Apollo 13 The original crew of the Apollo 13 lunar landing mission: (from left) Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., USN, mission commander; Lieutenant Commander Thomas A. Mattingly, Jr., USN, command module pilot (replaced by Jack L. Swigert, Jr., due to an inadvertent German measles exposure shortly before the launch); and Fred W. Hais, Jr., lunar module pilot (USN 1143249).
“Houston, we’ve had a problem,” calmly reported James A. Lovell, mission commander of Apollo 13, after a fire and an explosion in an oxygen tank had crippled the command and service modules. The spacecraft reached 180,000 miles from Earth heading to the moon. For a scheduled third lunar landing. Moreover, using the lunar module’s independent supply of power, oxygen, and propulsion as a “lifeboat,” the three-man crew of Lovell, Jack L. Swigert, Jr., and Fred W. Haise, Jr., were able to survive. Furthermore, as Mission Control in Houston worked feverishly to devise solutions to what became the only mission: to bring the astronauts back to Earth safely, hampered by many unknown variables regarding the severity of the damage.
Unable to “turn around,” the only way home for the astronauts was to continue to the moon and use the propulsion of the lunar module and the moon’s gravity to act as a slingshot back to Earth, a trajectory that took the three astronauts father away from Earth than any man has been before or since. After several harrowing touch-and-go days. Apollo 13 splashed down safely in the South Pacific. Furthermore, over 40 million Americans were glued to their TV sets, hoping and praying. Lastly, the USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) recovered the capsule.
Apollo 13 was the fourth space mission for naval aviator Jim Lovell. He had been aboard the longest-duration Gemini mission (Gemini 7) and the final Gemini mission (Gemini 12,). Furthermore, he had also been the command module pilot for Apollo 8. The first manned space craft to ever leave Earth’s orbit. In addition, and the first to orbit the moon, transmitting an extraordinary Christmas Eve TV broadcast from lunar orbit. Only one other astronaut, naval aviator John W. Young, flew four missions during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs—and walked on the moon on his last mission.
In conclusion, only one astronaut, naval aviator Walter Schirra, Jr., flew missions in each of the three programs. Moreover, pilots who were or had been naval aviators such as Neil Armstrong, the first to walk on the moon. Played a prominent role in the “Race to the Moon”. And, of course, every one of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions was safely recovered by U.S. Navy warships.