A Look Back 44 Years After The Apollo 13 Mission

Thanks in part to Ron Howard’s space odyssey movie, Apollo 13, several generations are very aware of what happened in one of the most incredible survival stories in NASA’s history, when the 1970 mission went terribly wrong and changed from an obscure event to one that captured the attention of millions, who were glued to their television sets for days.

Swigert, 38, was originally the back-up command module pilot, but was added as part of the crew just 48-hours before Apollo 13 blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center, when Ken Mattingly was inadvertently exposed to the German measles and NASA scratched him off the voyage, despite Captain Lovell’s protests.

The veteran Lovell, 42, had 572 spaceflight hours of experience according to Space.com, and had participated in three missions including Apollo 8, which was the first to circle the moon, plus two other Gemini missions.

Lovell had been in line for the Apollo 14 but was bumped up to Apollo 13, and the German measles that Mattingly was exposed to that took him off Apollo 13 never materialized, but he became an integral part of the Mission Control team working to get the three men back.

The spacecraft was actually two separate modules, the orbiter called the Odyssey, and the lander named Aquarius. On April 13, 1970, while the crew was about 200,000 miles from the Earth, a mission control staff detected a low-pressure warning signal on a hydrogen tank in the Odyssey, and when Swigert flipped the switch to see if it would reset, disaster struck as the whole aircraft shook, taking the crew by surprise.