WHERE IS APOLLO 13'S MISSING PANEL AFTER 35 YEARS?**

Click here for Jim Lovell's comment about the missing panel.

 

††††††††††† Some contend that Apollo 13 is a well-worn and overly examined event undeserving of added study.† Obviously, I disagree.†† While my intent in authoring this account has been spiritual, there are technical benefits as well.† Like the Titanic investigators, space forensic experts continue to sift through the historic rubble of past mission failures. With regard to Titanic, a recent find of two large pieces of Titanicís hull led to a new theory of how the vessel sank decades ago.†

††††††††††† Though the operative theory depicted in the movie of 1997 has the ship breaking in two after the sinking, the recent find refutes this view.† †So large are these bottom hull sections that a new theory has the shipís demise and breakup at the time of the iceberg impact.†† And why is this significant?† The new theory has the aft hull (stern) sliding beneath the water surface in less than 5 minutes rather than 20 minutes.† Such would indicate that the deployment of lifeboats, even if enough were present, would have made little difference in lives lost in the stern.††

††††††††††† And that is why I am so curious about the mechanism of physics and prayer which led to both the disaster as well as the rescue of Apollo 13.† What can be learned in the spirit and the mind about† what really happened to Apollo 13?† The news story about Titanicís hull pieces being found would suggest a similar search for Apollo 13ís 13 foot payload bay panel.†

††††††††††† Space artists depict the explosion in two ways, either the blast breaking the panel into hundreds of small particles or, alternatively,† ejecting the panel as one large piece akin to those hull sections of Titanic.† If the latter be the case [of which I am more prone to believe], then that panel remains as sort of a panel satellite orbiting the Earth and Moon since April 13th of 1970.† To resurrect† interest in both manned space exploration as well as the story of the rescue, Iím proposing astronomers, both amateur and professional, seek to locate the remains of Apollo 13ís refuse.†† Hadnít the vehicle departed from the free-return trajectory prior to the departure of the panel?† If so, somewhere in the Earth-Moon figure-eight orbital locus remains a thirteen foot concave aluminum sheet, a monument to manís ingenuity and Godís faithfulness.†† Gus Grissomís Liberty Bell Seven, like the Titanic, sank in thousands of feet of the Atlantic Ocean.† And, likewise, was found intact decades later.†† So it might be with regard to the panel ejected by Apollo 13.††

††††††††††† Who knows †but that its discovery might reveal why it, instead of the command capsule, was severed from the Apollo 13 assemblage.† In fact, the knowledge that the panel canít be found will yet be another mysterious witness of Godís great work of keeping three men from perishing in April of 1970.

†††††††

Finally, who knows but that such a search for so minute a particle in the vast cosmos might uncover an asteroid or similar mass destined for Earth.† And like Godís providential rescue of Apollo 13, we, too, might be rescued.† Think about it!

†† **[Some thoughts about the search: The explosion of the Oxygen Tank 2 would propel the panel away from the vehicle at an indeterminate velocity and rotation depending on where the center of the propulsive force acted with regard to the c.m. of the panel. How the panel was attached would also determine these factors. Additionally, the trajectory of the entire Apollo 13 assemblage of CM/CSM/LM with regard to orbital mechanics at the moment of the incident would be a clue as to where the panel might continue to orbit the Earth and Moon. Obviously, it must be determined whether the altered orbit misses the Moon and continues the journey between Earth and Moon indefinately. If so, the time of the explosion seen in the western sky with respect to Houston would be a clue for future panel passes between the Moon and Earth. Likewise, the resolving power of your telescope, amateur or professional, is a handicap or an assist, depending on the field of view, the distance to the panel, and various seasonal perturbations making viewing better or worst. I'm not an expert in orbital mechanics. For that reason, I entertain comments about the problem. E-mail me at: woodfill@spaceacts.com if you want to share your thoughts on the mystery. By the way the evening of the explosion, a group of NASA employees was observing the night sky with a modest telescope atop Building 16 at the Space Center. They captured the event on a video monitor because the spherical cloud of oxygen spewing into space was quite large. Viewing a panel about four yards long, is, of course, problematical with such an instrument. Making the search less formidable might be the panel's reflective ability to reflect the Sun's light at certain orientations of Sun and panel. To prove that the glimmer of light coming from the sky is the Apollo 13 panel, the time of the sighting, its position and path over time must be photographed and assessed. Yet, the resolving power of telescopes sold 35 years later are much greater than that used that evening, and, perhaps, more importantly, much cheaper. Approach your local observatory with this problem and see what they have to say about the possibility of finding Apollo 13's missing panel. We'll all learn something in the doing. At any rate, this would make an interesting science fair project.
JRW, Houston, Texas, 12-06-2005
]

For an interesting and inciteful study dealing with the question of Apollo 13's panel, click here. The analysis speaks to the issue of how far from Earth would Apollo 13 have orbited should there have been no means of reentry. Traditionally, the estimate had been a 40,000 mile miss. The analysis reduces the missed distance to 2400 miles on the first pass with Apollo 13 ultimately [in a few months] reentering Earth's atmosphere as a fiery meteor like mass. This excellent analysis is still no assurance that the jettisoned panel experienced similar dynamics. The thrust of the explosion obviously would blast that 13 foot mass in an altogether different orbit. What are your views? Again, an e-mail address is below for you to express them.

 


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