Down to the final hours

Backup Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert. Is he ready for the day ahead?

*

            At midnight, this day fifty years ago, the final countdown for Apollo 13 begins, without a final decision to insert backup Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert into the prime crew with Commander Jim Lovell and Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise.  Time is running out to bring Swigert, who ran simulations at the Cape all yesterday, into the fold.  Launch, if the mission is not delayed a month, will occur on 2:13 p.m tomorrow.   Chief Astronaut Deke Slayton says, “It’s not a matter of whether he is capable.  It’s a matter of having enough time to work him into the team.”

            The mission already being called “Unlucky Thirteen,” the situation holds one piece of luck.  The role of Command Module pilot is not as intricate as for the team of Lovell and Haise who will perform the landing and two moonwalks, each lasting about five hours.

            As the countdown ticks through the morning, Swigert participates in more simulator runs with Lovell and Haise.  In the afternoon, Slayton, other program officials and NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine review the results and consult with Lovell.  

            Paine announces their decision:  In less than 24 hours, Jack Swigert will be on his way to the moon.

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