Apollo 13: Houston, we have a problem


338745main_13-lgThe immortal words that have so often been repeated – these were the words came from the Apollo 13 spacecraft and nearly spelt disaster for the three crew members, John Swigert, Fred Haise and James Lovell.

There were problems for the Apollo 13 mission before it even launched though. With Apollo 11 landing on the moon, the space race was over and many Americans were questioning why more money was being spent sending another mission to the moon. The popularity of space launches was declining, after all, this was the seventh manned mission into space that the American Apollo space program had launched and was the third that was supposed to land on the moon.

The Crew 

The_Original_Apollo_13_Prime_Crew_-_GPN-2000-001166.jpgThe original crew of the Apollo 13 was slated as Jim Lovell, Commander; Ken Mattingly, Command Module Pilot and Fred Haise, Lunar Module Pilot. However, just seven days before the launch, the back-up Lunar Module Pilot, Charlie Duke, caught rubella from one of his children. Both the primary and back-up crew had been exposed to the disease. Mattingly hadn’t had rubella as a child and wasn’t immune to the disease. The flight surgeon insisted that he be grounded due to the risk of infection and that Jack Swigert take his position.

Mattingly never contracted rubella, however he was part of the Apollo 16 crew that was the fifth Apollo mission to land on the moon.

The Command Module and Lunar Module

Ground tests of the lunar module showed that one of the supercritical helium tanks might be poorly insulated, so the flight plan had to be modified so that the Lunar Module pilot entered the Lunar Module three hours earlier than originally planned to get an onboard readout of the tank pressure.

The number 2 oxygen tank for  Apollo 13 was originally installed as part of the Apollo 10, and had been damaged when it was removed. The tank was fixed, tested and installed on Apollo 13. It was tested again. The number 2 tank didn’t behave the way it was supposed to. There was excess oxygen left in the tank and the test director decided to “boil-off” the excess oxygen using an electrical heater in the tank. It worked, but took 8 hours. But there was a still a problem. Due to an oversight in replacing a tiny and seemingly insignificant component when the tank design was modified for Apollo 13, the “boil-off” operation severely damaged the internal heating elements of the number 2 tank.

The Mission Objective

Apollo 13 was supposed to land so that the astronauts could explore the Fra Mauro formation, otherwise known as the Fra Mauro highlands on the moon.

Due to the failure of the Apollo 13 mission, the Apollo 14 mission was assigned the same objective and successfully completed it.

Houston, we have a problem

Apollo_13_liftoff-KSC-70PC-160HRThe mission launched on 11th April 1970. 5 1/2 minutes after lift-off, the command crew felt a little vibration in the Command Module. This might not seem like something to worry about, but when it comes to space travel, even the smallest things can have the biggest significance. This was followed by the centre engine of the S-II stage shut down two minutes earlier than it was supposed to. This meant that the remaining four engines had to burn for 34 seconds longer than was planned – not a big deal? Well, this then meant that the S-IVB third stage had to burn for nine seconds longer than planned to get Apollo 13 into orbit.

46 hours and 43 minutes into the mission, Capcom, Joe Kerwin is reported to have said “The spacecraft is in good shape as far as we are concerned. We’re bored to tears down here.”

The crew of Apollo 13 did a 49 minute broadcast that showed them living and working in the weightless atmosphere of  space. It ended at the 55 hours and 46 minute mark of their mission with Jim Lovell signing off “This is the crew of Apollo 13 wishing everybody there a nice evening, and we’re just about ready to close out our inspection of Aquarius and get back for a pleasant evening in Odyssey. Good night.”

Haynes-Apollo-13-1920by12009 minutes later the oxygen tanks were “stirred” as one of the normal procedures of the Apollo missions. The number 2 oxygen tank exploded and caused the number 1 oxygen tank to fail. The command module lost it’s normal supply of electricity, light and water as well. At this point, the three men were 200,000 miles away from the Earth.

At 9:08pm on 13th April 1970, the words were uttered, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

The mission became one of survival.

