, wonderment, and scientific innovation of that time period was successfully captured on film so that the viewer can relive an enthralling and engaging if not believable simulation of those pivotal moments in human history.

Frankly, compared to other frequently-espoused historical myths, the implications of that rather pales in comparison to something like the infamous "the two stood eye to eye and the other fellow blinked" in reference to the Cuban Missile Crisis, a myth that persists in popular AND historical media to this day. 😁 I'd say "Apollo 11" gets a pass.

For strictly reliable secondary sources of the events that took place during the Apollo program, the best place to go would probably be the Apollo Flight Journal - and as for primary sources, I would say those would be the MOCR tapes themselves. It's wonderful that NASA had such a keen eye towards posterity particularly in those days.

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