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On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy addressed Congress on the importance of space. He prophetically stated, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” From this moment on, the Apollo Program was launched.

After the Soviet Union beat the United States to the first successful satellite launched into Earth’s orbit, the first man into space, and the first man to spacewalk, it seemed they might reach the moon first too. But after Kennedy’s proclamation, America was ready and set to redeem itself and take back the Space Race. And thus the Apollo program was born.

Unfortunately, disaster struck with Apollo 1. While practicing a routine test, a fire erupted in the main chamber, and the three astronauts aboard -- Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee -- were burned and asphyxiated to death. When mechanical technician, William Medcalf, was finally able to open the hatch to reach the astronauts, he could only choke, “There’s nothing left inside” (Lovell and Kluger 20).

Over the next eighteen months, NASA was investigated and assailed from every angle. Despite this first disaster, America as well as the Apollo Program wanted to forge ahead and make Kennedy’s deadline. After successfully launching several unmanned spacecrafts, Apollo 7 became the first successful U.S. manned spacecraft on October 11, 1968. “After 163 orbits in 10 days . . . the crew of Apollo 7 landed safely back on Earth and the flight was a success” (Pyle 18).

Apollo 8 took off on December 21, 1968. Because the clock was ticking, the crew decided to forgo the Lunar Module (LM), since it was not ready for service: “The only real problem anyone could think of would be if, for some reason as yet unforeseen, the combined Command and Service Modules failed. But that was considered inconceivable, at least until NASA learned differently from Apollo 13” (Pyle 22). Apollo 8 was the first mission to “escape Earth’s gravitational pull” and fall into the Moon’s gravity (Pyle 22). Jim Lovell, later captain of Apollo 13, flew in this mission as well as Gemini VII in 1965.

Apollo 9, launched on March 3, 1969, was the first flight test of the LM and, as such, was, “after Apollo 13, arguably the toughest mission of the entire program” (Pyle 33). Astronaut Jim McDivitt’s job was to master the LM during this flight, a ship that “had some astronauts calling it the ‘tissue paper spacecraft’” because of its extremely thin exterior (Pyle 36). This mission was also a test of the new Apollo spacesuit in a hard vacuum. After 151 orbits in 10 days, the flight ended with success: “The lunar hardware that had been tested exceeded expectations. Now NASA needed just one more simulation before landing on the Moon” (Pyle 36-37).

This final simulation was executed by Apollo 10, which was launched on May 18, 1969. The flight was almost aborted after a firing of the S4B to leave Earth’s orbit caused a severe vibration—“so violent that the three astronauts could barely read their instruments” (Pyle 37). Luckily the vibration ceased when the S4B was shut down, and Apollo 10 entered lunar orbit. The crew practiced descending the LM to the lunar surface, which was successful, but “just as [Thomas P.] Stafford hit the button and dropped the descent stage, the LM spiraled out of control. It took almost 10 seconds to regain control of the craft. [Eugene] Cernan later calculated that they were about two seconds away from smashing into the side of one of the lunar mountains” (Pyle 40). Ultimately, this was the dress rehearsal for entering and returning from lunar orbit, docking and undocking the LM. “Without these missions, Apollo 11 might not have been the staggering success reflected in the history books. And now . . . it was time to go for broke” (Pyle 40).

So, finally we come to the Apollo 11 Mission, flown by Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins. Launch was on July 16, 1969, just in time to fulfill the late President Kennedy’s deadline. What many don’t know is that this mission was almost aborted. With just eight minutes until touchdown on the Moon, a program alarm sounded. The crew continued on but then a more urgent warning: a 1201 alarm sounded. This alarm was more than just a mechanical protest, “it was a threat to quit and leave the astronauts without guidance assistance. It was now a distinct possibility that the mission could be aborted” (Pyle 46). Armstrong took over manual control, and fuel soon became a problem. While looking for a landing site, a call by Aldrin meant that “they had only five percent of their fuel remaining and the craft had to either land in the next 90 seconds or abort. If they attempted to abort at this altitude, the LM would almost certainly crash” (Pyle 48). After a successful touchdown, the camera was taken out and “the first images of a man on another world were fuzzy, black and white and, as it happened, upside down. But it didn’t matter” (Pyle 52). And then the historic words were uttered by Armstrong, “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” In what was called “the most historic telephone call ever made,” President Nixon telephoned the astronauts just after they had put the American flag on the lunar surface and congratulated them. He stated, “for one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one; one in their pride in what you have done, and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth” (Pyle 60).