The Lunar Module was used as a lifeboat and the men had to ensure that it had the necessary supplies that would enable it to get the them back to Earth. The Lunar Module had been designed to sustain two men for 45 hours. This had to be stretched to 90 hours for three men. Oxygen on the Lunar Module wasn’t an issue, but power was a concern as there was no way to recharge the Lunar Module battery if it ran out of power and without power, the men wouldn’t be able to return to Earth. Running out of water was also a concern. The three men cut their water intake and reduced the power being used by the Lunar Module, meaning that they were far from comfortable. Reducing power meant there was little heat, save for that which the men’s bodies produced. The temperature in the Lunar Module dropped to 38 degrees Fahrenheit (just above freezing) and condensation formed on all the walls.

Though oxygen wasn’t a problem, the risk of carbon dioxide poisoning was. Though there were air scrubbers, the filters for the Lunar Module and Command Module were different. The men on the ground at NASA had to come up with a way of making the square filters of the Command Module fit the round scrubbers in the Lunar Module with the limited items that the men in the Lunar Module had on hand.

In order to return to Earth safely, the Lunar Module didn’t have the Command Module navigation system and in order to get them on the right course they had to executed a 35 second burn. A five minute burn rounding the far side of the moon also had to be completed.

Returning to Earth

apollo 13When the power was turned on for the return to Earth, there was a serious risk of short circuits due to the amount of condensation on the walls, instruments and behind the panels.

Despite all these problems, the Lunar Module landed in the Pacific Ocean near Samoa on 17th April 1970 and was recovered by the USS Iwo Jima. The Apollo 13 mission lasted for 5 days, 22 hours, 54 minutes and 41 seconds and covered a distance of 622,268 miles.

According to NASA:

“After an intensive investigation, the Apollo 13 Accident Review Board identified the cause of the explosion. In 1965, the CM had undergone many improvements that included raising the permissible voltage to the heaters in the oxygen tanks from 28 to 65 volts DC. Unfortunately, the thermostatic switches on these heaters weren’t modified to suit the change. During one final test on the launch pad, the heaters were on for a long period of time. This subjected the wiring in the vicinity of the heaters to very high temperatures (1000 F), which have been subsequently shown to severely degrade teflon insulation. The thermostatic switches started to open while powered by 65 volts DC and were probably welded shut. Furthermore, other warning signs during testing went unheeded and the tank, damaged from eight hours of overheating, was a potential bomb the next time it was filled with oxygen. That bomb exploded on April 13, 1970 – 200,000 miles from Earth.”

Apollo 13: the movie

A movie about the Apollo 13 mission was released in 1995 and stared Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell, Kevin Bacon as Jack Swigert and Bill Paxton as Fred Haise. It was directed by Ron Howard and the screenplay was adapted from the books by Commander Jim Lovell and Time Magazine correspondent Jeffrey Kluger.

The movie not only looks at what the men in the spacecraft went through on their perilous journey through space, but also their families and those at NASA back on Earth.

In Exchange is currently available for pre-order for Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Kindle readers, priced at $2.99, and will be officially launched on 12th April 2016.

Steven M. Caddy on In Exchange: Part 2


Steven M CaddyQ. What is your name?
A. Steven M. Caddy – but most people call me Steve.

Q. What is your date of birth?
A. April 1978.

Q. Where were you born?
A. Stoke-on-Trent.

Q. Where did you grow up?
A. Mostly in and around Grantham

Q. What is your favourite sport?
A. Ice hockey. I’m an avid fan of the Nottingham Panthers.

Q. Where did you go to primary school?
A. Partly in Essex and partly in Lincolnshire. I had quite a change of pace of life.

Q. Where did you go to secondary school?
A. The King’s School, Grantham.

Q. Where did you go to university?
A. Aberystwyth.

Q. What is your favourite colour?
A. I like dark blues and purples.

Q. What is your favourite film?
A. Stand By Me.

Q. Last film you saw at the cinema?
A. Risen.

Q. Who is your favourite author?
A. Ugh, I admire many, and can’t name one – John Green, Philip Pullman, Susan Collins… they’ve all taught me different things about writing.

