Milojko Vucelić

Jun 11, 1930 - Sep 7, 2012(82)

O penkali

The pen that brought the Apollo 13 crew home alive.

The Apollo 11 mission accomplished the impossible. Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin became the first men on the moon by landing in the so-called Sea of ​​Silence. Armstrong, being the first to step onto the surface of the Moon, uttered one of the most memorable statements in history: - This is a small step for man, but a giant step for mankind. - Although the story surrounding the first moon landing is presented as a perfectly executed mission, the Croatian engineering genius responsible for crew safety, Milojko "Mike" Vucelic, knew how small technical errors destroy systems worth billions of dollars. He knew this because he had experienced countless of them in his career. And he solved so many of them. Because of this, he was called the "problem manager" at NASI. During his many lectures that he gave in the old days in Zagreb, he warned young engineers that they should always keep a cool head when encountering unpleasant surprises. And how you should always be resourceful.

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He would often say that even the most famous mission of the American space agency was not without crisis situations. Vucelic used to explain how the computers with which America sent people to the moon in 1970 were worse than the average laptop and how they often broke down. Thus, just before landing, warning 202 appeared on the Lunar computer.

Buzz Aldrin did not follow the flight program and turned on the radar on his own initiative. The system automatically overloaded. During those first missions, the computers were programmed to perform operations critical only to that particular phase of flight. The inclusion of an additional system led to a blockage. Sensing the danger, Collins, who was in the command module, was ready to descend and retrieve the lunar module. Yet on that momentous day, Apollo was destined to bring men to the moon. Vucelic and Gene Kranz in flight control quickly unloaded the blocked computer. The eagle has landed. But as it always happens, another crisis situation arose during Buzz Aldrin's exit from the grounded module.

The doors on the spacecraft were small, and astronauts Neil and Buzz wore massive spacesuits and equipment. Because of this, Buzz inadvertently caught the switch of the electrical line with the oxygen bottle and broke it. That switch was an extremely important part of the spacecraft because it turned on the lift motor. The astronauts realized what had happened only after they returned to the module. According to protocol it was time to take off and the lift engine could not be engaged. The flight control, which included Vucelic himself, informed Buzz that he should urgently try to turn on the switch in any way possible. Aldrin had no tools with him. But he had a pen. He used an ordinary pen to move the inaccessible switch and it lifted the Eagle off the moon. Aldrin kept the life-saving pen as a memento, and proudly showed it to Vucelic, years later, at a regular gathering of the Apollo team jokingly called the Bald Eagles (they were Bold Eagles in his youth).

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