Milojko Vucelić

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

Problems s puniticom

How does the engineer credited with saving the Apollo 13 crew handle the crisis with his mother-in-law?

Milojko Vucelic, a native of Garešnica and the leading engineer of the most expensive Apollo space program, sat in his control office in Houston, as during every mission. He had just received a call from Wally Schirra, the crew commander of the two-stage Saturn 1B rocket that was currently orbiting the Earth.

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Schirra told him in a panic that there was a fault in the electrical panel and that he needed an urgent solution. But Vucelic was unlucky that day. An hour later he received another urgent call. And from his wife Inga. Namely, the drama unfolded in the Vulić family house at the same time.

The mother-in-law came to visit. She brought a pair of house slippers as a cute souvenir from Munich. But these were not just any slippers. These were in the shape of a rabbit, and they had cute puffy tails on the heels.

Vucelic's boxer Gogi could not resist the sight and, in accordance with his hunting instinct, rushed after his mother-in-law, trying to catch the rabbits on her legs. Terrified, the mother-in-law started running and finally found shelter in the bathroom. She boldly announced that either she or the dog was leaving the house. NASA manager Vucelic had to choose between solving problems on a dangerous space mission or the danger that his mother-in-law might pose when he returns home. The decision was clear.

The electrical failure was not "that" problematic, as he later claimed, and the Apollo 7 crew could wait a little longer. He told Schirri to be patient with the problem, because he had to contact his wife first. The entire team in Houston listened as Mike persuaded a neighbor to take the dog for a few days.

For years afterward, he heard jokes about himself, the best of which was that he must have deliberately trained the dog to attack his mother-in-law. After solving the domestic crisis, as every time before that, NASA's "problem manager" successfully solved the malfunction on the spacecraft, and Apollo 7 completed its mission successfully. Schirra, of course, did not find out about Milojko's "difficult" decision immediately upon his return, but only fifty years later, which is why they remained longtime friends.

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