Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Apollo 13 Mission

The Apollo 13 Mission

Donald B. Lemke
Illustrator:  Keith Tucker 
Nonfiction Graphic Novel  Series
For ages 7 to 9
Capstone Press, 2006   ISBN: 978-0736854764

When President John F. Kennedy gave a speech in 1961 about how he hoped that America would put the first man on the moon, NASA responded. Just eight years later, in 1969, the crew of Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Apollo 12 repeated the performance just four months later. Clearly America was a force to be reckoned with when it came to space exploration. On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13 hitched a ride on the Saturn V rocket so that a new crew of three could go to the moon.

For a while all went well. The various components of the rocket behaved as they should and the Aquarius lunar module and the Odyssey command module were successful aligned and attached in space. Apollo 13 could now head for the moon. That first evening in space the crew gave a television broadcast. After the "show," Jack Swigert turned on the fan to keep two tanks of liquid oxygen from freezing. Suddenly all the men on the spacecraft heard an explosion. Quickly they radioed Houston to tell them that something had gone wrong.

Houston was able to see that one oxygen tank was completely empty and the other was emptying as they watched. When they looked out of one of the windows of their vessel, the astronauts could see the gas venting out into space. In addition to this mechanical disaster, two fuel cells were "dead." There was no question of going on to the moon, and the men on board the Apollo 13 were worried that they would not be able to make it back to Earth again. Oxygen was needed for breathing and to run the power generating systems in the spacecraft.

The experts in Houston decided to get the three astronauts to evacuate the Odyssey command module and to move into the Aquarius lunar module. The Aquarius module would be their "lifeboat" while Houston figured out what to do next.

After much discussion, it was decided that the astronauts' best bet would be to "slingshot" around the moon. The big worry was that Aquarius would run out of oxygen too soon. The astronauts would also have to ration food and water, and they would have to deal with very cold temperatures. It was going to be a very difficult and dangerous journey.

This is an excellent account of what took place during the Apollo 13 mission. Readers will get a very real sense of how frightening the experience was, and how incredible it was that all three astronauts made it back to Earth in one piece. With a well written text and a graphic rich format, this is an excellent title for young space exploration fans.

This is one of the titles in the diverse and well presented Graphic Library series.