The Apollo Missions Failed

Apollo missions took astronauts on an incredible journey from earth to moon and back again – not always with an uneventful ride though; in fact, many perilous moments marred this mission.

On what should have been an otherwise routine mission, an oxygen tank explosion damaged their spacecraft over 200,000 miles from home and forced its crew to make do without much needed resources in order to survive and return home safely. They had to adapt in order to make do.

1. Apollo 1 Fire

Apollo 1 mission, one of America’s earliest tests of their space program, ended tragically when all three astronauts aboard were killed due to its catastrophic failure. Originally intended as a test flight for Earth orbit and lunar landing simulations, however it instead resulted in an explosion shortly after launch that blew open an oxygen tank door, sparking fires throughout its spacecraft that led directly to their deaths.

NASA was hit hard by this disaster, yet it ultimately forced them to make many adjustments for future missions. Following an in-depth investigation, the Apollo 1 Review Board identified several design flaws and safety hazards which contributed to its demise: the cabin was pressurized with pure oxygen which fuels fire; there were flammable materials inside and exposed wiring bundles inside its capsule; its hatch was difficult to open quickly in an emergency situation; spacesuits made of nylon were highly flammable but didn’t include a fire suppression system;

Armstrong and Aldrin unexpectedly encountered trouble while preparing their moonwalk: accidentally knocking off the tip of a circuit breaker caused power to be shut off to their ascent engine; which would later launch them off the surface of the moon. Once alerted by ground control, Armstrong and Aldrin resumed their EVA while they worked to solve their issue – eventually they succeeded in doing so successfully.

Apollo 13 proved challenging despite its success, however. After escaping from the command module, they discovered that oxygen tanks had been damaged by an explosion and therefore weren’t producing enough power or losing water fast enough for systems like temperature controls or heating the spacecraft properly. For four days after that they remained inside Aquarius while Houston devised a plan to return them safely back home.

Apollo 13 crew made it back safely, though not without difficulty. This disaster illustrated that NASA needed to sacrifice lives for more advanced projects to develop. Still, all subsequent Apollo missions were successful and led to numerous other achievements in subsequent years.

2. Apollo 11 Crash

As Armstrong and Aldrin prepared for their inaugural moonwalk, an issue arose: while donning their portable life-support systems, the astronauts accidentally knocked off a circuit breaker that controlled power to an ascent engine used to blast them from the moon back to Earth. Ground control immediately responded; working toward finding a solution while they continued their moonwalk.

They discovered that their problem was due to the extreme cold of lunar temperatures. This had made its way into their spacecraft and caused issues with one of its fuel lines, potentially leading to fire or explosion that would result in total destruction of both command module and lander.

At last, it was resolved by resetting a computer sequence that had accidentally been altered during launch and thus reset an ascent engine sequence allowing for correct functioning. Although this was the first such instance on an Apollo mission, similar issues would arise again later.

Few outside Mission Control realized the scope of Armstrong and Aldrin’s risks during their journey to the moon. Their astronauts rode in a gumdrop-shaped capsule called the command module that rested atop a larger cylindrical unit, holding supplies, propellants and an engine for their rocket engine; another part called lunar module transported them between Earth and Luna.

Apollo 11 crew would travel via command module, lunar module and Michael Collins would remain in orbit above the moon while their 8-day mission lasted.

Though NASA and its astronauts ran simulations to predict potential outcomes of any problems on Apollo 11, no matter how realistic, there was still no way of knowing exactly what would occur if something did go wrong during landing. For this reason, President Nixon prepared a speech for Barry that in case something did go wrong on that mission it might have become “the worst disaster in American history”. Luckily it never did.

3. Apollo 13 Crash

NASA’s third moon landing mission, Apollo 13, had already proven difficult for America’s astronauts to survive prior to launch. Days prior to liftoff, backup Command Module Pilot Ken Mattingly had been exposed to German measles and had to be grounded; Jack Swigert replaced him on April 11 morning when one of its center engines prematurely shut off during launch; burning all other engines 34 seconds longer was enough to keep Apollo 13 in orbit, though Mission Control worried of further problems arising during flight.

Unhappily, their concerns were founded. Just hours after launch, an explosion rocked the spacecraft as it careened through space. While its exact cause remains unknown, speculation suggests a ruptured oxygen line or valve in one of the service module tanks led to all other tanks losing pressure as well; without oxygen being supplied via this means, all life-support functions were lost and life support lost with them.

As a result, temperatures in the cabin were reduced to levels comparable to a meat locker or refrigerator and astronauts suffered from loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. Their only hope of survival lay with using Aquarius as a lunar module as a means of returning back home using gravity as a propellant force from space to Earth.

Mission Control Center computers were equipped with automatic pens that scribbled down data received from Apollo 13 astronauts, but at the moment of an explosion they stopped writing for two seconds–an indication of serious trouble in Mission Control.

Astronauts were instructed to utilize the moon’s gravitational pull as quickly as possible. To assist, the ground calculated a maneuver which would transition Apollo 13 spacecraft’s trajectory from free return to Earth back onto a lunar landing course after three-hour lunar orbit completion, followed by a five-minute burn that would speed their return home.

4. Apollo 15 Crash

NASA’s Apollo program ran from 1961-1972, culminating with humanity’s first landing on the moon. It followed on from Project Mercury missions that proved humans could work and survive in space and Gemini programs which tested maneuvers and components required for lunar landing. Apollo rockets used three-person configurations: command module (CM), crew quarters/flight control section; lunar module (LM), which transported astronauts between Earth and lunar surface, as well as service module which supported and propelled command module CM rockets through space to Earth/back to Earth again.

On April 11, 1970, during Apollo 13 mission, an oxygen tank explosion forced its crew to use their Lunar Module as a lifeboat and circle the moon without landing before returning back home to Earth. This event quickly garnered worldwide interest, becoming one of the most celebrated space stories ever.

At 506 hours into their mission, astronauts James Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert were transitioning from lunar module Aquarius to command module Odyssey when an explosion rocked the craft. Radioing mission control in Houston for assistance, they determined that an oxygen tank explosion had resulted from power issues within the service module causing it to fail and then explode violently.

Fire quickly consumed their lunar module (LM), burning through its outer thermal blanket and damaging its interior, forcing them to abandon it and climb into CSM instead. Over the next four days, crew members performed emergency repairs as best they could and improvised solutions to make do with whatever circumstances were presented them.

As soon as they arrived back on Earth, astronauts were welcomed with cheering crowds and a Navy recovery fleet. NASA quickly lifted its postflight quarantine, protecting against contamination of Earth by lunar microorganisms that might come back home with them.

Apollo 15 CM’s fire was caused by an electrical short in the second oxygen tank. Damaged insulation around electrical components in this tank led to overheated wires which ignited oxygen, starting a fire which quickly spread throughout. Although the fire threatened astronauts’ lives, they managed to safely return home.

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