Just four months after the first Moon landing, Apollo 12 landed on the lunar surface. In contrast to the bumpy and tense Apollo 11 mission, “Pete Conrad, Alan Bean and Richard “Dick” Gordon laughed their way to the Moon” (Pyle 69).

Then it came time for Apollo 13, what many refer to as “NASA’s finest hour.” Along with Captain Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Ken Mattingly were the intended astronauts for the flight. However, because all three were exposed to the measles from one of Haise’s children, Mattingly (being the only one of the three who had never had the disease) was considered infected and bumped from the mission. Rookie pilot John “Jack” Swigert quickly replaced him. As the seventh manned mission to space and third intended to land on the moon, Apollo 13 stirred up nothing more than apathy from the public; for example, public television would not even air their broadcast from space. Yet, the mission forged on.

Apollo 13 was launched on April 11, 1970. On April 13th, 200,000 miles from Earth, there was a sudden and violent explosion and Lovell’s infamous words, “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” were heard loud and clear in mission control. Unfortunately, it had to come to this point for the public to take interest. But, on a positive note, it brought millions across the globe together, praying for the fate of mankind.

The explosion was later found to be from an onboard tank in the Service Module, “causing the crew to lose critical supplies of oxygen, water and power” (Pyle 85). On the ground, flight director Gene Kranz switched the team over to a new mission, returning the crew alive. In an attempt to stop the O2 leak and venting, Capcom directed the crew to close the reactant valve to fuel cell three. When this command was given to the crew, “Lovell, Swigert, and Haise . . . paused in what they were doing. None of the three men had harbored any illusions that their mission was anything but aborted, but to hear it come up to them in the form of this simple, clipped directive, to hear it made official like this, still stopped them cold” (Lovell and Kluger 126). After asking for affirmation numerous times, “Haise turned to Lovell and nodded sadly. “It’s official,” said the astronaut who until just an hour ago was to have been the sixth man on the moon. “It’s over,” said Lovell, who was to have been the fifth (Lovell and Kluger 126).

From this point on the crew and mission control worked tirelessly overcoming obstacle after obstacle to bring these men home. The Lunar Module, previously left behind in Apollo 8, was now to be used as a lifeboat for the astronauts. Instead of entering an orbit around the Moon like originally planned, the crew was to swing behind it, using the Moon’s gravity to slingshot them back to Earth. After this, the crew was to make a mid-course “correction burn” to realign themselves for reentry, shutdown the Odyssey, and move to the LM. Unable to sleep because of the debilitating cold, the crew was faced with a new problem -- the lithium hydroxide filters that made the air breathable were beginning to fail. At this point the crew had used up the last of the LM filters and those from the Command Module did not fit. The engineers in Houston worked out a solution using only the materials in the ship. This task was described as fitting a “round peg in a square hole.” Lovell and Swigert then gathered the supplies and successfully assembled the materials. Out of necessity performing a second course correction, the astronauts were forced to unorthodoxly use the Earth as a reference point.

After a rough but successful second course correction, the crew released the Service Module. This was the first opportunity the astronauts had to see the damage that was done during the explosion. When Lovell finally saw the damage, he shockingly reacted, “And there’s one whole side of that spacecraft missing!” Something noteworthy here is that the other option aside from going behind the Moon was firing the SPS bell, the large rocket engine on the Service Module to turn the ship around and return early. Had mission control been hasty and done so (unaware of this damage), the ship would likely have exploded (Pyle 99). Content with their decision, tensions lightened slightly and the crew bid farewell to Aquarius.

The major test that remained was re-entry. The families, mission control, and the crew themselves were still unsure if the heat shield had cracked during the explosion and would survive the astronomical temperatures of the fiery reentry. When Apollo 13 finally began reentry, they and mission control knew there would be the standard three minutes of lost signal -- a ship had never taken longer than this to re-acquire signal -- if they had successfully reentered Earth’s atmosphere. Those three minutes came and went for Apollo 13. It took 33 seconds longer than normal, what seemed like an eternity, to re-acquire signal. When it finally did, applause filled mission control and the entire world breathed a sigh of relief.

