Apollo 13 - A Successful Failure

Apollo 13 space mission goes down as one of the most remembered stories from the past. It has been 52 years since the mission took place, but the stories are still fresh. A mission set off for the moon turned out to be a failure, but astronauts’ survival in those consequences manifests the human spirit and grit. Thus, the failed mission is famously known as ‘a successful failure’.


On April 11, 1970, commander James Lovell, lunar module pilot Fred Haise, and command module pilot John Swigert took off a breath-taking journey toward the moon. Only 56 hours into the mission, the three-member crew got into a serious problem. The module’s cryogenic oxygen tank had ignited wire insulation due to a short circuit. This explosion caused the tank to heat up, and the pressure levels rose. A chunk of the service module got ripped off, and the oxygen levels started to deteriorate significantly.


The mission’s main purpose, i.e., moon landing, went out of the equation. The astronauts and NASA’s ground crew started focusing on successful evacuation. The three astronauts went to the lunar module Aquarius, which served as a space lifeboat. The problem with Aquarius was that it could carry only two evacuators. The three of them got cramped for space.

Moreover, the Carbon dioxide levels started to rise in the module. They needed lithium canisters to release the extra Carbon dioxide from the third passenger. They took the canisters from the command module, but they won’t fit in the Aquarius. The crew brought their creativity into action and used plastic bags, duct tapes, and everything they could get to fix in the canisters. The plan was to use the moon’s orbit to get shot back at the Earth, like a ‘slingshot.’ The astronauts reached back on Earth on April 17, splashing safely and successfully in the Pacific Ocean.


You can relive this incredible journey by watching the 1995 movie Apollo 13, starring Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon as the three astronauts. The movie is also available on the popular streaming site Netflix.

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