13 was supposed to be the third manned landing on the Moon. The
destination of this mission was the Fra Mauro region of the Moon.
view from Lunar Module Aquarius of the Moon and Damaged Service Module
from Apollo 13 autographed and inscribed "Lost Moon" by Apollo 13
Commander James Lovell.
Named as Commander of Apollo 13 was James (Jim) Arthur Lovell,
Jr. Apollo 13 would make astronaut Lovell the first person to
have flown in space four times.
Selected as Command Module Pilot for Apollo 13 was Thomas Kenneth (Ken)
Mattingly, II. Mattingly was a spaceflight rookie.
The Apollo 13 Lunar Module Pilot was chosen to be Fred Wallace Haise,
The crew selected the name Odyssey for the Command Module. The
dictionary definition for odyssey is a long wandering or voyage usually
marked by many changes of fortune. That definition would
certainly be appropriate for the Apollo 13 mission. The Lunar
be called Aquarius. Aquarius in ancient mythology was the water
carrier. It would provide that and more for the crew of Apollo 13.
mission, Mattingly was removed from the crew and
replaced by John (Jack) Leonard Swigert, Jr. Shortly before the
launch of Apollo 13, backup
crew member Charles Moss Duke, Jr. exposed Mattingly to the German
measles. The doctors were concerned
that Mattingly might develop the disease during the flight because he
had no immunity to it.
The Apollo 13 Saturn V lifted off on April 11, 1970 at 2:13 pm Eastern
Standard Time from Launch Complex 39 A at the Kennedy Space Center in
Florida. At moment of ignition, the Launch Control Center radioed
the crew, "Ignition"
Lovell responded, "The clock is
performance of the first stage of the Saturn V was nominal.
The second stage was a different story. The center engine, which
normally shuts down before the outer four engines, shut down two
minutes earlier than was planned. Swigert who was monitoring the
engines saw the engine go out and called "Inboard."
communicator responded, "We confirm
inboard out." Lovell remarked to Swigert, "That shouldn't have
Swigert responded, "No, that's
7:42. That's two minutes early."
A short while later Lovell queried the ground, "And Houston what's
the story on engine 5?"
The capsule communicator responded, "Jim,
we don't have a story on why the inboard was out early, but the other
engines are GO and you're GO."
The other four engines of the second stage would 34 seconds longer than
planned. The third stage (S-IVB) of the Saturn V would burn 9
seconds longer than planned. These longer burn times compensated
for the early shutdown of the second stage inboard engine and Apollo 13
was safely inserted into orbit.
The crew orbited the Earth for one and one half orbits checking out the
vehicle. They were given the go for Trans Lunar Injection.
burn would send them on their way to the Moon.
The Command Service Module was separated from the S-IVB and performed
its transposition maneuver to face the Lunar Module nested in the top
of the S-IVB. Docking was normal and the Command Service Module
extracted the Lunar Module from the S-IVB.
On the way to the Moon the crew made some observations of the receding
Earth and sent television photos back. Haise was in control of
the television camera and remarked, "I
guess the world really does turn. I can see some of my landmasses
now. It must be Australia down near the bottom and I guess
we really haven't figured out what's over the - to the
left. It must be some part of Asia. China probably."
Capsule Communicator (CapCom) Vance Brand responded, "Hey, maybe the fact
that you verified that
the Earth really turns, we can call it Haise's theory, huh?"
The crew turned in for the night and each slept for about five and one
half hours. The next morning, the CapCom Joe Kerwin
passed up some news from the Earth to the crew. One of the news
items Kerwin told them was, "The
Beatles have announced that they will no longer perform as a
group. The quartet is reported to have made in excess of half a
billion dollars in their short musical career. However rumors
that they will use this to start their own space program are false."
Commander Lovell replied, "Maybe we
could borrow some."
