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Apollo 13: The Real Story

ateline NBC commemorates the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 13 with interviews with the astronauts, NASA controllers, and more.
/ Source: Dateline NBC

MATT LAUER: Forty years ago today three men rocketed into space bound for the moon. Now, if they had landed successfully they and their mission would probably be all but forgotten. What happened instead captured the imagination of the world.

(Voiceover) It’s a story so gripping, naturally it became a hit movie.

(Clip from “Apollo 13”)

Mr. KEVIN BACON: (“Apollo 13”) Hey, we’ve got a problem here.

LAUER: (Voiceover) But even if you’ve seen the movie, you haven’t seen it all. Not even close. Tonight, the real people...

(Clip from “Apollo 13;” explosion; rocket launching; mission control room;

Gene Kranz in control room)

Mr. FRED HAISE: (Apollo 13 transmission) We had a pretty large bang associated with the caution and warning there.

LAUER: (Voiceover) ...the real pictures...


Mr. HAISE: (Apollo 13 transmission) And there’s one whole side of that spacecraft missing!

LAUER: (Voiceover) ...the real story of Apollo 13.

(Spacecraft; photos of Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert)

Mr. JIM LOVELL: (Apollo 13 transmission) Houston, we’ve had a problem.

LAUER: (Voiceover) It’s a story of icy calm in the face of death...

(Jim in spacecraft; control panel)

Mr. LOVELL: The odds were very small that we’re going to get out of this alive.

LAUER: (Voiceover) ...of absolute refusal to admit defeat...

(Kranz in mission control room)

Mr. GENE KRANZ: We will never surrender. We will never give up a crew.

LAUER: (Voiceover) ...of hope against all odds.

(Sign; Marilyn Lovell crying)

Ms. MARILYN LOVELL: I just knew he’d come back.

LAUER: (Voiceover) An ordeal that lasted less than six days, but still echoes decades later every time a spacecraft splits the heavens.

(Mission control room; rocket launching)

Unidentified Man #1: And liftoff.

LAUER: (Voiceover) April, 1970. America was convulsed over the Vietnam War.  “Airport” was the big hit in theaters. And the news on April 10th that the Beatles were breaking up far overshadowed the moon mission scheduled the next day.

(People on blanket on grass; soldiers; missile; explosion; “Airport” the movie; newspaper men; photo of the Beatles and newspaper article; rocket)

Mr. LOVELL: As a matter of fact, before we took off I think the only mention of Apollo 13 in The New York Times was on the weather page about 97 pages in.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Mission commander Jim Lovell was one of NASA’s most experienced astronauts. He’d been a backup pilot for the first moon landing in July of ‘69.

(Astronauts sitting around table; Jim; video of moon landing)

Mr. NEIL ARMSTRONG: (File footage) That’s one small step for man...

LAUER: (Voiceover) Apollo 11 had transfixed the world, but then came Apollo 12 and now 13. Moon shots had come to seem routine.

(Video of moon landing; Apollo 12; Apollo 13 insignia; astronauts)

LAUER: So you weren’t front page news. Did that bother you at all?

Mr. LOVELL: No, because this is what I wanted to do.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Apollo 13 would bring back rock and soil samples from a hilly region of the moon, a much trickier landing site than those of previous missions. Lovell’s fellow astronauts, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise, were both on their first space flight.

(Moon; surface of moon; Jack Swigert; Fred Haise)

Mr. HAISE: Just the thought of going to the moon was just so incredible that I couldn’t pass up the chance.

LAUER: (Voiceover) As Haise and the others tell it today, none of them gave a moment’s thought to the one thing about the mission that did catch the average person’s attention.

(Haise; astronauts)

LAUER: A lot of people just don’t even deal with the number 13. They don’t want to talk about it. Did it register with you at all?

Mr. LOVELL: It didn’t. I didn’t even think about the number being superstitious. That is not true with my wife. My wife, Marilyn, said, ‘Why 13?’

Ms. LOVELL: It did bother me, yes. And I said, ‘Well, what happened to 14?’

LAUER: (Voiceover) But, unlike an elevator, NASA didn’t skip 13.

(Astronauts getting on elevator)

Mr. KRANZ: Superstition can’t have any place.

LAUER: (Voiceover) As if to drive home the point, lead flight director Gene Kranz recalls that NASA scheduled Apollo 13’s launch for 1:13 PM, or, in military time, 13:13.

(Mission control room; Kranz in mission control room)

LAUER: You were kind of flaunting the fact that you didn’t care about superstition.

Mr. KRANZ: I think every person that was in this room lived to flaunt the odds. We were working on the ragged edge of all knowledge, all technology and all experience in this room.

LAUER: (Voiceover) “This room” was Kranz’s domain: mission control in Houston.

(Mission control room; Kranz in mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: It had the smell of the cigarette smoke.

(Voiceover) I mean, we all smoked very heavily, pipes, cigars, cigarettes, coffee pot that had been boiled over and had burned out.

(Kranz smoking; men smoking; coffee cup)

LAUER: (Voiceover) Kranz oversaw a 24/7 team of young engineers who controlled every aspect of space flight, the astronauts’ lives in their hands.

(Mission control room)

LAUER: You guys had to look around at each other and think, ‘We’re kind of a group of bad asses in here.’ I mean, you had to feel pretty good about yourselves.

Mr. KRANZ: Well, the culture of this room was literally miraculous. It seemed that...

(Voiceover) ...whatever happened, we were better as a total team than the sum of the parts.

(Mission control room)

LAUER: (Voiceover) The same, of course, could be said for the three men riding the rocket, all of them former test pilots for whom mortal danger was just part of the job.

(Astronauts getting into vehicle; photos of Jim, Haise and Swigert; jet)

LAUER: When you became an astronaut, did you feel special? Did you feel invincible at all?

Mr. LOVELL: I didn’t feel invincible. I mean, the rewards involved overcame the risk that was involved.

LAUER: (Voiceover) For families at home, a different equation.

(Photo of Jim, Marilyn and family)

LAUER: Did you ever get used to the risk involved, Marilyn?

