The cosmic curtain cloaked the 3 in silence
their fate hung in a delicate balance.
Downwards they fell, fast and furious,
to the world below, so still , so curious.
There, all daily life adjourned
to see if they would be returned.
Man stood full of fear and dread
3 minutes to know if all were dead.
They were the unexpected crew -
one trip before they had been due,
then changed again by German measles,
these 3 now faced the final evils.
Lovell, Swigert and Haise
had been in space a mere 3 days.
13, a number with a reputation,
announced its catastrophic devastation
with a bang. Power fluctuations,
Short loss of ship to shore communications.
Then, those now famous words,
cut through the air like deathly swords -
“Houston, we have had a problem”
Jack Swigert said, all calm and solemn.
The explosion put Odyssey past redemption
leaving Aquarius their only option.
Unable to scrub and clean their air
they faced death’s cold relentless stare.
Could they conjure up the part
to make Aquarius a safe life raft?
To take not 2, but bring home 3
required exceptional ingenuity.
Conserving power as pressure mounted.
Each step tested, each step accounted .
Until, with confidence, Control asserted
that square to round could be converted
by hypoxic brains and shivering hands
from things aboard. They had a plan.
In their hands a box of tricks
to make the great Heath Robinson fix.
Those minutes of re-entry violence,
Their mounting tension, mounting silence.
3 expected, been and gone;
4 came and went, far too long.
Blood pumped boldly through our veins,
ears strained like labour pains,
hands twitched with gross impatience,
tears waited in eyes across the nation,
Till o’er the air a faint crackle spluttered
gentle words were quietly heard to flutter.
Then hearts rejoiced in celebration
as 3 men walked out in strict procession.
Down in the history books it stands
a tribute to the endurance of Man.
A successful failure it’s been called
Apollo 13 who kept the world enthralled.
© Sheila Ash 19th February 2017
(any factual errors are all my own!)