Kerwin then joked with the crew asking, "Uh Oh; have you
guys completed your income
tax?" Lovell responded, "How
do I apply for an extension?" Kerwin laughed and Swigert
added, "Yes Joe. I
got to - hey,
listen - it ain't too funny; things happened real fast down there
and I do need an extension." Kerwin laughed again.
Swigert continued, "I didn't get mine
filed. And this is serious; would you..." Kerwin
breaking up the
room down here." Kerwin
see what we can do Jack. We'll get with recovery and see if
we can get the agent out there in the Pacific when you come back."
conversation continued and Kerwin joked, "And that's about
all the news we got; the
updated flight plan of the day for you guys, the uniform will be
service dress in-flight coverall garments with swords and metals, and
tonight's movie shown in the lower equipment bay will be John Wayne,
Lou Costello, and Shirley Temple in the "The Flight of Apollo 13. Over."
Later after a rest
period, at a mission
elapsed time of 1 day, 22 hours, 43 minutes into the flight
the CapCom Kerwin radioed, "Spacecraft
is in real good shape as far as
we're concerned, Jim. We're bored to tears down here." The
relaxed environment experienced during the early part of the mission
would soon change.
One hour later, CapCom Kerwin radioed, "They
gave me the H2s
percent and on the O2
have 81 percent. However, we show the O2
tank 2 reading off-scale high now. We're quite sure it is a
sensor failure. We'd like you to verify it with your on-board
reading." Commander Lovell responded, "Okay. Stand
by. Joe, we
confirm. Our gauge reading is - on the number 2 O2
reading off-scale high now, but Jack just tells me that it was Okay
when we first looked at it this morning." Kerwin
verify that. At
46:45 we had 82 percent and apparently when he stirred the cryos, the
Because of the apparent sensor failure, the people
mission control decided to request that the astronauts stir the
cryogenic tanks more often that was originally planned.
Haise and Lovell temporarily transferred over to the Lunar Module
Aquarius to inspect it. While they were in there, they gave a
televised tour of the vehicle that was supposed take them to the lunar
surface. Lovell radioed, "Okay,
Houston. For the benefit of the television viewers, we've just
about completed our little inspection of Aquarius, and now we're
proceeding through the hatchy-gap into the tunnel and going back toward
Before wrapping up the television broadcast, Lovell radioed, "We might give you a
quick shot - of our
entertainment on board the spacecraft, which has been keeping us
company for some time. This little tape recorder has been a big
benefit - has been a big benefit in passing some of our time away on
our transit to the Moon, and it's rather odd to see it floating like
this in Odyssey while it's playing the theme from '2001.' And of course
the tapes wouldn't be complete without Aquarius." At the time,
the tape recorder was playing the song "Also Sprach Zarathustra".
activated a valve that took Commander Lovell by surprise. It
to pause in his conversation with Capsule Communicator Jack
Lousma. Haise intervened, "Yea
I got them with the cabin repress
valve again there, Jack." Lovell added, "Every time he does
that our hearts - our
hearts jump in our mouth."
closed out the television broadcast by saying, "And this is the
crew of Apollo 13, wishing
everyone there a nice evening and we're just about ready to closeout
our inspection of Aquarius, and get back to a pleasant evening in
requested that Swigert stir the cryogenic tanks, radioing, "13, we've got one
more item for you, when
you get a chance. We'd like you to stir up your cryo tanks."
would be the final straw for Oxygen Tank Number 2. The tank
exploded and took out several critical systems in the service module
it. To make matters worse, radio communications would be weak and noisy
for the remainder of the flight.
At 2 days, 7 hours, 55 minutes and 20 seconds, Command
Module Pilot Swigert radioed, "Okay
Houston; We've had a problem here." CapCom Lousma
is Houston, say
again please." Lovell repeated for Swigert, "Houston, we've had
a problem. We
have had a Main B Bus Undervolt."
added, "And we
had a large bang
associated with the caution and warning there."
were problems with the fuel cells. The flows of oxygen and
hydrogen to the fuel cells had stopped. Mission Control and the
crew worked in vain to get the fuel cells restarted. Then Lovell
Jack, our O2
number tank 2 is reading zero. Did you get that?"
