When the Apollo 13 mission took off on April 11, 1970, neither the mission team nor ground control predicted the drama that would take place and the events that would almost end in disaster. Experienced astronaut James Lovell the crew, led by, was assigned to go to the Moon. This mission would be the third time humanity has set foot on the lunar surface and the next successful chapter of the Apollo missions.
Along with command module pilot Jack Swigert and lunar module pilot Fred Haise, 3 astronauts also used the OMEGA Speedmaster Professional Chronograph, which has been part of official NASA missions since 1965. As always, clocks were an indispensable part of the mission. As James Ragan, the NASA engineer who developed and first tested the OMEGA Speedmaster, put it; “ The clocks act as a critical backup system. If astronauts lose contact with the ground or have problems with digital timers, the only thing they can trust is their wrists.”
2 days after Apollo 13 was launched, a really big problem occurred. Damage to the service module when an oxygen tank exploded on board put the astronauts in a difficult situation. The lunar mission was aborted, now the mission was to return the crew safely to Earth.
The innovative recovery strategy, led by Houston, was intended to guide astronauts to the Lunar Module. But this module was not designed to keep such a large number of people alive long enough to return to Earth. In order to save energy, the crew shut down almost all systems and the digital timers were disabled. The astronauts were at the mercy of the dark and freezing environment of space.
Apollo 13 encountered many serious difficulties on landing on Earth. After NASA worked for days in light of changing parameters at any moment, Omega's punctuality was resorted to when it reached the final hurdle. As the shuttle drifted toward Earth at an average speed of 60-80 mph, it would enter the atmosphere at the wrong angle and return to the void of space without having a chance to land. So to manually recalibrate the shuttle's course 14 seconds a fuel consumption was required and there was no room for error in the calculations. Since digital timers did not work, Lovell used Earth as a guide, such as a horizon line, while Swigert used his OMEGA Speedmaster chronograph to calculate the burn time. Mission commander Lovell describes the moment, " while Jack was making calculations that would bring us home with the OMEGA watch on his wrist, I took control of the spacecraft.
With the perfect handling of the unique maneuver, Apollo 13, 142 hours 54 minutes she then landed safely in the South Pacific on 17 April. The clock had successfully fulfilled its mission.
On October 5, 1970, OMEGA was awarded NASA's “Silver Snoopy Award” for his successful contribution to manned space missions. At the time of the award's creation, NASA's unofficial mascot, Snoopy, was chosen. Snoopy became NASA's watchdog because he facilitated even serious situations.
Still today, the Silver Needle recalls Omega's history in space exploration and the role it played in the successful Apollo 13 Failure.
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