Left to right Lovell, Swigert, Haise, 12 days after their return.
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Apollo 14 →
Apollo 13 was the seventh manned mission in the Apollo space program
and the third intended to land on the Moon. The craft was launched on
April 11, 1970, at 14:13 EST (19:13 UTC) from the Kennedy Space
Center, Florida, but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen
tank exploded two days later, crippling the Service Module (SM) upon
which the Command Module (CM) had depended. Despite great hardship
caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable
water, and the critical need to make makeshift repairs to the carbon
dioxide removal system, the crew returned safely to
Earth on April 17,
1970, six days after launch.
The flight passed the far side of the
Moon at an altitude of 254
kilometers (137 nautical miles) above the lunar surface, and
400,171 km (248,655 mi) from Earth, a spaceflight record
marking the farthest humans have ever traveled from Earth. The mission
was commanded by James A. Lovell with John L. "Jack" Swigert as
Command Module Pilot and Fred W. Haise as Lunar Module Pilot. Swigert
was a late replacement for the original CM pilot Ken Mattingly, who
was grounded by the flight surgeon after exposure to German measles.
The story of the
Apollo 13 mission has been dramatized multiple times,
most notably in the 1995 film Apollo 13.
1.1 Prime and backup crew
1.2 Support crew
1.3 Flight directors
1.4 Mission insignia
2 Mission parameters
2.3 Closest approach to Moon
3 Mission highlights
3.1 Launch and translunar injection
3.3 Crew survival and return journey
3.4 Re-entry and splashdown
4 Analysis and response
4.1 Review board
4.2 Activities and report
4.3 Corrective actions
5 Mission notes
5.1 Plaque and insignia
5.2 Successful experiments
5.3 "Towing fees"
6 Spacecraft location
7 Popular culture and media
8 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
Fourth and last spaceflight
Command Module Pilot
Lunar Module Pilot
Prime and backup crew
According to the standard crew rotation in place during the Apollo
program, the prime crew for
Apollo 13 would have been the backup crew
Apollo 10 with Mercury and Gemini veteran
L. Gordon Cooper
L. Gordon Cooper in
command. That crew was composed of
L. Gordon Cooper, Jr (Commander);
Donn F. Eisele
Donn F. Eisele (Command Module Pilot);
Edgar D. Mitchell (Lunar Module Pilot).
Deke Slayton, NASA's Director of Flight Crew Operations, never
intended to rotate Cooper and Eisele to another mission, as both were
out of favor with
NASA management for various reasons (Cooper for his
lax attitude towards training, and Eisele for incidents aboard Apollo
7 and an extra-marital affair). He assigned them to the backup crew
simply because of a lack of flight-qualified manpower in the Astronaut
Office at the time the assignment needed to be made. Slayton felt
Cooper had no more than a very small chance of receiving the Apollo 13
command, if he did an outstanding job with the assignment, which he
did not. Despite Eisele's issues with management, Slayton always
intended to assign him to a future
Apollo Applications Program
Apollo Applications Program mission
rather than a lunar mission, but this program was eventually cut down
to only the
Thus, the original assignment Slayton submitted to his superiors for
this flight was:
Alan B. Shepard, Jr (Commander);
Stuart A. Roosa (Command Module Pilot);
Edgar D. Mitchell (Lunar Module Pilot).
For the first time ever, Slayton's recommendation was rejected by
management, who felt that Shepard needed more time to train properly
for a lunar flight, as he had only recently benefited from
experimental surgery to correct an inner ear disorder which had kept
him grounded since his first Mercury flight in 1961. Thus, Lovell's
crew, backup for the historic
Apollo 11 mission and therefore slated
for Apollo 14, was swapped with Shepard's crew and the original
crew selection for the mission became:
Original crew photo.
Left to right: Lovell, Mattingly, Haise
James A. Lovell, Jr.
Command Module Pilot
T. Kenneth Mattingly II
Lunar Module Pilot
Fred W. Haise, Jr.
John W. Young
Command Module Pilot
John L. "Jack" Swigert
Lunar Module Pilot
Charles M. Duke, Jr
Ken Mattingly was originally intended as the Command Module Pilot.
Seven days before launch, the Backup Lunar Module Pilot, Charlie Duke,
contracted rubella from one of his children. This exposed both the
prime and backup crews, who trained together. Mattingly was found to
be the only one of the other five who had not had rubella as a child
and thus was not immune. Three days before launch, at the insistence
of the Flight Surgeon, Swigert was moved to the prime crew.
Mattingly never contracted rubella and was assigned after the mission
as Command Module Pilot to Young's crew, which later flew Apollo 16,
the fifth mission to land on the Moon.
Vance D. Brand;
Jack R. Lousma;
Joseph P. Kerwin.
Gene Kranz (lead) – White Team;
Glynn Lunney – Black Team;
Milt Windler – Maroon Team;
Gerry Griffin – Gold Team.
Apollo 13 flown silver Robbins medallion
The astronauts' mission insignia was sculpted as a medallion depicting
Steeds of Apollo by
Lumen Martin Winter
Lumen Martin Winter and was struck by the Franklin
Mass: CSM Odyssey 63,470 pounds (28,790 kg); LM Aquarius 33,490
pounds (15,190 kg);
Perigee: 99.3 nautical miles (183.9 km);
Apogee (parking orbit): 100.3 nautical miles (185.8 km);
Earth departure): 31.817°;
Period: 88.19 min.