On April 17, 1970, only hours after the command module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, NASA administrator Thomas Paine formed a commission to determine what had caused the explosion in Apollo 13 (Lovell and Kluger 343). Eventually it was discovered that “the accident had its origins in an older Apollo design. Each oxygen tank in the Service Module had a small heater with a thermostat element inside. They had originally operated at 28 volts. NASA later changed this specification to 65 volts, but somehow the tank in Apollo 13 never got updated. When the high voltage ran through it, it shorted, sparked and packed with pure oxygen— exploded” (Pyle 86).

Just eight months after Apollo 13 splashed down, Apollo 14, “equipped with upgraded thermostat switches, shielded wires and a third oxygen tank installed on a separate shelf of its service module” took off for Frau Mauro, the lunar location that Apollo 13 intended to go. The crew successfully touched down and “left footprints in the soil of the foothills where Lovell and Haise would never get to tread” (Lovell and Kluger 352).

Following the Apollo 13 mission, Lovell retired from NASA, Haise went on to fly the space shuttle Enterprise and Swigert prepared for a career in politics. He was elected to the House of Representatives as staff director of the Committee on Science and Technology. A month before his next election in November 1982, at which he was chosen to be part of Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, he was diagnosed with lymphoma: “Three days before his planned inauguration in January, he was dead. Poor Jack, Lovell often thought, things always started out so bright for him -- and then they always turned so dark” (Lovell and Kluger 340).

Regardless of this tragic end for Swigert, on the three men’s return to Honolulu Airport, President Nixon greeted them and called their mission a success, as manned missions to space would now be safer because of the knowledge they have provided. He stated, “never before in the history of man have more people watched together, prayed together and rejoiced together at your safe return than on this occasion. You did not reach the moon. But you reached the hearts of millions of people on earth by what you did” (New York Times).

