51 years later: 10 things to know about the Apollo 13 mission

Mission Control erupts into cheers and applause as the Apollo 13 astronauts return to Earth.
Mission Control erupts into cheers and applause as the Apollo 13 astronauts return to Earth. (NASA)

More than half a century later, the Apollo 13 mission continues to fascinate audiences.

April 17 marks the 51st anniversary of the crew’s safe return to Earth, known as Splashdown Day.

Here are 10 things to know about Apollo 13:

  • Apollo 13 was NASA’s third moon-landing mission.
Mission Control erupts into cheers and applause as the Apollo 13 astronauts return to Earth. (NASA)
  • More than a half-century later, Apollo 13 is still considered “NASA’s finest hour.”
FILE - In this April 11, 1970 file photo, crowds watch the lift-off of the Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo 13 spacecraft on its mission to the moon from Cape Kennedy, Fla. (AP Photo) (AP1970)
  • The mission is considered “a successful failure” because the astronauts returned safely to Earth despite the explosion.
FILE - In this April 21, 1970 file photo, Apollo 13 commander James A. Lovell Jr., left, opens the astronauts televised news conference at the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, by saying "I'm not a superstitious man" alluding to the number 13 and the trouble that befell the flight. With Lovell are his fellow crew members, command module pilot John Swigert, center, and lunar module pilot Fred Haise. With their moon-bound spacecraft wrecked by an oxygen tank explosion on April 13, 1970, the astronauts urgently radioed, "Houston, we've had a problem here." Screenwriters for the 1995 film "Apollo 13 wanted to punch that up. Thus was born "Houston, we have a problem." (AP Photo) (AP1970)
  • It was flight director Gene Kranz and his team in Houston who came up with a rescue plan.
In this April 10, 1970 photo made available by NASA, Apollo 13 astronauts, from left, Fred Haise, Jack Swigert and Jim Lovell gather for a photo on the day before launch. (NASA via AP)
  • “Houston, we’ve had a problem” were the famous words spoken from the mission.
In this April 1970 photo provided by NASA, Apollo 13 command module pilot John Swigert helps to hook up a lithium hydroxide canister in the lunar module, in an effort to get rid of carbon dioxide in the cabin as the spacecraft attempts to return to Earth. The explosion of an oxygen tank in the service module forced the three-man crew to rely on the lunar module as a "lifeboat." (NASA via AP)
  • The astronauts were 200,000 miles from Earth when their oxygen tank ruptured two days after its launch.
In this April 15, 1970 photo made available by NASA, a group of flight controllers gather around the console of Glenn S. Lunney, foreground seated, Shift 4 flight director, in the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) of Mission Control Center (MCC) in Houston. Their attention is drawn to a weather map of the proposed landing site in the Pacific Ocean. At this point, the Apollo 13 lunar landing mission had been canceled, and the problem-plagued Apollo 13 crew members were in trans-Earth trajectory attempting to bring their crippled spacecraft back home. (NASA via AP)
  • Due to low electrical power levels, the cabin temperature was close to freezing as condensation covered the walls and windows. It was so damp and cold that the astronauts couldn’t sleep.
This April 1970 photo made available by NASA shows astronaut Jim Lovell during the Apollo 13 mission. (NASA via AP)
  • As Apollo 13 re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere there was a blackout period that prevented the crew from communicating with mission control. The blackout period lasted 90 seconds longer than usual.
This April 1970 photo made available by NASA shows the Earth as the Apollo 13 mission heads towards the moon. (NASA via AP)
  • The splashdown occurred in the Pacific Ocean on April 17, 1970, after a nearly six-day flight.
In this April 17, 1970 photo made available by NASA, astronaut Jim Lovell, commander, is hoisted aboard a helicopter from the USS Iwo Jima, after splashdown of the Apollo 13 command module in the Pacific Ocean. (NASA via AP)
  • The oxygen tank explosion later was linked to damage caused by electrical overheating in ground tests.
FILE - In this April 21, 1970 file photo, Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell uses a scale model during a televised news conference at the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston to explain how the crew managed to survive after the explosion that damaged the service module during their mission to the moon. At center is John Swigert, command module pilot, and at right is Fred Haise, lunar module pilot. (AP Photo) (AP1970)
FILE - In this May 1, 1970 file photo, confetti falls from the skyscrapers in Chicago's financial district as Apollo 13 astronauts John Swigert and Jim Lovell ride in a motorcade during a parade in their honor. (AP Photo) (AP1970)
FILE - In this April 19, 1970 file photo, Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell carries his son, Jeff, 4, on his shoulders as he arrived at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston. (AP Photo) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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