Apollo 13 mission was to explore the Fra Mauro formation, or Fra
Mauro highlands, named after the 80-kilometer (50 mi) diameter
Fra Mauro crater
Fra Mauro crater located within it. It is a widespread, hilly
selenological area thought to be composed of ejecta from the impact
that formed Mare Imbrium.
The next Apollo mission, Apollo 14, eventually made a successful
flight to Fra Mauro.
April 14, 1970
UTC (April 13, 21:07:53 CST)
Oxygen tank explosion: 03:07:53
UTC (55:54:53 Ground Elapsed Time);
173,790.5 nmi (321,860 km) from Earth
CSM power down, LM power up: 05:23
UTC (58:10 Ground Elapsed Time)
Closest approach to Moon
April 15, 1970, 00:21:00 UTC; 137 nmi (253.7 km)
April 17, 1970, 18:07:41
UTC (142:54:47 Ground Elapsed Time). Crew was
on board the USS Iwo Jima 45 minutes later.
Launch and translunar injection
Apollo 13 launches from Kennedy Space Center, April 11, 1970
Apollo 13 spacecraft configuration en route to the Moon
The mission was launched at the planned time, 02:13:00 PM EST
(19:13:00 UTC) on April 11. An anomaly occurred when the second-stage,
center (inboard) engine shut down about two minutes early. The four
outboard engines and the third-stage engine burned longer to
compensate, and the vehicle achieved very close to the planned
circular 100 nautical miles (190 km) parking orbit, followed by a
normal translunar injection about two hours later. The engine
shutdown was determined to be caused by severe pogo oscillations
measured at a strength of 68 g and a frequency of 16 hertz, flexing
the thrust frame by 3 inches (76 mm). The vehicle's guidance
system shut the engine down in response to sensed thrust chamber
pressure fluctuations. Pogo oscillations had been seen on previous
Titan rockets, and also on the
Saturn V during Apollo 6, but on
Apollo 13, they were amplified by an unexpected interaction with
turbopump cavitation. Later missions implemented anti-pogo
modifications that had been under development. These included addition
of a helium-gas reservoir to the center engine liquid oxygen line to
damp pressure oscillations, an automatic cutoff as a backup, and
simplification of the propellant valves of all five second-stage
The crew performed the separation and transposition maneuver to dock
the Command Module Odyssey to the Lunar Module (LM) Aquarius, and
pulled away from the spent third stage, which ground controllers then
sent on a course to impact the
Moon in range of a seismometer placed
on the surface by Apollo 12. They then settled in for the three-day
trip to Fra Mauro.
Mission Operations Control Room during Apollo 13's fourth television
transmission, on the evening of April 13, 1970.
Astronaut Fred Haise,
Jr., Lunar Module Pilot, is seen on the screen
Approaching 56 hours into the mission,
Apollo 13 was approximately
205,000 miles (330,000 km) from
Earth en route to the
Moon. Approximately six and a half minutes after the end of a
live TV broadcast from the spacecraft, Haise was in the process of
closing out the LM, while Lovell was stowing the TV camera, and
Houston flight controllers asked Swigert to turn on the hydrogen and
oxygen tank stirring fans in the Service Module, which were designed
to destratify the cryogenic contents and increase the accuracy of
their quantity readings. Two minutes later, the astronauts heard a
"pretty large bang," accompanied by fluctuations in electrical power
and the firing of the attitude control thrusters. The crew
initially thought that a meteoroid might have struck the Lunar Module.
Communications and telemetry to
Earth were lost for 1.8 seconds, until
the system automatically corrected by switching the high-gain S-band
antenna, used for translunar communications, from narrow-beam to
Houston, we've had a problem.
Swigert and Lovell reporting the incident on April 14, 1970 [2:59]
Problems playing this file? See media help.
Immediately after the bang Swigert reported a "problem", which Lovell
repeated and clarified as a "main B bus undervolt", a temporary loss
of operating voltage on the second of the spacecraft's main electrical
circuits. Oxygen tank 2 immediately read quantity zero. About three
minutes later, the number 1 and number 3 fuel cells failed. Lovell
reported seeing out the window that the craft was venting "a gas of
some sort" into space. The number 1 oxygen tank quantity gradually
reduced to zero over the next 130 minutes, entirely depleting the SM's
Because the fuel cells generated the Command/Service Module's
electrical power by combining hydrogen and oxygen into water, when
oxygen tank 1 ran dry, the remaining fuel cell finally shut down,
leaving the craft on the Command Module's limited-duration battery
power and water. The crew was forced to shut down the CM completely to
save this for re-entry, and to power up the LM to use as a
"lifeboat." This situation had been suggested during an earlier
training simulation, but had not been considered a likely
scenario. Without the LM, the accident would certainly have been
The circumlunar trajectory followed by Apollo 13, drawn to scale; the
accident occurred about 5½ hours from entry into the Moon's sphere of
Crew survival and return journey
A Direct Abort return, depicted in a 1966 planning report. The
trajectory shown is at a point much earlier and farther away from the
Moon than where the
Apollo 13 accident happened.
