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Leadership On Apollo 13 Essay

1023 words - 4 pages

Eugene Kranz Returns Apollo 13 to Earth

Case Study #1

Eugene Kranz Returns Apollo 13 to Earth

On April 13, 1970, NASA's Mission Control heard the five words that no control center ever wants to hear: "We've got a problem here." Jack Swigert, an astronaut aboard the Apollo 13 aircraft, reported the problem of broken down oxygen tanks to the Houston Control Center, less than two days after its takeoff on April 11th. Those at the Control Center in Houston were unsure what had happened to the spacecraft, but knew that some sort of explosion had occurred. This so-called explosion sent Apollo 13 spinning away from the Earth at 2,000 miles per hour, 75 percent of the way to the moon. In order to get the astronauts back to the Earth's atmosphere would be to utilize the moon's gravitational pull and send them back towards home, like a slingshot. However, this procedure would require three days, and this demanded more oxygen and electricity than the crew had available to them. Eugene "Gene" Kranz, head of this flight mission, although looking on in horror, began thinking of solutions to the problem immediately after the Controls were aware of the problem on board. Knowing that the options of refueling the spacecraft with oxygen or retrieve the astronauts himself, he needed to think of a strategy for a safe return. In this sense, if his solution fails, it could result in the biggest catastrophe in NASA history.

There were dozens of people ready on the ground to assist this cause in whatever way possible, but no one helped this mission survive like Eugene "Gene" Kranz, especially that all final call decisions were in his hands. However, this also gave him the ability to break or bend the rules if necessary, whatever it takes to get them home safely. And that is just what Kranz did. Not long after, the astronauts reported one empty oxygen tank, only one out of three cells generating electricity, and two panels supplying power to the entire spacecraft were losing voltage. As if this was not bad enough, there was more disparaging news: a cloud of some sort was floating above the spacecraft, leading to the assumption that an oxygen tank exploded.

Kranz's first correct move was assuring the crew that everything would turn out alright and to keep their cool. If anyone started completely panicking, it would not help the mission be successful. After comforting everyone, he immediately moved to the second task: how to get the astronauts home safely. He also avoided error and speculation through self-discipline and thoroughness.

At this point, there was enough oxygen in the second system to get the astronauts home safely, but Lovell, one of the astronauts, noticed that the psi (pounds per square inch) level on the pressure gauge for the second system was falling as well. It should normally register at 860, now it was only a 300, only 53 minutes after the initial explosion. At this pace, the spacecraft would...

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