Apollo 13 Service Module

Space

Apollo 13 Photos Help Us Remember Astronauts' Heroism Decades After Near-Tragedy

Apollo 13 was supposed to be NASA's third lunar landing mission but an oxygen leak necessitated an emergency return home.

 / Updated 18 PHOTOS
Image: Apollo 13

Members of the original Apollo 13 crew, from left, commander Jim Lovell, command module pilot Ken Mattingly, and lunar module pilot Fred Haise pose in December 1969.

Days before the mission, the crew was inadvertently exposed to German measles. Mattingly had no immunity to the virus and was replaced by backup command module pilot, Jack Swigert.

NASA
  • Share
A Saturn V rocket launches with the Apollo 13 spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center on April 11, 1970.

The Apollo 13 Saturn V rocket lifts off from Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, Florida on April 11, 1970.

NASA
  • Share
Image: Apollo 13

An artist's conception from March 1970 shows Lovell and Haise exploring the surface of the moon. Behind them is the lunar module.

But the lunar landing was not to be. Instead, some 56 hours into the Apollo 13 mission, oxygen tank No. 2 exploded, causing oxygen tank No. 1 to also fail. The command module's normal supply of electricity, light, and water was lost as they flew more than 200,000 miles from Earth.

Swigert saw a warning light that accompanied the bang and radioed mission control: "Houston, we've had a problem here." 

Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical via NASA
  • Share
During their lunar pass on April 14, 1970, the crew of the Apollo 13 mission captured this view of the Tsiolkovsky crater on the far side of the moon, the hemisphere of the Moon that always faces away from Earth.

During Apollo 13's lunar pass on April 14, 1970, the crew captured this view of the Tsiolkovsky crater on the far side of the moon, the hemisphere that always faces away from Earth.

NASA
  • Share
S70-34986 (14 April 1970) --- A group of six astronauts and two flight controllers monitor the console activity in the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) of the Mission Control Center (MCC) during the problem-plagued Apollo 13 lunar landing mission. Seated, left to right, are MOCR Guidance Officer Raymond F. Teague; astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo 14 prime crew lunar module pilot; and astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr., Apollo 14 prime crew commander. Standing, left to right, are scientist-astronaut Anthony W. England; astronaut Joe H. Engle, Apollo 14 backup crew lunar module pilot; astronaut Eugene A. Cernan, Apollo 14 backup crew commander; astronaut Ronald E. Evans, Apollo 14 backup crew command module pilot; and M.P. Frank, a flight controller. When this picture was made, the Apollo 13 moon landing had already been canceled, and the Apollo 13 crew men were in trans-Earth trajectory attempting to bring their damaged spacecraft back home.

Astronauts and flight controllers monitor the console activity in Mission Control on April 14.

Seated, left to right, are control room guidance officer Raymond Teague and Apollo 14 astronauts Edgar Mitchell and Alan Shepard, both of whom would later walk on the moon. Standing, left to right, are scientist-astronaut Anthony England and backup Apollo 14 crew members Joe Engle, Eugene Cernan, and Ronald Evans. 

Cernan became the last man to walk on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission. 

  • Share
Image: Earth

This photograph of Earth was taken by an Apollo 13 crew member during their journey home.

NASA
  • Share
Image: Apollo 13

Mission Control is a tense scene on April 16 during the final 24 hours of the Apollo 13 mission.

Here, flight controllers and NASA officials confer at the flight director's console, attempting to bring the crippled spacecraft home.

NASA
  • Share
French Newspapers Report Apollo 13

Parisians stop on the sidewalk to read about the Apollo 13 accident. 

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive
  • Share
Children from St. Andrew's Church of England School, Eastern Green, Coventry, prayed for astronauts safe return from the

School children in Coventry, England pray for the astronauts' safe return. 

Mirrorpix / Mirrorpix via Getty Images
  • Share
Apollo 13 Service Module

The severely damaged Apollo 13 service module was photographed following its jettison on April 17.

The damage to the service module caused the crew to use the lunar module as a "lifeboat." It was also jettisoned just prior to Earth re-entry later that day.

