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"Houston, we've had a problem:" 50 years since the infamous Apollo 13 mission

Saturday, April 11th 2020, 10:00 pm - The phrase "Houston, we've had a problem" was uttered during this mission, cementing itself as one of the most iconic in history.

Hard to believe, but it's been five decades since the safe return of the Apollo 13 crew after a sudden in-ship explosion prevented the spaceship from landing on the Moon.

An oxygen tank explosion stopped the spacecraft from successfully achieving its mission, as the incident put its three-man crew in danger and forced Apollo 13 to return to Earth. The renowned cry for help came from astronaut Jim Lovell: "Houston, we've had a problem."


It's a scene that played out on televisions and radio stations across the world, as they watched as Lovell and astronauts Jack Swigert and Fred Haise abandon their mission to the Moon and quickly moved in space to survive.

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This was due to a critical operating problem inside the spacecraft's command module. They were forced to switch to the lunar module in order to to return home. Sometime after, Lovell called the mission a "successful failure."

The oxygen-tank explosion occurred two days into the mission, so Lovell, Haise and Swigert didn't know just how serious their situation was. But Lovell quickly realized that most of the spacecraft was inoperable. This is when he uttered the historic words to mission control at the Johnson Space Center in Texas: "Houston, we've had a problem."

The ordeal last five days, in which the Apollo 13 crew and mission specialists on the ground were going through crisis after crisis, having to carefully ration food and water, suffering a loss of cabin heat and even resorting to using the lunar module as sort of a "lifeboat" during the return trip back to Earth.

Their arrival was seen by large crowds that gathered at New York's Grand Central Station to watch the astronauts' successful plunge in the Pacific Ocean. It was most welcomed for the three astronauts then boarded the U.S.S. Iwo Jima recovery ship.

After going through that experience, Lovell never ended up successfully landing on the Moon during his 11-year career as a NASA astronaut.

Thumbnail courtesy of NASA.

Source: Reuters.

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