By the late 1960s, space travel had become a pretty common story for the people of the United States. NASA had enjoyed a relatively accident free space travel history, having only lost three astronauts, and that was a fire on the launch pad during training. So, when it came to Apollo 13 going to the Moon, which had been done twice before, the networks decided that it was boring, and opted not to televise the program…until disaster changed everything. For me, it seems impossible that anyone could think that space flight is boring, but someone at the top ranking position in the media, had made an executive decision, so that was the end of it.
On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13, the third manned lunar landing mission was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Apollo 13”, you will know that Jack Swigert had replaced Ken Mattingly, who had been exposed to the German measles. Ken would never get the measles, but rather was a part of the NASA team effort that worked to bring the stranded astronauts back home safely. The crew planned to land on the Fra Mauro highlands of the moon, but two days into the mission, disaster struck when oxygen tank number 2 blew up in the spacecraft, after Jack Swigert was told to preform a cryo stir procedure to the oxygen tanks…a routine maintenance procedure. Then, Swigert uttered those now famous words, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” After evaluation, it was determined that the normal supply of oxygen, electricity, light, and water had been disrupted. Their mission to land on the Moon was over, and now they had a new mission…survival!!
Suddenly the news media was very interested in this mission. A successful mission was boring and not news worthy at all, but one in which fatalities might occur, is very interesting. Sad really…when you think about it. The television stations were supposed to broadcast a segment the crew did about life in space, but while the crew did their segment, the stations decided not to broadcast it for lack of interest. Nine minutes later, when disaster struck, everyone was suddenly very interested. I guess I just don’t understand why we would rather watch news about a disaster, than a successful space mission. I don’t think there is anything common about space travel, and yet, it goes on a lot in our world, completely without notice.
Once the disaster began, the world watched anxiously, praying for the safe return of these brave men. The broken vehicle could not make the trip, and they would have to use the lunar landing module, Oddesy to get them home. They limped along, making the necessary “MacGyver” like connections and adjustments to allow them to have enough oxygen. They made “controlled burns” using the Earth as a guide. Not very controlled at all. It took tremendous effort on the parts of many people, but it all paid off, when on April 17, tragedy turned to triumph as the Apollo 13 astronauts touched down safely in the Pacific Ocean. It was a successful failure, in that no lives were lost.
Sometimes, something we want can be almost within our grasp, but still slightly beyond our reach. That is such a frustrating place to be. Yesterday, Bob and I planned to hike Harney Peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and we did…in a way. The hike is 3.4 miles each way, and a lot of it takes you up some serious hills. We have not hiked like we used to in a couple of years, because we were very busy taking care of Bob’s parents, my mom, and Bob’s sister. We have been trying to get ready for hiking in the Black Hills this year, but we haven’t really reached a place where we feel like we are ready.
We hiked two really long sections of the Mickelson Trail the first two days of our trip, and yesterday was for Harney Peak. I think we both knew we weren’t really ready, but we thought we could do it…even if it took us a bit longer. Believe me, a bit was not even close to reality. We probably stopped triple the amount of times as normal. And breathing for me was…well, let’s just say I was gasping for air at times. I couldn’t believe I was that out of shape. But, the last time we dared take on Harney Peak was in 2011.
Nevertheless, we headed out…still tired from the day before, but hopeful that the day would bring success our way. It was a really tough go. I knew we were out of shape, but hoped that I was wrong about how bad it really was. As we walked and struggled, the truth was obvious. The one thing I can say, is that it was one of the hottest days here, so far this summer…but that is really the only excuse I have…and the one Bob agreed on and said we should use.
We did technically hike up Harney Peak, but when it came time to go up the 300 stairs, I has no more “up” in me. Bob could have made it, but he would not go without me. I was so hot and so tired that is wasn’t sure, at that moment, that I could make it back to the car, but I had to…there was no other way back, aside from life flight, and I wasn’t going there. We headed back and while it took us a while, we did make it back. We both agreed that we probably shouldn’t have attempted it, but in the end it was a successful failure. We did technically make it, we just didn’t go up the stairs to the very top. Does that make me feel better…no, but it is all I have.