Disaster struck just 2 days into the flight when an electrical fault caused a rupture, loss of power and failure of the oxygen tanks, leading to the now infamous line of ‘Houston we have a problem’ being transmitted by command module pilot John L Swigert.
In fact, it was a misquote because his actual words were ‘Houston, we’ve had a problem’ but this inaccuracy stuck fast, and continued to be misquoted in such movies as the 1995 version of Apollo 13, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks.
Luckily for the crew on board and for the US Space program, this disaster turned into a successful failure after much quick thinking and a clever plan to shut the 3 crew in one unit of the craft (Lunar module), powering everything down to the minimum needed to survive the four days till re-entry, before swapping back to the main command capsule Odyssey, and jettisoning the service and lunar modules prior to splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.
Just to throw in a thought for those of you out there with superstitious minds . . . . . . it was the 13th Apollo mission, launched at 13.13 hours (Central Time Zone) and befell an accident on the 13th of the month - coincidence or tempting fate?!
What do you think?