Ms. LOVELL: No. You put it out of your mind...

(Voiceover) ...but I can’t say that it was easy at times.

(Marilyn with children)

LAUER: So on the day before launch, you’re out at a beach house...

Ms. LOVELL: Mm-hmm.

LAUER: ...and get ready to see your husband for the last time before he heads into space, and something strange happened with your wedding ring. What happened?

Ms. LOVELL: Well, I was taking a shower and I’m—it just slipped right off my hand and it went into the drain, and I just was terrified because, to me, it was like an omen that something really was going to happen.

LAUER: It shook you up?

Ms. LOVELL: Oh, it did shake me up.

LAUER: Did you ever tell Jim about it before the flight?

Ms. LOVELL: No. Oh, no.

LAUER: You would never let that thought enter his mind before he’s about to jump on that rocket?

Ms. LOVELL: Oh, no. No, no, no. For some reason or another the astronaut wives just never discussed anything that would worry their husbands before they went on a flight. I mean, we kept everything to ourselves.

April 11, 1970

The Launch

LAUER: (Voiceover) Several hours before launch, and you guys get in that elevator that takes you for the ride alongside of and then eventually to the top of the Saturn rocket.

(Rocket on launch pad; astronauts in elevator; rocket)

Mr. LOVELL: That’s a long elevator ride up.

(Voiceover) It’s 330-some feet. Just the crew, three of us, and a couple nervous checkout people are getting us into the spacecraft.

(View from launch pad; astronauts getting ready for launch)

LAUER: Because it’s basically a huge bomb that you’re riding up alongside of.

Mr. LOVELL: Five and a half million pounds of high explosives in the form of oxygen, hydrogen and everything else.

LAUER: Any jitters?

Mr. LOVELL: No, it’s too late for jitters at that time.

(Voiceover) Suddenly they say, you know...

(Mission control room)

Mr. LOVELL: ...five, four, three...

Unidentified Man #2: Two, one, zero.

Mr. LOVELL: (Voiceover) And those engines go, and you’re on your way.

(Rocket lifting off)

Man #1: We have commit, and we have liftoff at 2:13.

Mr. HAISE: (Voiceover) Well, a liftoff, most people think...

(Rocket liftoff)

Mr. HAISE: ...that would be a big kick in the pants.

(Voiceover) It starts off very slowly because the vehicle weighs so much...

(Rocket lifting off)

Mr. HAISE: ...even though it has five engines running.

Man #2: Saturn V building up to 7.6 million pounds of thrust, and it has cleared the tower.

Mr. LOVELL: (Voiceover) That’s when you have your hand close to the abort switch in case anything really goes wrong.

(Rocket lifting off)

LAUER: (Voiceover) And something did go wrong. One of the engines in the second stage of the rocket shut down prematurely, forcing mission control to make a series of quick calculations.

(People watching Apollo 13 take off; Apollo 13; mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: (Voiceover) Are the remaining engines all go? Do we have enough propellant to get the crew up into orbit?

(Kranz in mission control room)

LAUER: (Voiceover) But within seconds, mission controllers determined that, despite the malfunction, Apollo 13 was good to go for the moon.

(Mission control room)

Mr. LOVELL: I looked at my companions, and I said, you know, every flight has a crisis. Something always goes wrong. This happened early in the flight, and we’re now free and clear of any other things going wrong.

LAUER: (Voiceover) And he was right, for about 55 hours. And then...

(Sky; video of crew of Apollo 13; Earth; moon)

Mr. LOVELL: (Apollo 13 transmission) Houston, we’ve had a problem.

LAUER: (Voiceover) ...the question is, does Houston have a solution?

(Mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: (Voiceover) The work in this room is final.

(Kranz in mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: The decisions are final. The team in this room must be prepared to live with the results.

LAUER: (Voiceover) When Apollo 13: The Real Story continues.

LAUER: (Voiceover) On April 11th, 1970, two hours and 35 minutes after liftoff, Apollo 13 fired its rockets, accelerated to 24,000 miles an hour and left Earth’s orbit bound for the moon.

(Apollo 13 launching; Apollo 13; moon)

LAUER: And people always say, Jim, they say, into the calm and the peace of outer space. Outer space is a pretty hostile environment, isn’t it?

Mr. LOVELL: Well, it is. You had to be prepared for it.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Outside was a complete vacuum. If the ship’s hull failed, the crew would die in seconds. If the power failed, they’d freeze to death in hours. Everything they needed to survive—air, water, food and fuel—had to be carefully managed.

(Moon; video from Apollo 13)

LAUER: Even when things are going smoothly it’s a high stress environment, isn’t it?

Mr. LOVELL: Oh, definitely. But you might think the whole program in those days was sort of a high stress environment.

LAUER: (Voiceover) It certainly was on the ground, in the pressure cooker that was mission control.

(Kranz in mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: (Voiceover) Watching and listening to your crew die...

(Kranz in mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: something that will impress that event upon your mind forever.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Gene Kranz had been a flight director when, just three years earlier, Apollo 1 caught fire on the launch pad, incinerating astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. Soon after, Kranz helped write a document called “Foundations of Mission Control.”

(Video from Apollo 1; photos of Apollo 1; Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee; Apollo 1; mission control room)

LAUER: I’m going to read you a passage from it. It says, quote, “Suddenly and unexpectedly we may find ourselves in a role where our performance has ultimate consequences.”

Mr. KRANZ: The work in this room is final. The decisions are final. The team in this room must be prepared not only to make those decisions, but to live with the results that occur.

LAUER: (Voiceover) But the first two days of Apollo 13’s mission hardly seemed like life or death.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. KRANZ: (Mission control) The spacecraft’s in real good shape as far as we’re concerned, Jim. We’re bored to tears down here.

LAUER: (Voiceover) The spacecraft had three parts. The cone-shaped command module was where all three men would ride for most of the trip to the moon and then back to Earth. The spidery lunar module, or LEM, would carry two astronauts to the lunar surface, then be left behind. The last, critical piece was the service module, which contained the main engine and oxygen tanks.