The damage to the Service Module made safe return from a lunar landing
impossible, so Lead
Gene Kranz ordered an abort of the
mission. The existing abort plans, first drawn up in 1966, were
evaluated; the quickest was a Direct Abort trajectory, which required
using the Service Module Propulsion System (SPS) engine to achieve a
6,079-foot-per-second (1,853 m/s) delta-v.p. III-14
Although a successful SPS firing at 60 hours ground elapsed time (GET)
would land the crew one day earlier (at 118 hours GET, or 58 hours
later), the large delta-v was possible only if the LM were jettisoned
first,p. II-1 and since crew survival depended on the LM's
presence during the coast back to Earth, that option was "out of the
question."p. III-17 An alternative would have been to burn the
SPS fuel to depletion, then jettison the Service Module and make a
second burn with the LM
Descent Propulsion System
Descent Propulsion System (DPS) engine. It was
desired to keep the Service Module attached for as long as possible
because of the thermal protection it afforded the Command Module's
Apollo 13 was close to entering the lunar sphere of
gravitational influence (at 61 hours GET), which was the break-even
point between direct and circumlunar aborts, and the latter allowed
more time for evaluation and planning before a major rocket burn.p.
B-5 There also was concern about "the structural integrity of the
Service Module,"p. III‑23 so mission planners were
instructed that the SPS engine would not be used "except as a
last-ditch effort."p. III-14
For these reasons, Kranz chose the alternative circumlunar option,
using the Moon's gravity to return the ship to Earth.
Apollo 13 had
left its initial free-return trajectory earlier in the mission, as
required for the lunar landing at Fra Mauro. Therefore, the first
order of business was to re-establish the free-return trajectory with
a 30.7-second burn of the DPS. The descent engine was used again two
hours after pericynthion, the closest approach to the
burn"), to speed the return to
Earth by 10 hours and move the landing
spot from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. A more aggressive
burn could have been performed at PC+2 by first jettisoning the
Service Module, returning the crew in about the same amount of time as
a direct abort,p. III-20 but this was deemed unnecessary given
the rates at which consumables were being used. The 4-minute,
24-second burn was so accurate that only two more small course
corrections were subsequently needed.
Astronaut John L. Swigert, at right, with the "mailbox" rig improvised
to adapt the Command Module's square carbon dioxide scrubber
cartridges to fit the Lunar Module, which took a round cartridge
The "mailbox" at Mission Control during the
Apollo 13 mission
Considerable ingenuity under extreme pressure was required from the
crew, flight controllers, and support personnel for the safe return.
The developing drama was shown on television. Because electrical
power was severely limited, no more live TV broadcasts were made; TV
commentators used models and animated footage as illustrations. Low
power levels made even voice communications difficult.
The Lunar Module consumables were intended to sustain two people for a
day and a half, not three people for four days. Oxygen was the least
critical consumable because the LM carried enough to repressurize the
LM after each surface EVA. Unlike the Command/Service Module (CSM),
which was powered by fuel cells that produced water as a byproduct,
the LM was powered by silver-zinc batteries, so electrical power and
water (used for equipment cooling as well as drinking) were critical
consumables. To keep the LM life-support and communication systems
operational until re-entry, the LM was powered down to the lowest
levels possible. In particular, the LM's
Abort Guidance System was
used for most of the coast back to
Earth instead of the primary
guidance system, as it used less power and
Availability of lithium hydroxide (LiOH) for removing carbon dioxide
presented a serious problem. The LM's internal stock of LiOH canisters
was not sufficient to support the crew until return, and the remainder
was stored in the descent stage, out of reach. The CM had an adequate
supply of canisters, but these were incompatible with the LM.
Engineers on the ground improvised a way to join the cube-shaped CM
canisters to the LM's cylindrical canister-sockets by drawing air
through them with a suit return hose.
NASA engineers referred to the
improvised device as "the mailbox".
Another problem to be solved for a safe return was accomplishing a
complete power-up from scratch of the completely shut-down Command
Module, something never intended to be done in-flight. Flight
controller John Aaron, with the support of grounded astronaut
Mattingly and many engineers and designers, had to invent a new
procedure to do this with the ship's limited power supply and time
factor. This was further complicated by the fact that the reduced
power levels in the LM caused internal temperatures to drop to as low
as 4 °C (39 °F). The unpowered CM got so cold that water
began to condense on solid surfaces, causing concern that this might
short out electrical systems when it was reactivated. This turned out
not to be a problem, partly because of the extensive electrical
insulation improvements instituted after the
Apollo 1 fire.
The last problem to be solved was how to separate the Lunar Module a
safe distance away from the Command Module just before re-entry. The
normal procedure was to use the Service Module's reaction control
system (RCS) to pull the CSM away after releasing the LM along with
the Command Module's docking ring, but this RCS was inoperative
because of the power failure, and the useless SM would be released
before the LM. To solve the problem,
Grumman called on the engineering
expertise of the University of Toronto. A team of six UT engineers,
led by senior scientist Bernard Etkin, was formed to solve the problem
within a day. The team concluded that pressurizing the tunnel
connecting the Lunar Module to the Command Module just before
separation would provide the force necessary to push the two modules a
safe distance away from each other just prior to re-entry. The team
had 6 hours to compute the pressure required, using slide rules. They
needed an accurate calculation, as too high a pressure might damage
the hatch and its seal, causing the astronauts to burn up; too low a
pressure would not provide enough separation distance of the LM.
Grumman relayed their calculation to NASA, and from there in turn to
the astronauts, who used it successfully.
