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It has been 45 years since Apollo 13 had a problem

The mission wasn’t exactly plain sailing.

665px-Apollo13_-_SM_after_separation Source: NASA

Houston, we’ve had a problem here.

THAT FAMOUS QUOTE wasn’t quite how it has been repeated ad nauseam for the past four decades.

On April 13, 1970, the Apollo 13 mission to the moon faced problems the likes of which had never been experienced before in space travel, requiring frantic work both in the small spacecraft and at ground control to bring the three astronauts back to Earth alive.

Close to 56 hours into the mission – and just after the crew had completed a live television broadcast – the crew felt a sharp bang and vibration.

Apollo_13_passing_Moon The crew managed to snap a photo of the moon as they passed. Source: NASA

An oxygen tank had blown up, meaning the crew were without their normal supply of electricity, light, and water.

They were also 200,000 miles away from earth.

The escaping gas could be seen from the window of the spacecraft. Warning lights began flashing, and pressure in the cabin began to fall rapidly.

PastedImage-48479 Source: NASA

The three men moved from the command module and piled into the undamaged lunar module – the part that was meant to be used to land on the moon – to use as a lifeboat. They were then able to see the massive damage caused (see first image in this article).

However, they soon encountered a dangerous build-up of carbon dioxide in this smaller part of the craft.

Using help from Houston, they managed to jerry-rig a new filter on the system used in the lunar module to remove the gas using plastic bags, cardboard, and tape.

The crew also had to guide the spacecraft back to Earth without using the normal systems and navigational aides. The craft was instead aligned using the sun and the position of a window.

S70-35610 Source: NASA

The astronauts experienced less than comfortable conditions in the module – limited food supplies, freezing temperatures, and a build-up of condensation – but eventually made their way back to Earth safely.

Despite this catastrophic incident, the mission has been deemed Nasa’s “most successful failure”, as a crew had never before had to be rescued from such dangerous circumstances.

Read: Can you spot the astronaut space-walking in this picture? >

More: Nasa isn’t ruling out ‘methane burps’ as evidence of life on Mars >

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About the author:

Nicky Ryan

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