Apollo 40

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Project Apollo
Destination Moon

The 40th Anniversary of the Apollo program

This series of commemorative rocket launch flights are staged by FLARE, the Fellowship of Las Cruces Area Rocketry Enthusiasts. We will launch scale models of both Historic White Sands rocketships, and Apollo era spacecraft.

Find out about the completed Apollo 8, Apollo 9, Apollo 10, Apollo 11, Apollo 12, Apollo 13, Apollo 14, Apollo 15, and Apollo 16 events.

Honoring the Mission
Apollo 13
Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, Hutchinson Kansas

By Duane Lanterman and Dave Kovar

The date was April 17, 1970 and everyone in the world that had access to a TV was glued to it, watching cartoon like images emitting from the screen of the Apollo 13 capsule plummeting through the atmosphere and anxiously awaiting word on the safe return of the astronauts inside the capsule. Seconds seemed like minutes. The whole world was on pins and needles waiting for a response.

Joe Kerwin (Apollo 13 CAPCOM at Mission Control) sent repeated communication to the astronauts; “Odyssey, Houston standing by”. Then came the response from Command Module Pilot Jack Swaggert , “Okay, Joe”. They were safe!

Apollo module being hoised abord the Iwo Jima
The command module being hoisted aboard the Iwo Jima.

Swigert and Lovell inspect the command module on the USS Iwo Jima.
Swigert and Lovell inspect the command module on the USS Iwo Jima.
Photos Courtesy of NASA Archive.

On the TV was a beautiful sight of the Apollo 13 capsule descending upon the Pacific Ocean under full canopy. From the TV speaker you could hear thunderous applause from Mission Control in Houston. Apollo 13 was safely home!

There are some historians who say that this was the greatest moment for NASA, greater then the Apollo 11 mission. This was a mission that NASA showed its true character in overcoming all odds to bring 3 astronauts home safely from the moon after their Service Module exploded just before reaching lunar orbit, leaving the Command Module on the brink of death. Fortunately the Lunar Excursion Module was intact and ready to take on the task of being a lifeboat. The rest is history.

Fast forward 40 years to April 15-17, 2010. An opportunity of a lifetime is about to become reality for several Kansas Organization for Space Modeling (KOSMO) and Fellowship of Las Cruces Area Rocketry Enthusiasts (FLARE) members. Both NAR clubs were invited by the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kan. to participate in their “Honoring the Mission” of Apollo 13 on the 40th anniversary of the safe return of astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swiggart.

FLARE member Dave Kovar made the initial contact with museum Vice President for Marketing Development Marisa Honomichl regarding putting on an Apollo 13 launch reenactment as part of the event festivities. Once the green light with proceeding on planning the reenactment was given by the Cosmosphere, Dave contacted KOSMO president Keith Ravenstein to solicit the club’s help in coordinating with the museum Public Relations and Events Coordinator Patsy Terrell for selecting an adequate venue launch site, and working the logistics for having a combined KOSMO/FLARE model rocketry display in the museum lobby as part of the event. All this work was left in the capable hands of KOSMO member John Palmer who conveniently lived near the museum.

Kosmo and FLARE
KOSMO and FLARE: The Apollo 13 Launch Reenactment Combined FLARE and KOSMO Crew (Left to Right: Dave Kovar, Sharon Lanterman, Steve Saner, Duane Lanterman, Mark Johnson, Linton Bayless, Ron Shipley, and Peter Bayless.) Photo by Patsy Terrell.

What made this event so special were the history makers who would be in attendance: Jim Lovell (Apollo 13 Commander), Fred Haise (Apollo 13 Lunar Module Pilot), Alan Bean (Apollo 12 Lunar Module Pilot and the fourth human to walk on the moon), Gene Kranz (Flight Director – White Flight), Milt Windler (Flight Director – Maroon Flight), Gerry Griffin (Flight Director – Gold Flight), Jerry Bostick (Flight Dynamics), Ed Fendell (Instrumentation and Communication), Joe Kerwin and Jack Lousma (Capsule Communicators), Sy Liebergot (Electrical Environmental and Communication Systems), and Guenter Wendt (Pad Leader Mercury – early Space Shuttle missions).

