Wednesday, March 8,2000

Living Home
Amazing Stories
Christian Walk
HomeBased Education

  Site Map

Watch here!

Check out
The Book

Looking for answers?
Here's some
Good News!

  Amazing Stories

Apollo 13

By Gorman Woodfin

-- Two hundred thousand miles from home an explosion aboard the Apollo 13 spacecraft detoured three brave astronauts into danger. But as the world watched and prayed for their safety, a divine rescue plan began to unfold. Apollo 13 engineer Jerry Woodfill recalls the amazing events that brought our heroes home.

"All at once I saw the alarm indication come on. At the same time, in my headset, I heard the words, ‘'Houston, we've had a problem.'"

Imagine being 200,000 miles from Earth in the cold darkness of outer space, and something is wrong, very wrong. The Apollo 13 spacecraft had had a serious power supply malfunction that could cause the lunar landing mission to be terminated early.

It was April of 1970. Apollo 13 was going to be the third space mission to land on the moon. But on its way, an explosion occurred. Warning system engineer Jerry Woodfill was supporting Mission Control monitoring the situation.

"An oxygen tank had exploded in the mother ship. As they traveled to the moon, it took two vehicles, the mother ship and the Lunar Lander. An explosion of an oxygen tank in the mother ship had disabled it. The only means of getting them back to Earth was to be the Lunar Lander, designed for two men for two days. But the trip back to Earth for three men would take four days. Our difficulty and dilemma was how to make this rescue ship last for the entire time that it would take to get back to Earth."

Even though some of the most brilliant minds in the country were working on these problems, with so many factors that could go wrong, many felt the crew would not be coming home. Some of the commentators gave them one chance in 10.

But, as many remember, the Apollo 13 crew did make it back against all odds. The astronauts were praised for their heroism and courage. Woodfill explains more of the problems they faced in trying to get the astronauts back to Earth.

"Now the challenge was could we navigate the system back to Earth in this configuration that we never expected to have to see before, where we would use the Lunar Lander's engine to navigate and propel the vehicle back to Earth, an engine that was designed to land on the moon, but hadn't been designed to actually push the vehicle into an orbit that would return to Earth? Our difficulty was to use this vehicle in a way it had never been used before."

They faced even more challenges. They had to reconfigure the carbon dioxide filtration system or the men would run out of oxygen. The crew also needed to find a way to recharge some batteries in the Command Module, batteries that were essential for their return to Earth. So how did they make it back? Jerry feels the answer is in one word: prayer.

"In all of our land, I have heard testimonies of people praying in factories and in churches. Even our Congress made a proclamation that 24 hours after the explosion, on Tuesday, April 14th, 1970, that businesses and institutions would make time for their employees and associates to give prayer for the rescue of Apollo 13. The Chicago Board of Trade asked for a moment to stop the tickers and prayed for the rescue of Apollo 13. And people prayed at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. The pope in Rome prayed that these astronauts' lives could be saved. As we were facing this difficulty, a Christian friend of mine commented that he had prayed on the floor of Mission Control that we would not do anything, by our ignorance of what the situation was that would cause those men not to get back to Earth."

While trying to understand what the difficulty was, the crew couldn't see that the explosion had severed the oxygen tank from the vehicle or the damaged engine nozzle from the panel that had blown into space. All they could see were the communicated measurements that came back by telemetry. In the ensuing moments, it took them some time to understand what had actually happened.

"I know that even though the astronauts had been courageous, the flight controllers and engineers had been very inventive, but there was an element beyond that, things that happen where the right call was always made, even though there was no way we could have known certain things that were going on."

Jerry saw specific situations where he felt God intervened. Even computer simulations told the engineers that they would need a miracle to get the crew home.

When the astronauts had to move from the Command Ship into the Lunar Lander, they had left the batteries in the command ship on too long a time and depleted them. They would not have enough power to re-enter Earth's atmosphere.

"That night the man responsible for the Lunar Lander's battery system and power system was called into the space center. As he went into the space center, a thought came into his mind how he might use a jumper charge of power from the large batteries on the Lunar Lander to these depleted batteries in the rescue ship, in the re-entry capsule. When he got to the space center, he tried the procedure on the simulation computers, and the computer says, 'Don't do it. It's very perilous. Don't do it.' But they had no other alternative. They had to have power in these batteries. So they tried his procedure, which incidentally used a jumper cable. But it worked, and they were able to re-enter Earth's atmosphere with sufficient battery power."

Jerry loves to tell people about God's hand in the Apollo 13 rescue, and there's one more facet to his story. Jerry was not a Christian when he worked on the Apollo 13 mission, but in seeing the miraculous rescue unfold right before his eyes, Jerry realized there was a God in heaven.

"I knew that there was a hand of God in this successful rescue, and so I began to search and try to understand how God could do this. I went to a meeting of Christian businessmen, and at that meeting I found the solution. If I would invite Christ into my life, He would dwell in me. He'd give me that power. He'd clean up my life. He'd open and close doors, and He'd lead and guide me. I read in the Bible where it said, 'Call upon me and I'll show you great and mighty things that you don't know about.' I had seen Him do that with the rescue of Apollo 13."