Apollo 13, We Have a Solution: Part 2

The crew was alive. But how was mission control going to get the astronauts back to Earth?

16 min read
Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA

With the lunar module's life support systems coming on line, the immediate threat of death to the crew had been suspended, and it was time to start thinking about how to get the astronauts home.

Jerry Bostick was the chief of the flight dynamics branch, the part of mission control that looks after a spacecraft's trajectory—where it is, where it's going, where it should be, and how to get it there. The controllers of the flight dynamics branch sat in the front row of mission control, which they had proudly dubbed “the Trench." As they listened to the crew in space and the systems controllers in the row behind them struggle with the explosion's aftermath, “we went into the mode of okay, well, can we come back home immediately?" remembers Bostick. The Trench soon calculated that if the crew used the Odyssey's main engine and burned every last drop of fuel, they could turn around and come straight back to Earth, a procedure known as a direct abort.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Video Friday: Turkey Sandwich

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

4 min read
A teleoperated humanoid robot torso stands in a kitchen assembling a turkey sandwich from ingredients on a tray

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Enjoy today's videos!

Keep Reading ↓Show less

New AI Speeds Computer Graphics by Up to 5x

Neural rendering harnesses machine learning to paint pixels

5 min read
Four examples of Nvidia's Instant NeRF 2D-to-3D machine learning model placed side-by-side.

Nvidia Instant NeRF uses neural rendering to generate 3D visuals from 2D images.


On 20 September, Nvidia’s Vice President of Applied Deep Learning, Bryan Cantanzaro, went to Twitter with a bold claim: In certain GPU-heavy games, like the classic first-person platformer Portal, seven out of eight pixels on the screen are generated by a new machine-learning algorithm. That’s enough, he said, to accelerate rendering by up to 5x.

This impressive feat is currently limited to a few dozen 3D games, but it’s a hint at the gains neural rendering will soon deliver. The technique will unlock new potential in everyday consumer electronics.

Keep Reading ↓Show less