(Spacecraft model; moon)

Mr. KRANZ: (Mission control) Thirteen, Houston, we’ve got a groovy TV picture.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Fifty-five hours and 11 minutes into the mission, Apollo 13’s crew made time for an important duty: public relations. They beamed back a live TV show to Earth, something NASA liked to do so taxpayers could see what they were up to.

(Video from Apollo 13)


See Jim Lovell’s souvenirs from Apollo 13

Mr. LOVELL: Fred Haise was the actor in this whole thing...

(Voiceover) ...went in the lunar module and he opened up the bed that he was going to sleep on, sort of a hammock. And he tried to show people how he was going to sleep on this bed.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: Of course, he’s zero gravity so he kept bouncing up and down.

Mr. HAISE: (Apollo 13 transmission) It’s kind of difficult here, Jack, getting into a hammock in zero G.

LAUER: (Voiceover) A lighthearted look at life in space.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: (Apollo 13 transmission) It doesn’t work too well up in space.

You can’t comb your hair up here.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Great show. Except...

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: No one was watching it.

LAUER: Explain why that was.

Mr. LOVELL: One network had “Dick Cavett”...

(Voiceover) ...a live show.

(“Dick Cavett” show)

Mr. LOVELL: I think a second network had a rerun...

(Voiceover) ...of “Lucy.”

(Clip from “I Love Lucy”)

Mr. LOVELL: And the third network, at least in the city of Houston, Texas, the baseball game was going on and everybody was watching that, including the people in the control center.

LAUER: Here we had been to the moon twice, and in some ways ho-hum had set in.

Mr. LOVELL: Complacency.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Jim’s wife, Marilyn, and daughters Barbara and Susan did watch the show in a private viewing room at mission control.

(Marilyn and group of women; mission control room)

LAUER: And when you found out that not one of the networks carried that broadcast, how did it make you feel?


Ms. LOVELL: It did upset me, yes.

LAUER: (Voiceover) But they got to see something the rest of the world didn’t, an example of Fred Haise’s unusual sense of humor.

(Mission control room; video from Apollo 13)

LAUER: You pulled something during that event that kind of got everyone’s attention, and Jim Lovell commented on it. Talk to me about it.

Mr. HAISE: There is a valve in the LEM, the repress valve, that when cycled does make a fairly pronounced bang.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Haise turned the valve on live TV, and the bang startled Commander Jim Lovell.

(Mission control room)

Mr. LOVELL: (Apollo 13 transmission) Every time he does that, our hearts—our hearts jump in our mouth.

Mr. LOVELL: He throws that and it gives a big bang, you know, and then...

LAUER: Inside the spacecraft...

Mr. LOVELL: Inside the spacecraft.

LAUER: hear this bang?

Mr. LOVELL: So every—we looked and say, oh, that’s Haise again.

LAUER: (Voiceover) No harm done.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: (Apollo 13 transmission) This is the crew of Apollo 13 wishing everybody there a nice evening.

LAUER: It was after the broadcast, Jim, that mission control radios up and they asked you to do something as the crew that was fairly routine, involving one of the liquid oxygen tanks.

(Voiceover) Two tanks of super-cooled liquid oxygen were the ship’s most precious resource, providing both air and fuel. To get accurate readings from the tanks, mission controllers had to make sure the liquid didn’t settle at the bottom.

(Spacecraft oxygen tanks; mission control room)

LAUER: What’d they ask you to do?

Mr. LOVELL: It’s sort of like a mush, this liquid oxygen, and so there’s a fan down at the bottom of—inside the tank—it had a little heater system.  And so the question was, ‘Would you turn on the fan and the heater system and stir up the oxygen?’

LAUER: And to accomplish that inside the spacecraft, what did you have to do actually? Just flip a switch?

Mr. LOVELL: Merely flip the switch.

LAUER: (Voiceover) They were about 200,000 miles from Earth when Jack Swigert flipped the switch. The date, by the way, was April 13th.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Unidentified Man #3: (Mission control) We’d like you to stir up your cryo tanks.

Mr. JACK SWIGERT: (Apollo 13 transmission) Standby.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Seconds later the men of Apollo 13 were fighting for their lives.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: (Apollo 13 transmission) Houston, we’ve had a problem.

LAUER: (Voiceover) And that was one of the great understatements of all time.

(Moon surface; mission control room)

Mr. LOVELL: (Voiceover) The odds were very small...

(Astronauts in shuttle)

Mr. LOVELL: ...that we’re going to get out of this alive.

LAUER: (Voiceover) When DATELINE continues.

April 13

The Explosion

LAUER: (Voiceover) At precisely 55 hours, 53 minutes and 18 seconds into the flight of Apollo 13, astronaut Jack Swigert followed mission control’s instruction to flip the switch that stirred the liquid oxygen tanks.  Everything seemed normal, and then...

(Mission control room; moon; mission control room; video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: It just had a big bang at one time, and so we all looked around, ‘What happened? What’s that?’ I looked up at Fred Haise to see if he knew what was going on.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Remember, Haise liked to play tricks with the pressure valve.

(Video from Apollo 13)

LAUER: Immediately Jim Lovell looks over to see, ‘Has Fred Haise pulled another fast one on me?’

Mr. HAISE: I’m sure he saw it in my eyes, and he saw I wasn’t smiling.

Mr. LOVELL: And I could tell from his expression he had no idea.

LAUER: So this wasn’t one of his practical jokes with the pressure.

Mr. LOVELL: He had no idea.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Haise was in the tunnel between the command module and the lunar module.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. HAISE: (Voiceover) I heard the loud bang and metallic sounds because the way the vehicle contorted...

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. HAISE: actually twisted enough in the tunnel area that it crinkled the metal. You could hear that metal crinkling.

LAUER: Did your heart jump up into your throat? I mean, that’s not a sound you want to hear 200,000 miles from home.

Mr. HAISE: Absolutely. And I knew it right away was not a normal circumstance.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Jack Swigert radioed mission control.

(Video from Apollo 13; mission control room)

Mr. SWIGERT: (Apollo 13 transmission) OK, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.

Unidentified Man #4: (Mission control) Say again, please.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Fifteen seconds later, Lovell repeated the message.

