NASA’s Apollo 13 mission was the seventh of the Apollo space programme destined for the moon. The craft left the Kennedy Space Centre on April 11, 1970, before facing the ultimate nightmare for any astronaut two days later. The lunar landing was aborted on April 13 when an oxygen tank exploded and crippled the service module upon which the command module had depended.
It was revealed during Amazon Prime’s “Apollo 13” series how astronauts James Lovell, John Swigert and Fred Haise were forced to abandon the command module (CM) for the lunar module (LM).
The 2019 series revealed: “The lunar module was used as a lifeboat – this was not the perfect solution.
“It was only designed to support two astronauts for a total of 45 hours as they travelled from the CM to the moon and back.
“It definitely wasn’t equipped to support three astronauts for the 90-plus hours needed to get home.
“But because the CM was failing, this was the crew’s only hope if they were going to survive.”
The programme went on to detail how the astronauts managed to stay alive.
It added: “First they had to power up the LM.
“This was supposed to be done using electricity from the CM which was now in its deathbed.
“So hundreds of thousands of kilometres away, the LM controllers had to figure out how to hot-wire the spacecraft.
“This hack energised the relays connected to the descent batteries and powered up the spacecraft.”
Once they had gained power in the Lunar Module, the astronauts faced a deadly scene as there was too much carbon dioxide inside.
The documentary continued: “Adding to the problem, the crew was facing a fatal buildup of carbon dioxide.
“A problem mission control solved using duct tape.”
Jerry Woodfill, who helped design and monitor the Apollo caution and warning systems revealed why this was a crucial issue.
He said in 2010: “There was a problem with the CO2 ‘scrubbers’ – the lithium hydroxide canisters.
“The cabin air was fed continuously through environmental control equipment, and the lithium hydroxide reacted with the carbon dioxide and trapped it.
“There were but two round lithium hydroxide canisters in the LM, able to provide filtering for two men for two days.
“With the trip back to Earth at least four days in length, and three men on board, the carbon dioxide content of the cabin air would rise to poisonous levels, and the crew would expire without a solution.
“Without some kind of unusual miracle of making a square peg fit into a round hole the crew would not survive.”
However, using only the type of equipment and tools the crew had on board – including plastic bags, cardboard, suit hoses, and duct tape, the crew came up with a solution.
Mr Woodfield added: “The idea was to attach a suit hose into a port which blew air through the hose into an astronaut’s space suit.
“If the space suit was eliminated and, instead, the output of the hose somehow attached to the square filter, perhaps, the crew could be saved.
“This, in effect, would bypass the barrel. The air blown through the filter by the suit fan would have no carbon dioxide as it reentered the cabin atmosphere.”