The “Successful Failure” That Was Apollo 13
Shortly after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed and walked successfully on the Moon for the first time in history, another lunar mission almost ended in disaster without the valor and strong leadership it took to get three men back to Earth. Jim Lovell (played by Tom Hanks), Jack Swiggert (played by Kevin Bacon), and Fred Haise (played by Bill Paxton) blasted off on the Apollo 13 mission on April 11, 1970, in trying to collect samples from the surface of the Moon and survey it. Swiggert took the place of the more experienced Ken Mattingly (played by Gary Sinese) since Mattingly was the only one not immune to the measles after one of the other astronauts had contracted it. The flight surgeon on the trip ordered him to remain aground to keep both himself and the crew healthy during the flight.
After safely exiting the Earth’s atmosphere and heading on course, a routine oxygen tank stir that was required often during space missions caused a coil in the tank to break loose and erupt, creating new unforeseen problems. The blast forced open most of the oxygen tanks as they leaked into space, increased the levels of carbon dioxide within the command module the men were traveling in, and severely decreased their power capabilities. Immediately NASA assembled the best and brightest men they had on staff to assess the situation and Flight Director Gene Kranz (played by Ed Harris) called off the Moon landing, changing the final task of the mission to a safe return home. Through repeated calculation, experimentation by Ken Mattingly who knew the module systems well, and a bit of luck, the men managed to slingshot themselves around the Moon, using its gravity to head back home on course. With the help of NASA back in Houston, carbon dioxide levels were decreased, saving enough oxygen to survive on, and drawing enough power to the command module to get home again.
While the movie provides the dramatic fuel to entertain anyone that can understand the danger the men faced, the real story lies behind the successful failure that was Apollo 13 in the three astronauts and NASA experts. Within the storyline a multitude of examples of the leadership skills, theories, and traits that were all called upon in desperation to successfully bring the astronauts home can be found. The real success is seen within the leadership attributes of Apollo Commander Jim Lovell, Flight Director Gene Kranz, and the astronauts and NASA experts as two groups, as they each worked in separate ways to find solutions to the various problems that plagued this mission.
Jim Lovell was in many ways the perfect commander to have flying that disastrous mission due to his experienced background and his determination. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout as a young adult and succeeded as a pilot in the military before becoming an astronaut for NASA. These qualities showed that he had the main characteristics of a team leader; he was capable of...