Lousma responded, "O2
quantity number 2 is zero."
Lovell also added an observation, "...
and it looks to me, looking out the hatch, that we are venting
something. We are venting something out into the - into space."
CapCom Lousma acknowledged, "Roger.
We copy your venting." Lovell added, "It's a gas of some
The precious stores of reactants in the service module were quickly
being depleted into the void of space.
Mission control quickly instructed the crew to power down the command
module. Without the fuel cells, the batteries would not sustain
the Command module systems for very long. Frantically, Mission Control
raced to solve the problem of venting gases.
The oxygen supply used in the Command Module during reentry comes from
a tank called the surge tank. Lousma instructed the crew, "13,
Houston. We'd like you to isolate your O2
surge tank." Swigert
acknowledged the request, "Roger."
One by one fuel
cells were isolated in an effort to stem the flow of escaping gas.
Lousma radioed, "Okay,
13, this is
Houston. It appears to us that we're losing O2
through fuel cell 3, so we want
you to close the reac valve on fuel cell 3. You copy?"
disbelief, responded "Did I hear you
right? You want me to shut the reac valve on fuel cell 3?"
Lousma answered, "That's
The reason for Haise's disbelief was that the crew could not reopen the
reactant control valves once they were closed. The only way that
the reactant control valves were opened in the first place was through
the use of special equipment on the ground. Without operating
fuel cells, there would be no lunar landing.
To assure the crew that Mission Control was working on solving the
problem, Lousma radioed, "Okay, 13.
We've got lots and lots of people working on this, we'll get
you some dope as soon as we have it and you'll be the first one to
concerned Lovell responded, "Oh, Thank you."
It became obvious
the Command Service module was dying. The pressure in the sole
remaining oxygen tank to supply breathable oxygen to the crew was on
its way to zero. Swigert radioed, "Okay, Jack, it
looks like O2
tank 1 pressure is just a hair over
Lousma confirmed Swigert's observation, "We confirm that
here, and temperature also
confirms it." Swigert inquired, "Okay. Does it look
like it's still going
down?" Lousma answered, "It's slowly going to
zero, and we're
starting to think about the LM lifeboat." Realizing how
dire the situation was Swigert responded, "Yea, that's what
we're thinking about too."
Lousma then instructed the crew, "13,
Houston. We'd like you to start making your way over to the LM."
Swigert responded, "Fred and Jim are in
the LM already."
The opportunity for
the Moon for the Apollo 13 crew was lost. The only mission
was to survive long enough to make it back to the Earth. It was a
daunting task. At this distance from the Earth, it would take
four days to make it back home. The lunar landing vehicle
Aquarius would need to take
on a much more important role. Its new purpose was to sustain the
Figuring out how to survive for four more days took a back
seat to a more immediate concern. The Lunar Module had to be
brought on line quickly as there were mere minutes of life left in the
Command Module Odyssey.
Lousma radioed, "Jim we have a
procedure for getting power from the LM we'd like you to copy
Jack." A relieved Swigert added, "That sounds like
good news." Haise
asked, "Okay, Jack about
how long is
it?" CapCom Lousma
answered Haise, "It's not
a very long procedure, Fred. We figure we got about 15 minutes worth of
power left in the command module so we want you to start getting over
in the LM and getting power on that, and you ready to copy procedure?"
Lovell and Haise
brought Aquarius to life while Swigert continued powering down Odyssey.
Just before Odyssey as completely powered down, the information from
Odyssey's navigational platform was transferred over to Aquarius.
Aquarius had been designed to sustain 2 men for just over 49
hours. Now it would be required to sustain 3 men for 84
hours. Procedures were developed to only power systems in the
Lunar Module related to life support, communications, and environmental
Some consideration had been given to attempt a burn with the Service
Propulsion System (SPS) engine to send the crew directly back to
Earth. At the point that they were in the flight however it was
deemed there was less risk with looping around the Moon and returning
to Earth via that route. There was insufficient power in the
Command Module to power the SPS for a burn. Further more, it was
complete unknown as to what extent the Service Module was damaged due
to the explosion of the oxygen tank.
