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Thirteen: The Apollo Flight That Failed

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  333 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
On April 13, 1970 an explosion rocked the moon-bound Apollo 13 craft, 205,000 miles from Earth, damaging engines and life-support systems. This minute-by-minute account of the only manned NASA mission to have malfunctioned outside Earth's orbit describes the entire episode.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published August 1st 1995 by Johns Hopkins University Press (first published 1972)
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Sep 04, 2015 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Where I got the book: Audiobook from Audible. This was a deal of the day and I fell for it—SUCKERRRRR.

Apollo 13 is like one of my favorite movies ever. Which is probably why I read The Martian. Tiny humans pitted against the Vastness of Space—can the stakes get any higher? And the cool thing about Apollo 13 is that it was TRUE and it was way back in the dark ages of 1970 when I was ten years old and had no idea any of this was happening. I jumped on this double quick, hoping, I think, for an Apo
Clare O'Beara
Nov 16, 2015 Clare O'Beara rated it liked it
Cooper's telling of the Apollo THIRTEEN mission was originally published in New Yorker Magazine, where he was a staff writer, and it has been reissued as an e-book.

For all the science and human achievement involved in this space mission, the reader is immediately struck by the contrast between standards of 1970 and of today. Observers of the travelling rocket, at Heuston, see a white blip appear on their monitoring TV screen but dismiss it - the screen "had been flickering and blipping badly".
Heather Domin
Feb 17, 2014 Heather Domin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
(I was offered a copy of Thirteen by the publisher and downloaded it via NetGalley.)

There was something about the style and structure of this book that I couldn't quite put my finger on; about a third of the way through I remembered that it was originally published in 1972, and that explained it. It's not sensationalized or heavily dramatized, nor is it structured like a novel in short punchy chapters; instead it's a very factual, linear account, chronicling every minute of the mission in a sty
Concise, factual, and engrossing. I do wish there had been some sort of epilogue and/or analysis of how the Apollo 13 mission had an impact on future missions to space. The ending felt quite abrupt, but otherwise a solid read.
Brian Clegg
Most of us probably think we know all we need to know about the Apollo 13 mission – after all, we’ve seen the movie (which isn’t bad at all) – but inevitably the Hollywood treatment skims over a lot of fascinating detail, while this book, written just two years after the event, gives us the true nitty gritty.

I found it absolutely fascinating, seeing the disaster unfold in slow motion, with all the messiness of real life. For instance, the ground controllers, unaware that an explosion had taken p
Rich Meyer
Jun 21, 2014 Rich Meyer rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
This is a rather captivating, if clinical, look at the Apollo 13 moon flight, which didn't quite go as planned. The account is entirely from the inside: At Mission Control and from the damaged spacecraft itself. Even with the multitude of acronyms and nicknames and high-tech (for then) talk, the book is a very interesting look at the event, which was perhaps popularized for a new generation in the sketchy though more dramatic Ron Howard film. This work was based on transcripts of the communicati ...more
Henk-Jan van der Klis
Feb 01, 2014 Henk-Jan van der Klis rated it it was amazing
On its way to the moon on the evening of April 13, 1970, spacecraft Apollo 13 lost one of its two oxygen tanks in the service module due to electric fusing and an explosion, which could be seen from the face of the Earth. Aboard, the three astronauts didn’t notice signals at first, as did their fellow ground control colleagues in Houston. The famous words “Houston, we’ve had a problem here” or the DIY carbon oxygen removal kit aren’t the focus of this story written two years after this ‘failed s ...more
Aug 20, 2016 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a solid play-by-play of the Apollo mission, offering lots of detail about what transpired both in the lunar modules and back here on Earth. But don't expect dramatic storytelling or a lot of background about any of key players--Cooper skews away from the somewhat obvious emotional angles and more towards logistical coverage. All of which means this book is probably best suited for readers looking to understand how the Apollo 13 mission unfolded and, perhaps even more so, the science behi ...more
Sep 03, 2015 Travis rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfict-history
This book is like The Martian -- perhaps too detail-oriented and tech-y for some, but still a gripping story about resourceful nerds engineering their way to survival against insane odds.

Originally published in 1972, and based on the logs and transcripts from the mission, it's a fairly non-flashy, simple chronological account of the Apollo 13 mission, focusing as much (or more) on the actions of the ground crew as of the astronauts. I'm completely fascinated by this period of spaceflight -- in t
Oct 08, 2015 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
I listened to this book via Audible.