Q. What is your favourite book?
A. The Amber Spyglass.

Q. What is the last book you read?
A. Susan Kaye Quinn – Open Minds.

Q. Who is your favourite band?
A. The Beautiful South.

Q. Have you ever seen them live?
A. Yes.

Q. Do you have a favourite song?
A. Your Father and I. Only real TBS fans seem to know it though.

Q. How long have you been writing?
A. Just over four years.

Q. Where do you get your inspiration from?
A. Things I’ve done, situations I’ve been in. Life is so crazy, you can’t make it up.

Q. So your friends and family are supportive?
A. Yes.

Q. Are you an animal lover?
A. Yes, but I don’t have any pets, and I’m not vegetarian.

Q. Do you have other creative outlets besides writing?
A. I play keyboards and church organ. Sometimes I get the two mixed up. Let It Go and the theme tune from Howards Way both sound awesome on pipe organ.

Q. What is your favourite flower?
A. Lavender, for both the colour and the smell.


In Exchange is currently available for pre-order for Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Kindle readers, priced at $2.99, and will be officially launched on 12th April 2016.

In Exchange: A Sneak Peek


Excited for the launch of In Exchange? We are too! As a special treat, here is an exclusive sneak peek!


IN EXCHANGE EBOOKfb sizeMichael somersaulted to turn around, and flew effortlessly through the hatch, back into the space station’s core. Peter had a bit of a job keeping up with him.
“Here at the back of the space station is the galley. The mission planners set the menus I’m afraid. Until a few years ago, we could choose what we wanted to eat, but we found that we were eating the same three things all the time, and after a month there was only stuff that we didn’t like. It made the following two months, until the next supply mission arrived, rather dull,” Michael explained, “or rather, even more dull than it usually is. I’m sorry, Peter, it’s better than what we had on the capsule, but it’s not a patch on what you get on the surface.”
Peter turned and looked down the length of the space station.
“It’s quite a lot larger than I thought it’d be,” Peter commented.
“Lots of people say that. There’s plenty of room to move about. With you aboard, there are eleven people here. You’ll find that most of the time, people are working, but the crew do get rest days in a rotation pattern. Most of the crew here at the moment are quite quiet, but we’ve had crew members bring musical instruments aboard. Other people bring other personal things here. Someone left a yo-yo here a few years ago, which was great fun, until someone lost control of it, and it broke a laptop computer.”
“Oh dear.”
“Yeah. Luckily it wasn’t me. I wouldn’t want to explain that one to mission control.”
Peter laughed, imagining an out of control yo-yo hurtling down the space station.
“What you’re looking down now is known as the core,” Michael explained, “It comprises of six six-port nodes that are all permanently docked end to end with each other. I say permanently, but I guess they could be split up. There are hatches stowed at the junctions, so that we can seal off a part of the space station if we need to. We did that once when we had a reduced crew for a while – to save power by heating less volume I guess.”
“How many crew members are there normally?” Peter asked.
“Well, there are eight labs, each of which has two sleeping compartments. So we could have up to sixteen people here. But there are only five docking ports for return modules, and each of those modules can take three people, so the limit is really fifteen. Normally, there’s about twelve, but it does vary.”
“I’d better explain the layout a bit. This rear node is obviously set up as a galley, but the exercise equipment that we use is also stowed in the racks here. It can get a little cluttered and busy sometimes. The forward and aft nodes each have an airlock on the side facing away from Earth, what you might call ‘up’. As you can see, we’re using this rear one for extra storage at the moment to reduce the clutter. I sometimes eat in there to keep out of the way.”
“Do you do many space walks?”
“I don’t. I’ve never done one. There’s no need. Other crew members do an EVA, an ‘extra vehicular activity’, every six weeks or so, usually to perform regular maintenance, or do some experiment that requires exposure to space.”
“Now, where did I get to?”
“Sorry, I’m asking too many questions. You were talking about the six nodes forming the core,” Peter recalled.
“Ah, yes. We refer to the faces of the nodes as fore, aft, port, starboard, Earth facing, and out facing. I don’t generally talk about ‘up’ and ‘down’, because without gravity, they don’t have a clear meaning.”
Peter nodded, listening intently.
“The Earth facing ports are normally used for the return and resupply modules, apart from the aft-most node, where we have this observation module.”
“Ooh!” Peter hadn’t noticed the module below his feet, which had many shuttered windows, “Why are all the shutters closed?”
“No idea,” Michael shrugged, “You can open the shutters and spend hours watching the world go by in there.”
“Literally. I wish I’d brought a camera with me.”
“There are station cameras that you can use. We’ve got one with a massive zoom lens, which is what I used to take the pictures I sent to you a few weeks ago.”
Those few weeks seemed like years ago to Peter, as he thought back to the images he’d been emailed.
“I said there were eight labs. They are on the port and starboard, left and right, hatches off the centre four nodes of the core. The laboratories on the right have odd numbers, the ones on the left have even numbers. Normally one or two crew members live and work in each lab. Lab one, which is the one that’s on the right, furthest away from us, is normally left unassigned, and we use it for meetings, video conferences, and tasks that need a little more room.”
“Like swinging a yo-yo?”
Michael laughed, “Yeah.”
“So who is in which lab at the moment?” Peter asked.
“If no one has moved since I was last here, Dave Jameson is in lab two, he’s here to study the effects of weightlessness on sleep. Possibly something to do with Max, he seems to have trouble sleeping in the weightlessness environment. Lab three is home to Wayland Harlow and Josh Eldridge. They’re veteran astronauts. Few people have spent as much time in orbit as I have, and those guys head the list of regular astronauts with most time in space. I can’t remember what they’re here to do. They seem to spend a lot of time cracking bad jokes.”

