13 MORE Things That Saved Apollo 13, part 9: Avoiding Gimbal Lock

The Display & Keyboard (DSKY) mounted in the Main Display Console of the Apollo 13 spacecraft, Odyssey. Note the gimbal lock display in the second row. Credit: NASA/The Apollo Flight Journal

The Display & Keyboard (DSKY) mounted in the Main Display Console of the Apollo 13 spacecraft, Odyssey. Note the gimbal lock display in the second row. Credit: NASA/The Apollo Flight Journal

It was an unlikely case, having an Apollo command ship disabled thousands of miles from Earth. But during the Apollo 9 mission, the crew had actually conducted a test of firing the Lunar Module’s engines while it was docked to the Command Module. It turned out to be fortuitous to have considered such a situation, but Apollo 9 didn’t have to perform the type of maneuvering under the myriad of conditions Apollo 13 faced.

Steering was among the crucial threats for Jim Lovell and his crew. Without the command ship’s thrusters to steer, only the lander’s were available, and flying the crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft stack and keeping it on the right trajectory was a huge challenge.
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Read the rest of 13 MORE Things That Saved Apollo 13, part 9: Avoiding Gimbal Lock (999 words)


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