Apollo 13: A Near Disaster

The Apollo 13 Crew

Apollo 13 was the seventh manned Apollo mission and the third intended to land on the Moon. The space craft was launched on April 11, 1970.  The flight was commanded by James A. Lovell with John L. “Jack” Swigert as Command Module pilot and Fred W. Haise as Lunar Module pilot. The Apollo 13 mission was to have explored the Fra Mauro formation.

The lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded, crippling the service module upon which the Command Module depended. Swigert and Lovell reported the incident on April 14, 1970 with the famous phrase  “Houston, we’ve had a problem. The crew was forced to shut down the CM completely and to use the LM as a “lifeboat.”   The module lost power and cabin heat, had a shortage of drinking water and the critical need to jury-rig the carbon dioxide removal system.  To keep the LM life support and communication systems operational until re-entry, the LM was powered down to the lowest levels possible.

The Apollo Insignia

On April 17 as Apollo 13 neared Earth, the crew jettisoned the Service Module. The Apollo 13 lunar module, Aquarius, was jettisoned above the Earth after serving as a lifeboat for four days. It reentered Earth’s atmosphere over Fiji and burned up. Finally, the crew jettisoned the Lunar Module Aquarius, leaving the Command Module Odyssey to begin its lone re-entry through the atmosphere.  Odyssey splashed down safely in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of American Samoa and near the recovery ship, USS Iwo Jima.

Tomorrow, The Last Mission to the Moon     Rita Bay

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