NASM Mission AS-508 Apollo 13 1970 (including Saturn V, CM-109, SM-109, LM-7) Owners' Workshop Manual: An Engineering Insight into How NASA Saved the Crew of the Failed Moon Mission. By David Baker. Minneapolis Minn.: Zenith Press, 2013. Tables. Diagrams. Illustrations. Photographs. Appendices. Glossary. Index. Pp. 204. $28.00 ISBN: 978-0-7603-4619-8
Once couldn't ask for a better matchup of author and topic. Dr. David Baker worked for NASA from 1965-1990 and was in the control room during much of the saga of Apollo 13. His job was to work on the management of consumables necessary to get the crew back. After the mission, he conducted analyses of mission failure-mode mitigation that led to new analytical tools for risk analysis.
Probably everyone has seen the movie Apollo 13 or read books and articles written about the mission to the Moon that had the entire world spellbound. Therefore, everyone knows that the story has a happy ending. But, as with the movie, I was still riveted to Baker's description of the events, analyses, decision making, and solutions that transpired during the six-day mission.
A word of caution is necessary: if a lot of technical data and engineering descriptions make you squeamish (we're not talking second-order differential equations here, but the book is heavy in numbers and units of measurement), or if tons of acronyms make you break out in a rash, then this book probably isn't one you want to tackle. But, if you want to understand the complexities of the Apollo vehicle and mission and how a vast technical and management structure interacted to pull off a mission, then this is definitely the book to read.
One thing that I picked up throughout the story was how the popular Tom Hanks movie was just a bit "Hollywoodized." Unquestionably, it is difficult to cram six days of hectic activity into two hours on the big screen. But the compression of the story and the necessity to keep a general audience on the edge of their seats drove some of the scenes to be a bit inaccurate. Several times in...