By Donna Vanzetti
Apollo 13 was planned to be NASA’s third moon-landing mission, but the astronauts never made it to the lunar surface. Here are some fun facts you may not have known about the Apollo 13 Mission.
1. Mission Success
The mission was classed as a “successful failure” because the crew was returned safely to Earth.
2. Lunar Module
The Lunar Module (LM) was named Aquarius and is the part of the spacecraft that was supposed to descend to the surface of the Moon. Instead, Aquarius helped get three astronauts safely back to Earth. Phew!
3. Command/Service Module
Named the Odyssey, this referred to the 2001 movie ‘A space Odyssey’. The word odyssey means ‘a long voyage with many changes of fortune’, which ended up being a totally accurate description of the mission.
The brave men who always kept calm throughout the harrowing flight were, James A. Lovell (Commander), Jack L. Swigert (Command Module Pilot), and Fred W. Haise (Lunar Module Pilot)
Lift-off of one of the most remembered space missions was on 11th April 1970, at 1:13 pm EST from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
6. Mission Objective
The crew were sent to complete a six-day flight and attempt a third lunar landing. However, the mission was aborted after a serious rupture of the service module oxygen tank.
7. Lunar Landing Site
This was to be the Fra Mauro region of the Moon. It’s named after a 15th-century Italian monk and cartographer known for creating the most accurate world map of his day. Because the module did not land, this site was reassigned to Apollo 14.
8. Moment of Disaster
At 55 hours, 54 minutes into the flight, faulty wiring in oxygen tank No. 2 blew up, causing the No. 1 tank to fail as well. The command module’s normal supply of electricity, light and water was lost, at about 322,000kms from Earth. Unsurprisingly, the moon landing was aborted.
9. Famous Quote
“Houston, we have a problem,” from the Apollo 13 movie are not the actual words used to advise mission control of the trouble. Astronauts Swigert and Lowell actually said, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here,” according to NASA transcripts.
10. Mid-Flight Ingenuity
One hour after the explosion, the crew were instructed to move into the LM. The LM was only designed to support two people for 45 hours. For the crew to make it back to Earth, the LM had to support the three men for at least 90 hours.
NASA engineers and statisticians kicked into gear. Removal of carbon dioxide was their first challenge. Mission control built an improvised adapter out of materials known to be onboard, and the crew successfully copied their model. Navigation was another major hurdle and they had to work out by hand, the changes in propulsion and direction needed to take the spacecraft home.
11. Return to Earth
Amazingly, the spacecraft re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on 17th April 1970. Mission Control hoped heat shields were not damaged, however Apollo 13’s parachutes were finally spotted and all three astronauts splashed down safely into the Pacific Ocean.
12. Mission Duration
It was a hold-your-breath 5 days, 22 hours, 54 minutes, 0 seconds. A mission that the crew and the world will never forget.
13. The Farthest Distance from Earth Reached by Humans
On 15th April 1970, Apollo 13 was 254 km from the lunar surface on the far side of the moon—and 400,171 km above the Earth’s surface. This is in fact a Guinness World Record for the farthest distance from Earth reached by humans and still holds to this day.
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