Apollo 13

Apollo 13 (1995)

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Gene Kranz: I don't care about what anything was *designed* to do. I care about what it *can* do.

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Trivia: The Captain of the Iwo-Jima who Tom Hanks talks to at the end of the movie is the real Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell.

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Question: Why did the Apollo 13 spacecraft need a parachute? They were landing on water not solid ground. It's easier to survive a fall when landing on water, so why would they need a parachute if they were landing on water?

Answer: Spacecraft re-enter Earth's atmosphere at extremely high velocity (thousands of miles per hour). Atmospheric friction slows the spacecraft descent somewhat; but, without parachutes, the Apollo spacecraft would still reach the surface traveling at hundreds of miles per hour. Landing in water at such high speed would be like hitting concrete, which would of course be instantly fatal. Hence the necessity of multiple parachutes. The Apollo program (and all early U.S. manned space programs) chose to land in the ocean for two reasons: 1) It was easier to track spacecraft re-entry from horizon-to-horizon at sea without visual and radar obstacles, and; 2) It was faster and easier to position several Navy vessels in the general splashdown location, then deploy helicopters to rapidly retrieve the astronauts and their spacecraft.

Charles Austin Miller
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