They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me
dr_phil_physics

HBO 5 -- Apollo 13

Fifth Session: Apollo 13 (conclusion)
Starts up with Jim Lovell's chest hairs being sandpapered away so the biomedical harness sensors will adhere to the skin. I keep telling the aides to shave a square patch before sticking those things on me! Then it's suit up time, and getting ready to launch Apollo 13 at 13:13 hours ET. Now this is how you run a gantry -- Michael Bay, are you listening, are you... is this thing even on?

The power and violence of the Saturn V rocket. First stage of 7,500,000 pound of thrust, versus 6,900,000 pounds of launch weight. Thrust > Weight, we go up and accelerate. Ken Mattingly and his gold Corvette, watching the launch from close on the reservation. And the center engine of five on second stage eats itself. We've had our glitch for the mission.

It is so nice to see the Apollo era control panels in use. You see pictures. You peek in the windows of one of the real capsules and it's all static. Lit and operational, it becomes alive. With or without suit gloves, the switches, switch guards and buttons all serve a purpose. And important stuff? It gets safety covers that make sense. In both Starship Troopers AND Armageddon, there are emergency Big Red Panic Buttons inside of glass covers you are supposed to shatter WITH YOUR BARE HANDS IN SPACE. Yeah, real NASA systems don't pull that crap.

And now we get to the crowning achievement of this movie. The fact they built full size CM and LM sets and flew them on NASA's VC-135 Vomit Comet. Four runs up and down the racetrack offshore of Houston on each flight. Ten ballistic parabolic arcs on each leg. Each parabola gives you about 90 seconds of free fall -- zero G simulation. With 20 seconds to get to first position and 20 seconds to lie down and get safe before the 2 G pullout at the bottom of the arc, that means you've got about 40 seconds of shooting per arc. And it looks so effortless.

Cryo tank stir. Yeah, NASA decided they don't need to do that anymore. Houston, we've got a problem.

And now we know we have the perfect cast. Tom Hanks, Ed Harris, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Senise. The hair, the clothes -- the bean bag ashtrays! -- the computer tapes. Pencils, paper, sliderules. Yeah, sliderule isn't in the Kindle Fire HD spell check.

Of course, Apollo 13 never landed on the Moon. If you want to see how the LM works or how you live in it as designed, check out the oddly realistic horror flick Apollo 18. (grin)

Engineering schools still delight in "We've got to make this (holds up square LiOH lithium hydroxide CO2 scrubber canister) fit in the hole for this (holds up longer but narrower cylindrical canister) using nothing but this (dumps a spacesuit, hoses and a box of flight plans, urine collection bags, duct tape, assorted stuff onto a large table)." A generation of kids started thinking about engineering school from that one scene, just as a generation of scientists and engineers were inspired from the original Star Trek. In fact, the next big movie that features an attempt to show engineering in action has to wait for Tony Stark in Iron Man. And people say these things don't matter.

This second half of the movie is sit-at-the-edge-of-your-seat stuff.

But I do have one complaint. I think I'm allergic to Little Ronnie Howard movies. Because every time we step up the trumpet anthem as the Command Module drives into the atmosphere on reentry and that heat shield starts to ablate away and the acceleration causes the condensation on the control panels to rain down on Lovell, Mattingly and Swigert -- something starts choking in my throat and my eyes start watering. Every. Damn. Time. It HAS to be allergies.

I recently commented about the reentry scene elsewhere and talked about how they milked the clock -- no American space flight has ever gone longer than three minutes in blackout. The look on Lovell's son as the clock goes past four minutes is heartbreaking.

So... unlike Mission To Mars or Red Planet, Apollo 13 delivers the goods as a realistic action space adventure. Without invoking aliens. Even if we add in Big Killer But Not Unpossible Asteroids, a movie like Gravity still shows you can do better than Armageddon. No surprise then that Apollo 13 and Gravity win Oscars. And huge box offices.

Take THAT Michael Bay.

It was a race against time, but we just made it to the credits and so will get to start a fresh movie on Monday. Next up is Avatar -- more James Cameron.

So, I can truthfully say it's not just me. The HBO unit has more patients than just me. (grin) On my ride downstairs today we passed by someone the tech said hello to -- another patient in a wheelchair, but wearing Hyperbaric Unit scrubs. And then, as I was getting ready to come out of the tank, as they shut off my vitals monitor, I noticed that the next monitor over for Tank B had a pulse and respiration. I could see feet under a sheet. Assuming that it wasn't a dummy to mislead me, though for what nefarious purpose I cannot deduce, there really are other hyperbaric patients.

The unit doesn't work on the weekend, except for emergencies. Typically carbon monoxide poisoning. And those less frequently in the summer.

MISSED PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: Wednesday I didn't carry a camera because it was dull gray blah. Yesterday and today were gorgeous, but I didn't pack a camera either. And of course I regret it. While sitting in the lovely day waiting for the Blazer to return, I heard the familiar thrum of the Aeromed chopper. It came over the building across the street and turned to make its final approach to Butterworth Hospital. Right overhead. Perfectly outlined in a triangle of the hospital and the big front entrance canopy -- backlit with blue sky.

Sigh. I'd gripe that I'll never have that opportunity again. Except... the helicopter usually makes this same approach. And the wheelchair gets parked in pretty much the same place if I'm waiting outside. So, the possibility of getting a second chance in the next 25-35 sessions is clearly not zero. Guess I'll be packing next week. But not a whole bag. Either the D100 or the N2020 -- the lightweight cameras.

Dr. Phil
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