Print Resources

"As the World Watches." New York Times 17 April 1970: 36.
Written just hours before Apollo 13's return to Earth. Leading up to the pinnacle moment of this event, the article recounts the main events of the journey, building suspense for the uncertain future. "The world is being treated to a rare study in courage," it says. The writer also comments on the effects of the mission here on earth, "shattering any complacency…surrounding the lunar mission" and bringing men and women together over the common concern for mankind. It closes by recognizing the accomplishment of Lovell, Swigert and Haise, regardless of the outcome.
Cole, Michael D. Apollo 13: Space Emergency. Springfield: Enslow Publishers, 1995.
A children's-level reading book. Written in simple and straightforward text, it details the mission from take off to the explosion, with diagrams included for easy understanding. It then moves on to a chapter entitled "No Turning Back" in which the return plan to go around the moon, using the Lunar Module as a life boat, is decided upon. It talks of the final problems of the heat shield, course corrections, and intense cold in the ship endangering the livelihood of both the crew and their equipment. The final chapter is entitled "Lucky Thirteen" and discusses the successful return. This book presents a clear-cut and uncomplicated review of the mission, with diagrams and pictures included for a more comprehensive understanding.
Godwin, Robert. Apollo 13: The NASA Mission Reports. Burlington: Apogee Books, 2000.
Report to Congress. "Putting aside the high drama of the events, the following documents reveal a side of NASA that is often overlooked, the talents of the management and administrators."
Hilliard, Richard. Lucky 13: Survival in Space. Honesdale: Boyds Mills Press, 2008.
A children's book. Hilliard simplifies this incredibly complex event worked on by some of the greatest minds of the time. Taking a different perspective than most, in order to bring this down to a juvenile level, Hilliard begins by relating the veteran astronaut and captain of Apollo 13 to every other boy: "Just like many boys growing up in the late 1930s, Jim Lovell read fantastic stories of space travel published in adventure magazines. He could not have imagined that one day he would be in a battle for survival far away form the planet Earth." Hilliard makes this a true adventure story, allowing children everywhere to imagine themselves on the mission that ultimately proved "that teamwork could overcome nearly impossible odds and that humankind's exploration would continue despite the dangers that would surely lie ahead." Overall, this children's story does an excellent job of replaying the main events in a straightforward fashion, while providing additional, more detailed information on the side of each page, for anyone interested. It also capitalizes on the message of teamwork and determination sent by this mission, perfect to captivate a children's audience.
Kluger, Jeffrey. "Apollo 13 at 40: Houston, We Have a Miracle." Time 17 April 2010.,8599,1982779,00.html
Kluger (also co-author of Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13) reminisces about the improbable safe return. Kluger defends the lack of training for the emergency situation experienced by the astronauts, because one would automatically assume the mission and lives of the astronauts would be lost in such a situation: "it's a little like taking a driving course and practicing what to do if your car hurtles off a cliff. What's the point?" He attributes the astronauts' survival in part to the technological innovation of Mission Control and in part to the "surreal cool of two men: commander Jim Lovell and flight director Gene Kranz. Because Kluger had the intimate experience of writing the book along with Lovell, he offers some very interesting and unknown tidbits from both Lovell and Kranz.
Lewis, Anthony. "The Poetry and Politics of Space." New York Times 20 April 1970: 38.
Lewis opens on a positive note, highlighting the global unity created by the saga of Apollo 13. However magnanimous this achievement was, it was also short lived, forcing Vice President Spiro Agnew to ask the question, "What priority should the United States give to manned space flights?" The viewpoint that prioritizes manned space flights considers astronauts explorers of our day, "opening new ways for all mankind." The viewpoint that does not consider manned space flights a priority instead compares astronauts to mountain climbers, viewing them as individuals who "may add to our scientific knowledge, but their real purpose is not to open new ways for commerce or science but to face a challenge at the outer limit of human imagination and strength." Lewis concludes that a main purpose for manned space flights was the competition with the Soviet Union. Now that that has passed, he feels our top priority should be combating the problems here on earth, like poverty and war, because just as Lovell realized in the sterility and loneliness of space, "earth is the only place we had to go."
Lovell, Jim, and Jeffrey Kluger. Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.