(Mission control room; Kranz in mission control room)

Mr. LOVELL: (Apollo 13 transmission) Houston, we’ve had a problem.

LAUER: (Voiceover) I listened to that radio transmission that is probably as famous as the flight itself...

(Mission control room)

LAUER: ...those five words, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” And I listen to the calm in your voice. Were you as calm as you sound?

Mr. LOVELL: I kind of think so. I mean, I was faced with a problem, and so if I did nothing but, you know, you bounce off the walls for 10 minutes, I’d be right back to where that problem was.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Things were not so calm in mission control.

(Mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: As soon as we received this call, it seemed our data just went wild.

(Voiceover) It was screwy. And for about 60 seconds it was literally chaos in this room.

(Mission control room)

LAUER: (Voiceover) In those 60 seconds, it seemed that every controller at every console saw a problem with Apollo 13.

(Mission control room; monitor)

Mr. KRANZ: ‘A flight, we’ve had a computer restart.’ Another controller says, ‘Main bus undervolt.’ Third one says, ‘antenna switch.’

LAUER: (Voiceover) It did not seem possible for so many things to go wrong at the same time. They thought it had to be a fault in their communications or their monitoring systems, not the spacecraft itself.

(Mission control room)

Unidentified Man #5: (Mission control) We may have had an instrumentation problem, flight.

Mr. KRANZ: I immediately thought, ‘OK, it’s a minor electrical problem. We’ll work this when the shift’s over.’

LAUER: (Voiceover) The astronauts knew it was much worse than that. They thought they’d been hit by a meteor. Fred Haise called mission control 50 seconds into the crisis.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. HAISE: (Apollo 13 transmission) We had a pretty large bang associated with the caution and warning there.

Mr. KRANZ: In the first few minutes...

(Voiceover) ...there was absolute disbelief. The controllers had never come face to face...

(Mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: ...with a real problem that we didn’t have any immediate answers for.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Crucial minutes ticked by. Jim Lovell stared at his instrument panel.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: (Voiceover) One oxygen tank gauge...

(Apollo 13 instrument panel)

Mr. LOVELL: ...the quantity gauge, read zero. And the other one, I could see the needle start to go down ever so slightly...

(Voiceover) ...and that’s when I drifted over and kind of looked out the side window and I saw...

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: ...escaping, at a high rate of speed, a gaseous substance from the rear end of my spacecraft.

LAUER: (Voiceover) The crisis was now in minute 14.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: (Apollo 13 transmission) Looks to me, looking out the hatch, that we are venting something. We are—we are venting something out into the—into space.

Unidentified Man #6: (Mission control) Roger, we copy you’re venting.

LAUER: Jim, this isn’t like getting a blowout of your tire on a highway. You are 200,000 miles into outer space drifting further and further away from Earth. What’s your emotion at that moment?

Mr. LOVELL: Well, I’ll tell you the very first thing that I thought of, why didn’t this happen on Apollo 12 or why didn’t it wait for Apollo 14?

Mr. LOVELL: (Apollo 13 transmission) It’s a gas of some sort.

Man #6: (Mission control) OK, can you tell us anything about the venting, where it’s coming from?

Mr. HAISE: (Apollo 13 transmission) It’s coming out of window one right now.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Do the astronauts seem abnormally calm? Kranz says there’s a reason.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. KRANZ: (Voiceover) This is why we flew experimental test pilots in the spacecraft.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. KRANZ: Their demeanor was such, when you listen to these reports and get the reporting that’s coming in, they’re just reporting a situation onboard the spacecraft.

LAUER: (Voiceover) But everyone who heard Lovell’s report instantly knew what it meant.

(Mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: We had an explosion with an enormous amount of corollary damage.

LAUER: (Voiceover) In fact, they came to learn Apollo 13 had suffered a catastrophic failure. There was faulty wiring inside liquid oxygen tank two.  When Jack Swigert stirred the tank, a spark started a fire fueled by pure oxygen. The tank blew up, taking out the ship’s main supplies of air and power.

(Computer model of spacecraft; animation of oxygen tank and explosion)

Mr. LOVELL: (Voiceover) And I realized the gas escaping and the needle on my second and last tank...

(Apollo 13 instrument panel)

Mr. LOVELL: ...the quantity gauge, was one and the same, and shortly we’d be completely out of oxygen.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Completely out of oxygen, speeding away from Earth at 2,000 miles per hour.

(Moon; spacecraft)

Mr. KRANZ: (Voiceover) I think every controller at that time...


Mr. KRANZ: ...recognized, we’re not going to the moon, but also it’s going to be tough, damn tough, to get the crew of Apollo 13 home.

Mr. LOVELL: The odds were very small at that time, among ourselves...

(Voiceover) ...that we’re going to get out of this alive.

(Video from Apollo 13)

LAUER: (Voiceover) Coming up, Apollo 13 faces a critical decision, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

(Moon; video from Apollo 13; mission control room; Kranz in mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: If this maneuver isn’t executed perfectly, you’re going to impact the moon.

LAUER: (Voiceover) When Apollo 13: The Real Story continues.

TEXT:Critical Decisions

LAUER: (Voiceover) The night of April 13th, Marilyn Lovell and her daughters returned home from mission control, where, just minutes earlier, they’d watched Jim and his crew on TV from outer space. Friends dropped in, astronaut Pete Conrad and his wife.

(Marilyn at mission control; group of people at mission control; mission control room; photo of Pete Conrad and woman)

Ms. LOVELL: And the phone rang.

LAUER: (Voiceover) It was another friend who worked for NASA.

(Photo of Marilyn on phone)

Ms. LOVELL: (Voiceover) And he said, ‘Marilyn, I just want you to know that...

(Photo of Marilyn on phone)

Ms. LOVELL: ...all these different countries have offered to help, you know, in the recovery and whatever.’ And I couldn’t understand what he was talking about. And I said, ‘Jerry,’ I said, ‘have you been drinking?’

LAUER: (Voiceover) She no sooner hung up than another phone, a direct line to NASA, started ringing.