Re-entry and splashdown
Apollo 13 neared Earth, the crew first jettisoned the Service
Module, using the LM's reaction control system to pull themselves a
safe distance from it, instead of the normal procedure which used
automatic firing of the SM's RCS. They photographed it for later
analysis of the accident's cause. It was then that the crew were
surprised to see for the first time that the entire Sector 4 panel had
been blown off. According to the analysts, these pictures also showed
the antenna damage and possibly an upward tilt to the fuel cell shelf
above the oxygen tank compartment.
Finally, the crew jettisoned the Lunar Module Aquarius using the above
procedure worked out at the University of Toronto, leaving the Command
Module Odyssey to begin its lone re-entry through the atmosphere. The
re-entry on a lunar mission normally was accompanied by about four
minutes of typical communications blackout caused by ionization of the
air around the Command Module. The blackout in Apollo 13's reentry
lasted six minutes, which was 87 seconds longer than had been
expected. The possibility of heat-shield damage from the O
2 tank rupture heightened the tension of the blackout period.
Odyssey regained radio contact and splashed down safely in the South
Pacific Ocean, 21°38′24″S 165°21′42″W / 21.64000°S
165.36167°W / -21.64000; -165.36167 (
Apollo 13 splashdown),
American Samoa and 6.5 km (3.5 nmi) from the
recovery ship, USS Iwo Jima. The crew was in good condition except for
Haise, who was suffering from a serious urinary tract infection
because of insufficient water intake. To avoid altering the trajectory
of the spacecraft, the crew had been instructed to temporarily stop
urine dumps. A misunderstanding prompted the crew to store all urine
for the rest of the flight.
The Lunar Module and Service Module reentered the atmosphere over the
South Pacific between the islands of
Fiji and New Zealand.
The crew of
Apollo 13 on board the USS Iwo Jima following splashdown
Apollo 13 Lunar Module Aquarius is jettisoned above the Earth
after serving as a lifeboat for four days. It reentered Earth's
Fiji and burned up during reentry
Apollo 13 Service Module (SM) and Lunar Module (LM) as they entered
Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean on April 18, 1970 between
Fiji Islands and Auckland, New Zealand
Apollo 13's damaged Service Module, as photographed from the Command
Module after being jettisoned
Mission Control celebrates the successful splashdown of Apollo 13
Apollo 13 crew talking with President Nixon on April 17, 1970
Analysis and response
NASA Administrator Thomas Paine and Deputy Administrator George Low
sent a memorandum to
Langley Research Center
Langley Research Center Director Edgar M.
Cortright on April 17, 1970, (date of spacecraft splashdown) advising
him of his appointment as chairman of an
Apollo 13 Review Board to
investigate the cause of the accident.
The second memorandum to Cortright from Paine and Low on April 21
established the board as follows:
Robert F. Allnutt (Assistant to the Administrator,
Neil Armstrong (Astronaut, Manned Spacecraft Center);
Dr. John F. Clark (Director, Goddard Space Flight Center);
Brig. General Walter R. Hedrick, Jr. (Director of Space, DCS/RED,
Vincent L. Johnson (Deputy Associate Administrator-Engineering, Office
of Space Science and Applications);
Milton Klein (Manager, AEC-
NASA Space Nuclear Propulsion Office);
Dr. Hans M. Mark (Director, Ames Research Center).
George Malley (Chief Counsel, Langley Research Center)
OMSF Technical Support:
Charles W. Mathews (Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Manned
William A. Anders (Executive Secretary, National Aeronautics and Space
Dr. Charles D. Harrington (Chairman,
NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory
I. I. Pinkel (Director, Aerospace Safety Research and Data Institute,
Lewis Research Center).
Gerald J. Mossinghoff (Office of Legislative Affairs,
Public Affairs Liaison:
Brian Duff (Public Affairs Officer. Manned Spacecraft Center)
Activities and report
The board exhaustively investigated and analyzed the history of the
manufacture and testing of the oxygen tank, and its installation and
testing in the spacecraft up to the
Apollo 13 launch, as documented in
detailed records and logs. They visited and consulted with engineers
at the contractor's sites and the Kennedy Space Center. Once a theory
of the cause was developed, elements of it were tested, including on a
test rig simulation in a vacuum chamber, with a damaged tank installed
in the fuel cell bay. This test confirmed the theory when a similar
explosion was created, which blew off the outer panel exactly as
happened in the flight. Cortright sent the final Report of Apollo 13
Review Board to Thomas Paine on June 15, 1970.
The failure started in the Service Module's number 2 oxygen tank.
Damaged Teflon insulation on the wires to the stirring fan inside
oxygen tank 2 allowed the wires to short-circuit and ignite this
insulation. The resulting fire rapidly increased pressure beyond its
1,000-pound-per-square-inch (6.9 MPa) limit and the tank dome
failed, filling the fuel cell bay (Sector 4) with rapidly expanding
gaseous oxygen and combustion products. It is also possible some
combustion occurred of the Mylar/
Kapton thermal insulation material
used to line the oxygen shelf compartment in this bay.
