The Greatest Leap, part 5: Saving the crew of Apollo 13

The Greatest Leap, part 5: Saving the crew of Apollo 13

Video shot by Joshua Ballinger, edited and produced by Jing Niu and David Minick. Click here for transcript.

As Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise floated in the tunnel snaking between the Lunar Module and Command Module, he heard—and felt—a loud bang. Around him, the two vehicles began to contort. Then, the metal walls of the tunnel crinkled as the spacecraft shuddered.

Wide-eyed, Haise scrambled from the tunnel into the Command Module alongside Jack Swigert and

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American kids would much rather be YouTubers than astronauts

American kids would much rather be YouTubers than astronauts

Enlarge / A team of 10 designers and LEGO “Master Builders” spent nearly 300 hours designing and building a life-size LEGO model of Aldrin in his iconic pose on the lunar surface. (credit: LEGO)

Exactly 50 years ago today, a Saturn V rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center carrying Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the Moon. Four days later, Armstrong and Aldrin would land on the Moon and inspire a generation of young people to become scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.

The Apollo program’s effect of inspiring America’s children to pursue careers in STEM fields is one of the most powerful lasting legacies of the Moon race. Unfortunately, this effect seems to be coming to an end.

On the eve of the Apollo 11 anniversary, LEGO asked The Harris Poll to survey a total of 3,000 children in the United States, China, and the United Kingdom about their

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There’s a slight problem with Russia’s proposed Federation spacecraft

There’s a slight problem with Russia’s proposed Federation spacecraft

Enlarge / A mock-up of the next-generation manned spacecraft Federation (Federatsia, Federatsiya) at the offices of Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation in 2017. (credit: Anton NovoderezhkinTASS via Getty Images)

It has been more than half a century since Russia developed its last new spacecraft for carrying humans into orbit—the venerable Soyuz capsule, which still flies both Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts into orbit today. However, over the last decade, the Russian space program has been designing and developing a new vehicle, named Federation.

Like NASA’s own Orion spacecraft, the Federation capsule has been beset by delays and cost overruns for more than a decade’s worth of development. But when it flies, possibly as early as 2022 aboard a Soyuz-5 rocket for a test flight, Federation would be the rare human vehicle designed to fly beyond low-Earth orbit.

However, Russian sources are reporting a problem with the vehicle’s launch escape system.

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Archival footage, audio immerses viewers in Apollo: Missions to the Moon

Archival footage, audio immerses viewers in Apollo: Missions to the Moon

This year makes the 50th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing, so naturally we’re seeing a slew of films and TV series celebrating that milestone, like last year’s First Man biopic. The latest is a new documentary, APOLLO: Missions to the Moon, making its debut on the National Geographic Channel. Ars had the opportunity to sit down with filmmaker Tom Jennings and former NASA engineer Frances “Poppy” Northcutt back in June to talk about the making of the documentary, and revisit this pivotal moment in space history.

NASA’s Apollo space program is well-traveled ground in popular media, so Jennings faced quite the challenge in coming up with a fresh take with the material. Fortunately, this is also one of the most well-documented periods in 20th century history. The Emmy and Peabody Award-winning director

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Space and booze, an anecdotal history

Space and booze, an anecdotal history

NEW ORLEANS—”Half a century ago, this was an essential part of spaceman culture,” said Jeffrey Kluger, senior writer at Time and author of the book that inspired Apollo 13. Presenting at the world’s best alcohol event, Kluger wasn’t referring to old astronaut traditions like military experience or crew cuts. “Test pilots were male, under 6-feet tall, and had to be a tough and tireless drinker.”

