Monday, May 23, 2016

Problem Solving at 13,500 Feet Per Second

You surely know about the harrowing Apollo 13 Moon Mission (if not, have I got a movie for you!). But do you know of the launch drama associated with Apollo 12? Neither had I. Watch this YouTube clip and be amazed:

You can read the original launch transcript here. And at 30 seconds or so, you can see they've clearly got a significant problem:

000:00:30 Bean (onboard): Thirty seconds.

000:00:31 Conrad (onboard): Looks good.

000:00:33 Conrad: Roll's complete.

000:00:33 Bean (onboard): This thing moves, doesn't it?

000:00:34 Carr: Roger, Pete. [Pause.]

000:00:37 Gordon (onboard): What the hell was that?

000:00:38 Conrad (onboard): Huh?

000:00:39 Gordon (onboard): I lost a whole bunch of stuff; I don't know ...

000:00:40 Conrad (onboard): Turn off the buses.

However, if you listen to the audio itself, it would be easy to miss the urgency of all of this. In classic pilot / NASA style, everyone remains incredibly calm and emotion free.

At a 1 minute, 52 seconds you can hear the request to flip SEC to AUX, which corrects the instruments.

Only at 4 minutes and 10 seconds does a hint of emotion leak into the conversation:

000:04:07 Conrad: Hey, that's one of the better SIM's, believe me.

000:04:XX Conrad (onboard): Phew! Man alive! I'll tell you what happened...

000:04:13 Carr: We've had a couple of cardiac arrests down here, too, Pete.

000:04:16 Conrad: There wasn't any time for that up here. We've got a good clock running here, and correct me, I'm going to give you a mark at 4 plus 30. I've lost my event timer. And...

All I can say is that I'd lose far more than my event timer if I were in these guys shoes. Amazing.

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