The resulting pressure inside the compartment popped the bolts
attaching the 13-foot (4.0 m) Sector 4 outer aluminum skin panel,
which as it blew off probably caused minor damage to the nearby S-band
Mechanical shock forced the oxygen valves closed on the number 1 and
number 3 fuel cells, leaving them operating for only about three
minutes on the oxygen in the feed lines. The shock also either
partially ruptured a line from the number 1 oxygen tank, or caused its
check or relief valve to leak, causing its contents to leak out into
space over the next 130 minutes, entirely depleting the SM's oxygen
The board determined the oxygen tank failure was caused by an unlikely
chain of events. Tanks storing cryogens, such as liquid oxygen and
liquid hydrogen, require either venting, extremely good insulation, or
both, in order to avoid excessive pressure buildup due to vaporization
of the tanks' contents. The Service Module oxygen tanks were so well
insulated that they could safely contain supercritical hydrogen and
oxygen for years. Each oxygen tank held several hundred pounds of
oxygen, which was used for breathable air and the production of
electricity and water. The construction of the tanks made internal
The tank contained several components relevant to the accident:
a quantity sensor;
a fan to stir the tank contents for more accurate quantity
a heater to vaporize liquid oxygen as needed;
a thermostat to protect the heater;
a temperature sensor;
fill and drain valves and piping.
The heater and protection thermostats were originally designed for the
Command Module's 28-volt DC bus. The specifications for the heater and
thermostat were later changed to allow a 65-volt ground supply, in
order to pressurize the tanks more rapidly. Beechcraft, the tank
subcontractor, did not upgrade the thermostat to handle the higher
The oxygen shelf carrying the oxygen tanks was originally installed in
Apollo 10 Service Module, but was removed to fix a potential
electromagnetic interference problem. During removal, the shelf was
accidentally dropped about 2 inches (5 cm) because a retaining
bolt had not been removed. The tank appeared to be undamaged, but a
loosely fitting filling tube was apparently damaged, and photographs
suggested that the close-out cap on the top of the tank may have hit
the fuel cell shelf. The report of the
Apollo 13 review board
considers the probability of tank damage during this incident to be
"rather low." After the tank was filled for ground testing, it
could not be emptied through the normal drain line. To avoid delaying
the mission by replacing the tank, the heater was connected to 65-volt
ground power to boil off the oxygen. Lovell signed off on this
procedure. It should have taken a few days at the thermostatic opening
temperature of 27 °C (81 °F). When the thermostat opened,
the 65-volt supply fused its contacts closed and the heater remained
powered. The board confirmed by testing that the thermostats welded
themselves closed under the higher voltage. This raised the
temperature of the heater to an estimated 540 °C
(1,000 °F). A chart recorder on the heater current showed that
the heater was not cycling on and off, as it should have been if the
thermostat was functioning correctly, but no one noticed it at the
time. Because the temperature sensor was not designed to read higher
than the 27 °C (81 °F) thermostat opening temperature, the
monitoring equipment did not register the true temperature inside the
tank. The gas boiled off in hours rather than days.
The sustained high temperatures melted the Teflon insulation on the
fan power supply wires and left them exposed. When the tank was
refilled with oxygen, it became a bomb waiting to go off. During the
"cryo stir" procedure, fan power passed through the bare wires which
apparently shorted, producing sparks and igniting the Teflon. This in
turn boiled liquid oxygen faster than the tank vent could remove it.
Apollo 13 details of oxygen tank number 2 and the heater and
In June 1970, the Cortright Report provided an in-depth analysis
of the mission in an extremely detailed five-chapter report with eight
appendices. It included a copy of established
NASA procedures for
alleviating high pressure in a cryogenic oxygen tank, to include:
Turning the four tank heaters and fans off;
Pulling the two heater circuit breakers to open to remove the energy
Performing a 2-minute purge, or directly opening the O2 valve.
Telemetered parameters of the oxygen tank rupture incident, with inset
image of pressure relief valve
This procedure was designed to prevent hardware failure so that the
lunar landing mission could be continued. The Mission Operations
Apollo 13 recounts how the master caution and warning alarm had
been turned off for a previous low-pressure reading on hydrogen tank
2, and so it did not trigger to call attention to the high oxygen
Oxygen tank 2 was not the only pressure vessel that failed during this
mission. Prior to the accident, the crew had moved the scheduled entry
into the Lunar Module forward by three hours. This was done to get an
earlier look at the pressure reading of the supercritical helium (SHe)
tank in the LM descent stage, which had been suspect since before
launch. After the abort decision, the helium pressure continued to
rise and Mission Control predicted the time that the burst disc would
rupture. The helium tank burst disc ruptured at 108:54, after the
lunar flyby. The expulsion reversed the direction of the passive
thermal control (PTC) roll (nicknamed the "barbecue roll").
While the investigation board did recreate the oxygen tank failure, it
did not report on any experiments that would show how effective the
Cryogenic Malfunctions Procedures were to prevent the system failure
by de-energizing the electrical heater and fan circuits.
The oxygen tank was redesigned, with the thermostats upgraded to
handle the proper voltage. The heaters were retained since they were
necessary to maintain oxygen pressure. The stirring fans, with their
unsealed motors, were removed, which meant the oxygen quantity gauge
was no longer accurate. This required adding a third tank so that no
tank would go below half full.
All electrical wiring in the power system bay was sheathed in
stainless steel, and the oxygen quantity probes were changed from
aluminum to stainless steel. The fuel cell oxygen supply valves were
redesigned to isolate the Teflon-coated wiring from the oxygen. The
spacecraft and Mission Control monitoring systems were modified to
give more immediate and visible warnings of anomalies.
Richard Nixon speaks before awarding the Apollo 13
astronauts the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Apollo 13 followed the free-return trajectory, its altitude
over the lunar far side was approximately 100 km (60 mi)
greater than the orbital altitude on the remaining Apollo lunar
Moon was almost at apogee during the mission (as it also
was during the flights of
Apollo 10 and Apollo 15), which also
increased the distance from the Earth. The combination of the two
effects ensures that
Apollo 13 holds the absolute altitude record for
a manned spacecraft, reaching a distance of 400,171 kilometers
(248,655 mi) from
Earth on 7:21 pm EST, April 14, 1970.
