Minute 065: Flying with a Dead Elephant

January 18, 2019

“What happened?” asks Glynn Lunney. The flight controllers in the “trench” hold their hands up in the air.

Aquarius and Odyssey tumble in space. The RCS thrusters on Aquarius fire.

“We’re all out of whack,” says Lovell. “We’re trying to pitch down but we’re yawing to the left. Why can’t I null this out?” Jim twists the controller in his right hand.

“She wasn’t designed to fly attached like this,” says Haise. “Our center of gravity is the Command Module.”  The CSM and LM stack continues to spin crazily.

Lovell sighs. “It’s like flying with a dead elephant on our back,” he says.

“Flight,” says GUIDO, “Guidance – – we’re getting awfully close to center here!” GUIDO waves at his telemetry screen.

“Aquarius,” says CAPCOM, “Watch that middle gimbal. We don’t want you tumbling off into space.”

“Inform Houston that I’m well aware of the goddamn gimbals!” shouts Lovell.

“Roger that, Houston,” says Freddo, calmly.

“I don’t need to hear the obvious,” continues Lovell, “I’ve got the frappin’ eight ball right in front of me!”

“Andy,” says Glynn to CAPCOM, “We’re on VOX!”

“Uh, Aquarius, this is Houston,” says CAPCOM, “We’ve got you both on VOX.”

“You want what?” asks Haise. “You want us to go to VOX, Andy?”

“You have a hot mic,” replies CAPCOM. “We are reading everything you say.” Lovell glances at Haise.

“Sorry, Jim,” says Fred, switching off the VOX setting and changing to Push To Talk.

Back in the Lovell home,  Jules Bergman of ABC News is still on television.

“And it’s only by a very narrow margin,” says Bergman, “that we’re going to get Lovell, Haise, and Swigert back alive.”

“Marilyn?” says Jane Conrad. Marilyn, kneeling down in front of the TV, looks up.

“I’m sorry,” continues Jane, “Jeffrey’s calling for you.”


Jules Bergman: Himself
Marilyn Lovell: Kathleen Quinlan
Jane Conrad: Michele Little
Jim Lovell: Tom Hanks
Fred Haise: Bill Paxton
CAPCOM: Brett Cullen
GUIDO White Team: Andy Milder
Glynn Lunney: Marc McClure

Scroll to top