Apollo 13 Re-entry Through ARIA 4 Apollo   13   was   launched   from   Cape   Kennedy,   Florida   on   April   11th,   1970   with   the   intent   of landing   a   lunar   module   with   two Astronauts   on   the   moon   and   returning   safely   to   a   splashdown   in the   South   Pacific   Ocean.   The   world   knows   well   what   happened   to   the   astronauts   from   accounts of   the   time   –   and   then   from   the   dramatic   motion   picture   treatment   of   those   events.   But   the movie   for   some   reason   neglected   to   document   what   was,   for   a   measurable   portion   of   the world’s   population,   the   most   dramatic   moment   of   the   mission   and   the   crisis   faced   by   the Astronauts    –    the    moments    just    prior    to    the    time    when    the   Apollo    13    Command    Module separated   from   its   wounded   Support   Module   and   the   rescuing   lifeboat   of   the   Lunar   Module   and reentered   the   earth’s   atmosphere   to   land   in   the   South   Pacific   Ocean.   The   question   on   all   minds at the time – would they survive reentry and return alive? It’s   most   difficult   to   realize   that   it   has   been   40   years   since   those   dramatic   moments,   but   for those   of   us   who   participated   –   the   events   are   etched   in   our   memories.   When   I   purchased   a   tape of   the   movie Apollo   13,   the   gal   at   the   checkout   counter   told   me   I   would   enjoy   it.   I   told   her   I   knew I   would,   because   I   was   there.   She   told   me,   “Yes,   my   mother   watched   it   on   TV.”   “No,   that’s   not what   I   mean,   I   was   There,   circling   overhead   at   30,000   feet   watching   and   listening”,   boy   was   I disappointed   when   I   watched   the   movie   and   the   part   that   meant   the   most   to   me   was   missing   the breathless moments of the reentry and recovery. So   return   with   me   now   to   those   thrilling   days   of   yesteryear   and   I   will   tell   you   the   Rest   of   the Story!   And   if   you   wish,   you   also   will   find   here   a   link   to   the   real-time   audio   recording   of   these events that I made at the time – heard here for the first time in 40 years! For   four   years   all   through   the   Apollo   land   a   man   on   the   moon   program,   I   was   stationed   at Patrick Air   Force   Base   in   Florida,   just   south   of   Cape   Kennedy   and   Cape   Canaveral   where   I   was assigned   as   a   Mission   Coordinator   aboard   aircraft   especially   equipped   with   electronic   and   radio equipment for support of the Apollo Space Program. Eight   of   these   specially   equipped   C-135   aircraft   –   the   military   version   of   the   Boeing   707   bristled   with   millions   of   dollars   of   electronics   including   a   bulbous   nose   fairing   that   covered   a   7 foot   parabolic   dish   antenna   –   giving   the   aircraft   a   unique   appearance   that   earned   it   the   unofficial designation   of   the   “droop   snoot”   or   “hog   nose”   air   force   –   officially   the   “ARIA”   for   Apollo   Range Instrumented Aircraft. These   aircraft   were   designed   to   provide   two   way   communication   between   the Apollo   Spacecraft and   the   Houston   Space   Center   during   the   crucial   phase   of   the   mission   when   the   Spacecraft   had just   been   launched,   was   in   earth   orbit   and   preparing   for   the   rocket   motor   burn   that   would transfer   the   spacecraft   from   earth   orbit   to   a   course   that   would   take   the   astronauts   to   the   moon. Ground   stations   providing   the   same   relay   of   communications   were   too   far   apart   to   provide continuous   coverage   –   so   the ARIA   were   literally   flying   ground   stations   that   could   be   positioned out over the ocean to fill the gaps between ground stations. The   ARIA   had   no   role   providing   communications   once   the   Apollo   was   on   its   way   to   the   moon and   until   it   returned,   but   when   the   spacecraft   returned   the   ARIA   aircraft   flew   below   the   area where   the   capsule   was   planned   to   reenter   the   atmosphere   and   splash   down   in   the   ocean.   