(Mission control room)

Ms. LOVELL: And immediately Pete came out—and I can still see him standing across the room from me with eyes as large as saucers. And he said, ‘Marilyn, we have to talk.’

LAUER: (Voiceover) He filled her in. They turned on the TV. Apollo 13, once the forgotten moon flight, was suddenly the biggest story on Earth.

(Photo of Marilyn; TV static; “The Huntley Brinkley Report” TV show; Chuck Huntley)

Mr. CHUCK HUNTLEY: (“The Huntley Brinkley Report”) Apollo 13, its power sources badly damaged, it’s mission to the moon ended, its astronauts under a strain more severe than any others have yet endured.

LAUER: (Voiceover) The ship was crippled, leaking oxygen. The mission to the moon over. The three astronauts, one of them her husband, were probably doomed.

(Huntley; photo of Jim, Haise and Swigert)

Ms. LOVELL: I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and at that moment the house was just filling with people. People didn’t know what to say to me.  Best friends, they couldn’t say anything.

LAUER: (Voiceover) And, says Jim Lovell, he and mission control were not sure what to say to each other, either.

(Video from Apollo 13; mission control room)

Mr. LOVELL: (Voiceover) Well, from an emotional point of view, Matt...

(Mission control room)

Mr. LOVELL: ...first of all, they didn’t want to say to us, ‘You have a real problem here.’ And we didn’t want to say to them, ‘I think we got a real problem.’ I mean, we knew that.

LAUER: But is that just the bravado of a test pilot and astronaut?

Mr. LOVELL: No, it’s—I think it’s the case, hey, we’re beyond that now. We have a—we have a problem. How do we get out of this problem? What do we do?  We don’t know yet or just what the steps are to do that.

LAUER: (Voiceover) But Gene Kranz knew they all had to start making some decisions, and fast.

(Kranz in mission control room; mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: (Voiceover) I was a fighter pilot.

(Kranz in mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: Fighter pilots from my time used the words “looking into the eye of a tiger.” And this was the feeling I had when I recognized we were in survival mode and we had to kick in and get going as a team to help this crew out.

LAUER: (Voiceover) The first problem, oxygen. The command module was going to run out in a matter of minutes. They had to figure out a way to save Lovell, Haise and Swigert fast. The only option was one they’d played out in simulations but never expected to do.

(Instrument panel; video from Apollo 13; mission control room; moon)


The Lifeboat

LAUER: (Voiceover) Now they start looking at the lunar module.

(Lunar module)

LAUER: Did you ever think you’d have to use that module as a lifeboat?

Mr. LOVELL: Never thought I’d have to use that as a lifeboat.

LAUER: (Voiceover) The lunar module, the spidery looking craft they’d planned to land on the moon and then leave behind. It had its own supply of air, water and battery power.

(Lunar module; moon; instrument panel)

Mr. LOVELL: (Voiceover) The lunar module was so fragile you could punch a hole through the skin in it.

(Instrument panel; lunar module)

Mr. LOVELL: But we had to live off of it because it had oxygen.

LAUER: (Voiceover) What the lunar module could not do was re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. It could not get them home. So even though the command module was crippled, they had to save whatever air and power it had left.

(Lunar module; video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: The only thing in the command module was a little battery and a little oxygen tank for the final plunge through the Earth’s atmosphere. Jack Swigert was the command module pilot and I said, ‘Jack, you power down this command module, save what you can. We’re going into the lunar module, power it up and...’

LAUER: So basically you’re buying time, you’re stalling for time in that lunar module so you can get back to that command module for that precise moment you need it to get back into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Mr. LOVELL: That’s right. The command module was the only thing that had a heat shield.

LAUER: (Voiceover) One hour now into the crisis; it was a race. Power down the command module before its batteries ran out. Power up the lunar module before oxygen ran out. They’d all trained for years, but never for this.

(Video from Apollo 13; lunar module instrument panel)

Mr. HAISE: I knew the command module had only so much life left, and we very quickly had to get to a point in the startup of the lunar module before the command module completely died.

LAUER: (Voiceover) The command module’s computers contained critical data the crew had to transfer to the LEM’s computers fast, and they had to do it the old-fashioned way.

(Video from Apollo 13)

LAUER: So when people look at their BlackBerry today or their iPhone, they’re holding something in their hand that has far more computing capabilities than the spacecraft you were flying in outer space with?

Mr. LOVELL: Oh, yes.

(Voiceover) Jack Swigert called me all the numbers, and I wrote them down and then we had a conversion table for the lunar module.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: And I did the arithmetic to get the new numbers. And then I called mission control. I said, ‘Would you check my arithmetic for me, please, to make sure I’m not making a mistake?’

LAUER: Because you were afraid to make a mistake here because...

Mr. LOVELL: Well, I’m...

LAUER: ...a mistake will cost you your life.

Mr. LOVELL: That’s right, I’m using all the assets I have, and that included the control center.

LAUER: (Voiceover) They got into the lunar module with moments to spare. But now another decision loomed: how to get back to Earth.

(Video from Apollo 13; Earth)

Mr. KRANZ: I had a very fundamental decision I had to make.

(Voiceover) We could execute what we call a direct abort and come around the front side of the moon and be home in a day and a half.

(Animation of spacecraft returning to Earth)

LAUER: (Voiceover) It was the quickest way home, but it would mean using the main engine, the one nearest the explosion. What if that engine failed, or blew up as well?

(Animation of spacecraft returning to Earth)

Mr. KRANZ: If this maneuver isn’t executed perfectly, you’re going to impact the moon.

LAUER: The spacecraft would actually go right into the surface of the moon?

Mr. KRANZ: Yeah. Yeah.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Kranz didn’t want to take the risk.

(Kranz in mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: (Voiceover) The other option I—you’d have to go completely around the moon, take between four and five days to get back home.

(Animation of spacecraft returning to Earth)

LAUER: (Voiceover) The problem with that was obvious to the astronauts themselves.

(Animation of spacecraft returning to Earth; video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: When we started going in the lunar module, I realized it was designed for two guys for two days, and I counted the crew, one, two, three guys for four days.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Simple arithmetic that meant the could run out of air, power and water long before reaching Earth. In the end, it was the flight director’s decision.

