The popular phrase “Houston, we have a problem” inevitably accompanies the memory of the failed Apollo 13 lunar mission, whose 50th anniversary is April 11 and will not be able to be celebrated properly because of COVID-19.
NASA has supplied the ceremonies and face-to-face events in commemoration of the launch of the rocket from Cape Canaveral (Florida) with the release of a huge number of photographs, recordings and video images.
The 30-minute special television program, “Apollo 13: Home Safe”, will also premiere this Friday, which contains interviews with the two of the three protagonists of the mission who are still alive and flight directors and engineers of the POT.
Astronomy magazine has advanced to the 50th anniversary of what NASA called “a successful failure”, because although Apollo 13 was not able to reach the Moon, there was no loss of human life, with the publication in its April issue from an interview with mission commander James Lowell, 92.
The veteran astronaut recalls and, in addition to commenting on technical aspects of the mission, talks about how the superstition of attributing bad luck to number 13 materialized on that trip, among many other topics.
It is assumed that “those of us who work for the Government at NASA do not believe in myths like number 13, but it happened. When you review the flight and analyze the mission in its entirety, you see that it was plagued with bad omens and bad luck from the beginning, “says Lowell, who was initially going to take part in the Apollo 14 mission but moved on to the number” going after 12. “
Number 13 also marks the day on the way to the Moon, a short circuit caused an explosion in an oxygen tank of the service module and the failure of the electrical power system.
Lowell, played in the film “Apollo 13” (1995), by Ron Howard, by Tom Hanks, said the famous phrase “Houston, we have a problem” that day, when he communicated to the mission control center, located in that city texana, something was wrong.
Thanks to the plan put in place by NASA controllers and engineers after the landing program was aborted, the three astronauts on the mission, Lowell and the two pilots who were to land, John Swigert Jr., who died in 1982, and Fred Haise Jr, 86, was able to return safely to Earth.
“It was pure delight,” the Apollo 13 commander said of the return home.
The lunar module, which they used as a lifeboat, fell into the Pacific on April 17, five days, 22 hours, and 54 minutes after the launch of the Saturn V rocket from platform 39A of the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.
The center, which on July 20, 2019 celebrated in style the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the first in which a man stepped on the lunar surface, has been closed to the public since March 16, to prevent infections from COVID-19, the new virus that has humanity in check and has already caused more than 97,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University accounting.
For Lowell, the Apollo 13 journey, which had one of his mottos “Ex Luna Scientia” (from the Moon to knowledge), was the fourth of his career as an astronaut, which began in the Gemini program and continued on Apollo.
In Apollo 13 “it was the first time we were really going to explore or discover (the Moon). The first (two), Apollo 11 and Apollo 12, were just machines saying, ‘We can do the job. Here it is.'” Lowell told Astronomy magazine.
Once on the Moon, the mission was to take place at a place known as Fra Mauro, where the Apollo 11 and 12 missions had collected materials. “Unfortunately we were unable to achieve the goal,” said Lowell, who in 1965 was one of the protagonists of the first encounter in the space of two manned ships.
He also participated in the historic Apollo 8 mission in 1968, the first crewed trip to the Moon.
Among other materials released by NASA, there are recordings that have so far been unavailable to the public from conversations between the Apollo 13 crew and the recently restored Apollo Mission Control Center in Houston.
The program “Apollo 13: Home Safe” can be seen on Friday, April 10 at 8:00 p.m. in Miami (00:00 GMT on Saturday) on the NASA television channel and on its social networks and streaming platforms.
Also today through NASA’s Instagram account, you can access “Apollo 13 by the Numbers”, a visual tour of the mission, the second part of which will be released on Saturday the 11th.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the current goal is “to return to the Moon to stay there in a sustainable way” with the Artemis program.
In 2024 NASA plans to send a man and a woman to the moon in the wake of the Apollo program.