What Caused The Explosion That Crippled Apollo 13?

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50 Years Ago Apollo 13 was preparing to launch on a mission that would become famous for the wrong reasons, 56 Hours into the mission an oxygen tank would explode, blowing the side of the service module and leaving the command module without power. However the details on what went wrong with the oxygen tank are often overlooked by stories which like to concentrate on the astronauts and the team in mission control during the rescue.
So here’s now a handful of mistakes and seemingly safe decisions turned an oxygen tank into a potential bomb, and put the mission in danger.

More references on the subject:

  1. Kevin Bendall

    Just proves ST:NG’s favorite assertion, “It was a cascade failure.”

  2. annando

    At the beginning of the video I thought “I have seen enough documentary about Apollo 13 – you can’t tell me more”. Yeah, well … the hubris is strong with me :-)

    Thanks for the video and congratulations for one million subscribers!

  3. TMracer73

    best explanation Ive heart for this in my entire life. Very well done. Thanks

  4. Antonio Maglione

    The most correct and complete explanation of the oxygen tank explosion on Apollo 13 that I have ever seen.
    Thank you Mr. Manley,

  5. J R

    Great video Scott! I love getting ready in the morning and getting my space fix all at once!

  6. Nice Jungle

    Thanks a lot !

    I’ve read a lot about the origin of this explosion but the all process remains unclear to me.
    Your explainations are awesome.
    Fly safe !

  7. Charlie Schuck

    wow this one feeeeels scripted and very articulate, scott!

  8. CBY 0530

    The first time I saw the 500 degrees fiasco, I basically went berserk.

    Just imagine. Boiling temps in a cyro tank.

  9. Robin Morritt

    Thanks. I’ve been wondering about this for fifty years. 😆

  10. TheMarpalm

    Great explanation! Never heard the whole story. Like most accidents there are multiple things that had to line up.

  11. LazyLife IFreak

    I was playing KSP, now this.

  12. Sean McDonough

    9:10 – Why not use insulation that doesn’t burn even in pure high-pressure oxygen?

  13. Richard Hoff

    That was so detailed and informative. Thank you!!!

  14. Ronald 240Bravo

    AWESOME! All these years I was thinking Kevin Bacon didn’t look at the gauge before he stirred the tanks. Great video thank you for all the hard work making it😁👍

  15. Bigdaddy MRI

    I wrote a white paper in college on this subject. I also spoke to Jim Lovell about it. Thanks for posting on this. Great video!! Thanks Scott!!

  16. MrCloudseeker

    Damaged components used on a flight mission to the moon…………..what a titanic screw up!

  17. cmdraftbrn

    they shoulda checked their staging and added more StRuTs!

    engineering disasters are always fascinating.

  18. Andrew Mitchell

    Fantastic. Loved learning more details to add to what I’ve heard recently on ’13 seconds to the moon’ an excellent podcast from BBC World. Season one was Apollo 11, season two is Apollo 13.

  19. James Davison

    An incredible story with the engineering details I always wanted. Scott, you are a master!

  20. C S

    Amazingly, all the astronauts survived and are alive and well today!

  21. Just Ice

    Най-краткото и най-точно обяснение на случилото се с Аполо 13 .

    Както винаги страхотно видео .

  22. John Reiher

    A great “What If?” if the tank had failed during the testing. Then there would have been lots of investigations and Apollo 13 would have been delayed and may never have been flown.

  23. Chris Kent

    Listen to the BBC’s podcast 13 Minutes to the Moon. Covers the mission in good detail.

  24. Mike Burch

    That was well done Scott. I learned a lot. Greetings from Arizona.

  25. Dennis K

    Fantastic explanation, Scott. It’s good to hear what really happened; that it wasn’t just a ‘spark’ in the cryotank.

  26. jonathan lavezzi

    Come on vintage space! You’re dropping the ball Amy.

  27. Auxilus

    I spent ~4hrs listening to FD loop, very very impressed how they handled the situation!

  28. BlueFlag Alpha

    That experience is much intense than going to the moon

  29. Thirst Fast

    I always love the pictures/videos you’re able to find to compliment what you’re explaining!

  30. Ryan Linden

    VERY well researched Scott. GOOD JOB!

  31. max stax

    I love when Scott posts videos about the real events from Apollo 13 and explains what really happened.

  32. John Watson

    This is great thanks – feel like I’ve been waiting 50 years for a good explanation like this.

  33. Marko Vukovic

    Scott, congratulations on 1 million subs, you deserve it. Thank you for this outstanding channel!

  34. Giovanni Esposito

    Wow! Never found an explaining that was so detailed and well presented! Great job as always!

  35. Jack Vernian

    Scott, thank you for keeping me entertained in these times of isolation! Fly safe.