Thirteen is a historical look at the events of Apollo 13, what was supposed to be the third mission by NASA to land on the moon. The book covers the time from just before liftoff until splashdown six days later. It's a very technical piece, dealing with the facts and getting into lots of details and minutiae regarding the spaceship systems and how the mission is organized. If you're a fan of NASA and spaceflight, it will be very interesting. If not, you might
Apr 07, 2014 Leah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Houston, we have a problem...

On April 13, 1970, two bare wires created an electrical current that caused an oxygen tank to explode. Bad enough if this were to happen on Earth, but worse when it happens on a small spacecraft hurtling towards the Moon. This is the story of what went wrong on Apollo 13 and how the flight controllers and astronauts managed to bring the badly damaged craft home.

Cooper’s writing style is plain but clear. He has had access to most of the people involved in the mission
Mar 16, 2016 Themistocles rated it liked it
Shelves: history, science
I really enjoyed this book. Cooper Jr. does his best to put the more arcane details in layman's terms and really tries to focus on the more important details of the story, which marches on without a let down. I found myself hearing the soundtrack from the Tom Hanks movie at some points :D

Where the books is let down, however, is that the text is rather dry. Cooper Jr. doesn't make an effort to convey the actual feelings of the actors. This may be a conscious decision in order to focus on the cold
Patrick S.
Apr 25, 2016 Patrick S. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audible
I've read Jim Lovell's "Lost Moon" book so many times and have enjoyed it a lot. I went into this book thinking I wouldn't learn too much more that I already knew. This would have the position of telling the story from an objective POV rather than an autobiographical one - both types have pros and cons.

I was actually surprised at this take on the event of Apollo 13. This book takes the outlook from the control room and the men on the ground. This book is also a little bit more on the technical s
Vikas Sasidharan
If you are expecting the same thrill and drama as you would have experienced while watching the movie, you would be mostly underwhelmed. Not that the movie was all hype. In fact, the real story of Apollo 13 had more nerve-racking moments than the movie could convey. It was also a perfect showcase of an older and rarer breed of men who found themselves pitted against unforeseeable odds and supported only by inferior (compared to current standards) and mostly-unproven technology. And yet, they end ...more
Casey Wheeler
Aug 10, 2015 Casey Wheeler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: space, net-galley
As a matter of disclosure I was given an e-copy of this book by Henry S. F. Cooper with the understanding that I would post a review on Amazon, Goodreads and my blog site.

I must say that I found this book to be very interesting. It was published in 1972 shortly after the events surrounding the “unsuccessful” successful flight of Apollo 13. I have read a number of books on the United States space program through the Apollo missions. These have included “The Right Stuff” by Thomas Wolfe, a number
Tells what happened during the Apollo13. Reads bit like logs of the flight have been lived up a bit, but makes a good and coherent story, which swaps between the space and the control room. Stays in very "center", very analytical take.

No matter how many backup systems there is, there is still risk that something goes wrong. Book mentions that couple of learnings for future missions were made based on this one, and would have liked get that kind summary at the end.
Simon Kearney
Jun 04, 2015 Simon Kearney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Old school journalism at its best. Little sentiment. Even less sense of what the author thinks about what happened. All we have here is a microscopic examination of what happened down to, as best we can, the thoughts of those in the midst of this wonderful tale of exploration and triumph against the odds.

I didn't realise when it was written until the end. And it speaks to the era of factual writing as much as anything. An enjoyable read. I may even read it again.
Jul 01, 2014 SP rated it really liked it
A good, interesting overview of the near-disaster that was the Apollo 13 mission. It's largely told from the perspective of Mission Control, which makes it a nice counterpart to Jim Lovell's book Lost Moon. There are times when Thirteen seems to breeze past some parts of the story -- but it also includes details I hadn't known before. It may not be for everyone, but if you have any interest in space exploration, I'd pick this one up.
Sep 23, 2015 Ivan rated it it was amazing
I very thoroughly enjoyed this detailed, chronological true story of the Apollo 13 mission. Even though I knew how it was going to end, I was at the edge of my seat! Some of my favorite parts were the thorough explanations of how - and why - the meaning of specific sensor data was misinterpreted.