This best-seller is the basis for Ron Howard's award-winning blockbuster film. Mission captain Lovell details America's fifth mission to the moon, which nearly ended in disaster, from a personal and gripping perspective. Most enjoyable about the book is the feeling of being there with the astronauts: the movie "flies by" in 140 minutes, the novel allows you to feel the wait, the isolation, and the suspense of the real mission. We are also given fuller character development of the astronauts, their families, and those at mission control, allowing readers to truly appreciate NASA's finest hour. As the Baltimore Sun states, this book "puts the reader in one of those [Apollo] slingshots, pulls, and lets go. What a moon shot. What a time. What a ride."
Marcus, Paul. "Apollo 13." The Psychoanalytic Review 83.1 (1996): 125-28.
Marcus praises the creative and rebellious side of humanity captured by this mission and this film. The film's "simple message amounts to: Where there is no way, there is a will." The film inspires awe and power in the space program. The most compelling aspect of the film is that it is based on a true story, thus providing more profound symbolism than any fictional film.
"Power Failure Imperils Astronauts." New York Times 14 April 1970: 1, 32.
This article discusses the previous night's evacuation from the Apollo 13 command ship to their "moon-landing craft as a ‘lifeboat' for a fast return to earth." It details the day's news conference and the intended plan for the astronauts; for example, how they will keep the hatch open between the lunar module with two men in it with the remaining astronaut in the command module to monitor systems. The article also comments on the splashdown and return procedures, reiterating the main events of the mission leading up to this point. Characterizing every decision they are forced to make, the article states, "with every step they take, there will be great risks and little margin for error or delay."
Pyle, Rod. Destination Moon: The Apollo Missions in the Astronauts' Own Words. New York: Harper Collins, 2005.
This Smithsonian book provides an intimate and inclusive view of those events leading up to Apollo 13, the actual mission of Apollo 13, those following it, and where we stand in the present day. Through this book we are privy to personal accounts by the astronauts themselves, "both their mission dialogue and retrospective reminiscences." It also includes more than 100 images, some rarely seen. Overall, it provides a detailed and comprehensive look into the entire Apollo Program, giving us insight into how the Apollo 13 mission fit into that program,and what effect it had: "The Apollo Program involved nearly half a million people and over 20,000 companies working together in a harmony unmatched in the twentieth century. . . . The future awaits the brave."
Reynolds, David West. Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon. New York: Harcourt, 2002.
Easy to read, beautifully illustrated, sweeping survey of moon travel from the 18th century through the present, with technical interludes and some reference to popular culture as well.
Schwartz, Harry. "Will Apollo 13 Upstage Moscow's Lenin Centennial?" New York Times 13 April 1970.
Offers an often forgotten and unique perspective on the Apollo 13 mission—prior to when the accident occurred, and when America still thought Apollo 13 would land on the lunar surface. Schwartz almost overconfidently takes this perspective, inquiring if America's Apollo 13 mission will overshadow the Soviet Union's celebrations of Gagarin's Anniversary, Cosmonaut Day, and the 100th anniversary of Lenin's birthday? Schwartz then moves on to discuss the root of the Soviet's unhappiness: the fact that America reached the moon first. He also discusses the two options they now have: reconfigure efforts to reach the moon, or begin a period of cooperation with the United States. While unsure of the choice they will make, he does seem certain that as "Apollo 13 gets nearer to the moon, Soviet propaganda suffers ever new blows from United States lunar exploration capability, and Soviet scientists become increasingly bitter about being shut off from the most exciting new field of science in the last third of the twentieth century. Little does he know, this theory is all about to "blow up," quite literally, in his face.
"Text of President's Welcome and Lovell's Response." New York Times 19 April 1970: 53.
Written two days after splashdown, this article recounts President Nixon's meeting with the astronauts and their welcome home. Nixon refers to his "in space phone call" with Lovell in which Lovell apologized for not completing his mission. Nixon admonishes him of any guilt, calling the mission complete and a success as future manned space missions will be safer thanks to the knowledge they supplied through their mission. He also comments on the mission's ability to bring people together, noting the over 100 messages of good will received from foreign governments and the millions of people on earth reached by what they did. He then bestows the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, on each man. Nixon even comically excused Swigert from his late tax return (for which he requested an extension since he was decidedly out of the country, on the mission's only broadcast): "Don't worry about it. I happen to know the collector." Finally, Lovell is given a chance to speak on behalf of his team. Lovell reflected on seeing Earth while in outer space, commenting that it is the only place to have life, and it is the team of these three men as well as everyone on Earth that brought them home. Lovell ends with, "So, on behalf of the three of us, we're glad to be home and we're glad to be part of America."

