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Apollo 13

February 3, 2011

Filed under: event — Terry Wohlers @ 15:37

“Houston, we have a problem,” was said 40 years ago and again on January 24, 2011 by Jim Lovell, the astronaut who made the line famous. Lovell, commander of Apollo 13, spoke at SolidWorks World 2011 in San Antonio, Texas. Gene Kranz, former flight director at NASA Mission Control, presented with Lovell as they took the audience of 5,000 back to April 1970. Kranz and his team were instrumental in bringing home Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise after an oxygen tank exploded and severely damaged the spacecraft’s electrical system.

The two legendary figures had my attention as they told the story of what happened to the Apollo 13 mission. Even though I knew it had a happy ending, it was very special to hear the story with such vivid detail from the two who were most responsible for how it would conclude. Lovell, now 82, shared the first part and then Kranz jumped in. And then it went back to Lovell and again to Kranz. Their words and presence gripped my attention from start to finish.

Kranz, 77, still carries a look that is as tough as nails. I had a chance to meet and speak with him after a press conference that SolidWorks organized. I told him that I had the privilege of also meeting the late Alan Shepard. Kranz agreed with Shepard that the 1995 film titled Apollo 13 was presented accurately, although it left out technical detail, discussion, and debate that went on behind the scenes.

It was an opportunity of a lifetime to hear Lovell and Kranz. Thanks to SolidWorks for bringing them to the event to share their moving story that occurred at a time when so many Americans were fascinated by the space program. NASA served as inspiration that led many to engineering and related fields. Comments by Lovell at the press conference suggested that he was not entirely happy with the current direction of NASA. Hopefully, the space agency will get back on track and help create another generation of Americans whose passion is science and engineering.