A mid course correction maneuver was still needed to put the spacecraft
on a free return trajectory that would return them to Earth. That
could be done through the use of the descent engine of the Lunar
would not require any power from the Command Module, nor would it
require any support from the Service Module.
The landing gear on the Lunar Module was deployed. That was
required so that the exhaust from the descent engine would not impinge
upon the landing gear during the mid course correction maneuver.
At 2 days, 13 hours, 28 minutes, and 53 seconds into the flight CapCom
Lousma radioed to the crew, "Roger,
Aquarius. You're GO for the burn." Lovell responded
with the thrust level of the engine, "40
percent." CapCom Lousma reassured the crew on the burn, "Okay, Aquarius.
You're looking good."
The burn was completed in 30 seconds and Commander Lovell announced, "Auto shutdown."
was perfect and Apollo 13 was now on a free return trajectory that
would now loop around the Moon and bring them back to the Earth.
A decision now had to be made on what could be powered down in the
Lunar Module. Only a bare minimum of systems could be left on, if
the crew was going to have enough power for the 4 days required to
return to Earth. Of particular concern was shutting down the
primary navigation and guidance system (PNGS). To align it
properly if it should need to be restarted would require the crew to
make observations of stars as reference points. The explosion,
however, took that option away.
It was impossible for them to see the stars for
were so many small pieces of insulation and bits of material from the
explosion floating around the spacecraft that it was impossible to
discern what was and what was not a real star. Lovell radioed, "And, Houston, it is
doubtful right now
whether we'll be able to see the stars in this configuration. The
only way that we could possibly get an alignment is with the Earth and
the terminator or the Moon and its terminator and I'd sure like you to
have a look at power down - keeping the PNGS if at all possible."
CapCom Lousma responded, "Roger,
Jim. We'll get the word for you."
A short while later Lousma radioed, "Aquarius, our
decision for the time is to
leave the IMU powered up, power down the LGC, and power down other
nonessential items. We'll be coming up with a more precise
checklist as soon as we get it. Over." Lunar Module
Pilot Haise responded, "Okay.
The decision is to keep the platform, power down the computer, and
we'll be standing by for further word on the power down, Jack." They would keep the Inertial Measurement
Unit powered on (IMU), but would shut off the Lunar Module Guidance
A short while later, the decision to power down the guidance computer
was rescinded. A power consumption analysis showed that they
could save more power by shutting off the attitude reference ball
A modified sleep
schedule was created
so that a crew member would be available at all times. Lunar
Pilot Haise was given the first slot for sleep and he retired to the
darkened Command Module.
It was decided by
that Apollo 13 would conduct another burn with the descent engine of
Aquarius when they were near the Moon. This burn would result in
shorter trip and change the expected landing site on Earth to a more
favorable position. This burn was called PC+2. "PC" was
pericynthion. Pericynthion is the point at which a spacecraft
from the Earth is nearest to the moon. The "+2" indicated that
burn would happen two hours after pericynthion.
Command Module Pilot Swigert was discussing the pericynthion with
Mission Control. Swigert asked CapCom Joe Kerwin, "Joe has your
continued tracking changed our pericynthion attitude any?"
Kerwin responded, "Stand by. We'll get
the latest on that Jack." Kerwin then called, "Aquarius,
"Go ahead." Kerwin reported the pericynthion information, "Roger, Jack. We're
still looking at 137 miles and Doppler's confirming it. We will
have a good update after 67 hours." Swigert responded, "That's good.
I want to say you guys are doing real good work." Kerwin
are you guys, Jack."
At 2 days, 20 hours, 3 minutes, and 33 seconds into the flight,
Commander Lovell lamented, "Well, I'm afraid
this is going to be the last lunar mission for a long time."
