Author Topic: Could the remains of Apollo 13 be recovered?  (Read 1492 times)

Offline TakeOff

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 359
  • Liked: 74
  • Likes Given: 97
Could the remains of Apollo 13 be recovered?
« on: 08/28/2016 08:37 AM »
Where did the Apollo 13 Lunar Module and Command Module crash?
Did it burn up in the atmosphere or is there likely to be any larger structure of it remaining on the bottom of the ocean? The RTG at least should be intact. Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin picked up an F-1 engine from Saturn V, so a piece of Apollo 13 might be of interest too.
« Last Edit: 08/28/2016 08:38 AM by TakeOff »

Offline hamerad

  • Member
  • Posts: 51
  • South Australia
  • Liked: 29
  • Likes Given: 20
Re: Could the remains of Apollo 13 be recovered?
« Reply #1 on: 08/28/2016 08:51 AM »

Online Hobbes-22

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 351
  • Acme Engineering
    • Acme Engineering shop
  • Liked: 98
  • Likes Given: 74
Re: Could the remains of Apollo 13 be recovered?
« Reply #2 on: 08/28/2016 09:01 AM »
According to Wikipedia, the RTG ended up in the Tonga Trench, which is up to 10 km deep. That would be a difficult recovery - a submersible would have to be purpose-built for that depth (most deep-sea submersibles only go to 4-5 km).

The LM and SM burned up on reentry, the CM is in a museum.

Offline TakeOff

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 359
  • Liked: 74
  • Likes Given: 97
Re: Could the remains of Apollo 13 be recovered?
« Reply #3 on: 08/28/2016 12:46 PM »
According to Wikipedia, the RTG ended up in the Tonga Trench, which is up to 10 km deep. That would be a difficult recovery - a submersible would have to be purpose-built for that depth (most deep-sea submersibles only go to 4-5 km).

The LM and SM burned up on reentry, the CM is in a museum.
In the Tonga Trench of all places. Was that somehow a deliberate choice? How much of the ocean is deeper than that, 1% or so?

It's rare heat might've caused a micro-ecosystem down there by now.
« Last Edit: 08/28/2016 12:51 PM by TakeOff »

Online DaveS

  • Shuttle program observer
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7770
  • Sweden
  • Liked: 300
  • Likes Given: 12
Re: Could the remains of Apollo 13 be recovered?
« Reply #4 on: 08/28/2016 12:51 PM »
According to Wikipedia, the RTG ended up in the Tonga Trench, which is up to 10 km deep. That would be a difficult recovery - a submersible would have to be purpose-built for that depth (most deep-sea submersibles only go to 4-5 km).

The LM and SM burned up on reentry, the CM is in a museum.
In the Tonga Trench of all places. Was that somehow a deliberate choice? How much of the ocean is deeper than that, 1% or so?
Yes, it was deliberate. They wanted to ditch the RTG in the deepest trench they could find.
"For Sardines, space is no problem!"
-1996 Astronaut class slogan

"We're rolling in the wrong direction but for the right reasons"
-USA engineer about the rollback of Discovery prior to the STS-114 Return To Flight mission

Offline hoku

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 184
  • Liked: 3
  • Likes Given: 3
Re: Could the remains of Apollo 13 be recovered?
« Reply #5 on: 08/28/2016 07:55 PM »
According to Wikipedia, the RTG ended up in the Tonga Trench, which is up to 10 km deep. That would be a difficult recovery - a submersible would have to be purpose-built for that depth (most deep-sea submersibles only go to 4-5 km).

The LM and SM burned up on reentry, the CM is in a museum.
In the Tonga Trench of all places. Was that somehow a deliberate choice? How much of the ocean is deeper than that, 1% or so?
Yes, it was deliberate. They wanted to ditch the RTG in the deepest trench they could find.

Interesting - are you implying that the return trajectory was timed for the RTG to end up in the trench? And that consumables for the crew were of "secondary" concern?

Online DaveS

  • Shuttle program observer
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7770
  • Sweden
  • Liked: 300
  • Likes Given: 12
Re: Could the remains of Apollo 13 be recovered?
« Reply #6 on: 08/28/2016 08:01 PM »
According to Wikipedia, the RTG ended up in the Tonga Trench, which is up to 10 km deep. That would be a difficult recovery - a submersible would have to be purpose-built for that depth (most deep-sea submersibles only go to 4-5 km).

The LM and SM burned up on reentry, the CM is in a museum.
In the Tonga Trench of all places. Was that somehow a deliberate choice? How much of the ocean is deeper than that, 1% or so?
Yes, it was deliberate. They wanted to ditch the RTG in the deepest trench they could find.

Interesting - are you implying that the return trajectory was timed for the RTG to end up in the trench? And that consumables for the crew were of "secondary" concern?
Not really. Crew recovery was the prime objective of course, but any place could get that "scary" RTG deep enough was good enough for management.  Even in the 1960's, radioactive goods weren't that popular. Which is why interesting projects such as the original pulse detonation Orion and the NERVA got killed.
"For Sardines, space is no problem!"
-1996 Astronaut class slogan

"We're rolling in the wrong direction but for the right reasons"
-USA engineer about the rollback of Discovery prior to the STS-114 Return To Flight mission

Offline the_other_Doug

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2490
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Liked: 1520
  • Likes Given: 2687
Re: Could the remains of Apollo 13 be recovered?
« Reply #7 on: 08/28/2016 08:55 PM »
The possibility that a LM on a landing mission could end up coming back to Earth was foreseen, and some planning had gone into what they would do if the circumstance ever arose.  And it definitely arose on Apollo 13.

The fuel cask for the RTG fuel was made of graphite.  It had a screw-on top that tended to self-seal under atmospheric entry heating, and the cask was attached to the back side of the LM's descent stage on a tip-out  hinge that would easily separate from the rest of the LM if it ever broke up while coming back into the atmosphere.

So, the pre-planning was that you target the LM's entry such that its debris lands on top of the deepest ocean trench in the area.  Landing in the Pacific makes that a little easier, since there are more deep trenches there than, say, in the Atlantic or Indian oceans.

Now, on Apollo 13, targeting the LM's entry was tricky.  First of all, the CSM/LM stack had to separate right before all of it came slamming back into Earth's atmosphere.  Because the crew needed the LM for power and life support for as long as possible, they jettisoned the SM first -- that also gave the crew a time window for trying to get pictures of the damaged SM.

They then flew, just the CM and the LM, for a few more hours.  That stack was targeted for the prime landing area, where the recovery ships were located.  They positioned the spacecraft such that the separation of the CM and the LM, shortly before they hit the atmosphere, pushed the LM away from the CM's trajectory.  A short remote-controlled blip from the LM's thrusters aimed it away from the CM's entry path and towards the deepest trench possible.

As we all know, the CM steered perfectly to the recovery zone, and the LM's surviving debris flew to the water above the Tonga Trench.  From all the tests done since, there are no indications that the graphite cask breached, either during entry or upon impact with the water.  But there is really no way to find  the cask on the bottom and ensure that it remains intact down there.  There is always the possibility that it didn't survive the entire descent and may be leaking radioactivity.  If so, it's buried by an awful lot of tons of water...
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Tags: