Astronauts mark anniversary of Apollo 13 drama

April 13, 2010 By MICHAEL TARM , Associated Press Writer
Apollo 13 crew member Commander James A. Lovell, Jr. poses with his space suit during a 40th Anniversary reunion of the moon mission at the Adler Planetarium Monday, April 12, 2010, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

(AP) -- Surviving Apollo 13 astronauts and several flight directors reunited on Monday to remember a failed moon mission 40 years ago this week that they managed to turn into one of the greatest triumphs in the history of space exploration.

Those who gathered included Apollo 13 commander James Lovell, fellow crew member Fred Haise and NASA's legendary flight director, Gene Kranz - all three of whom were immortalized in the 1995 movie "Apollo 13," which starred Tom Hanks as Lovell.

"There's truly a unique bond. There is a brotherhood," Kranz said about how the crisis forged a lifelong bond between everyone involved.

The Adler Planetarium, where the reunion took place, is holding a series of events this month commemorating the Apollo 13 flight. One exhibit includes a lunar helmet and gloves that Lovell was supposed to wear on the moon had the mission gone as planned.

On April 13, 1970, an oxygen tank exploded as the spaceship was four-fifths of the way to the moon. The crew, which included Jack Swigert, who died in 1982, was forced to scrap the and focus solely on getting back to Earth alive.

Lovell's calm if unsettling words to Mission Control following the explosion that, "Houston, we've had a problem" - now widely recited as, "Houston, we have a problem" - belied his quick internal calculation that their chances of survival were slim.

"But you don't put that in your mind," he said Monday. "You don't say how slim they are but rather how you can improve the odds."

In Houston, Kranz led hundreds of flight controllers and engineers in a furious rescue plan. He insisted on Monday that he never allowed himself to believe that the plan could fail.

Still, he quickly added, "there is some point when you do the best you can and then it's up to a higher authority to steer this mission to its ultimate conclusion."

The plan involved the crew members moving from the service module, which was hemorrhaging oxygen, into the cramped, frigid while they rationed their dwindling oxygen and electricity. Using the lunar module as a lifeboat, they swung around the moon and aimed for Earth.

In the process of turning what seemed routine into a life-and-death struggle, the entire flight team had created one of NASA's finest moments, ranking with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's walks on the moon.

In 1994, Lovell and Jeff Kluger wrote "Lost ," the story of the Apollo 13 mission and the basis for the movie. The movie, Lovell and Kranz concede, helped renew the public's interest in Apollo 13 at a time when it had started to fade.

Kranz, who was played by actor Ed Harris in the movie, said Hollywood provided a largely accurate account of what happened. The one thing he took issue with was his character sometimes raising his voice in the control room.

"The fact is, controllers very seldom raise their voices, not in that control room," he said. "If you lose your temper, people recognize it and they start (thinking) that you are closer to the edge then you really are."

Explore further: India Plans for Lunar Mission in 2007

More information: Adler Planetarium:


Related Stories

India Plans for Lunar Mission in 2007

January 26, 2005

Indian Space Research Organisation's unmanned lunar mission will be launched in 2007 as scheduled, country's space program chairman said on Tuesday. If India's first lunar mission scheduled for 2007 is successful, it will ...

NASA honors Apollo moon walker Buzz Aldrin

March 17, 2006

NASA will honor former astronaut Buzz Aldrin for his involvement in the U.S. space program with the presentation of the Ambassador of Exploration Award.

NASA honors late astronaut Charles Conrad

November 8, 2006

NASA says it will honor former astronaut Charles "Pete" Conrad for his involvement in the U.S. space program with the Ambassador of Exploration award.

Apollo 11 crew: Aldrin likes spotlight, 2 shun it

July 19, 2009

(AP) -- In the 40 years since Apollo 11, some of the key players, most notably Neil Armstrong, have steered clear of the increasingly bright glare of the moonlight cast by the historic lunar landing. Others have embraced ...

Recommended for you

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...

Researchers find a new way to weigh a star

October 5, 2015

Researchers from the University of Southampton have developed a new method for measuring the mass of pulsars – highly magnetised rotating neutron stars formed from the remains of massive stars after they explode into supernovae.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.