At 2 days,
hours, and 47 minutes, 0 seconds, Lunar Module Pilot
Haise emerged from his restless slumber in the Command Module.
Swigert told Haise, "... Fred-o. We're
at 68 hours, about, and 46 minutes. Did you sleep good?"
Haise then mentioned, "Think I'll get a an
aspirin - a couple of aspirin again..." Swigert added, "I'd like a couple
of aspirin, too."
It was now time for Lovell and Swigert to rest, so they retired to the
darkened command module. At 2 days, 23 hours, 6 minutes, and 17
seconds, Haise radioed, "Jim and Jack are in
the upstairs bedroom taking a nap now." CapCom Kerwin responded,
know that was upstairs." Haise joked, "We have the first
Backup Lunar Module Pilot, Charlie Duke, now came on the communications
link to guide Haise through a navigation check. Haise commented, "Sounds like you
finally broke out, Charlie." CapCom Duke responded, "Yes finally Fred-o.
I've no longer got the red spots." That conversation was a
reference to Duke's bout with the German Measles that resulted in
Mattingly's replacement with Swigert.
Lovell emerged from the Command Module and at 3 days, 0 hours, 53
minutes, and 29 seconds called CapCom Duke, "Charlie, Jim here."
Duke responded, "Roger.
Go ahead." Lovell asked, "Have you run an
Earth set alignment in the simulator with a docked configuration?"
CapCom Duke responded, "Is the question, 'Have we run a - an
alignment in the docked configuration?' That is affirmative." This
conversation concerned using the Earth as a navigational reference,
instead of the stars, since the star field was obscured by the debris
from the explosion.
Lovell was concerned about this alignment technique and commented to
don't have all the confidence in the world in this Earth-Sun P52. Do
you know how many times I screwed up on my arithmetic?"
Haise responded, "Yes. Don't count
your chickens before they hatch." Lovell added, "Listen, I'm not."
As they got closer to the Moon, the crew began to discern stars from
the background of debris. Lovell commented, "Man,
look at all those stars. Houston." CapCom Vance Brand
responded, "Go ahead, Aquarius."
Lovell continued, "Roger. We are in the
shadow of the Moon now. The Sun is just about set as far as I can
see and the stars are all coming out."
elapsed time of approximately, 3 days, 5 hours, and
8 minutes the spacecraft passed behind the Moon and communications were
lost with Earth for the backside pass of the Moon. At 3 days, 5
hours, 33 minutes, and 50 seconds, the spacecraft cleared the backside
and Commander Lovell radioed, "Good morning,
Houston. How do you read?" CapCom Brand acknowledged, "Aquarius,
Houston. Over." During
the close pass to the Moon, the Apollo 13 crew took photographs of the
At 3 days, 5 hours, 56 minutes, and 40 seconds, the third stage (S-IVB)
of Apollo 13's Saturn V, impacted the Moon. This was done
intentionally as part of a seismic experiment to be recorded by
seismometers previously placed on the lunar surface.
The impact point was 74 nautical miles away from the seismometer placed
by the Apollo 12 crew at the Ocean of Storms. The shock waves
recorded from this impact lasted for almost 4 hours.
CapCom Brand radioed the crew, "By the way,
Aquarius, we see the results
now from 12's seismograph. It looks like your booster just hit
the Moon and it's rocking it a little bit, over."
Commander Lovell responded, "Well at least
something worked on this flight." Lunar Module Pilot Haise
added, "I say,
I'm sure glad we didn't have an LM impact too."
spacecraft oriented for the PC+2 burn, Commander Lovell had a excellent
view of the receding full Moon in his window. Lovell commented, "I can even see Mount Marilyn from here."
Mount Marilyn was a feature on the Moon named after Lovell's wife
Marilyn after the Apollo 8 mission.
