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Keep Calm and SCE to AUX by Sascha Grant

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When Apollo 12 launched on November 14, 1969, John Aaron was on shift. Thirty-six seconds after liftoff, the spacecraft was struck by lightning, causing a power surge. Instruments began to malfunction, communications dropped out, and telemetry data became nonsensical. The flight director, Gerry Griffin, expected that he would have to abort the mission. However, Aaron realized that he had previously seen this odd pattern of telemetry.

Aaron surmised that this setting would also return the Apollo 12 telemetry to normal. When he made the recommendation, “Flight, try SCE to ‘Aux’”, most of his mission control colleagues had no idea what he was talking about. Both the flight director and the CapCom asked him to repeat the recommendation. Pete Conrad’s response to the order was, “What the hell is that?” Fortunately Alan Bean was familiar with the location of the SCE switch inside the capsule, and flipped it to auxiliary. Telemetry was immediately restored, allowing the mission to continue. This call earned Aaron the lasting respect of his colleagues, who declared that he was a “steely-eyed missile man”, the absolute highest of NASA compliments.

Tags

rocket, rocketry, nasa, apollo 11, saturn 5, saturn v, keep calm, keep calm and carry on

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