The A7L spacesuit intended to be worn on the lunar surface by Lovell
would have been the first to feature red bands on the arms, legs,
lunar EVA helmet assembly, and the life-support backpack. This came
about because Mission Control personnel watching the video feeds of
Apollos 11 and 12 had trouble distinguishing the astronauts while both
had their helmet sunshades down. The red bands were used for the
remaining Apollo flights, the
Space Shuttle program, and in the
International Space Station.
Apollo 13 mission was called "a successful failure" by Lovell,
because of the successful safe return of the astronauts, but the
failed lunar landing. Lead
Gene Kranz and Flight
controller Sy Liebergot, the first one to see the telemetry of the
initial oxygen tank failure, both describe it decades later as "NASA's
President Nixon awarded the
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Presidential Medal of Freedom to the crew
Apollo 13 Mission Operations Team
Apollo 13 Mission Operations Team for their actions during the
The Cold Cathode Gauge Experiment (CCGE) which was part of the ALSEP
Apollo 13 was never flown again. It was a version of the Cold
Cathode Ion Gauge (CCIG) which featured on Apollo 12, Apollo 14, and
Apollo 15. The CCGE was designed as a standalone version of the CCIG.
On other missions, the CCIG was connected as part of the Suprathermal
Ion Detector (SIDE). Because of the aborted landing, this experiment
was never deployed. Other experiments included on Apollo 13's ALSEP
included the Heat Flow Experiment (HFE), the Passive Seismic
Experiment (PSE), and the Charged Particle Lunar Environment
Plaque and insignia
Replica of the plaque with Swigert's name that was to replace the one
attached to Aquarius that had Mattingly's name
The original lunar plaque affixed to the front landing leg of Aquarius
bore Mattingly’s name, so a replacement plaque with Swigert’s name
was carried in the cabin, for Lovell to place over the other after he
descended the ladder. He kept the plaque as a souvenir. In his book
Lost Moon (later renamed Apollo 13), Lovell stated that, apart from
the plaque and a couple of other pieces, the only other memento he
possesses is a letter from Charles Lindbergh.
Apollo 13 crew patch featured three flying horses as Apollo's
"chariot" across space. Given Lovell's Navy background, the logo also
included the mottoes "Ex Luna, scientia" ("From the Moon, knowledge"),
borrowed from the U.S. Naval Academy's motto, "Ex scientia tridens"
("From knowledge, sea power"). The mission number appeared in Roman
numerals as Apollo XIII. The patch did not have to be modified after
Mattingly's replacement since it is one of only two Apollo mission
insignia—the other being Apollo 11—not to include the names of the
crew. It was designed by artist Lumen Martin Winter, who based it on a
mural he had done for
The St. Regis Hotel
The St. Regis Hotel in New York City.
The mural was later purchased by actor Tom Hanks, who portrayed Lovell
in the movie Apollo 13, and now is on the wall of a restaurant near
Chicago owned by Lovell's son.
Despite Apollo 13's failure to land on the Moon, several experiments
were conducted successfully because they were initiated before or
conducted independently of the oxygen tank explosion.
Several experiments to study electrical phenomena were conducted prior
to and during the launch of Apollo 13. This information was used to
better understand hazards of launching in less than ideal weather
Eleven photographs of
Earth were taken at precisely recorded times, to
study the feasibility of using geosynchronous satellites to study
S-IVB third stage was the first to be purposely crashed
into the lunar surface, as an active seismic experiment which measured
its impact with a seismometer left on the lunar surface by the crew of
Apollo 12. (The S-IVBs from the previous four lunar missions were sent
into solar orbit by ground control after use.)
As a joke following Apollo 13's successful splashdown, Grumman
Aerospace Corporation pilot Sam Greenberg (who had helped with the
strategy for re-routing power from the LM to the crippled CM) issued a
tongue-in-cheek invoice for $400,540.05 to North American Rockwell,
Pratt and Whitney, and Beech Aircraft, prime and
subcontractors for the CSM, for "towing" the crippled ship most of the
way to the
Moon and back. The figure was based on an estimated 400,001
miles (643,739 km) at $1.00 per mile, plus $4.00 for the first
mile. An extra $536.05 was included for battery charging, oxygen, and
an "additional guest in room" (Swigert). A 20% "commercial discount,"
as well as a further 2% discount if North American were to pay in
cash, reduced the total to $312,421.24. North American declined
payment, noting that it had ferried three previous
Grumman LMs to the
Moon (Apollo 10,
Apollo 11 and Apollo 12) with no such reciprocal
Apollo 13 Command Module on display at the
The Command Module shell was formerly at the Musée de l'Air et de
l'Espace, in Paris. The interior components were removed during the
investigation of the accident and reassembled into boilerplate
BP-1102A, the water egress training module; and were subsequently on
display at the Museum of Natural History and Science in Louisville,
Kentucky, until 2000. The Command Module and the internal components
were reassembled, and Odyssey is currently on display at the
Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas.
The Lunar Module burned up in Earth's atmosphere on April 17, 1970,
having been targeted to enter over the Pacific Ocean to reduce the
possibility of contamination from a SNAP 27 radioisotope
thermoelectric generator (RTG) on board. Intended to power the
mission's ALSEP, the RTG survived re-entry (as designed) and landed in
the Tonga Trench. While it will remain radioactive for several
thousand years, it does not appear to be releasing any of its
3.9 kg of radioactive plutonium-238.
