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45th Anniversary of Apollo 13 Mission Observed

Astronaut Thomas Stafford, left, and Donald Slayton, Director of Flight Crew Operations, puff on big cigars and applaud as the Apollo 13 made a successful splashdown, April 17, 1970, Houston, Tex.

"Houston, we've had a problem."

Those words were uttered 45 years ago by American astronaut Jack Swigert after an explosion on the Apollo 13 mission to the moon.

The explosion of an oxygen tank on April 13, 1970, when the vessel was nearly 322,000 kilometers from Earth, threatened to strand Swigert and fellow astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise in space forever.

The crew and NASA's Mission Control devised a series of emergency procedures to turn the spacecraft back to Earth. Their efforts ended with a successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on April 17.

To mark the 45th anniversary (April 11 through April 17), The Adler Planetarium near Lovell's home in Chicago opens an exhibit Saturday called, "Mission Moon," which tells the story of America's first steps into space.

Apollo 13 roared into space on April 11, 1970, fully expecting to become the third successful NASA mission to the moon.