See Also

"Apollo's Return: Triumph over Failure." Time 27 April 1970:12-14.

Beyer, Mark. Crisis in Space: Apollo 13. New York: Children's Press, 2002.

Chaikin, Andrew. A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts. New York: Viking, 1994.

Cooper, Henry S. F. Thirteen: The Flight That Failed. New York, Dial Press, 1972.

Graham, Ian, et al. You Wouldn't Want to Be on Apollo 13!: A Mission You'd Rather Not Go On. New York: Franklin Watts, 2003.

Kranz, Gene. Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.

Lemke, Donald B., et al. The Apollo 13 Mission. Mankato: Capstone Press, 2006.

"Post-mortem on Apollo 13." Time 4 May 1970: 82.

Shepard, Alan B., and Donald K. Slayton. Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon. Atlanta: Turner Pub., 1994.

Sullivan, Walter. "Three Came Back as the World Held Its Breath." New York Times 19 April: 4.1.

Zelon, Helen. The Apollo 13 Mission: Surviving an Explosion in Space. New York : PowerKids Press, 2002.

Video/Audio Resources

Apollo 13. History Channel.
The History Channel provides an excellent documentary on the Apollo 13 mission, which, separated into different videos (some of which are annotated here), explains different topical pieces that come together to build a more profound comprehension of the mission. The video topics cover historical context leading up to the mission such as JFK's proclamation to reach the moon by the end of the 1960s, the Space Race, the Apollo 1 fire, and near disaster of Apollo 13. Also included is the transcript of the infamous point in which Houston was alerted to a problem aboard Apollo 13. Overall, this is a very comprehensive documentary that provides an in-depth look at the historical period and how the Apollo program and Apollo 13, specifically, fit into it.
Apollo 13 Emergency Radio Transmission.
On April 13, 1970, James Lovell, Jr., John Swigert, Jr., and Fred Haise, Jr., were en route to the Moon aboard Apollo 13 when disaster struck 200,000 miles from earth. This short video provides the actual audio for the famous line, "Houston, we've got a problem."
Apollo 13: To the Edge and Back (1994). PBS.
For the 25th anniversary of the historic Apollo 13 mission, PBS aired what Jeffrey Kluger called, "perhaps the finest documentary ever produced about the mission." Many veterans, including the astronauts themselves, their families who suffered through it, and members of mission control, were gathered to reminisce and reflect on the life-changing mission. Jack Swigert, who died of cancer in 1982, was the one notable omission. Flight director Gene Kranz, was even set in the "very control room for which moon landings were run, recalling the moment Apollo 13 splashed down -- the cheering, the backslaps, the cigars, the small American flags being waved at the consoles. And then, improbably, he chocked up and couldn't go on" (Kluger). The documentary includes technical but comprehensible explanations of what went wrong in the mission and, as noted, the emotional reactions of those involved twenty-five years later.
Apollo 13: Houston, We've Got a Problem
This video presents an awesome look at actual footage from Mission Control and the spacecraft during Apollo 13. It allows us to witness, first hand, the attitude change from relaxed to chaotic, to despair,finally, triumph. From news offices to churches on Fifth Avenue in New York City and finally Wrigley Field in Chicago, this video also shows enlightening footage of America's reaction and empathy toward the astronauts of Apollo 13. Overall, this video is an unparalleled resource for anyone studying the film and historical event -- it's the real deal!
The Day in History: 04/17/1970 -- Apollo 13 Returns to Earth
This is a short clip from the History Channel that highlights all of the important events that happened on this day in history, April 17, 1970. One of these historic events is the successful splashdown of Apollo 13. This video provides an interesting perspective and window into history as it allows you to see what else was happening on the fateful day.
Engineering Disasters -- Apollos 1 and 13.
"In this video from Modern Marvels, we learn about the Apollo spaceflight program and the engineering disasters that plagued it." The video characterizes the Apollo Program as NASA's response to President Kennedy's challenge to land and return a man on the moon before the decade (the 1960s) was out. The video discusses in depth the two main disasters and largest accomplishment of the Apollo Program: The fire in Apollo 1 in which three astronauts died while training for the first planned mission, Apollo 1, in 1967; Apollo 11, in which two American men were the first to set foot on the lunar surface: and finally the Apollo 13 mission which nearly ended in disaster after an onboard explosion.
For All Mankind (1989)
For All Mankind is directed by Al Reinert, later one of the authors of the Apollo 13 screenplay. Reinert watched all 6,000,000 feet of footage shot during the Apollo missions and picked the best of it to document each mission in the Apollo program. "Reinart focuses on the human aspects of the space flights," says IMDb, "The only voices heard in the film are the voices of the astronauts and mission control. Reinart uses the astronauts' own words from interviews and from the mission footage." The title reflects the humanistic tone that pervades the film and is taken from the plaque still affixed to Apollo 13's lunar module: Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.
From the Earth to the Moon (1998)
Four years after the release of Apollo 13, Tom Hanks moved to co-producing this 12-part HBO miniseries that chronicles the Apollo manned space program. This series is in large part based on Andrew Chaikin's book A Man on the Moon. This series pays close attention to accuracy as well as special effects executed by Ernest D. Farino.
Magnificent Desolation (2005)
Space buff and co-producer, Tom Hanks, narrates this IMAX documentary that compiles the experiences of all twelve astronauts to set foot on the moon. In an attempt to give the audience an idea of what it was like to actually be on the lunar surface, this film includes first-hand impressions and quotations by the astronauts themselves. The oxymoronic title comes from a description of the moon by Edwin ''Buzz'' Aldrin from Apollo 11.
The Space Race.
This video breaks down the highlights of the Space Race. It discusses how the Russian's took the lead, and how this affected the American people: "Many Americans saw Russia as the enemy, and the enemy was winning" ( It includes Kennedy's announcement of his lofty goal, to land the first man on the moon and turn the race around. The successful landing of Apollo 11, followed by The Soviet Union's crash of Luna 15, intended to land on the moon: "the Soviet Union never made another lunar attempt. The Space Race was over. In a come from behind victory, the USA won" ( This video helps to understand the Space Race, the historical context within which Apollo 13 and the entire Apollo program was situated.
Space: JFK's New Frontier.
This video follows the first successful mission, after ten aborted attempts, of an American man orbiting the Earth, Colonel John Glenn. This video patriotically states, "Unlike the Soviet Space Program, there was no news blackout to conceal failure. This was going to be broadcast as it happened" ( It also discusses Kennedy's ability to tap into Americans' unique and profound hope for the future, through the space program. One historian in the video discussed Kennedy's success in doing so, because "He takes our fears and transforms them into hope." The video also includes a recording of Kennedy's phone call congratulating Glenn on his mission. Overall, this video helps us to understand the patriotism, motivation, and American ingenuity that inspired the Apollo program and the aura of the period.
When We Left Earth (2008)
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, NASA worked with the Discovery Channel to create this six-part TV series. The series spans "from the early quest of the Mercury program to put a man in space, to the historic moon landings, through the Soyuz link-up and the first un-tethered space walk by Bruce McCandless; this is how the space age came of age." The series presents footage from the cameras actually on board the spacecrafts to ultimately present a view never seen before.