(Video from Apollo 13; instrument panel; Earth; Kranz in mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: (Voiceover) And it was purely in a gut feeling that says...

(Kranz in mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: ...go around the moon, take your chances, trust your team to find the answers.

LAUER: (Voiceover) In other words, take the long way home and risk losing their crew in space. For the three astronauts, it would be the ultimate test of endurance.

(Mission control room; video from Apollo 13; spacecraft; video from Apollo 13; moon)

LAUER: You’re saying, ‘Look, guys, you’re going to be cold and thirsty and hungry for four days because if we do anything else, then you’re not getting home.’

Mr. KRANZ: That’s correct.

LAUER: (Voiceover) When DATELINE continues.

TEXT:The Long Way

Mr. LOVELL: (Apollo 13 transmission) Mission control, we are now looking towards an alternate mission.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Five and a half hours after an explosion crippled their spaceship, the crew of Apollo 13 was riding in a lifeboat, three men in a lunar module meant for two. The LEM was designed to carry them just 60 miles, from lunar orbit to the surface. Now they had to use the LEM’s rocket in a way its designers never intended, to steer them around the moon and set their course for Earth, a quarter million miles away.

(Mission control room; video from Apollo 13; lunar module; moon; video from Apollo 13; moon; Earth)

LAUER: Did you ever have any doubts about whether you could accomplish it?

Mr. LOVELL: Well, naturally I think everybody does in a situation like this.

LAUER: (Voiceover) They had a tiny margin for error and no second chances.

(Mission control room)

LAUER: It’s not just dying, Jim, it’s the kind of death. It’s—and I’ve thought about this...

(Voiceover)’s running out of oxygen and drifting in space perhaps forever.

(Video from Apollo 13)

LAUER: How did you deal with those thoughts?

Mr. LOVELL: Well, we didn’t think about what the final results would be if we weren’t successful. What would finally get to us? Running out of all kinds of electrical power?

(Voiceover) Getting on to an orbit that we couldn’t correct?

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: And being in an orbit around the Earth for hundreds of years.

LAUER: You left one out. You could come in too steep into the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.

Mr. LOVELL: I would have rather have done that.

Unidentified Man #7: (Mission control) We now show a velocity of 3210 feet per second.

LAUER: Did you allow yourselves to have those emotional discussions? Did anybody start talking about family and what if, ‘What if we don’t make it back?’

Mr. LOVELL: To ourselves we thought about family...

(Voiceover) ...not to each other.

(Video from Apollo 13)

LAUER: You didn’t bring that up?

Mr. LOVELL: (Voiceover) We—no, we did not bring that up.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: And we did not because we did not want to get emotionally disturbed or challenged from the job that we had to do.

LAUER: (Voiceover) But for the families, there was no other job.

(Photo of children)

LAUER: You wanted life to go on as normal. But in your heart it couldn’t have been anything close to normal.

Ms. LOVELL: No. Friends of mine told me that I was in a daze really.

(Voiceover) The house was packed.

(Photo of Marilyn)

Ms. LOVELL: And I just had to be by myself.

(Voiceover) And I just left everyone. And I had gone into the bathroom and I kneeled on the tile floor and prayed.

(Photo of Marilyn)

LAUER: (Voiceover) It was much worse for the Lovell kids at school.

(Photo of girl by car)

Unidentified Woman: And everybody came up to me and said, ‘I’m so sorry your dad’s going to die.’

LAUER: (Voiceover) April 14th, 21 hours after the explosion. The crippled ship rounded the far side of the moon.

(Video from Apollo 13; moon)

LAUER: In the midst of this incredibly tense and stressful flight wherein in many ways this crew was fighting for their lives...

(Voiceover) got to see something you’d never seen before. What was that experience like?

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. HAISE: Well, it was obviously...

(Voiceover) me, great to have the opportunity to even just loop around the moon, but Jack and I did a lot of sightseeing...

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. HAISE: we went around the back side.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Lovell, who had already circled the moon in Apollo 8, got a little impatient with all the photos his shipmates were taking.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: And I told them if they, you know, ‘If we don’t get back you’re not going to get them developed.’

LAUER: You are basically running a bare bones operation at that time.

(Voiceover) You are shutting down everything you can because everything aboard that module drains power.

(Instrument panels)

LAUER: And you need all the power you can—you can save.

Mr. LOVELL: Exactly right. And we had to turn off all the electrical system, and that’s when the temperature kept dropping.

Unidentified Man #8: (Mission control) We’d like to do—go down that power-down procedure.

Mr. KRANZ: We knew it was going to get as cold as a meat locker inside that spacecraft.

LAUER: So in other words, you’re saying, ‘Look, guys, you’re going to be cold and thirsty and hungry for four days, but you’re going to go through that because if we do anything else, then you’re not getting home’?

Mr. KRANZ: That’s correct.

LAUER: (Voiceover) So how cold did you get?

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: It was about the temperature of your refrigerator.

Mr. HAISE: It got pretty miserable. We had got...

(Voiceover) ...out of storage all our spare underwear...

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. HAISE: we had three sets of underwear on.

LAUER: What about food? How much food did you have?

Mr. LOVELL: We didn’t eat much food. We—and the water was freezing and the food was getting frozen, too.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Too cold to eat. Too cold to sleep.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: (Voiceover) I found out that I could be in front of the instrument panel, put my fingers together, close my eyes...

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: ...and for about three minutes, be asleep, wake up refreshed.

(Voiceover) And so that’s essentially the—actually the sleep that we got on the way home.

(Video from Apollo 13)

LAUER: (Voiceover) April 15th, 30 hours after the explosion, something else threatened to kill them, something they couldn’t even see.

(Video from Apollo 13)

LAUER: In layman’s terms, your own exhalation and the fact that the three of you breathing out were creating so much carbon dioxide that it was going to kill you.

Mr. HAISE: That’s absolutely correct.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Remember, the lunar module was only designed to support two men for two days. Its air purifiers were maxed out. The dead command module was still attached. They could get more filters there, but they were the wrong shape, square, and wouldn’t fit the round openings in the LEM.