Lovell's lunar space suit helmet, one of his gloves, and the plaque
that had been intended to be left on the
Moon are on exhibit at the
Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois.
S-IVB with its Instrument Unit was guided to crash onto
the lunar surface on April 14, providing a signal for the Apollo 12
Passive Seismic Experiment.
A recording of the
Apollo 13 S-IVB's impact on the lunar surface as
detected by the
Apollo 12 Passive Seismic Experiment
Crater left by the S-IVB's impact
LM armrest on display at the Apollo/
Saturn V Center in Florida
Popular culture and media
The 1974 movie Houston, We've Got a Problem, while set around the
Apollo 13 incident, is a fictional drama about the crises faced by
ground personnel when the emergency disrupts their work schedules and
places additional stress on their lives; only a couple of news clips
and a narrator's solemn voice deal with the actual problems.
"Houston... We've Got a Problem" was also the title of an episode of
BBC documentary series A Life At Stake, broadcast in March 1978.
This was an accurate, if simplified, reconstruction of the events.
Lovell was approached in 1991 by journalist
Jeffrey Kluger about
collaborating on a non-fiction account of the mission. The resultant
book, Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, was published in
1994. The next year, a film adaptation of the book, Apollo 13, was
released, directed by
Ron Howard and starring
Tom Hanks as Lovell,
Bill Paxton as Haise,
Kevin Bacon as Swigert,
Gary Sinise as
Ed Harris as flight director Gene Kranz, and Kathleen
Quinlan as Marilyn Lovell. James Lovell, Eugene Kranz, and other
principals have stated that this film depicted the events of the
mission with reasonable accuracy, given that some dramatic license was
taken. For example, the film changes the tense of Lovell's famous
follow-up to Swigert's original words from, "Houston, we've had a
problem", to "Houston, we have a problem". The film was
nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best
Supporting Actor (Harris) and Best Supporting Actress (Quinlan).
In the 1998 miniseries From the
Earth to the Moon, co-produced by
Hanks and Howard, the mission is dramatized in the episode "We
Interrupt This Program". Rather than showing the incident from the
crew's perspective as in the
Apollo 13 feature film, it is instead
presented from an Earth-bound perspective of television reporters
competing for coverage of the event.
In 2008, an interactive theatrical show titled Apollo 13: Mission
Control premiered at
BATS Theatre in Wellington, New Zealand.
The production faithfully recreated the mission control consoles and
audience members became part of the storyline. The show also featured
a 'guest' astronaut each night: a member of the public who suited up
and amongst other duties, stirred the oxygen tanks and said the line
"Houston, we've had a problem." This 'replacement' astronaut was a nod
to Jack Swigert, who replaced
Ken Mattingly shortly before the launch
in 1970. The production toured to other cities extensively in New
Zealand and Australia in 2010–2011. The production was scheduled to
travel to the US in 2012.
DC's Legends of Tomorrow
DC's Legends of Tomorrow episode 'Moonshot,' the oxygen tank
explosion is averted when
Eobard Thawne disguises himself as Swigert,
in order to retrieve a piece of the Spear of Destiny that was hidden
in the pole section of the American flag planted on July 21, 1969.
Thawne and Ray Palmer crash land the lander on the Moon's surface.
In November 2011, a notebook containing a checklist Lovell used to
calculate a trajectory to get the damaged spacecraft, Apollo 13, back
to Earth, and handwritten calculations by Lovell, was auctioned off by
Heritage Auctions for $388,375.
NASA made an email inquiry asking
Heritage if Lovell had clear title to the notebook, stating that NASA
had "nothing to indicate" the agency had ever transferred ownership of
the checklist to Lovell. In January 2012, Heritage stated that the
sale had been placed on hold after
NASA launched an investigation into
whether it was the astronaut’s property to sell.
Houston, we have a problem
List of man-made objects on the Moon
This article incorporates public domain material from
websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space
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"Apollo 13" at Encyclopedia Astronautica
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"Apollo 13: LIFE With the Lovell Family During 'NASA's Finest Hour'"
– slideshow by Life magazine
"Apollo 13: NASA's Finest Hour" – slideshow by Life magazine at the
"Apollo 13: Triumph on the Dark Side" is an episode of Man, Moment,
Machine, a 2006 documentary series that aired on The History Channel
Apollo 13: Failure is Not An Option documentary on YouTube
Apollo 13 transcripts on Spacelog"
Apollo 13 - 'Houston, we've had a problem'" Audio of the Apollo 13
mission during its first moments of trouble
Complete post-flight press conference, April 21, 1970: Part 1 - Part 2
Extremes of motion
Land vehicle (rocket-based
production car (by speed / by acceleration)
production motorcycle (by speed / by acceleration)
Space (furthest spacecraft
furthest landing on another world
furthest travels on another world
closest spacecraft to the Sun)
Aircraft (furthest flight
Earth ocean dive
Space (most enduring spaceflight
most endurance on another world
most time as a person in space
most enduring population of a spacecraft)
Missions and tests of the Apollo program
Pad Abort Test-1
Pad Abort Test-2
Earth orbit missions
Apollo–Soyuz Test Project
Lunar orbit missions
Lunar landing missions
Apollo 1 (AS-204)
List of missions
Kennedy Space Center
Launch Complex 39
Spacecraft missions to the Moon
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Apollo 15 Subsatellite (PFS-1)
Apollo 16 Subsatellite (PFS-2)
Lunar Orbiter 1
SELENE (Kaguya, Okina & Ouna)
Chang'e 5-T1 (Service Module)
Chang'e 5-T1 (Xiaofei)
Apollo Lunar Module
Apollo Lunar Module x6
ALSEP (x5) and EASEP (x1)
Luna 25 (2019)
Luna 26 (2021)
Luna 27 (2022)
Luna 28 (2025)
Chang'e 4 (2018)
Hakuto / AngelicvM (2019)
Chang'e 5 (2019)
Chang'e 6 (2020)
Blue Origin Blue Moon
International Lunar Network
Lunar Mission One
Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway
Lunar Orbital Station
European Lunar Explorer
SpaceX lunar tourism mission
Colonization of the Moon
Exploration of the Moon
Google Lunar X Prize
List of Apollo astronauts
List of lunar probes
List of artificial objects on the Moon
List of missions to the Moon
Manned missions in italics.
