"Houston, we've had a problem here."
The famed, understated words were uttered in April 1970 —at least in the Hollywood version — by astronaut John L. Swigert upon hearing the explosion of oxygen tank No. 2 on the spacecraft.
An investigation showed that the normal supply of oxygen, electricity, light, and water had been disrupted. A scheduled moon landing was aborted, and the astronauts and controllers on Earth scrambled to come up with emergency procedures.
The real threat was the loss of power.
The crippled spacecraft continued to the moon, circled it, and began a long, cold journey back to Earth.
Along the way, NASA gave its first press conference:
The astronauts and mission control were faced with enormous logistical problems in stabilizing the spacecraft and its air supply, as well as providing enough energy to the damaged fuel cells to allow successful reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Navigation was another problem, and Apollo 13‘s course was repeatedly corrected with dramatic and untested maneuvers.
Finally, the astronauts figured out that they had to fire the lunar module’s big landing engine several times to get back on the right trajectory.
On April 17, the potential tragedy turned to triumph as the Apollo 13 astronauts touched down safely in the Pacific Ocean.
Watch the re-entry as broadcast live on television:
The astronauts became instant heroes.
A Hollywood movie was made in 1995, starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, and Ed Harris.