Forty Years On – Apollo XIII
The Kennedy Space Center is remembering the fortieth anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 13 mission:
The 40th anniversary of Apollo 13 is being celebrated on Sunday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida,
At the time of the oxygen-tank explosion two days into the mission, Lovell, Haise and fellow astronaut Jack Swigert were not initially aware of the seriousness of their situation.
“Well, when the explosion occurred and we sort of found out and assessed on our own that we weren’t going to land on the moon, the first thoughts were one of disappointment,” said Lovell. “We didn’t realize the significance or the danger.”
But soon Lovell realized that so much of the spacecraft was virtually useless and he spoke to mission control at the Johnson Space Center in Texas those now-famous words: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”
“The two fuel cells, or the three fuel cells, failed,” Lovell said. “The two oxygen tanks failed. We lost communication. We lost the use of our computer for a while. And consequently we had never really practiced for that.”
For five days, the crew of Apollo 13 and mission specialists on the ground dealt with crisis upon crisis, rationing food and water, dealing with a loss of cabin heat and even using the Lunar Module as a so-called “life boat” during the return trip to Earth.
“We always were able to solve a crisis as it came up some way, jury-rigging, or doing something to keep our spacecraft going, and finally for a safe landing,” Lovell said.
The Apollo 13 crisis — later made into a motion picture starring Tom Hanks — captivated the nation.
Large crowds gathered at New York’s Grand Central Station to watch the astronauts’ successful splashdown in the Pacific and the hero’s welcome for Lovell, Swigert and Haise aboard the U.S.S. Iwo Jima recovery ship.
In the end, Lovell never landed on the moon during his 11-year career as a NASA astronaut.
On April 17, 2010, RN welcomed the astronauts home, and offered praise for their “courage,” “ingenuity,” and “bravery:”
RN with Apollo 13 astronauts John Swigert, Jim Lovell, and Fred Haise during post-mission ceremonies at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.
FOR MUCH of mankind the reaches of space had never seemed so infinitely remote as they did when Apollo 13 was crippled nearly a quarter of a million miles from earth, headed toward the moon.
With Astronauts Lovell, Haise, and Swigert safely back on earth, a surpassing human drama that gripped the world for 3 1/2 days at last has a happy ending. Their safe return is a tribute to their own courage and also to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of those on the ground who helped transform potential tragedy into a heart stopping rescue.
From the beginning, man’s ventures into space have been accompanied by danger. Apollo 13 reminds us how real those dangers are. It reminds us of the special qualities of the men who dare to brave the perils of space. It testifies, also, to the extraordinary concert of skills, in space and on the ground, that goes into a moon mission.
To the astronauts, a relieved Nation says “Welcome home.”
To them and to those on the ground who did so magnificent a job of guiding Apollo 13 safely back from the edge of eternity, a grateful Nation says “Well done.