The work done by the on-board and ground crew of the famous Apollo 13 abortive mission to the moon was a superb example of a remote problem-solving scenario that might be called “proto AR.”
The mission was thrown into complete disarray at 9:08 PM on April 13, 1970 when oxygen tank No. 2 blew up and oxygen tank No. 1 also failed as a result. Shortly after that, the crew realized that the normal supply of electricity, light and water in its command module was lost. They were 200,000 miles from home – and they needed to come up with a backup plan.
Working closely with Mission Control in Houston, the crew feverishly sought to find a way to get safely home. They decided to use the lunar landing module (which was not designed for such a purpose) as a “lifeboat” for the astronauts until they came close enough to Earth.
Image: Apollo 13 Insignia. Credit: NASA
One of many tough challenges that the ground crew worked through was how to properly remove carbon dioxide from their makeshift craft. And this is where the link to augmented reality comes in. In order to figure out how to help the astronauts aboard Apollo 13 to “scrub” the carbon dioxide from their cabin, engineers in Houston gathered in a conference room with a collection of the materials that they knew the Apollo 13 crew had onboard, and cobbled together a solution using cardboard, plastic bags and tape.
They had to recreate the “virtual environment” aboard the ship and then communicate the instructions via radio on how to build the carbon dioxide scrubber from those raw materials. How much easier it would have been with smart glasses! Read more about this and further applications of Augmented Reality to the Aviation Industry in Atheer’s white paper.