51 years later, Apollo 13 astronauts reflect on historic mission

‘Houston, we’ve had a problem.’

HOUSTON – On April 11, 1970, three astronauts and a team here on Earth dared to attempt what was expected to be the third moon landing. However, just shy of 56 hours into the mission, the crew experienced a problem that would turn into a full-fledged effort to get the crew back to Earth alive.

In Houston, Mission Control was led by four flight directions: Eugene ‘Gene’ Kranz (lead), Glynn Lunney, Gerald ‘Gerry’ Griffin & Milton ‘Milt’ Windler. The Apollo 13 crew consisted of Commander James ‘Jim’ Lovell Jr., Command Module Pilot John ‘Jack’ Swigert and Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise Jr. Fifty-one years later, the surviving astronauts of Apollo 13 sat down with KPRC 2 Space Reporter Rose-Ann Aragon.

Apollo 13 was expected to be NASA’s third moon landing mission with the objective to help further scientific research and redundancy in their operations on the moon. On April 11, 1970, the Saturn V rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral at the Kennedy Space Center with no major issues. However, two days into the mission, after a televised show-and-tell of the Lunar Module, Houston’s Mission Control had asked the crew to do a routine stir of an oxygen tank.

“Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here,” Swigert said on the radio.

“This is Houston. Say again, please?”

“Houston, we’ve had a problem,” Lovell responded.

One of the two oxygen tanks on the service module exploded. Lovell happened to have an inkling to look out of the window.

“As I got into the Command Module, I was trying to determine what really happened there and how serious it was. I thought to myself that I ought to go over to the right window of the Command Module and look out the window. As soon as I did, I saw out of the rear of my spacecraft, escaping a gaseous substance,” said 93-year-old Lovell.