America’s ill-fated but courageous voyage to the moon known as Apollo 13 took place on April 11th, 1970 only nine months after the giant leap and safe landing of spacecraft Apollo 11 onto a portion of the moon known as the Sea of Tranquility under the command of Neil Armstrong.
Inasmuch as Apollo 11 was responsible for America’s claim to the moon, the name ‘Apollo 13’ is probably more widely known. This may be due to the fact that not long after launch, the goal of Apollo 13 transformed from a moon-bound voyage to a tense survival mission that left millions of Americans biting their nails. The cause of Apollo 13’s aborted mission was a burst oxygen tank that left the crew scrambling to improvise makeshift filters to remove carbon dioxide from the craft’s atmosphere.
The name Apollo 13 was also made famous in more recent times by Ron Howard’s Academy Award winning docudrama Apollo 13 of which maintains a great deal of accuracy but some dramatic license. For example, the words made famous by crewmember Jack Swigert: “Houston, we’ve had a problem” were massaged in the film to promote a dramatic sequence when Commander James Lovell, Jr., portrayed by actor Tom Hanks, states “Houston, we have a problem.” Ultimately, and downgrading the myths of the infamous unlucky number 13, the crew of Apollo 13: James Lovell, Jr., Jack Swigert and Fred Haise safely returned to earth on April 17th amid a sigh of relief that echoed across America.