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  Mercury - Gemini - Apollo
  Apollo 13 service module's reentry

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Author Topic:   Apollo 13 service module's reentry
Paul78zephyr
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Posts: 344
From: Hudson, MA
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 10-16-2010 11:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul78zephyr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Did the Apollo 13 service module re-enter the atmosphere and burn up after being jettisoned? If so when/where?

ilbasso
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Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 10-16-2010 08:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There's a famous photo of the SM and the LM re-entering over Australia. At separation from the CM, there was a short burn to increase the distance between them, but reentering at 25,000 mph, and needing to delay the separation as long as possible to preserve the batteries in the CM, there's only so far apart they could get.

Once in the atmosphere, the LM and SM followed a ballistic trajectory. The CM could be steered by rolling the spacecraft to move the center of gravity, enabling it to be targeted to the landing zone.

chenry
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Posts: 54
From: Zionsville, IN 46077
Registered: Oct 2010

posted 10-17-2010 11:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for chenry   Click Here to Email chenry     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I may be wrong, but I thought I could remember seeing a picture of the remains of the LM after were recovered. Does anyone else remember this?

Skylon
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Posts: 140
From:
Registered: Sep 2010

posted 10-17-2010 12:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I thought Aquarius was dumped very deep into the Pacific due to a radioactive experiment carried aboard.

Frankly, the LM was so thin-skinned I'd be shocked if much survived.

Tom
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Posts: 1275
From: New York
Registered: Nov 2000

posted 10-17-2010 12:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom   Click Here to Email Tom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by chenry:
Does anyone else remember this?
If I recall correctly, the remains that were found were of the first lunar module test flight (LM 1).

mikej
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Posts: 374
From: Germantown, WI USA
Registered: Jan 2004

posted 10-19-2010 07:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikej   Click Here to Email mikej     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Tom:
If I recall correctly, the remains that were found were of the first lunar module test flight (LM 1).

Yes, portions of the descent stage of LM-1 (Apollo 5) were recovered from Columbia, South America.

I have information about Apollo 5, as well as pictures of some of the returned debris, on my web site.

MadSci
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From: Maryland, USA
Registered: Oct 2008

posted 10-20-2010 02:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MadSci     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I believe the comment about the LM being aimed at a trench in the pacific due to concerns about the radioactive thermal generator for the ALSEP is correct. It was heavily built so that if there was an explosion and crash during launch the container wouldn't be breached, hence the concerns about it surviving reentry.

As for the LM itself, its skin was thin to be sure, however there were many parts that were of necessity heavily built or otherwise capable of surviving reentry. The helium and other tanks for example, and of course the engine thrust chambers were built to withstand both high temperature and erosion from high velocity gases, so it's reasonable to assume some identifiable pieces would get back home to earth.

ilbasso
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Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 10-20-2010 08:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"Aimed at a trench" is probably being a little generous in terms of the extent to which the reentry could be targeted. The best that could be done was to time the trans-Earth burn such that the LM's eventual reentry would be over deep water. They couldn't adjust the impact point north or south of the reentry vector. There simply wasn't enough propellant or time to make significant changes to the LM's trajectory before it hit the atmosphere.

I do remember concerns being raised at the time about the RTG cask, and the public being reassured that the impact would be in the deep ocean, and I do recall the PR that it would be going into a trench. However, the reentry was ultimately timed to maximize the chances of crew survival as the overwhelming primary consideration. Since Apollo recoveries happened in deep water, the LM would be going into deep water, too.

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-20-2010 09:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Various NASA missions that also employed radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG) for power cite in their environmental impact reports the Apollo 13 RTG as a case study. For example, from the final report for Galileo:
In April 1970, the Apollo 13 lunar module reentered the atmosphere and its SNAP 27 RTG, which was jettisoned, fell intact into the 20,000 foot deep Tonga Trench in the Pacific Ocean. Measurements show that there was no release of radioactive material into the atmosphere.
I'm not sure what the reference to "jettisoned" applies to -- I don't believe the RTG was further separated from the lunar module after reentry -- but it does appear its reentry was tracked in order to conduct atmospheric measurements.

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