Over the course of the two day event, KOSMO and FLARE Members were given free access to nearly all activities: Coffee at the Cosmo, Spaceworks tour, museum access, special screening of the movie “The Wonder of it All”, Mission Control Panel Discussion, autograph session, Gala Event, and VIP Reception.

Activities started Thursday morning, March, with Coffee at the Cosmo. Dave Kovar and honorary FLARE member and big brother Steve Kovar were in attendance to this event that was hosted by museum President and CEO Chris Orwoll. Over coffee, juice, pastries, and fruit, Orwoll showed many museum Apollo artifacts that are either in storage or were recreated by the Space Works (more on Space Works later) crafters. One of the most interesting artifacts was a moon rock storage box (rocks not included) that flew aboard two of the later Apollo missions.

Lovell and Haise Reunited with Command Module
Surviving Apollo 13 Astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise reunited with their Apollo Command Module Odyssey.
Photo by Greg Holmes.

After Coffee at the Cosmo Steve and Dave, along with KOSMO members Duane Lanterman, Keith Ravenstein, John Palmer, Kathy, Luke, Grace, and Faith Lugker, and the Zongker family were given a first class tour of Space Works facility in west Hutchinson by Cosmosphere Collections Manager Meredith Miller.

In these unassuming buildings sat an amazing collection of space memorabilia, some in great shape and some just sitting on shelves in their original state. There were the workshops where dedicated workers build and shape spacecraft and artifacts for the Cosmosphere, museums throughout the world, and movie makers.

Some of the notable work done at this facility include the props for Tom Hanks' Apollo 13 movie, restoration of Gus Grissom’s Mercury Spacecraft Liberty Bell, and restoration of the Apollo 13 Command Module Odyssey. For a model rocketeer this tour was pure heaven. Where else can you touch a radioactive nuclear missile? (Okay, so Duane didn't know until after Meredith told him).

Spaceworks Apollo Seats
KOSMO member John Palmer examines seats, hatch and hatch frame from an Apollo simulator that is being restored at Space Works for loan to the John Nurminen Events group. Their exhibit “NASA: A Human Adventure” will open January 2011 in Stockholm, Sweden and will tour Europe for several years.
Photo by Steve Kovar.

On Thursday evening Steve and Dave Kovar and John Palmer set up an amazing display of model rockets highlighting both KOSMO and FLARE in the Cosmosphere lobby. It was a perfect setting. Above the display area was an actual SR71 supported on concrete pillars. Visitors on Friday, especially a large number of school groups, enjoyed the display.

On Friday evening several other KOSMO members joined Steve, Dave, and John for a sold-out special screening of the movie documentary The Wonder of it All at the museum’s IMAX Theater. The movie focused on the significance of the Apollo lunar landings from the perspective of the moonwalkers themselves. Movie Director Jeffrey Roth was on hand to provide his perspective on the making of the documentary, answer post presentation questions, and autograph DVD copies of his movie after the showing.

Astronaut Kids
The Bednarczyk family from the Kansas City area took advantage of the Launch Reenactment opportunity to meet Milt Windler. That's parents Dan and Collette, their son, Cole, and daughter, Piper (future space explorers.) Photo by Patsy Terrell.

Saturday morning dawned with clear skies, calm winds, and cool temperatures; a perfect morning for a launch reenactment. The KOSMO contingent of Duane and Sharon Lanterman, Mark Johnson, Ron Shipley, Steve and Peri Saner , and Linton and Peter Bayless arrived at the Cosmosphere parking lot near 8:00 am and started making their way to the nearby venue site at Gowans Stadium where they found Dave and Steve already in the process of setting up the pads and launch controller.

The clock clicked by very quickly and soon a crowd began to form at the east side of the stadium. It was gratifying to see as person after person had their picture taken with the Saturn V and launch complex. Usually, one finds the modeler posing alone with his rocket, but here grandparents, parents, and kids all wanted to be in the picture.

At 9:00 a.m. the public address announcer welcomed the crowd of about 350 people and introduced attending history maker, Milt Windler, his wife, Betty, and daughter, Marion Fike. Mr. Windler’s Grandson, Nathan Fike, was the honorary event Launch Flight Director.

After Nathan’s successful launch demonstration of the Mercury Redstone and Gemini Titan, it was time to begin the Apollo 13 launch reenactment. The event began with the words of John F. Kennedy echoing throughout the stadium, "I believe that before this decade is out ...". It was as if we were taken back in the 60's when America had dreams.

