Apollo 13

Published: 1970
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI
This photo of "Earthrise" over the lunar horizon was taken by the Apollo 8 crew 35 years ago in December 1968, showing Earth for the first time as it appears from deep space. Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders had become the first humans to leave Earth orbit, entering lunar orbit on Christmas Eve. In a historic live broadcast that night, the crew took turns reading from the Book of Genesis, closing with a holiday wish from Commander Borman: "We close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you -- all of you on the good Earth." (UPI Photo/NASA)

Announcer: After landing man on the moon in 1969, America's space program in 1970 was a bit of a letdown, if not altogether grim. In 1970, Apollo 13 was to be man’s third landing on the moon.

Unknown Speaker: "Five, four, three, two, one, zero, we have commit and we have..."

Announcer: Apollo 11 and 12 had set the course and 13 was to be a more sophisticated investigation of the mysterious surface of the moon.

Unknown Speaker: “And it has cleared the tower.”

Houston: “This is Mission control, Houston, we appear to have a good first stage at this point. Flight Dynamics Officer says the trajectory looks good.” “We show one-half mile in altitude at this time.”

Announcer: Astronauts James Lovell, Fred Haise and John Swigert were more than 56 hours into their flight. Little did they know that in a few minutes their mission would turn into a suspenseful space drama.

A voice with an edge of concern reported the first trouble.

Unknown Speaker: “Houston, we've had a problem. We've had a main B bus undervolt.”

Unknown Speaker: "Roger, main B undervolt. “

Unknown Speaker: “OK, stand by 13, we're looking at it.”

Announcer: Something was wrong, a mysterious blast in the service module snuffed out almost all of the command module, autosys, oxygen and power supplies. The astronauts’ safety and their very lives were threatened, the flight had to be aborted.

Christopher Kraft: “We appear to have some kind of an accident in the region of the fuel cells and the oxygen tanks. We have begun to use the LM as a device for keeping oxygen in both the command and service command module and the lunar module, and we're using the power system from the lunar module.”

Announcer: The danger was clear, life supplies aboard the craft were dwindling. A hazardous race was begun for an emergency landing in the Pacific.

Unknown Speaker: "I think it is as critical, perhaps probably the most critical situation we have faced so far in the man's spaceflight program in flight."

James Lovell: "...This is right by the high gain antenna the whole panel is blown out almost from the base to the engine.”

Fred Haise: "And it looks like it has got to the SPS bell too, Houston. Dark brown streaks. It's really a mess.”

Unknown Speaker: “This is Apollo control Houston. At 141 hours, 31 minutes into the flight. We've had lunar module jettison. And for Apollo 13 the age of Aquarius ended at 141 hours, 30 minutes, ground elapse time.”

Announcer: The combined efforts of engineers and space specialists at NASA Space Center in Houston, and the skills of the astronauts themselves enabled the crippled craft to land six days after liftoff. Never before had the world witnessed such a dangerous and dramatic space flight. For the United States, the first in flight failure in space meant no landing on the moon in 1970.

For Russia, 1970 was one of their biggest years in space. First in June, two cosmonauts set a new endurance record by staying in space for 17 days, 16 hours, and 59 minutes. But the best Russian achievement came in September and November when they successful landed unmanned vehicles on the moon surface. Luna 16 drilled into the moon surface and collected a sample of moon rock and returned to earth.

Luna 17 landed an eight wheel self-propelled vehicle on the moon, Sea of Rains, on November the 17th. Shaped something like a bathtub on wheels, the moon rover was said to be analyzing the properties of moon matter, and sending the results back to Soviet space scientists.

It was in April when the silence of space was violated with this sound.

Announcer: What you are hearing is a satellite transmitter broadcasting telemetric signals, but this satellite was different, where occasionally the signal stopped and the satellite burst into song; a popular communist Chinese song called The East is Red. So in 1970, Red China joined the exclusive world space club by launching their first satellite.