The ARIA   tracked   the   reentry   while   providing   communications   relay   of   the   recovery   back   to   Houston. This    all    seems    nearly    unimaginable    today    in    an    age    of    satellite    communications    and    cell phones, but for us we were state-of-the-art. When   Apollo   13   was   launched   in   the   afternoon   of   April   11th,   1970   in   Florida,   3   ARIA   aircraft were   waiting   in   Australia   –   two   positioned   to   stage   from   Darwin   and   one   in   Perth.   As   Apollo   13 passed   over   Perth   on   the   first   orbit,   we   had   just   had   sunset   and   it   passed   directly   overhead illuminated   by   the   setting   sun.   We   had   just   barely   arrived   from   our   harrowing   departure   from Cocos   Island   and   were   just   settling   into   our   hotel   rooms.   From   the   balcony   of   my   hotel   room   I had a ringside seat to watch Apollo 13 pass overhead – spectacular. The   next   morning   after Apollo   13   departed   earth   orbit   for   the   moon,   we   bundled   up   and   headed to   the   airport   to   fly   to   Guam   and   we   then   were   scheduled   to   continue   on   to   Hawaii   and   sit   there for five days and wait for Apollo 13 to return from the planned landing on the moon. Upon   landing   in   Guam,   we   headed   to   our   quarters.   Just   as   we   were   unpacking   –   first   word came   to   us   of   the   accident   on-board Apollo   13.      We   were   recalled   to   our   airplanes   with   orders   to proceed   to   the   island   of   Fiji   to   get   into   position   to   support   the   unscheduled   return   landing   of Apollo   13   –   even   though   we   were   in   the   space   program,   we   were   out   of   touch   by   radio   –   so while the rest of the world knew about the difficulties of Apollo 13 – we were the last to know. On   the   fateful   day   Apollo   13   was   scheduled   to   return,   three   ARIA   aircraft   deployed   from   Fiji   in support of the splashdown and recovery of the Apollo 13 mission. ARIA   2   with   Captain   Doug   Williams   as   the   MC   was   prime   to   support   the   reentry   and   was positioned    up-track    from    the    expected    splashdown    location    in    case    the    spacecraft    reentry occurred earlier than planned. ARIA 3 with Captain Jack Lennox as MC was backup to ARIA 2. ARIA   4   had   the   distinction   of   being   third   in   line   as   backup   to   ARIA   2   and   3,   (a   selection   in   part resulting from earlier history going back to Apollo 9, but that’s a story for later.) All   three   supporting ARIA   aircraft   arrived   at   the   recovery   area   where   the   recovery   ship   Iwo   Jima, a helicopter carrier ship, was waiting to pick up the spacecraft and crew. Word   came   to   us   that   the   Apollo   crew   had   jettisoned   the   LEM,   the   Lunar   Module   that   we   later learned   was   so   critical   to   their   survival,   and   the   Service   Module   that   had   been   the   source   of their difficulty. Then   we   heard   of   the   loss   of   radio   and   tracking   contact   with   the   ground   stations   in Australia   as the   spacecraft   began   its   reentry   into   the   atmosphere   and   also   as   it   began   the   period   of   radio blackout   caused   by   the   buildup   of   superheated   plasma   around   the   spacecraft   from   friction   with the atmosphere. The   greatest   concerns   were   for   the   condition   of   the   Command   Module   –   had   the   heat   shield that   protected   the   crew   during   reentry   been   damaged   by   the   explosion   in   the   Service   Module?   If not,   then   they   might   be   burned   up   as   they   reentered   the   atmosphere.   And,   had   they   saved enough   electrical   power   in   the   spacecraft   batteries   to   fire   the   charges   needed   to   deploy   the drogue chutes? So   there   we   were   listening   and   watching   at   the   moment   when   tension   was   at   its   peak.   