Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mars Launch Prompts Inquiry Into Apollo 13 RTG

NASA's launch last Saturday of the Mars Science Laboratory and its plutonium-powered Curiosity rover is sparking discussion about the fate of the Apollo 13 Lunar Module that served as an astronaut lifeboat and now is sunk on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean in the Tonga Trench.

Apollo 13 astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert were most the way to the moon on April 13, 1970, when a fuel tank explosion ripped through their Command Module, prompting the latter to make a now-famous call back to Mission Control:

"Houston, we've had a problem."

Which often is misquoted as:

"Houston, we have a problem."

No matter.

The crippling explosion forced the astronauts to seek safe haven in the Apollo 13 Lunar Module, which was designed to ferry the crew to and from the surface of the moon. In this case, the astronauts reversed course and headed back to Earth in the Lunar Module. The transferred back into the Command Module for atmospheric reentry and successfully splashed down because failure was not an option.

The Lunar Module reentered and sunk in an area south of Fiji. Extensive monitoring has shown that the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) onboard has not released any of the Plutonium-238 within it.

An article in Txchnologist asks the question: Will NASA ever recover Apollo 13's plutonium from the sea?

Check it out HERE

And let us know what you think by commenting below.

1 comment:

Mark Lopa said...

Absolutely, I would love to see them bring that back up.