NASA
  • Share
Helicopter Recovering Apollo 13 Capsule

A Navy helicopter hovers over the Apollo 13 capsule in the South Pacific as frogmen release the astronauts on April 17. The USS Iwo Jima recovery vessel waits nearby.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive
  • Share
Three of the four Apollo 13 Flight Directors applaud the successful splashdown of the Command Module 'Odyssey' while Dr. Robert R. Gilruth, Director, Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), and Dr. Christopher C. Kraft Jr., MSC Deputy Director, light up cigars (upper left). The Flight Directors are from left to right: Gerald D. Griffin, Eugene F. Kranz and Glynn S. Lunney - April 17, 1970 (Photo by NASA/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Flight directors applaud the successful splashdown of the Apollo 13 crew. 

  • Share
S70-35610 (17 April 1970) --- A water level view of the Apollo 13 recovery operations in the South Pacific Ocean. The three astronauts as seen egressing their spacecraft. John L. Swigert Jr. (back to camera), command module pilot, is already in the life raft. Fred W. Haise Jr., lunar module pilot, facing camera, is stepping into the life raft. James A. Lovell Jr., commander, is leaving the spacecraft in the background. A United States Navy underwater demolition team assists with the recovery operations. The three crewmembers were picked up by helicopter and flown to the prime recovery ship, USS Iwo Jima. The Apollo 13 Command Module (CM) splashed down at 12:07:44 p.m. (CST), April 17, 1970, to conclude safely a perilous space flight. Though the Apollo lunar landing mission was canceled, a disastrous loss of three astronauts was averted.

Haise steps into the liferaft, center, as the crew is recovered. Swigert, back to camera, is already in the liferaft. Lovell is the last man out of the module. 

  • Share
S70-35645 (17 April 1970) --- Astronaut James A. Lovell Jr., commander, is hoisted aboard a helicopter from the USS Iwo Jima, prime recovery vessel for the mission. Lovell was the last of the three Apollo 13 crewmembers to egress the Command Module (CM) and the last to be lifted aboard the helicopter. He was preceded by astronauts John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot; and Fred W. Haise Jr., lunar module pilot. The CM and a U.S. Navy underwater demolition team swimmer can be seen in the ocean background. Apollo 13 splashed down at 12:07:44 p.m. (CST), April 17, 1970.

Lovell is lifted onto a helicopter to be flown to the USS Iwo Jima. 

  • Share
S70-35632 (17 April 1970) --- Crewmen aboard the USS Iwo Jima, prime recovery ship for the Apollo 13 mission, guide the Command Module (CM) atop a dolly onboard the ship. The CM is connected by strong cable to a hoist on the vessel. The Apollo 13 crewmembers, astronauts James A. Lovell Jr., commander; John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot; and Fred W. Haise Jr., lunar module pilot, were already aboard the USS Iwo Jima when this photograph was made. The CM, with the three tired crewmen aboard, splashed down at 12:07:44 p.m. (CST), April 17, 1970, only about four miles from the recovery vessel in the South Pacific Ocean.

Crewmen aboard the USS Iwo Jima guide the Apollo 13 command module onto the ship.

  • Share
S70-35614 (17 April 1970) --- The crewmembers of the Apollo 13 mission, step aboard the USS Iwo Jima, prime recovery ship for the mission, following splashdown and recovery operations in the South Pacific Ocean. Exiting the helicopter which made the pick-up some four miles from the Iwo Jima are (from left) astronauts Fred W. Haise Jr., lunar module pilot; James A. Lovell Jr., commander; and John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot. The crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft splashed down at 12:07:44 p.m. (CST), April 17, 1970.

From left, Haise, Lovell, and Swigert step aboard the USS Iwo Jima. 

  • Share
Marilyn Lovell is shown with her with children, from left, Susan, Barbara and Jeffrey, as she speaks to the media after her husband Jim Lovell's safe splashdown in Apollo 13 following its aborted lunar landing mission, April 17, 1970. (AP Photo)

Marilyn Lovell stands with her children, from left, Susan, Barbara, and Jeffrey, as she speaks to the media after her husband's safe splashdown on April 17. 

AP
  • Share
Confetti pours from the skyscrapers in Chicago?s financial district, May 1, 1970 as Apollo 13 astronauts John Swigert Jr., waving left, and James Lovell ride in a motorcade during a parade in their honor. (AP Photo)

Confetti pours from skyscrapers in Chicago's financial district on May 1, 1970, as Swigert, waving at left, and Lovell ride in a motorcade during a parade in their honor. 

Anonymous / ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Share
1/18