The Apollo 13 Space Emergency & Safe Return to Earth

April 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the ill-fated Apollo 13 moon mission that almost ended in disaster. Fortunately, the astronauts were able to return safely to the Earth due to the heroic efforts of NASA and the astronauts themselves.

Below is a scene from the movie Apollo 13 that depicts the spectacular launch of this mission. This is followed by an article that provides an overview of this chapter in manned space flight history.

Source: YouTube Video

Apollo 13: The Moon Mission That Dodged Disaster
by Elizabeth Howell, Kimberly Hickok |

Apollo 13 was NASA’s third moon-landing mission, but the astronauts never made it to the lunar surface. An oxygen tank explosion almost 56 hours into the flight forced the crew to abandon all thoughts of reaching the moon. The spacecraft was damaged, but the crew were able to seek cramped shelter in the lunar module for the trip back to Earth, before returning to the command module for an uncomfortable splashdown.

The mission stands today as an example of the dangers of space travel and of NASA’s innovative minds working together to save lives on the fly. The Apollo 13 mission celebrates its 50th anniversary this year on April 11.

The Apollo 13 astronauts were commander James Lovell, lunar module pilot Fred Haise, and command module pilot John “Jack” Swigert.

At age 42, Lovell was the world’s most traveled astronaut when he joined the Apollo 13 mission, with three missions and 572 spaceflight hours under his belt. Lovell participated in Apollo 8, the first mission to circle the moon, and flew two Gemini missions — including a 14-day endurance run.

Prior to the Apollo 13 mission, 36 year-old Haise served as the backup lunar module pilot for the Apollo 8 and Apollo 11 missions. Haise was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps before joining NASA as a test pilot. He was selected for the manned space program in 1966, at the same time as Swigert. Apollo 13 was Haise’s only trip to space.

Apollo 13 was Swigert’s first trip to space, at age 38. He had been part of the support crew for Apollo 7 and was initially Apollo 13’s backup command module pilot. He was asked to join the crew 48 hours before launch time after the original command module pilot, Ken Mattingly, was exposed to German measles.


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