Sunday, June 7, 2015

Watch Brands: Omega recounts a Mission that's out of this world

This year marks the 45th Anniversary of Apollo 13 and, given the Omega Speedmaster's crucial role in the Apollo program, it's not surprising that Omega would want to celebrate one of the finest moments in Moonwatch history. Pulling out all the stops, Omega collected a bevy of media types, brought them all to Houston, and packed a day full of NASA-certified fun to highlight their connection with the Apollo program and the cult of the Moonwatch. From getting up close and personal with a Saturn V rocket, to a Q&A with Apollo astronauts, and finally a Tang and vodka fueled dinner on the Moon with George Clooney, I'm fighting every urge to say it was an out-of-this-world experience (sorry).

By today's standard's, Apollo went to the Moon and back with little more processing power than a calculator and the invaluable support of Mission Control. But even after suffering a mission-ending systems failure and despite all odds, Apollo 13 had all of the brain-power and tools required to make it back to Earth with no loss of life. One of the tools that brought them home was the Omega Speedmaster, a mechanical chronograph watch that allowed the crew to time the course corrections required to keep their ship pointing towards Earth. With their guidance computer turned off to preserve battery power for re-entry, the Omega Speedmaster played a major role in ensuring that Apollo 13 was both a "Successful Failure" and one of the most impressive achievements of skill, ingenuity and teamwork in NASA's history.
Perhaps a brief re-cap is required for those of you who don't remember the broad details of the Apollo 13 mission. In short, Apollo 13 was the 7th manned mission within the Apollo program and should have taken Commander Jim Lovell, Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert and Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise to the Moon and back. Two days after their April 11th, 1970 launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, an oxygen tank in the Command Module exploded, forcing the crew to abort their Moon attempt, abandon the crippled Command Service Module (CSM), and return home in their Lunar Module (LM). The LM was not designed to support three people for a 4-day trip, so the astronauts worked with Mission Control to develop special procedures to conserve fuel, battery power, oxygen, and water. With the LM running on minimal resources and well outside of tested usage, Apollo 13 circled the Moon and set a course to limp home with just enough of the ship turned on the keep its precious cargo alive. After a series of truly impressive manual burns for course correction, Apollo 13 successfully re-entered Earth's atmosphere and touched down in the South Pacific on April 17th, 1970.

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