Our   HF radio   circuits   were   set,   our   brand   new   satellite   radio   circuits   set,   and   our   antennas   scanning   as we   anxiously   searched   for   a   signal   from   the Apollo   spacecraft   to   let   us   know   they   had   survived reentry. It   required   no   great   imagination   to   know   that   back   in   the   US,   and   in   fact   all   around   the   world, folks   were   glued   to   their   TV   sets   in   anticipation,   and   that   Walter   Cronkite   was   holding   forth   with Wally Schirra on CBS, and at the Houston Space Center breathing had ceased. But   we   were   there,   ground   zero,   with   front   row   seats   and   we   would   be   the   first   to   know   and   the first ones to tell the rest of the world if the Apollo 13 crew had survived. On   all   the   aircraft   and   all   the   airwaves   there   was   complete   silence   as   well   as   we   all   listened intently for any signal from Apollo 13. ARIA 2 had no report of contact; ARIA 3 also had no report. Then I observed a signal and Jack Homan, the voice radio operator advised me we had contact. ARIA 4 crew Sgt Jack Homan, Voice Radios Operator. This   was   my   moment   in   the   limelight   as   I   then   reported   to   the AOCC   and   to   the   rest   of   the   world “ARIA   4   has AOS. ARIA   4   is   GO   FOR   REMOTE”. And   I   directed   Sgt   Oliver,   the   HF   Operator   to connect   our   ground   radio   circuits   to   our   spacecraft   communications   radios   for   a   relay   of   voice traffic between Apollo 13 and the Houston Space Center. ARIA electronics crew Sgt   Virgil   Oliver,   at   right,   at   the   HF   Operator’s   position   on-board   another   ARIA   at   Patrick   Air Force Base, Florida, 1969. From   the   Cape   Kennedy   Cape   Comtech,   Dominic   Mancini,   came   the   call:   “ARIA   4,   you   are   hot to the net!”, meaning that our communications link went direct to the Houston Space Center. From   the   Houston   Space   Center   came   that   faithful   call,   “Aquarius,   this   is   Houston,   standing   by” a call relayed from Houston through our ARIA radios up to the Apollo 13 spacecraft.   From Apollo   13   came   the   reply   “OK,   Joe……”   relayed   again   from   our   radios   to   Houston   and   the rest   of   the   world.   Not   much,   but   even   such   a   terse   reply   was   enough   to   let   the   world   know   the spacecraft   and   its   crew   had   survived.   In   an   age   before   satellite   TV,   teleconferencing,   and   the Internet,   it   was   easy   for   us   in   the   clouds   at   30,000   feet   above   the   splashdown   zone   to   visualize breathing resuming in Houston and around the world. Now,   exactly   why   would   Ron   Howard   leave   such   a   dramatic   moment   out   of   his   film?   There's   a real mystery. From   that   point   forward   our   coverage   became   rather   routine   as ARIA   4   began   circling   overhead the   recovery   area   and   provided   continuous   radio   coverage   of   communications   of   all   the   action as   the   Apollo   13   crew   reported   deployment   of   the   spacecraft   drogue   chutes,   as   the   Navy   folks visually   sighted   the   spacecraft,   as   the   spacecraft   splashed   down   in   the   water,   and   as   the support   helicopters   and   swimmers   secured   the   spacecraft   and   brought   the   crew   safely   back   to the recovery ship standing by. ARIAs   2   and   3   were   released   and   headed   to   the   airfield   at   Pago,   Pago   on   the   island   of American   Samoa.   When   all   the   Astronauts   were   safely   plucked   from   their   spacecraft   in   the ocean   and   helicoptered   back   to   the   deck   of   the   Iwo   Jima, ARIA   4   was   released   and   headed   for Pago, Pago. And   so   in   just   a   few   minutes   of   time   the   whole   purpose   that   NASA   had   for   supporting   the ARIA program    was    more    than    justified.   The   ARIA    aircraft    provided    support    for    all    of    the   Apollo launches   beginning   with   the   first   manned   launch, Apollo   7. And   the ARIA   also   covered   countless missile and unmanned spacecraft launches for many years until their retirement. David Dunn Mission Coordinator
ARIA History Website and Archive
Apollo Range Instrumentation Aircraft
 flyARIA.com Copyright © 2000-2017 Randy L. Losey - All other works Copyright © by their perspective owners
Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft
     United States Air Force
ARIA History Website and Archive
      United States Air Force Apollo Range Instrumentation Aircraft Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft
This Web Site Copyright © 2000-2017 Randy L. Losey - All other works Copyright © by their perspective owners
