Since 1969, Omega is recognized as the official supplier of NASA and of the ‘Moonwatch‘, a trusted partner in space exploration. The Speedy is and will remain a myth, the first watch that went on the moon, as it has accompanied astronauts on all six lunar landings, solidifying its reputation as the integral link between Omega Watches and NASA. To celebrate this unique partnership, Omega and NASA hosted an event at the Space Centre and Mission Control (Houston, Texas) where guest had the opportunity to talk with several astronauts.
As you may have seen, Omega celebrated this year the 45th anniversary of Apollo 13 mission by launching a limited edition of the Speedy, the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award. This mission remained in memories for its famous line ‘Houston, we have a problem‘. It was, in fact, the Omega Speedmaster that played a major role in helping the Apollo 13 crew return safely to Earth when their onboard instruments were shut down to save power.
Participating to the event, astronauts General Thomas Stafford and Captain James Lovell (one of the Apollo 13 crew members) answered questions, together with Omega President Stephen Urquhart. One of the most interesting questions asked was about the tests needed to pass inspection and thus, how the Omega Speedmaster became the Moonwatch. Mr. Urquhart responded, ‘the Speedmaster was not developed specifically for space travel, however, when NASA was looking for an official watch, the OMEGA Professional Speedmaster already had all the functions they needed.’ We all know now how the Speedy passed the tests and became part of the official equipment of astronauts, a story a bit different of the legend you’ve probably heard before and that we related to you here.
Considering what happened to the crew members of Apollo 13 mission, we can guess that the choice of the Omega Speedmaster by NASA was quite wise. Indeed, after an oxygen tank exploded, the lunar landing had been aborted and the crew had to quit the Command Module and to use the Lunar Module to go back to Earth. However, all onboard instruments were shut down to save power and the Omega Speedmaster played a major role in helping the Apollo 13 crew return safely to Earth. When Captain Lovell recounted the frightening tale of his Apollo 13 experience sharing, he said that ‘it was necessary to maneuver without the use of our equipment, we had to burn the engine for 14 seconds in order to course correct so we used the watch (the Omega Speedmaster Professional) to time the burn of the engine and return safely.‘
This show how precious a simple mechanical watch had been in such an high-tech environment. NASA always had the best instruments and technologies to help astronauts in their duty. However, this time, it was a simple chronograph that helped to save astronauts and brought them back, alive, on Earth. For this invaluable support, Omega received the Silver Snoopy Award, the highest honour a non-governmental entity can receive from NASA. This is again this superb achievement that Omega celebrates with the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award.
This event, the presence of astronauts, the location at the Space Centre and Mission Control (Houston, Texas)… All of that shows again how important this watch is for Omega, for NASA and for the history of watchmaking. The Omega Speedmaster is an icon that won its spurs by proving to be an essential tool. You can read more about the history of the Speedy here: Part 1 – the early pre-moons and how it became the Moonwatch – Part 2 – the 1970s developments and the Alaska Project – Part 3 – the limited editions and Apollo 11 – Bonus – the truth about Armstrong’s and Aldrin’s Speedmasters.