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NASA marks the 50th anniversary of the “successful failed” Apollo 13 mission

Today is the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 13 mission that never reached the moon, where Commander Jim Lovell said the phrase, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” NASA calls the mission a “successful failure,” because while an explosion paralyzed the primary spacecraft for two days, Lovell and his crewmates Fred Haise and Jack Swigert returned safely to Earth thanks to the determined ground crew work at Mission Control.

NASA is not planning any personal activities to commemorate the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has released a documentary with archive footage of the mission. Apollo 13: Safe at home includes interviews with Lovell (it starts with saying “it was plagued with bad omens and bad luck from the start …”) and conversations with Haise, NASA flight directors Gene Kranz and Glynn Lunney and engineer Hank Rotter. Swigert died in 1982. NASA has other social media activities also planned.

A website called Apollo 13 in real time, the creation of Ben Feist, a contractor at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, provides transcripts, video and audio recordings of the mission posted at the time they took place 50 years ago, including every word spoken by the astronauts during the mission was spoken. Much of the audio was first digitized for this project.

And if you want to see Ron Howard’s dramatic retelling of the mission (and you should, it’s great for kids), his 1995 movie Apollo 13, starring Tom Hanks as Lovell, is available on Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Google Play and iTunes.