The Apollo 13 Booster Impact Experiment

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The story of Apollo 13 goes beyond a tale of survival. The mission also successfully completed a science investigation that is still helping to inform our understanding of the Moon to this day. Early in Apollo 13's voyage, Mission Control sent the spacecraft's empty S-IVB rocket booster on a collision course with the lunar surface, where a seismometer set up by the Apollo 12 mission would measure the tremors. This video highlights the beginning and end of that impact experiment, and shows how current data and imagery from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission helps us better interpret and analyze the results.

This video not only contains archival footage captured by the crew of Apollo 13, but also newly-uncovered audio of a humorous exchange between astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Capcom Vance Brand at Mission Control. This booster impact experiment audio had been recorded and sent to the National Archives and Records Administration in 1970, but was unplayable at that facility due to differences in audio equipment, so it sat in storage. The only machine capable of playback is located at NASA's Johnson Space Center, but that equipment had been out of service for decades. In 2015 an effort funded by the National Science Foundation saw the equipment refurbished, and all 7,200 hours of Apollo 13 audio was digitized. This material was first made publicly available in early 2020 at Among this never-before-heard material we were able to find the conversation covered in this video.

This video also utilizes images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) as well as a data visualization of the Moon showing the locations of the booster impact experiment relative to the Apollo 12 seismometer station. The network of seismometers set up during the Apollo era, combined with data from the LRO mission, is teaching us about moonquakes and the interior structure of the Moon. This information will be useful to all future NASA missions to the lunar surface.

Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Video Produced & Edited by: David Ladd (USRA)
Data visualizations by: Ernie Wright (USRA)
Music Provided by Universal Production Music: "Trust" - Jose Tomas Novoa Espinosa
Apollo 13 footage and audio provided by:

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