Apollo 13 Re-entry Through ARIA 4 Apollo   13   was   launched   from   Cape   Kennedy,   Florida   on April    11th,    1970    with    the    intent    of    landing    a    lunar module   with   two   Astronauts   on   the   moon   and   returning safely   to   a   splashdown   in   the   South   Pacific   Ocean.   The world   knows   well   what   happened   to   the   astronauts   from accounts    of    the    time    –    and    then    from    the    dramatic motion   picture   treatment   of   those   events.   But   the   movie for   some   reason   neglected   to   document   what   was,   for   a measurable   portion   of   the   world’s   population,   the   most dramatic   moment   of   the   mission   and   the   crisis   faced   by the   Astronauts   –   the   moments   just   prior   to   the   time when   the   Apollo   13   Command   Module   separated   from its   wounded   Support   Module   and   the   rescuing   lifeboat of     the     Lunar     Module     and     reentered     the     earth’s atmosphere   to   land   in   the   South   Pacific   Ocean.   The question   on   all   minds   at   the   time   –   would   they   survive reentry and return alive? It’s   most   difficult   to   realize   that   it   has   been   40   years since   those   dramatic   moments,   but   for   those   of   us   who participated   –   the   events   are   etched   in   our   memories. When   I   purchased   a   tape   of   the   movie   Apollo   13,   the gal   at   the   checkout   counter   told   me   I   would   enjoy   it.   I told   her   I   knew   I   would,   because   I   was   there.   She   told me,   “Yes,   my   mother   watched   it   on   TV.”   “No,   that’s   not what   I   mean,   I   was   There,   circling   overhead   at   30,000 feet    watching    and    listening”,    boy    was    I    disappointed when   I   watched   the   movie   and   the   part   that   meant   the most   to   me   was   missing   –   the   breathless   moments   of the reentry and recovery. So    return    with    me    now    to    those    thrilling    days    of yesteryear   and   I   will   tell   you   the   Rest   of   the   Story! And   if you   wish,   you   also   will   find   here   a   link   to   the   real-time audio   recording   of   these   events   that   I   made   at   the   time – heard here for the first time in 40 years! For   four   years   all   through   the   Apollo   land   a   man   on   the moon    program,    I    was    stationed    at    Patrick   Air    Force Base   in   Florida,   just   south   of   Cape   Kennedy   and   Cape Canaveral     where     I     was     assigned     as     a     Mission Coordinator    aboard    aircraft    especially    equipped    with electronic   and   radio   equipment   for   support   of   the Apollo Space Program. Eight   of   these   specially   equipped   C-135   aircraft   –   the military   version   of   the   Boeing   707   –   bristled   with   millions of   dollars   of   electronics   including   a   bulbous   nose   fairing that   covered   a   7   foot   parabolic   dish   antenna   –   giving the    aircraft    a    unique    appearance    that    earned    it    the unofficial   designation   of   the   “droop   snoot”   or   “hog   nose” air    force    –    officially    the    “ARIA”    for    Apollo    Range Instrumented Aircraft. These    aircraft    were    designed    to    provide    two    way communication   between   the   Apollo   Spacecraft   and   the Houston   Space   Center   during   the   crucial   phase   of   the mission   when   the   Spacecraft   had   just   been   launched, was   in   earth   orbit   and   preparing   for   the   rocket   motor burn   that   would   transfer   the   spacecraft   from   earth   orbit to   a   course   that   would   take   the   astronauts   to   the   moon. Ground      stations      providing      the      same      relay      of communications     were     too     far     apart     to     provide continuous   coverage   –   so   the   ARIA   were   literally   flying ground   stations   that   could   be   positioned   out   over   the ocean to fill the gaps between ground stations. The   ARIA   had   no   role   providing   communications   once the   Apollo    was    on    its    way    to    the    moon    and    until    it returned,   but   when   the   spacecraft   returned   the   ARIA aircraft    flew    below    the    area    where    the    capsule    was planned   to   reenter   the   atmosphere   and   splash   down   in the   ocean.   