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Safely to Earth
The Men and Women Who Brought the Apollo Astronauts Home
Jack Francis Clemons, 2018, Beaverton 929.45 CLE
Pretty damned good for a first book. Clemons wrote a lot of documentation during his career, but not many published papers or stories. A "12 postit book"
- Clemons was born around 1943 (age 75 in early 2019, matriculated U. Florida 1961).
- p30 picture of free return trajectory ... interesting, Apollo orbited "westward" around Moon.
p31 Catholic church (Saint Patrick's?) in Clear Lake (same as Jim McDivitt and Gene Cernan), Christmas Day 1230am priest announced trans-lunar injection burn was successful.
p65 EECOM (Electrical, environmental, and communications) flight controller John Aaron saved Apollo 12 after an undetected lightning strike disabled critical electrical system. He told crew to switch SCE (signal conditioning electronics) to AUX which helped clear the fault, then had them reset the fuel cells. Controller Aaron had learned of this idiosyncracy during a ground test a year before, and remembered its symptoms and how he tracked it down.
- p72 Clemons worked nonstop before Apollo 13; afterwards his work habits shifted to "procrastinate, then crises-mode".
- p73 Apollo 18 and 19 would have had a combined incremental cost of $42M (out of $25B). Fortunately the hardware was available for Skylab and ASTP
- p93 Apollo 13 entry, 5 gees, ~2760C, 3000K beyond ablative heat shield.
- p96 Apollo 13 anomalous thrust (requiring unexpected course corrections) due to cooling water venting from the LM.
- p97 On Sunday April 19, 1970, Clemons attends mass. The priest's sermon (to a mostly-NASA-employed congregation) was about the safe return of Apollo 13 on Friday:
"Many people have told me how hard they prayed for the Apollo 13 astronauts last week. I agreed with them and said, so have I. They said how thankful they were that God had answered their prayers and brought the crew home safely.
- I watched television coverage of Apollo 13 whenever I could, and listened on the radio the rest of the time. At no point did Mission Control report that a giant hand had reached down from heaven to lift the Apollo 13 spacecraft in its palm and carry it gently back to Earth.
- God doesn't work that way. He answers our prayers by giving each of us a brain to make use of, a capacity to learn, the intelligence to apply it, and the free will to choose to. After that, it's up to us.
You chose to use your God-given gifts this week, you and the others around the Earth who gave it everything they had to bring Lovell, Haise, and Swigert home. Each of you, and all of you, saved Apollo 13. You are the ones who answered those prayers."
- While I think the universe is too amazing and complex to be describable with "humanoid personality words" like God and Create, this is instructive for those who believe in an intervening deity who cleans up mistakes if believers say nice things but otherwise do nothing. Or worse, intentionally repeat those "mistakes" for personal gain, harm others, and expect their deity to reward them with eternal paradise. Heaven isn't for hypocrites, here or hereafter.
p169 April 10, 1981: STS-1 Columbia launch-delaying timing glitch due to error in IBM main computer software that did not synchronize properly with the Rockwell alternate computer. Oopsie for Clemon's IBM team. I attended the STS-1 launch at the press site (with a press badge arranged by OMSI planetarium director Gary Staziuk), had read about the shuttle beforehand, and read the mounds of handouts on tables at the press center. I explained the synchronization problem to some the real reporters. I would have loved to learn more details in this book.
- p244 Further reading: J.F. Clemons and P.E. Moseley, Recommended Entry Monitoring and Backup Control Procedures for Apollo 11 (Mission G). NASA MSC Internal Note No. 69-FM-185, July 2, 1969.
p245 William Harwood Legendary Commander Tells Story of Shuttle's Close Call