  36. The Lore Explorer

    Love the outer wilds posters in the back! I need to get a frame for my set!

  37. Mark McCulfor

    this is the best explanation I’ve ever heard, this is amazing! Thanks Scott!!

  38. IstasPumaNevada

    That was really informative! I’d never bothered to look into the particular details.

  39. Miroslav Milan

    My takeaway: Teflon doesn’t burn. It only sustains combustion.

  40. ZedStudios98

    I spy Minecraft’s fire texture

  41. Wild_Lee Coyote

    It’s amazing how one little mistake can domino into a totally different problem. Just one of a million parts that could go wrong.

  42. Jon Moore

    I already knew what caused the explosion on Apollo 13 but I also knew that I’d learn a bunch of new and interesting details by clicking on this video because it’s Scott Manly!

  43. Pronto

    For some reason, I had always believed that the explosion was due to a short circuit. Great research and information as always.

  44. Steve Vernon

    fantastic detail, but could have all been replaced by two words…
    “What Caused The Explosion That Crippled Apollo 13?”


  45. ericsbuds

    fantastic. i love learning about this kind of stuff. love all the photos, too. thanks for the great video!

  46. Sean McDonough

    6:15 – Why not just leave it to boil off on its own?

  47. Lawrence D’Oliveiro

    3:24 I think plumbers use PTFE as a tape to seal joints nicely.

  48. ranchdressing12 NZ

    Watching from 20 feet up in a tree

  49. Interdimensional

    “It’ll be fine”

  50. GoodClover Games

    Comments: 8
    I can count at least 23

  51. Lin Yen Chin

    Insert “It was Aliens” meme, that guy n his wacky hair + dopey stare = gold.

  52. mjproebstle

    “i’m scott manley…

    …quarantine safe!”


    That happened nearly 50 years ago and you are telling now……….

  54. Palpatine001

    6:38 – *commentators voice* yep now where have we heard that before……

  55. MrMoriarek

    Is it only me who’s Scott’s ‘Fly safe’ – really makes me comforting ;)

  56. Allan Deal

    Thanks for the great videos in are extremely boring lockdown. fly safe people

  57. Joe Vignolo

    There was a temperature gauge on the launch pad to display the temperature inside the O2 tank heater assembly. During the boil off process the temperature inside the tank heater got up to more than 500F but unfortunately the temperature gauge only went up to 80F. The gauge was pegged all the way up to the top at 80 and so no one realized that the temperature inside the tank heater was up so high that it was damaging the insulation on the wires.

  58. struckfire 3337

    This is the most intricate most complicated detailed air tank gas tank whatever you want to call it that I’ve ever heard of how much s*** went into one of these air tanks is amazing feet of engineering.

  59. Paul Horn

    Well, I never really understood what was the cause of the explosion. Now I know, after 20 yrs! Thank you Mr. Manley!

  60. Patrick v.d. Hee

    I love how you say mun instead of moon.

  61. Roger Wilco

    Just started watching but had to get my up vote and comment in to help you in the algos since the video is only 30 minutes old.

    …. and this is one of my favorite of your videos. Love this deep dive!

  62. Bruce Robertson

    Thanks, Scott. I really enjoyed the detail and clarity.

  63. Clint Burgamy

    Scott you’re just awesome. Thanks for going into such detail and helping us forget our current situation.

  64. eisenklad

    are you going to do all the tragedies that NASA/Roscosmos had on their respective anniversaries?

  65. Bill Milosz

    The tanks were made of inconel? That’s an interesting choice of material.

  66. Álvaro V

    What a coincidence, just recently watched the 90’s film starring Tom Hanks about this incident.

  67. Eric Morrison

    I worked for the company that built that thermostat that welded. The design engineer for the thermostat line had the same picture you showed on the wall of his cube as a reminder that limits are not to be exceeded. That example was used when customers would call and ask if they could be used at higher voltages/currents. Nearly all of the people who were working at that time had retired when I started, I wish I could have gotten first hand accounts of the aftermath.

  68. cmonkey63

    “Sir, we dropped the highly critical module, lots of brittle components in there.”

    “Nah, it’ll be fine.”

  69. Eliot Mansfield

    The BBC are doing a podcast series on this called ‘13 minutes to the moon’.

  70. Josh Rosengren

    I can only imagine what the astronauts would have been thinking when the service module blew out! Disasters in space are scary stuff. Kudos to NASA for bringing everyone back safely! This mission is probably the most incredible point in the entire space program. Thank you Scott for explaining how it all happened in a way that’s so easy to understand!

  71. Dale Comer

    It”s reminiscent of the decision to ground test with the crew in the Command Module on 100% oxygen and at the same time not use fire resistant materials in the CM since a fire could be extinguished quickly in space by dumping the oxygen. Both decisions by high level NASA managers, possibly even the same one.

