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Santa Monica College Planetarium Explores Past and Future Efforts to Return to the Moon

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By Lookout Staff

July 29, 2020 -- A failure in an oxygen tank shortly after Apollo 13 was launched on April 11, 1970 prevented the third crewed mission from landing on the moon.

On Friday, August 7, Santa Monica College's (SMC) John Drescher Planetarium will continue its free live virtual shows with a look at the fallout from the aborted mission.

Part of the planetarium's 50-Year Retrospective on the Apollo flights, “After Apollo 13 – What Changed?” hosted by Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon looks at the mission's far reaching effects.

"After the return of Apollo 13 from its nearly-fatal mission, NASA faced the possibility of halting lunar missions," organizers said.

The program would end "if the causes and fixes for the actual accident were not quickly determined, with solutions put in place to give future missions greater safety margins.

"All this, at a time when NASA’s budget started to shrink, had far-reaching effects on the number and types of lunar missions NASA was ultimately able to fly as Apollo came to an end in late 1972.

The August lineup continues on Friday, August 14 and 21 with the planetarium's “NASA Human Spaceflight Update” presented by Mahon.

By the date the virtual program will air, "NASA had hoped to have flown crewed tests on both of the commercial crew vehicles for transport to the International Space Station."

Instead, it has managed only one.

Mahon will discuss the latest news about the deep space Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle that is part of NASA's Constellation Program to send human explorers back to the Moon.

After evolving through various design incarnations, the vehicle is "slowly moving toward test flight in 2021," event organizers said.

The show will also update the effort to return humans to the vicinity of the Moon to assemble the Lunar Gateway and other public and private efforts, "some of which could potentially render some of NASA’s plans moot."

The evening shows are at 8 p.m. and are preceded by a streamlined, virtual digest of the popular Night Sky Show at 7 p.m., offering the latest news in astronomy and space exploration and the chance to ask astronomy-related questions.

Currently, the planetarium is using the Zoom platform. To attend the shows, the Zoom software version 5.0 or higher must be installed on the viewer’s computer. A free download is available at

More information is available online at or by calling 310-434-3005. Shows are subject to change or cancellation without notice.

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