At a mission elapsed time of 3 days, 7 hours, 18 minutes, and 15
seconds, CapCom Brand informed Lovell, "Jim,
you are Go for the burn. Go for the burn." Lovell
acknowledged, "Roger. I understand. Go for
began and at a mission elapsed time of 3 days, 7 hours, 27 minutes and
51 seconds, Lovell confirmed ignition to Houston, "We're
burning forty percent." CapCom Brand
acknowledged, "Houston copies."
the status, "One hundred
Brand assured the crew, "Roger. Aquarius,
Houston. You're looking good." Lovell
acknowledged, "Roger." CapCom Brand again reassured
you were looking good at two
minutes. Still looking good." Lovell
responded, "Two minutes.
updated the crew, "Aquarius
you're GO at
three minutes." Lovell answered, "Aquarius.
Roger." Capcom Brand reminded the crew, "Don't
forget DESCENT RFG1, off; 10 seconds to go."
The burn completed and Lovell confirmed, "Shutdown."
The burn was
perfect CapCom Brand radioed, "I say, that
was a good burn." Lovell's attention had already
shifted to conserving their precious battery power and he responded, "Roger. And now we want to power down as soon
arose with the lunar module's environmental control system. It
was having difficulty removing all of the carbon dioxide out of the
air. At 3 days, 8 hours, 30 minutes, and 53 seconds, Haise
Houston, we just got a MASTER ALARM and an ECS light. I take it
the partial pressure of C02 is - yes - that's
what tripped it."
If the level of carbon dioxide got too high in the
spacecraft, the crew would asphyxiate. Lithium hydroxide is a chemical
compound that was used to remove carbon dioxide from the air in the
spacecraft. There were plenty of lithium hydroxide canisters in
the dead command module. The only problem was that the command
module canisters would not fit in the lunar module's environmental
control system. A procedure had to be devised on Earth and
relayed to the crew for adapting the square canisters for use in the
Haise radioed Houston to inquire about the procedure for adapting the
canisters. He said, "Okay. You
guys just tell me what sort of material you had in mind to build this
mailbox out of, and Jack and I will go to work on trying to construct
that thing. Assume we'll use the space age bailing wire or the
Cap Com Brand
affirm. We have a lengthy procedure here; but, in short, you use
plastic as a covering for the whole thing. You put some kind of
stiffener at the top so the plastic doesn't suck against the LOI - LiOH
enter - entrance side. You'll - You need gray tape to stick the
whole thing together, and you need something like a sock to put in the
- the bottom so that the outlet side is plugged up. As it turns
out, the flow is rather U-shaped through
the cartridge, Fred. It, if you plug up the bottom, it comes in
one side of the top and out of the other."
wear on the crew. At 3 days, 9 hours, 3 minutes, and 19 seconds,
Commander Lovell stated, "Well I guess I
better eat something. Hey this one has some of that candied jelly
... you know, we've gone a hell of a long time without any
sleep. I said we've gone a hell of a long time without any sleep."
Lovell continued, "We'll have to start
thinking about getting the ... back to sleep again because - I
know - I - I didn't get hardly any sleep last night at all."
April 17, 1970, at 12:07:41
Central Standard Time, the Command Module Odyssey splashed down in the
Pacific Ocean. The duration of the flight was 5 days, 22 hours,
54 minutes, and 41 seconds.
The crew, their family, the employees of NASA, and the
breathed a collective sigh of relief. Apollo 13 was a mission
that strayed near the brink of a terrible human tragedy. The
mission was rescued through the brave and heroic efforts of the crew,
mission managers, engineers, and technicians on the ground. Their
can-do attitude is what got America to the Moon in the first place and
what allowed them to persevere against seemingly insurmountable odds.
25 years after the flight of Apollo 13, a block buster movie was made
by Hollywood about the flight. The NASA can-do attitude was
exemplified by a quote from actor Ed Harris, who played Flight Director
Eugene Kranz in the movie. Harris's quote as Kranz was "We've never lost an
American in space, we're sure as hell not going to lose one on my
watch! Failure is not an option."
This movie, "Apollo 13", was based on a best seller book that was
authored by Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell and writer Jeffrey Kluger.