← 1969 · Orbital launches in 1970 ·
Kosmos 318 OPS 6531
Intelsat III F-6
Kosmos 321 Kosmos 322 ITOS-1 ·
Australis-OSCAR 5 DS-P1-I
No.6 SERT-2 E-8-5 No.405 Kosmos 323 Ohsumi OPS 0054
Kosmos 324 Kosmos 325 OPS 0440 · OPS 3402
Wika · Mika Kosmos 326 Meteor No.14
Kosmos 327 NATO
2A Kosmos 328 Kosmos 329 Kosmos 330 Nimbus 4 · Topo-1
Kosmos 331 OPS 7033 · OPS 7044 Kosmos 332
Kosmos 333 OPS 2863
Intelsat III F-7
Intelsat III F-7
Kosmos 334 Dongfanghong I
Kosmos 335 Kosmos 336 · Kosmos 337 · Kosmos
338 · Kosmos 339 · Kosmos 340 · Kosmos
341 · Kosmos 342 · Kosmos 343 Meteor No.13 Kosmos
344 Kosmos 345 OPS 4720 · OPS 8520 DS-P1-Yu No.36 Soyuz
9 Kosmos 346 STV-3
Kosmos 348 Kosmos 349 OPS
5346 Meteor-M No.17 OPS 6820 Molniya-1 No.21 Kosmos 350
Kosmos 351 Unnamed Kosmos 352 Kosmos 353 Zenit-4 No.75 OPS
Intelsat III F-8 Kosmos 354 Interkosmos 3 Kosmos 355
Venera 7 OPS 7874
Kosmos 357 Kosmos 358
Kosmos 359 ·
Kosmos 359 OPS 8329 Transit O-19 Kosmos
360 OPS 7329 Orba · X-2 OPS 0203 Kosmos 361
Kosmos 362 Kosmos 363 Kosmos 364 MS-F1 Kosmos 365 Molniya-1
No.19 Kosmos 366 Kosmos 367 Kosmos 368 · Nauka No.3
Kosmos 369 Kosmos 370 Kosmos 371 Interkosmos 4 Meteor-M No.16
Kosmos 372 Kosmos 373
Zond 8 Kosmos 374 OPS 7568 Kosmos
375 Kosmos 376 OPS 5960 OFO · RM-1
Luna 17 (Lunokhod 1)
Kosmos 378 OPS 4992 · OPS 6829
Kosmos 380 Molniya-1 No.23 OAO-B
Kosmos 383 Kosmos 384 · Nauka No.2 NOAA-1 · CEPI
Uhuru Kosmos 385 Peole Kosmos 386 Kosmos 387
Kosmos 389 DS-P1-M No.1 Molniya-1 No.22
Payloads are separated by bullets ( · ), launches by pipes (
). Manned flights are indicated in bold text. Uncatalogued launch
failures are listed in italics. Payloads deployed from other
spacecraft are denoted in (brackets).
Policy and history
National Aeronautics and Space Act
National Aeronautics and Space Act (1958)
Space Task Group
Space Task Group (1958)
Space Exploration Initiative
Space Exploration Initiative (1989)
U.S. National Space Policy (1996)
Vision for Space Exploration
Vision for Space Exploration (2004)
Administrator and Deputy Administrator
Launch Services Program
Kennedy Space Center
Vehicle Assembly Building
Launch Complex 39
Launch Control Center
Johnson Space Center
Lunar Sample Laboratory
Mariner Mark II
Mars Surveyor '98
Living With a Star
Lunar Precursor Robotic Program
Earth Observing System
Great Observatories program
Mars Exploration Rover
Apollo–Soyuz Test Project (with the Soviet space program)
Roscosmos State Corporation)
International Space Station
Commercial Orbital Transportation Services
Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS)
Commercial Crew Development
Commercial Crew Development (CCDev)
(human and robotic)
2001 Mars Odyssey
International Space Station
Hubble Space Telescope
Mars Exploration Rover
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Van Allen Probes
Mars Science Laboratory
James Webb Space Telescope
Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite
Deep Space Atomic Clock
Space Network (Goldstone
Space Flight Operations Facility)
List of United States rockets
Space Shuttle missions
The Blue Marble
Pale Blue Dot
Pillars of Creation
Solar System Family Portrait
The Day the
Voyager Golden Record
Gemini and Apollo medallions