In Exchange is currently available for pre-order for Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Kindle readers, priced at $2.99, and will be officially launched on 12th April 2016.

Valentina: the unlikely cosmonaut


Soviet cosmonaut, Valentia Tereshkova was born on 6th March 1937 in the Yaroslavl Region of the former Soviet Union. She was the middle child of three. Her mother worked in a textile plant and her father drove a tractor. She was 8 years old when she started going to school in 1945. In 1953 she left school to start work. However, she didn’t give up on her education. Valentina continued to learn by taking correspondence courses.

Valentia Tereshkova was interested in parachuting, and it was her expertise in parachute jumping that led to her being chosen as a cosmonaut. She was an amateur parachutist and worked in a textile factory when she was recruited to join the Soviet’s cosmonaut program.

Valentina was one of four women chosen for a special women-in-space program, though Valentina was the only woman of the four who completed a space mission.

Valentina Tereshkova took of in Vostok 6 on 6th June 1963 and became the first woman to fly in space. She orbited the Earth 48 times in a flight that lasted for 70.8 hours. When she landed, she never flew again, but she was named as a Hero of the Soviet Union and became a spokesperson for them.  She also received the United Nations Gold Medal of Peace whilst she was acting as the spokesperson for the Soviet Union.

On 3rd November 1963, Valentina Tereshkova married Andrian Nikolayev, another cosmonaut. They had a daughter named Elena who was the subject of  medical interest as she was the first child to ever be born to two parents that had both been exposed to space. Elena went on to become a doctor. Valentina Tereshkova and Andrian Nikolayev divorced in 1980.

In Exchange is currently available for pre-order for Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Kindle readers, priced at $2.99, and will be officially launched on 12th April 2016.

Yuri Gagarin



Yuri Gagarin was the pilot of Vostok 1 and the first man in space to orbit the earth. He was born near Moscow on 9th March 1934 in the former Soviet Union.

He joined the Soviet Air Force in 1955 and was training to become a cosmonaut by 1959. It was on 12th April 1961 that Yuri Gagarin blasted off into space on Vostok 1.



04-gagarin-vostok1_34445_600x450Vostok 1 was a craft that was split into two parts. The first was the compartment where Yuri Gagarin sat and operated the controls of the spacecraft. The other section was filled with supplies such as oxygen and water.

Vostok 1 travelled at a speed of 27,400 kph whilst it circled the earth. The flight lasted 108 minutes. When it came to re-entry, Vostok 1 was controlled by a computer. Yuri Gagarin didn’t land in Vostok 1,instead he ejected from the spacecraft and parachuted down to earth again.


This was Yuri Gagarin’s only venture into space. He was killed in a plane crash on 27th March 1968.