(Lunar module; video from Apollo 13; instrument panel; filter)

Mr. LOVELL: And, of course, it’s a big engineering goof that we didn’t have the same canister for both sides.

Mr. KRANZ: We got to come up with a solution here.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Engineers had to design an adapter, literally make a square peg fit in a round hole. They had to do it quickly. And they could only use what was on the spacecraft: part of a flight manual, plastic bags, duct tape.

(Mission control; engineer designing adapter; adapter)

LAUER: They did a mockup of it down on the ground in Houston, and then they told you basically how to do it. And you must have thought they were crazy.

Mr. LOVELL: Yeah, they said, ‘Now take three feet of duct tape,’ and we said, ‘What? Three feet?’ They said, ‘Yeah, an arm’s length of duct tape.’

LAUER: (Voiceover) The strange-looking contraption worked. It saved their lives. And for two more days, cold, hungry, sleepless, the three astronauts hunkered down and willed their way home.

(Photo of adapter; video from Apollo 13)

LAUER: At some point mission control instructed you to stop sending your urine out of the spacecraft. And some people might think that’s the ultimate indignity. These guys are in a tough enough strait as it is. What was the reason for that?

Mr. LOVELL: Well, what they said was, ‘We don’t want any unbalanced force on the vehicles...

(Voiceover) ...‘because we want to get you back in that free return course...

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: ...‘for a safe approach through the atmosphere and a landing on the Earth.’

LAUER: So when you expel urine...

Mr. LOVELL: It would change the course a little bit. It’s like a little rocket engine.

LAUER: So now you’ve got bags of urine floating around...

Mr. LOVELL: Yeah.

LAUER: the spacecraft as well.

Mr. LOVELL: Yeah, and we tried to figure out where to put that.

LAUER: (Voiceover) They all but stopped drinking water. Dehydration set in.  Fred Haise soon developed an infection and fever. That was all bad. But now, even as Earth loomed in the window, there was yet another crisis.

(Video from Apollo 13; photo of Haise; spacecraft window)

Mr. LOVELL: (Voiceover) They call up and said, ‘We’ve extrapolated your course all...

(Mission control room; Kranz in mission control room)

Mr. LOVELL: ...‘the way back to the Earth, and you’re going to miss the atmosphere by’...

LAUER: You were drifting?

Mr. LOVELL: Yeah, by 60 or 80 nautical miles, which meant, although they didn’t say it, is that, ‘Hey, you’re gone.’

LAUER: (Voiceover) Coming up, the Apollo command module plunges toward Earth surrounded by a 5,000-degree fireball.

(Video from Apollo 13; command module; Earth)

Mr. KRANZ: It’s now one minute since we should have heard from this crew.

Every controller in this room is standing staring at those...

(Voiceover) ...clocks on the wall.

(Mission control room)

LAUER: (Voiceover) When Apollo 13: The Real Story continues.

TEXT:Getting Home

LAUER: (Voiceover) Nearly four days after the crippling explosion, as Apollo 13, against all odds, seemed about to make it home, mission control discovered something potentially devastating.

(Mission control room)

LAUER: The spacecraft was drifting off the trajectory you wanted.

Mr. KRANZ: The spacecraft was drifting off and we didn’t understand what was happening.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Apollo 13 was going to come in too shallow, bounce off the Earth’s atmosphere and be lost forever.

(Animation of Apollo 13’s entry back to Earth)

Mr. KRANZ: We have to perform another emergency maneuver.

LAUER: (Voiceover) The engineers calculated the precise direction and the amount of rocket thrust needed to correct the course. Then the crew had to make it happen, firing the rockets manually, steering by sighting the Earth and moon through the windows. Nobody had ever done that before.

(Mission control room; engineers making calculations; video from Apollo 13; instrument panel)

LAUER: This was a team effort, right? I mean, you’re handling one aspect trying to keep the Earth from moving...

Mr. LOVELL: Yeah.

LAUER: ...up and down and...

Mr. LOVELL: (Voiceover) Fred Haise was going, you know, to keep it from going sideways.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Mr. LOVELL: And, of course, he’s sick at this time...

(Voiceover) ...and Jack is timing it because our clock had stopped, of course.

(Video from Apollo 13; mission control room)

LAUER: Were you worried at all, Gene, that after all they had been through over those three or four days, the cold...

(Voiceover) ...the sleep deprivation, the tension and the stress...

(Video from Apollo 13)

LAUER: ...that they may just make a simple mistake, that they simply weren’t up to the task of getting home?

Mr. KRANZ: No, no. This is the kind of relationship that we must have with our crew.

(Voiceover) The crew totally depends upon us to come up with the right answers.

(Mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: We depend upon them to provide the...

(Voiceover) ...information and to execute. So this relation—this...

(Video from Apollo 13)

LAUER: No room for second guessing?

Mr. KRANZ: This relationship is absolute, absolute. Trust is really the key.

Unidentified Man #9: (Mission control) Go for the burn.

Mr. LOVELL: (Apollo 13 transmission) We’re burning 40 percent.

LAUER: (Voiceover) And the crew made the tricky maneuver like they’d done it a thousand times.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Unidentified Man #10: (Mission control) I’d say that was a good burn.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Friday, April 17th, just hours from Earth now. The astronauts needed to get back into the command module. It had been shut down, frozen for days. Engineers on the ground were working feverishly on a way to start it up again.

(Video from Apollo 13; command module; mission control engineers)

Unidentified Man #11: (Mission control): OK, systems test 1A.

Mr. KRANZ: We went through four different versions of this checklist.

Unidentified Man #12: (Mission control) We have a procedure for getting power from the LEM. It’s not a very long procedure.

Mr. LOVELL: And I got a little testy and I said, ‘Look it, give us the proper information, no more, no less.’

LAUER: (Voiceover) It was a critical time. Normally the command module was powered up before launch when electricity was unlimited. Never had a command module been shut down in flight then restarted with just battery power. If the batteries died, so would the crew.

