Apollo 13: New Photos from Old Movies

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AIRSPACEMAG.COM | April 10, 2020, 1 p.m.

The Apollo astronauts took some of the most famous photos of the 20th century, but to Andy Saunders, they’re not quite good enough. It isn’t the content that bothers him, nor the skill of the cameramen. It’s the image quality he wants to improve.

So he does. From his home in Cheshire, England, where by day he’s a property developer, Saunders pores over NASA photography and video, looking for overlooked scenes and dark corners that might be enhanced to reveal something new—like, for example, a view of Neil Armstrong’s face on the surface of the moon (the Apollo 11 commander was holding the camera most of the time, so most of the iconic shots from that historic mission are of Buzz Aldrin).

With next week’s anniversary of Apollo 13 in mind, Saunders has been at it again, inspecting 16-millimeter footage from that ill-fated mission, combining movie frames and digitally improving the images to produce unfamiliar scenes, like the view above of Jim Lovell selecting music on a portable player during the flight. Below are some of Saunders’ enhanced images, with his commentary.

The original onboard footage from Apollo 13 (Magazines 1142-AA, 1208-GG and 1193-K) can be found at the Apollo Flight Journal site.

Swigert Floats by Filter.jpg
Apollo 13 Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert floats through the tunnel connecting the CM Odyssey to the Lunar Module Aquarius during the return from the moon. An improvised adapter for the carbon dioxide filter—essential to avoid poisoning the crew with their own exhalations while they were crowded in the LM lifeboat—can be seen on the left. NASA engineers on the ground designed the adapter from parts the crew could cobble together, including a page from the flight plan, plastic storage bags, a spacesuit hose and duct tape. (NASA)
Happy Crew_Eating_Teamwork.jpg
Much of the 16mm film footage from Apollo 13, like this scene, shows the crew in what appears to be a surprisingly light mood given the grave nature of their situation. The camaraderie between the astronauts is apparent as they share a meal. Normally the food would have been mixed with hot water, but with only near-freezing water available (as a way to conserve electricity) Jim Lovell (left) ate little, losing 14 pounds during the mission. (NASA)
Haise LM Window_Guidance Checklist.jpg
Fred Haise gazes out the Lunar Module window with the LM Guidance & Navigation Dictionary close at hand. Instead of landing on the moon, the LM and its descent engine were used to propel the joined Command/Service Module and Lunar Module on a course for home. “Like flying with an elephant on your back,” was how Lovell later described the attached spacecraft. He spent little time gazing out the window, having seen it all before on Apollo 8, and perhaps not wanting to be reminded of the lost landing. (NASA)
Haise Checking Shut Down CM Pan.jpg
Haise (just visible in the shadows at right) checks out the powered-down, cold, dark Command Module prior to leaving the relative safety of the Lunar Module lifeboat toward the end of the flight. The large docking hatch is prominent, and details in the instrument panels are visible. Having powered down the Command Module shortly after the explosion, the crew followed a detailed start-up procedure to conserve what little energy remained in the CM's batteries. (NASA)
All 3 Crew_Reentry Pan.jpg
This panorama shows the full crew of Apollo 13 together, as they prepare to re-enter Earth's atmosphere. The document titled “Apollo 13 CSM Entry Checklist” contained the procedures necessary for re-entry. At this stage in the mission, it was still unclear whether the heatshield would protect them or the parachutes would function with the little power remaining. After a nerve-wracking communications blackout lasting 1 minute 27 seconds longer than expected, Apollo 13’s crew splashed down safely in the Pacific on April 17, 1970. (NASA)

Andy Saunders is on Twitter @AndySaunders_1 and Instagram @andysaunders_1

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