Yuri-Gagarin (1)

There is a crater on the far side of the moon that is named for Yuri Gagarin.

In Exchange is currently available for pre-order for Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Kindle readers, priced at $2.99, and will be officially launched on 12th April 2016.

The Space Race


The space race started in the late 1950s.

The Soviet Union and the USA were locked into the Cold War and getting man into space and onto the moon first was what the space race was all about. Of course it was a little more complicated than simply wanting to be first.

The two powers wanted to prove their their particular system of governance was better – the Soviet Union had communism and the United States had capitalism. Whichever side had the superior technology and military firepower would prove it had the superior political-economic system.


Sputnik was launched on 4th October 1957 and was the first artificial satellite that was put into orbit. It’s launch was a surprise to the Americans, especially since it was launched using a Soviet R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile.

Explorer 1

In 1958 the US launched their own satellite, Explorer 1 and President Eisenhower signed the public order that created NASA – the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Luna 2

Luna 2 was the Soviets next big push into space, as it was the first space probe to hit the moon.

Yuri Gagarin

Then came yet another first by the Soviets – on 12th April 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the earth in Vostock 1. Alan Shepard became the first American in space on 5th May 1961, though he didn’t orbit the earth. It wasn’t until February 1962 when John Glenn went into space that the Americans orbited the earth.

The Apollo Program

In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy made a very bold statement – that the US would land a man on the moon before the end of the decade.

Throughout the 1960s, 34,000 NASA employees and 375,000 contractors poured their efforts into getting man on the moon.

On 27th January 1967, the Apollo 1 tragedy claimed the lives of Edward White, Command Pilot; Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom, Commander and Roger Chaffee, Pilot. The Apollo 1 spacecraft caught fire during a launch simulation and the three astronauts couldn’t escape the flames.

In December 1968, Apollo 8 was launched as the first manned space mission to orbit the moon.

Apollo 11

On 16th July 1969 Neil Armstrong, Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin and Michael Collins blasted off in Apollo 11 to attempt the first moon landing in history.

Of course we know now that they were successful and the immortal words “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” have become forever etched into our minds, but at the time there were no guarantees and more than a few nervous people anxiously waiting to hear whether the United States had done the unimaginable and actually put a man on the moon.

The End of the Space Race

By landing on the moon, the United States had won the space race. The Soviets still tried to make their own moon landing, and had four failed attempts between 1969 and 1972. One of these attempts included a launch-pad explosion in July 1969.

As the United States had won the space race, public interest in lunar missions began to dwindle and the Apollo 13 mission was barely mentioned or even broadcast until it encountered a catastrophic failure during the mission flight.

Yet today, we are still fascinated by space, the exploration of it and the possibility that we will one day travel between different worlds and discover new life out there amongst the stars.

In Exchange is currently available for pre-order for Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Kindle readers, priced at $2.99, and will be officially launched on 12th April 2016.


Space: The Final Frontier


IN EXCHANGE EBOOKfb sizeWe know it well from the great works of science fiction that are present in literature, on the small screen and the silver screen as well as the real world explorations of men and women like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Tim Peake, Yuri Gagarin, Alfred WordenValentina Tereshkova, Alexei Leonov, Bruce McCandless and Jim Lovell, so we, at Mightier Than the Sword UK, are thrilled to announce another addition to the genre of science fiction – In Exchange.

Written by Steven M. Caddy, In Exchange is the story of Michael Morgan, the first person to be born in space and a boy that has never visited earth before. A book that is aimed at children from the age of 9 and upwards, this is a story that certainly had everyone in the office dreaming of what it would be like to live in space, much like Major Tim Peake is currently doing.

Steven M. Caddy has a passion for science and space. Whilst writing In Exchange, he attended a lecture given by, the one and only, Alfred Worden. There is a small section of the story that comes straight from Worden’s experience as part of the Apollo 15 crew. The jolt that is experienced during space flight is something he spoke of and Max’s line “Oh yeah, I probably should have warned you about that” is something that Commander David Scott of the Apollo 15 mission said to Worden.

In Exchange is currently available for pre-order for Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Kindle readers, priced at $2.99, and will be officially launched on 12th April 2016.