In April, 1970 an explosion occurred aboard the Apollo 13 spacecraft as it neared the Moon. All around the world various people leapt into action to help save the astronauts’ lives. One of the most unusual examples of this occurred at the old Chabot Observatory in Oakland. A number of scientifically enthusiastic young high school and college kids tracked the Apollo 13 Capsule with several of the large telescopes there. It was my very great privilege to be one of those kids. Under the brilliant and energetic leadership of Dr. Terry Galloway, who had recently received his PhD from Caltech, we provided information that helped confirm that Apollo 13 was on the correct trajectory to safely return to earth.
In my talk, I will use images, charts, old newspapers, the Apollo 13 accident report, videos from various documentaries about Apollo 13, as well as the Ron Howard movie to describe the incident. I will go into some substantial detail as to what the profile of a “normal” Apollo mission would be like, why and how the Apollo 13 accident occurred, and how the accident lead to a deviation from normal navigational procedures. This made Chabot’s and other observatories optical observations more important to insure that Apollo 13 was on the correct path, especially the night before reentry.
I'll describe how magical, majestic and beautiful the command and service module and the third stage of the Saturn Five looked through Rachel, the 20 inch refractor at Chabot, as they stately drifted through space. I will discuss the normal role and function of the deep space network and how it changed on this mission, as well as a very little known but very important fact about the DSN that puts the story into a very different light. I will also tell the amazing and unbelievable story of how our efforts at Chabot Observatory became a remarkable example of how important astronomy outreach can be and how it changed the future!
Finally, for fun, we will see a couple of segments from the Ron Howard Apollo 13 movie (which, to make clear, I love!) and we will play the “How many scientific, engineering, and factual errors can you find?” game.
Speaker: David Rodrigues, East Bay Astronomical Society
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