Bringing Apollo back home

Learn all about one of the space race's worst disasters - from the comfort of your PC screen.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
"Okay Houston, we have a problem... " Even if you cannot remember 13 April 1970 and the dramatic events of that day, it has become hard to avoid learning about them. The film Apollo 13 goes on general release this week, and there is a documentary about the near-disaster on the Discovery satellite TV channel tonight. There is also a CD - Apollo 13: A Race Against Time - to bring the drama to your desktop PC.

Apollo 13's launch drew scant public attention as lunar landings had become almost commonplace. All this was to change when, almost 56 hours into the mission, there was an on-board explosion 204,956 miles from Earth.

The CD presents video footage and sound recordings to tell the story of the race against the clock to recover the astronauts - Lovell, Haise and Swigert - against all odds. The success of this endeavour was due to the combined efforts of the Nasa ground crew and the astronauts themselves - in particular Jack Swigert, who was a last-minute stand-in for another astronaut, Mattingly, who had been exposed to German measles just before the launch and was grounded.

This CD will appeal to anyone who wants to study the Apollo 13 mission in minute detail. It contains more than three hours of remastered Nasa recordings to accompany video and stills which document every stage of the journey, and there is a full videotaped interview with James Lovell, Apollo 13's commander.

An appendix contains the entire air-to-ground transcript of the mission - all 758 pages of it. This is certainly worth sampling. Even before the crisis unfolds, it has moments of tension, such as Swigert's alarm when he realises that the mission has made him miss the date for filing his tax return.

If you do not want to wade through the text looking for notable points, there is a section of quotes, facts and figures. It is also worth clicking on the button markedtriskaidekaphobia - fear of the number 13. An amazing selection of 13-related coincidences are recounted here.

Apollo 13 is available on its own or with a more comprehensive but equally fascinating CD-Rom called Arts & Letters SpaceAGE. This contains a wealth of information on the history of the race to put a man on the moon, plus extras including descriptions of space-related movies, fact and fiction, and a complete drawing package with a collection of space clip-art including astronauts, rockets and spacecraft.

`Apollo 13: A Race Against Time', pounds 19.95 plus VAT and postage, bundled with SpaceAGE, pounds 47.95 plus VAT and postage. Deverill Business Systems, 01202 722554, fax 01202 735139. Requires 486 PC with 8Mb Ram, double-speed CD-Rom and sound card.

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