Tales of the Cocktail 2016 continued the conference’s trend of sneaking science into a series of bar industry seminars. Food scientists from Bacardi discussed internal testing on carbonation in liquor, and alcohol alchemist Camper English unveiled his tireless research on the

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No, a “checklist error” did not almost derail the first moon landing

No, a “checklist error” did not almost derail the first moon landing

Enlarge / Apollo 11’s Eagle moves slowly away from Columbia and prepares for landing. (credit: NASA / Apollo Lunar Surface Journal)

Update: It’s Fourth of July weekend in the US, and Ars staff is off presumably safely operating fireworks and catching some R&R. With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing rapidly approaching, this felt like the perfect time to resurface a few favorite NASA stories from the archives. If our recent six-part documentary or report from a restored Mission Control haven’t quite satiated your moon landing needs, this piece on the infamous Apollo 11 landing alarms might do the trick. It originally ran on July 28, 2015 and appears unchanged below.

Last week was the forty-sixth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing—the first of the six crewed landings on our nearest celestial neighbor. In the years between 1969 and 1972, 12 human beings walked

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NASA chooses companies to design part of its Artemis lunar lander

Here’s a reality check on NASA’s Artemis Moon landing program

Enlarge / Artist’s concept of a lunar lander. (credit: NASA)

On Tuesday morning, NASA conducted what appears to have been a highly successful test of the launch escape system for its Orion capsule—a piece of the hardware needed to safely fly humans to the Moon. This test, in concert with the looming 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing mission, is likely to raise public interest in NASA’s new lunar landing program over the next month.

A little more than three months have passed since Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to move up its plans to land humans on the Moon from 2028 to 2024, and a lot has happened. Here, then, is a reality check on the state of the 2024 Moon landing program—now named “Artemis,” after the twin sister of Apollo. This report is based on interviews with multiple sources inside and outside NASA.

Sense of

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On Tuesday, Orion will fly 55 seconds before violently escaping from its rocket

On Tuesday, Orion will fly 55 seconds before violently escaping from its rocket

Nearly five years have passed since NASA first launched its Orion spacecraft to an apogee of 5,800km above the Earth, completing a successful test flight of the capsule intended to carry astronauts to lunar orbit in the 2020s.

Now, NASA is preparing for its second Orion launch, although this flight will be considerably shorter. On Tuesday morning, NASA intends to launch a boilerplate version of Orion—essentially a well instrumented vehicle without any life-support equipment or many other critical systems—on top of a solid rocket booster built by Northrop Grumman.

The rocket is actually an old Peacemaker intercontinental ballistic missile, now refurbished for commercial purposes. It will launch the Orion to an altitude of nearly 9.5km above the Florida coast in order to test Orion’s launch abort system at the

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NASA’s restored Apollo Mission Control is a slice of 60s life, frozen in amber

NASA’s restored Apollo Mission Control is a slice of 60s life, frozen in amber

HOUSTON—Following the completion of a multi-year, multi-million-dollar restoration, NASA’s historic Apollo Mission Operations Control Room 2 (“MOCR 2”) is set to reopen to the public next week. The $5 million in funding for the restoration was partially provided by NASA, but the majority of the money was donated by the city of Webster, the Houston suburb where the Johnson Space Center is located. Another half-million in funding came from the general public via a Kickstarter campaign (disclosure: your humble author was a backer).

For the past two years, historians and engineers from the Kansas Cosmosphere’s

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Via the BBC, find out how Apollo 11’s Eagle actually landed

Via the BBC, find out how Apollo 11’s Eagle actually landed

Enlarge (credit: NASA)

With the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing fast approaching, there’s a veritable deluge of programs, events, and media of various forms, all dedicated to recapturing an astonishing moment in humanity’s collective history. All of these things face a serious challenge: the Apollo missions have been revisited so many times and from so many angles, it’s difficult to say anything truly new.

Go for the obvious points, and you’ll face telling a big chunk of your audience things they already knew. Aim for something truly novel, and there’s the risk that you’ll end up focusing on an aspect that’s obscure simply because it’s not that interesting or important. These problems are compounded for an audience like Ars’, where most of us have spent a bit of time obsessed by the space program, and the hurdles to finding some novelty grow even higher.

The promise of

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