Online Resources

Apollo 13 Review Board—Chapter 15—Findings, Determinations, and Recommendations.
Following the Apollo 13 mission, NASA underwent an official review by its board to determine the problem that caused the explosion on board. This is the official document of the review board's findings. It states, "After receipt of the Block II oxygen tank specifications from NR, which required the tank heater assembly to operate with 65 V dc GSE power only during tank pressurization, Beech Aircraft did not require their Block I thermostatic switch supplier to make a change in the switch to operate at the higher voltage." This is a helpful resource to determine the technical defectives that caused the near-disaster of Apollo 13.
Astronaut Jim Lovell Speaks At Tom Hanks AFI Life Achievement Award
At Tom Hanks' AFI Life Achievement Award ceremony, Lovell makes a surprise appearance. A known space buff, Hanks is floored by Lovell's appearance and his words. As the two meet eyes, they exchange a salute of respect. Lovell then exchanges words about his experience with Hanks, when he came out to Texas to meet him and prepare for the film. He put him through his own series of "tests" and finally determined his sense of "total commitment, and not only commitment to his performance, but, looking back, a commitment to the reawakening of a national interest in the Apollo missions through this film."
Biographical Data. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
This is the official page of biographical data for astronaut James Lovell,put forth by NASA. It includes personal data, education, special honors, affiliations, experience, NASA experience, business background, special assignment and directorships. This page offers a clear and concise resource of facts on the astronaut that flew in Gemini 7 and commanded ships Gemini 12, Apollo 8, and Apollo 13.
Courtland, Rachel. "Apollo 13: Houston, we've had a problem." New Scientist." 5 January 2011.
Forty years after the successful failure known as Apollo 13, transcripts of the astronauts' conversations on the mission were newly released. This article reveals sections of those transcripts. The juxtaposition of the jovial chatter and small talk with that surrounding the explosion both dramatizes and humanizes the mission, as we are privy to the astronauts' thoughts and conversations as they passed the time millions of miles from the only life they'd ever known.
National Aeronautics and Space Adminsitration, "Apollo 13 Technical Air-to-Ground Voice Transcription." 1970
The speakers are identified by code: CDR--Commander--James A. (Jim) Lovell, Jr.; CM--Command module pilot--John L. Swigert, Jr.; LMP--Lunar module pilot--Fred W. Haise, Jr.; CC--Capsule communicator.
Weitzman, Hal. ""Everything You've Ever Known Is Behind Your Thumb." Slate 2 April 2011.
An intimate look at Apollo 13 Captain Jim Lovell in 2011, now in a stage where he can reflect and comment on both the historic mission and the state of the space program. He was 83 at the time and apparently wanted to give the impression "of a still spry octogenarian." The now nostalgic and veteran astronaut reflects on his experience in the NASA program, humbly stating, "I was only a hero by default. . . . The flights were few and far between. There weren't that many astronauts. The moon flights were so interesting and exciting." "But ultimately he admits the early space flights "made people proud to be American." This article also offers Lovell's opinion on the space program as it stands today, which he generally feels has "lost its way."