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The Lost Tapes

Sector 4 held the damaged oxygen tank. At about 56 hours into the flight of Apollo 13, Jack Swigert was instructed to "stir the tanks," or agitate the super-cold liquid oxygen.


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Moments later, oxygen tank 2 exploded. Photos taken near the end of the flight reveal the extent of the damage.

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With the command module losing power fast, the astronauts had to move into the lunar module, or LM, to use it as a lifeboat. Designed for two, the LM's cabin was a tight fit for three people, with Swigert keeping mostly to the small section at the rear of the cabin. The LM did not have enough carbon-dioxide-scrubbing chemical canisters to keep the air breathable for three men all the way back to Earth. The astronauts had to build a crude adapter using spare parts on board, to make use of canisters meant for the command module.

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At the time of the accident, Apollo 13 was on a path that would cause it to miss Earth by 2, miles 4, kilometers. The near-disaster of Apollo 13 was a stunning reminder of the perils of human spaceflight and how NASA, through ingenuity and perseverance, managed to overcome the incident and save the mission's three-man crew.

Good night. Swigert saw a warning light accompanying the explosion, at which time he famously said, "Houston, we've had a problem here. Ground controllers in Houston faced the formidable task of writing and simulation testing completely new procedures before being passed up to the crew. The plan became to swing around the moon, achieving a free-return trajectory toward Earth.

Apollo 13 Accident - Flight Director Loop Part 1

Based on the flight controllers' calculations made on Earth, Lovell had to adjust the course twice by manually controlling the Lunar Module's thrusters and engine, using his watch for timing. Working closely with NASA engineers, the crew found a solution to numerous dangerous problems along the way, ridding the lunar module of carbon dioxide, transferring water from the life support systems into the coolant systems to maintain temperatures, and recharging the command service module's re-entry batteries from the lunar module's electrical system.

Power Failure Imperils Astronauts; Apollo Will Head Back to the Earth

Four hours before splashing down on Earth, the crew separated the severely damaged command module from the lunar module, and April 17, , Apollo 13 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean near Samoa. The Apollo 13 mission could have been a massive tragedy. However, despite the disaster that befell the mission, thanks to the brave and intelligent efforts of the crew and personnel on duty, all made it back home safely.

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Apollo 13 Facts: The Historic Mission That Never Made It to the Moon

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