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On April 13, 1970, an explosion crippled the Apollo 13 spacecraft, threatening to doom its three astronauts to a certain death 200,000 miles from Earth. After several days of intense analysis and feverish activity in the U.S., when the final crunch came the day before the spacecraft had to return to Earth, NASA still needed the answer to one critical mathematical equation in order to bring the crew home safely. Now for the first time, we learn that NASA sought that answer from only one source: the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies. Dr. Roderick Tennyson gives readers a first-person account of how he and his fellow UTIAS aerospace scientists came up with the answer in less than eight hours.

  • 8,603 Words
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Nondescript building hides UTIAS treasure


Writing from Toronto

When NASA needed an answer to a mathematical equation to save its Apollo 13 astronauts, why did it place all its trust in the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS)? The answer dates back to the late 1940s when the University of Toronto became the first post-secondary educational institution in Canada to establish an aeronautical engineering program. The U. of T. allowed its new faculty to operate with a high degree of autonomy, which fostered an environment of innovation and exceptionally high standards. This, in turn, produced world-class aerospace scientists, a fact that did not go unnoticed by NASA.

[Walking the wing of the legendary Avro Arrow: See July 30, 2014 Notes From The Editor.]