Recommended for engineers and people obsessed with space exploration. Some might find it dry and clinical.
A more technical look at the Apollo 13 mission mainly from the standpoint of Mission Control.
Interesting but a bit dry after having seen the dramatized version of Ron Howard's "Apollo 13" so many times. Still, it's very interesting to learn about ALL the events that took place to keep the mission from becoming a tragedy and the amazing amount of work it took to bring the astronauts home safely!

Mohamed Hisham
Apr 06, 2016 Mohamed Hisham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Captivating! This book tells the story of Apollo 13 in exquisite detail, especially from the perspective of mission control, and goes on to show the importance of the work of the ground teams in making spaceflight possible. After reading this book, you'll have newfound respect for the people who dared to venture into space in the early days of spaceflight.
Lloyd Hinkle
Jun 28, 2014 Lloyd Hinkle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 6-own, historical, 2-nook
If you liked the movie "Apollo 13" you will like this. It gives a lot of details that didn't make it to the movie. It points to the fact that everytime we become too comfortable with a system involving a million moving parts our friend Murphy shows up to whack us in the head.
Dec 20, 2014 Todd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks, history, us, space, science
Excellent. I didn't realize until I was finished that his is a nearly contemporaneous account. Short but gripping. The author's connections to those who were involved really help bring immediacy to the store. Very well done, but would like it to be a bit longer.
Edgar Valdes
Oct 28, 2015 Edgar Valdes rated it it was amazing
This book is broken up into the timeline of events starting a few hours after liftoff. From the decisions that had to be made to what was learned from the events that unfolded. Great read if you were ever curious about the Apollo 13 disaster.
Oct 08, 2015 Garrett rated it it was amazing
Audible Deal of the Day, so I listened to this in the car. Really enjoyable, journalistic recounting of the Apollo XII disaster and rescue. Kept my attention well. Good narrator. Makes me want to go back and watch the movie again.
Karina van Schaardenburg
Jul 18, 2014 Karina van Schaardenburg rated it really liked it
Such a crazy story. I almost don't believe this really happened. Hundreds of thousands of miles away from earth, using the sun and the moon out the window to figure out trajectories and positions in space. Explosions and faulty systems and an environment that doesn't care about life. It seems utterly impossible that this was going to succeed and it did anyway!
Sep 21, 2015 Grant rated it really liked it
A journalistic account of Apollo XIII, splitting time between the mission controllers and the astronauts. Cooper, in a slightly modified version of his writing for _The New Yorker_, captures the complacency, courage, and competence that made a disaster into a triumph.
Linda K. Carman
Jul 05, 2014 Linda K. Carman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Memory Tweeked

Really enjoyed reading this book. I do remember when this happened, remember the anxious feelings waiting to hear that the astronauts were onboard the carrier. The men that flew Apollo 13 and all the people on the ground who worked to get them home safely showed me the meaning of heroic.
Aug 10, 2014 Celia rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, kindle
The book is very technical and sometimes hard to follow... yet, I really liked the book because it portrayed the triumph of teamwork and ingenuity in solving how to get an injured space vehicle and its precious crew back to earth.

I am also impressed with the author's detail in the reenactment of the four days of the explosion and following the explosion. He has the timeline defined down to the second!!

I love it too when I can learn the real meaning of a word, rather than what I have been errone
Edward Szetela
Jan 31, 2016 Edward Szetela rated it it was amazing
An excellent read for anyone interested in the history of manned spaceflight and technology. A no-nonsense presentation of the simple facts of one of the greatest triumphs of the Apollo program, where the engineers who put a man on the moon managed to save a crew that by all rights should have died.

Many reviews seem put off by the utter lack of fluff and background to the story. This is not a board of inquiry review paper but it is much closer to such than the movie. The movie was great, don't g
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Henry Spotswood Fenimore (S. F.) Cooper Jr. is the author of eight books about NASA and space exploration, and was a longtime staff writer for the New Yorker. He lived in Cooperstown, New York.

He was a descendent of James Fenimore Cooper.
More about Henry S.F. Cooper Jr....

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“He also telephoned the Real Time Computer Complex on the ground floor of the Operations Wing to ask that an additional big I.B.M. computer be brought onto the line.” 0 likes
“As additional precautions, Kranz requested that a two-hundred-foot radio antenna (called a deep-space dish) in Australia be added to the global network tracking and communicating with the spacecraft, and that additional computers at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland be what he called "cranked up" -- made ready for use. He also telephoned the Real Time Computer Complex on the ground floor of the Operations Wing to ask that an additional I.B.M. computer be brought onto the line.” 0 likes
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