Lithium Hydroxide Canister, Mock-up, Apollo 13 Emergency

Display Status:

This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.

Collection Item Summary:

During the Apollo 13 mission, an explosion in the Service Module forced the astronauts to shut down the Command Module and use the Lunar Module as a "lifeboat" while the spacecraft looped the moon and returned for an emergency reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. As the astronauts settled in the LM there was a gradual build-up of carbon dioxide gas. The environmental system in the LM depended on two lithium hydroxide (LiOH) filters to remove excess carbon dioxide (exhaled by humans as part of normal respiration) from the atmosphere. But with three astronauts to support instead of two, the filters did not have enough capacity to maintain safe carbon dioxide levels for the entire journey home. The CM environmental system had many unused LiOH filters that might be transferred to the LM. But the filters used in the CM were box-shaped and fit into box-shaped holders; those in the Lunar Module were cylindrical and fit into cylindrical holders. The engineers with the Mission Control team worked out a solution that cobbled together plastic bags, plastic coated cue cards from a three-ring reference binder, hoses from the lunar spacesuits, and lots of grey duct tape, then carefully radioed instructions to the astronauts in space. After about an hour, the new device, although not very elegant, worked perfectly.

In March 1975, the Museum requested that the personnel who had been involved in the emergency effort recreate one of the jerry-rigged LiOH canisters for display. This was accomplished and the mock-up remains a prize artifact in the National Collection.