  72. Chaos Reigns

    I just finally watched the movie yesterday, because of you mentioning it. And I was really curious about this, of course. Excellent timing.

  73. Mi 28

    Imagine damaging life-critical equipment and then putting it into crewed space vehicle anyway. What is this, soviet union QA standards? Pretty sure they had better. Geez.

  74. Nazamroth

    I challenge you to find an orkier space repair job than Apollo 13.
    “Oh no, vital systems of the ship blew up!”
    “Don’t worry, we have some cardboard, plastic bags, and duct tape! We will be fine!”

  75. Jason Gibbs

    I never really thought about the fact that the failure on the O2 tank was in fact caused by a piece of hardware that was later determined to be unnecessary.

  76. scoldingwhisper

    i never thought all those years ago when i was trying to get into orbit on the free version of KSP that i would still be watching your videos in the next decade

  77. George D. Marsack

    I don’t always test my rockets. But when I do, I do it in space.

  78. opl500

    I guess it’s like aviation – fail to dot enough i’s or cross enough t’s and you’re hating life.

  79. Space

    when he adds the minecraft fire you know hes cultured

  80. I like your name

    Recently picked up KSP and today I saw for the first time that they actually put “flying safe” into the loading screen. Just the best

  81. Bob dabiuld

    10:10 Minecraft fire animation

  82. Troy Rubert

    I was literally just looking for more info on this yesterday. Like a video of what stirring the tanks was like.


    Its because Tom Hanks was on that mission

  84. wheelitzr2

    Wait so the tank failed a test on the ground and they just said “send it”?

  85. GoodClover Games

    Ah yes, enslaved oxygen breaking free.

  86. Attila TheHUN

    Bad teflon ruined my morning eggs so many times…no wonder they had problems with it on Apollo.

  87. bodugok

    wow that was A lot of detail that I have never heard before. Great video Scott thank you and stay safe.

  88. B1 Laxson

    Ground work: Empties to 92%
    History: Close enough, its not like this is rocket science.

  89. mVm MotoVlogMusic

    Scott is a valuable human resource.

    Live Safe


  90. Ryan Spence

    10:08 everyone gangsta til service module 106 gets hit by a ghast

  91. Paul Miner

    “But at 50+ atmospheres of pure oxygen…” yeesh

  92. Captain G

    Lovell/Kluger’s explanation of this in the book of Apollo13 is almost as complete but contained one extra titbit you didn’t mention: The pressure gauge.

    When the thermostats stuck shut (ohm’s law – double the voltage, double the current, quadruple the power) to boil the LOx off, the pressure gauge should have alerted them that it was way high. The problem was the gauge topped out in normal use meaning the most basic way they could have detected this failure eluded them.

    The lesson here stands true in anything with a gauge: Always make sure the gauge can read higher than you expect it ever to need to!

    Thus endeth lesson 37 in the gospel of engineering according to me….

  93. Jack 1

    My wife is supercritical, she puts me under immense pressure…

  94. Attila Asztalos

    Remember kids, redundancy is crucial in systems that are truly vital. Just remember to route all three of your redundant hydraulic control lines right next to each other so the occasional stray turbofan disc going trough your aircraft has a chance of slicing through all three of them in a single go!

  95. AdurianJ

    Can’t you go over all the changes in Apollo 14 that never gets talked about

  96. Jeffrey Bue

    That is the most detailed explanation I’ve ever heard for the Apollo 13 failure. Great job, as usual Scott.

  97. eric liu

    I can’t believe fire in space look exactly the same as that in Minecraft

  98. WDE46

    The official report is really interesting. Any engineer should read it to understand just how simple things can add up to a huge problem. I always tell people they should read it but it’s pretty dry. This video is an excellent summary of events!

  99. Alexander Sannikov

    i feel kinda proud for the humanity that we hit a million subscribers on this channel

  100. Dave F

    One element to this story which is present in Lovell’s book, but which you didn’t mention – and is worth highlighting as it’s yet another of the coincidences and minor failures that contributed to the explosion. When they were attempting to drain the tanks using the heaters whey were also monitoring the temperature within the tanks – this should have meant they would have noticed they were baking it at 500C… But they temperature sensors and monitor they were using was calibrates only to go up as high as the 27C they expected the thermostats to cut out at. So when the thermostats failed, and burned off the insulation – as far as the technicians could tell, the temperatures were precisely the 27C they were expecting – not the catastrophic 500C. If their thermometers could go higher than 27C, they’d have immediately know the tank was faulty.

    Just makes me thing of the Chernobyl series – “It’s … the maximum reading on low-limit dosimeters. They gave us the number they had….”

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