NASA celebrates 50th anniversary of Apollo 13’s “successful failure” mission

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Today is the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 13 mission that never went to the moon, the one where Commander Jim Lovell said “Houston, we had a problem”. NASA calls the mission a “successful failure” because even if an explosion paralyzed the main spacecraft two days later, Lovell and his teammates Fred Haise and Jack Swigert returned safely to Earth thanks to the determined work of the Mission Control ground team.

NASA is not planning in-person activities to commemorate the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has released a documentary with footage from the mission’s archive. Apollo 13: Home Safe includes interviews with Lovell (he begins by telling him “he was plagued by bad omens and bad luck from the start …”) and conversations with Haise, NASA flight directors Gene Kranz and Glynn Lunney and engineer Hank Rotter. Swigert died in 1982. NASA has also planned other social media activities.

A website called Apollo 13 in real time, the creation of Ben Feist, an entrepreneur at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, provides mission transcripts, video and audio recordings posted when they occurred 50 years ago, including all of the words spoken by the mission’s astronauts. Much of the audio was digitized for the first time for this project.

And if you want to watch Ron Howard’s dramatic story about the mission (and you should, it’s great for kids), his 1995 film Apollo 13, with Tom Hanks as Lovell, is available on Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Google Play and iTunes.

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