Then came the historic communications from Apollo 8, 11, and ending with the Apollo 13 “Houston we have a problem” communication from Commander Jim Lovell. Finally the actual last minute of Apollo 13 countdown at the cape was played over the stadium’s public address system. At t-minus 60 seconds before launch, the tower’s white room retracted from the Command Module Odyssey. At t-minus 25 seconds, the Saturn V swing arms moved into launch position. At t-minus 6 seconds, the smoke from the pre-ignition motors rolled from the pad, and at T-minus 0 the E-15 motor launched the mighty 1:100 scale Saturn V into the morning Kansas sky, trailed by a bright yellow flame and dark grey exhaust plume. It was a picture perfect launch. When the Saturn V parachutes deployed, the crowd erupted in applause. It was a very proud moment for both KOSMO and FLARE!

The Heros of Apollo 13 Mission Control
Mission Control Roundtable: The Heros of Apollo 13 Mission Control. Left to right: Joe Kerwin, Gene Kranz, Gerry Griffin, Sy Liebergot, Andrew Chaikin, Milt Windler, Jack Lousma, Ed Fendell, Jerry Bostick and Guenter Wendt. Photo by Steve Kovar.

After the launch reenactment, everyone headed to the nearby sports arena to hear the Mission Control Roundtable discussion. On stage were Gunter Wendt, Joe Kerwin, Gene Kranz, Gerry Griffin, Sy Liebergot, Milt Windler, Jack Lousma, Ed Fendell, Jerry Bostick, and moderator Andrew Chaikin who is a renowned space author, speaker, and journalist. The discussions ran for nearly an hour, with interesting insights, some humor (One of the speakers asked "before I begin, tell me: do I look as old as all of these other guys?"), and audience questions.

The Panel Discussion was followed by a delightful autograph session. Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise joined the group and as the faithful passed down the line, we found each of the men friendly, personable, and eager to visit and sign memorabilia.

For most of the KOSMO group the day (although not the enthusiasm) ended at this point. Some members took in the Apollo 13 movie at the Cosmosphere’s IMAX Theater. Steve and Dave had the honor of participating in the evening's Gala Dinner and VIP Reception. Participating in the suit and tie events was truly the exclamation point on one of the most memorable weekends of a lifetime.

Gala Dinner
Apollo 13 Astronauts and Flight Directors participate in a question and answer Session Moterated by Andrew Chaikin During the Gala Event Left to right: Gene Kranz, Fred Haise, Milt Windler, Gerry Griffin, Jim Lovell, and Andrew Chaikin. Photo by Steve Kovar.

The cost for the Gala Dinner and VIP Reception was $300 per person. The museum provided 2 complimentary access passes to these events in recognition of organizing the Launch Reenactment. Prior to dinner, the history makers were all introduced. They were then dispersed to take their place at one of the myriad of black clothed dining tables within the Cosmosphere lobby area.  

Dave and Guenter
Dave Kovar takes time to meet Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle Pad Leader Guenter Wendt during the VIP Reception.
Photo by Steve Kovar.

The centerpiece of each table was a 1:100 scale Saturn V signed by Gene Kranz, Jim Lovell, and Fred Haise. It was quite a sight to see. Dinner was followed by a round table discussion with the Apollo 13 Mission Control personnel, and the Apollo 13 Astronauts and concluded with a speech by Jim Lovell advocating continued human space exploration.

The final event of the memorable weekend was the VIP Reception. Once again there was more food and drink to be had along with the opportunity to meet and talk with the history makers like Gunter Wendt, Joe Kerwin, Milt Windler, and Sy Liebergot Gene Kranz, Fred Haise, and Jim Lovell. It was truly a weekend to remember and a privilege to be a part of “Honoring the Mission” of Apollo 13 at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center.

KOSMO Display at Cosmo
Part of the KOSMO/FLARE display under the SR71 in the Cosmosphere lobby area.
Photo by John Palmer.

Steve and Dave with Joe Kerwin
Dave and Steve Kovar with Apollo 13 CAPCOM and Skylab 2 Astronuat Joe Kerwin.
Photo by Kindly Stranger.

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