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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Aug. 3, 1995)
Nebraska native remembers personal
NASA role during Apollo 13 flight
By UINUbH JbNSbN
REPUBLICAN CITY, Neb. (AP)
- Before an Apollo 13 crew member
told mission control, “Houston, we
have a problem,” Bob Savely knew
something serious had happened.
At his mission control monitor
April 13, 1970, he saw the moon
bound spacecraft’s velocity change,
“which shouldn’t have happened.
Within a few seconds, the crew called
that they had a problem.
“It was a long time ago, but I be
lieve I thought, ‘Hmm, I haven’t seen
that before. ’ There was the possibi 1 ity
we had some bad data, or maybe some
event had taken place, or maybe there
was a problem with our trackingsystem.
“We saw the batteries on the ser
vice module losing power. The lights
were going out. Things started falling
apart very rapidly.”
It later was learned an oxygen tank
in the command module had exploded.
A second tank also was losing oxygen,
and carbon dioxide levels increased.
The explosion also affected electri
cal, climate control and navigation
systems on the fateful spacecraft.
Savely, a 1952 Republican City
High School graduate, now of Hous
ton, Texas, headed NASA’s Orbit
Determination Section at the Johnson
Space Center. His job was to manage
design of the on-board navigation sys
tem, develop crew procedures, select
lunar landmarks for navigation and
provide onboard navigation support
at Mission Control Center.
To get astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack
Swigert and Fred Haise safely home,
he and his team had to compute the
crippled craft’s attitude and alignment
for re-entry so it wouldn’t burn up in
the earth’s atmosphere.
To save Apollo 13 resources after
the explosion, flight controllers de
cidedtoalign the lunar module’s guid
ance System with the command mod
ule, while it still had power. The crew
shut down the command module until
re-entry, and moved into the lunar
module, depending on its oxygen,
guidance system and descent propul
“A lot of people did a lot of innova
tive things in life support for the crew
and to get them back to Earth safely,”
Savely said, “But there was a lot of
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