The ARIA   tracked   the   reentry   while   providing communications   relay   of   the   recovery   back   to   Houston. This   all   seems   nearly   unimaginable   today   in   an   age   of satellite   communications   and   cell   phones,   but   for   us   we were state-of-the-art. When   Apollo   13   was   launched   in   the   afternoon   of   April 11th,   1970   in   Florida,   3   ARIA   aircraft   were   waiting   in Australia   –   two   positioned   to   stage   from   Darwin   and   one in   Perth.   As   Apollo   13   passed   over   Perth   on   the   first orbit,   we   had   just   had   sunset   and   it   passed   directly overhead   illuminated   by   the   setting   sun.   We   had   just barely   arrived   from   our   harrowing   departure   from   Cocos Island   and   were   just   settling   into   our   hotel   rooms.   From the   balcony   of   my   hotel   room   I   had   a   ringside   seat   to watch Apollo 13 pass overhead – spectacular. The   next   morning   after   Apollo   13   departed   earth   orbit for   the   moon,   we   bundled   up   and   headed   to   the   airport to   fly   to   Guam   and   we   then   were   scheduled   to   continue on   to   Hawaii   and   sit   there   for   five   days   and   wait   for Apollo   13   to   return   from   the   planned   landing   on   the moon. Upon   landing   in   Guam,   we   headed   to   our   quarters.   Just as   we   were   unpacking   –   first   word   came   to   us   of   the accident   on-board   Apollo   13.      We   were   recalled   to   our airplanes   with   orders   to   proceed   to   the   island   of   Fiji   to get    into    position    to    support    the    unscheduled    return landing   of   Apollo   13   –   even   though   we   were   in   the space   program,   we   were   out   of   touch   by   radio   –   so while   the   rest   of   the   world   knew   about   the   difficulties   of Apollo 13 – we were the last to know. On   the   fateful   day   Apollo   13   was   scheduled   to   return, three   ARIA   aircraft   deployed   from   Fiji   in   support   of   the splashdown and recovery of the Apollo 13 mission. ARIA   2   with   Captain   Doug   Williams   as   the   MC   was prime   to   support   the   reentry   and   was   positioned   up- track   from   the   expected   splashdown   location   in   case the spacecraft reentry occurred earlier than planned. ARIA   3   with   Captain   Jack   Lennox   as   MC   was   backup   to ARIA 2. ARIA    4    had    the    distinction    of    being    third    in    line    as backup   to   ARIA   2   and   3,   (a   selection   in   part   resulting from   earlier   history   going   back   to   Apollo   9,   but   that’s   a story for later.) All   three   supporting ARIA   aircraft   arrived   at   the   recovery area   where   the   recovery   ship   Iwo   Jima,   a   helicopter carrier   ship,   was   waiting   to   pick   up   the   spacecraft   and crew. Word   came   to   us   that   the Apollo   crew   had   jettisoned   the LEM,   the   Lunar   Module   that   we   later   learned   was   so critical   to   their   survival,   and   the   Service   Module   that   had been the source of their difficulty. Then   we   heard   of   the   loss   of   radio   and   tracking   contact with   the   ground   stations   in   Australia   as   the   spacecraft began   its   reentry   into   the   atmosphere   and   also   as   it began    the    period    of    radio    blackout    caused    by    the buildup   of   superheated   plasma   around   the   spacecraft from friction with the atmosphere. The    greatest    concerns    were    for    the    condition    of    the Command   Module   –   had   the   heat   shield   that   protected the   crew   during   reentry   been   damaged   by   the   explosion in    the    Service    Module?    If    not,    then    they    might    be burned   up   as   they   reentered   the   atmosphere.   And,   had they   saved   enough   electrical   power   in   the   spacecraft batteries    to    fire    the    charges    needed    to    deploy    the drogue chutes? So   there   we   were   listening   and   watching   at   the   moment when   tension   was   at   its   peak.   