(Mission control room; command module; instrument panels)

LAUER: And you talk about this procedure, over 500 steps, and then had to then radio those steps, and they had to be written down one after the other.

Mr. HAISE: We had no blank paper.

(Voiceover) So we had to rip covers and backs off of checklists and use that to write this checklist, which was very lengthy.

(Video from Apollo 13)

LAUER: (Voiceover) Now, checklist in hand, three cold, hungry, sleepless men had to execute it perfectly.

(Video from Apollo 13)

Unidentified Man #13: (Mission control) OK, you’re go to start powering up the command module.

Mr. SWIGERT: (Apollo 13 transmission) Right-o, we’re starting now.

Mr. HAISE: The command module did come fully up, you know, fully powered up.

LAUER: Sigh of relief there. I mean, that’s your—that’s your ride home.

Mr. HAISE: It was a ride home, ready or not.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Back in the command module now, less than five hours from Earth, the crew jettisoned the part of the spacecraft that exploded and nearly killed them all.

(Video from Apollo 13; mission control room)

Unidentified Man #14: (Mission control) Copy that. Service module separation at 138 hours, two minutes, eight seconds.

LAUER: (Voiceover) For the very first time they could see just how bad the damage was.

(Mission control room; instrument panels; command module)

Mr. LOVELL: As it floated away, finally, and just in front of us, we saw that the entire panel had been blown out.

Mr. LOVELL: (Apollo 13 transmission) And there’s one whole side of that spacecraft missing. Right by the high-gain antenna, the whole panel is blown out, almost from the base to the engine.

LAUER: And that had to set off some fears in this room that that explosion also damaged the heat shield on the command module because they sit right next to each other. And would they be able to survive re-entry?

Mr. KRANZ: In our line of business, you only worry about those things that you can do something about.

LAUER: So all the things you had done for the four days prior, all the heroic efforts of everyone would have been for naught had there been a major flaw in that heat shield. It just wouldn’t have mattered.

Mr. LOVELL: That’s right. There’s nothing we could do about it. Never could go outside and repair it or anything like that. So we just—we just took it for granted that the heat shield was going to be intact.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Next they jettisoned the LEM, their lifeboat, which they’d nicknamed “Aquarius.”

(Mission control room; LEM)

Unidentified Man #15: (Mission control) Farewell, Aquarius. We thank you.

LAUER: (Voiceover) It was time.

(Mission control room)

LAUER: Marilyn, you seem like a tough gal.

Ms. HARRISON: She is.

Ms. LOVELL: I am?

Woman #2: Mm-hmm.

LAUER: However, there had to be times when you went over in your mind how you would tell the kids if it didn’t turn out well.

Ms. LOVELL: Actually, I really don’t believe I really thought about it because I really didn’t give up. I just knew he’d be—come back.

LAUER: (Voiceover) It had been the moon mission people ignored. And now the whole world was watching.

(Mission control room; people watching TV; workers listening to radio)

Ms. LOVELL: (Voiceover) I couldn’t breathe.

(Photo of Marilyn)

Ms. HARRISON: And we all just sat there and we just held our breath. And we held it with the world.

LAUER: (Voiceover) Apollo 13 plunged into the Earth’s atmosphere on Friday, April 17th, after nearly six days in space. During re-entry the 5,000-degree fireball surrounding the ship blacked out all radio transmissions.

(People watching Apollo 13’s re-entry; mission control room; Kranz in mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: The crew is now on their own. There are no more give backs.

LAUER: (Voiceover) The blackout was expected to last four minutes.

(Mission control room)

Unidentified Man #16: (Mission control) Standing by for any reports of acquisition.

Mr. KRANZ: And there’s no response. And we call again. It’s now one minute since we should have heard from this crew.

Unidentified Man #17: (Mission control) Apollo 13 should be out of blackout at this time.

Mr. KRANZ: (Voiceover) Every controller in this room...

(Mission control room)

Mr. KRANZ: standing starring at those clocks on the wall. One minute and 27 seconds after we should have heard from the crew, we get a ray of hope.

Unidentified Man #18: (Mission control) Odyssey, Houston, standing by, over.

Mr. SWIGERT: (Apollo 13 transmission) OK, Joe.

Man #18: (Mission control) OK, we read you, Jack.

Mr. KRANZ: (Voiceover) And the emotional release in this room is so intense that literally every controller is standing, crying.

(Mission control room)

Unidentified Man #19: Apollo 13 is practically on the dime.

Mr. LOVELL: When that spacecraft splashed down and water came over the—over the windows, I said, ‘Hey, we’re home.’

LAUER: Were there handshakes in the capsule? Were there tears? What was going on in there?

Mr. LOVELL: It was just quiet, and we shook each other’s hand...

(Voiceover) ...and we said, ‘Hey, we made it again.’

(Apollo 13 in water after re-entry)

Mr. HAISE: The capsule was still cold, even after entry. Smoky air, frosty air poured out of the hatch when the diver opened the hatch.

Mr. KRANZ: And this crew that had been living in a meat locker...

(Voiceover) finally out in the warm air of the South Pacific and they are home and they are alive.

(Apollo 13 astronauts after re-entry)

LAUER: What was the first thing you said to Marilyn when you got back to Earth?

Mr. LOVELL: (Voiceover) I said, ‘You can’t live without me.’

(Jim and Marilyn kissing)

LAUER: ‘You can’t get rid of me that easy’?

Mr. LOVELL: That’s right.

LAUER: (Voiceover) But here are the facts of Apollo 13. To this day, 40 years later, no human beings have ever ventured farther from home. And to this day no astronauts have overcome so many disasters, large and small, to make it back alive.

(Helicopter; mission control room; Lovell, Haise and Swigert after getting back to earth; mission control room; astronauts on Navy ship; mission control room; astronauts on Navy ship; command module; Haise, Lovell and Swigert)

LAUER: Jim Lovell never went back into space; Marilyn would not allow it.  Fred Haise helped test the space shuttle before leaving NASA in 1979. Jack Swigert, the third member of the crew, was elected to Congress in 1982, but sadly died of cancer before taking office.