NASA's Apollo modules, the ones that went to the moon, had a fairly standard-for-the-time reentry method: Hit the atmosphere at the right angle, deploy a parachute after things are done burning up, and land gently upon the ocean.

Here's the main problem I can see: That parachute has to work. Otherwise, you have some fairly serious problems - such as water being like concrete if you hit it going very fast. And the Apollo modules where going very fast.

Did any of the Apollo missions include a backup parachute in case the main one didn't deploy properly?


The apollo command module had three parachutes and two of the three would have been sufficient to slow the capsule sufficiently for a survivable landing. However, this redundancy would not have protected against certain failure scenarios where the parachutes failed to deploy properly or multiple chutes failed due to a common cause, such as collision with debris.

   Apollo 15 descends with two good parachutes into the Pacific Ocean on August 7, 1971

   Apollo 15 descends with two good parachutes into the Pacific Ocean on August 7, 1971 (source: Wiki on Apollo 15, image: NASA)

Additional reference: Chapter 8 - Collision Avoidance Systems, 8.2 - Descent and Landing Systems, Safety Design for Space Systems, 2009 Butterworth-Heinemann, by Gary E. Musgrave Ph.D, Axel Larsen, Tommaso Sgobba

  • $\begingroup$ "Guess we're going to find out whether this thing can really splash down with two chutes, boys." $\endgroup$ Feb 15 '18 at 22:36

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