Our   HF   radio   circuits were   set,   our   brand   new   satellite   radio   circuits   set,   and our   antennas   scanning   as   we   anxiously   searched   for   a signal   from   the   Apollo   spacecraft   to   let   us   know   they had survived reentry. It   required   no   great   imagination   to   know   that   back   in   the US,   and   in   fact   all   around   the   world,   folks   were   glued   to their   TV   sets   in   anticipation,   and   that   Walter   Cronkite was   holding   forth   with   Wally   Schirra   on   CBS,   and   at   the Houston Space Center breathing had ceased. But   we   were   there,   ground   zero,   with   front   row   seats and   we   would   be   the   first   to   know   and   the   first   ones   to tell    the    rest    of    the    world    if    the   Apollo    13    crew    had survived. On    all    the    aircraft    and    all    the    airwaves    there    was complete   silence   as   well   as   we   all   listened   intently   for any signal from Apollo 13. ARIA   2   had   no   report   of   contact;   ARIA   3   also   had   no report. Then   I   observed   a   signal   and   Jack   Homan,   the   voice radio operator advised me we had contact. ARIA 4 crew Sgt Jack Homan, Voice Radios Operator. This   was   my   moment   in   the   limelight   as   I   then   reported to   the   AOCC   and   to   the   rest   of   the   world   “ARIA   4   has AOS. ARIA   4   is   GO   FOR   REMOTE”. And   I   directed   Sgt Oliver,   the   HF   Operator   to   connect   our   ground   radio circuits   to   our   spacecraft   communications   radios   for   a relay   of   voice   traffic   between Apollo   13   and   the   Houston Space Center. ARIA electronics crew Sgt   Virgil   Oliver,   at   right,   at   the   HF   Operator’s   position on-board    another    ARIA    at    Patrick    Air    Force    Base, Florida, 1969. From    the    Cape    Kennedy    Cape    Comtech,    Dominic Mancini,   came   the   call:   “ARIA   4,   you   are   hot   to   the   net!”, meaning   that   our   communications   link   went   direct   to   the Houston Space Center. From   the   Houston   Space   Center   came   that   faithful   call, “Aquarius,   this   is   Houston,   standing   by”   a   call   relayed from   Houston   through   our   ARIA   radios   up   to   the   Apollo 13 spacecraft.   From   Apollo   13   came   the   reply   “OK,   Joe……”   relayed again   from   our   radios   to   Houston   and   the   rest   of   the world.    Not    much,    but    even    such    a    terse    reply    was enough   to   let   the   world   know   the   spacecraft   and   its crew    had    survived.    In    an    age    before    satellite    TV, teleconferencing,   and   the   Internet,   it   was   easy   for   us   in the   clouds   at   30,000   feet   above   the   splashdown   zone   to visualize   breathing   resuming   in   Houston   and   around   the world. Now,    exactly    why    would    Ron    Howard    leave    such    a dramatic moment out of his film? There's a real mystery. From   that   point   forward   our   coverage   became   rather routine   as ARIA   4   began   circling   overhead   the   recovery area     and     provided     continuous     radio     coverage     of communications   of   all   the   action   as   the   Apollo   13   crew reported   deployment   of   the   spacecraft   drogue   chutes, as   the   Navy   folks   visually   sighted   the   spacecraft,   as   the spacecraft    splashed    down    in    the    water,    and    as    the support     helicopters     and     swimmers     secured     the spacecraft    and    brought    the    crew    safely    back    to    the recovery ship standing by. ARIAs   2   and   3   were   released   and   headed   to   the   airfield at   Pago,   Pago   on   the   island   of American   Samoa.   When all    the    Astronauts    were    safely    plucked    from    their spacecraft   in   the   ocean   and   helicoptered   back   to   the deck   of   the   Iwo   Jima, ARIA   4   was   released   and   headed for Pago, Pago. And   so   in   just   a   few   minutes   of   time   the   whole   purpose that   NASA   had   for   supporting   the   ARIA   program   was more   than   justified.   The   ARIA   aircraft   provided   support for   all   of   the   Apollo   launches   beginning   with   the   first manned   launch,   Apollo   7.   And   the   ARIA   also   covered countless   missile   and   unmanned   spacecraft   launches for many years until their retirement. David Dunn Mission Coordinator