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Apolo 13

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"A 'successful failure' describes exactly what 13 was - because it was a failure in its initial mission -- nothing had really been accomplished," Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13 told Reuters Television in an exclusive interview.
But he claimed the mission, which had taken hold the world in April 1970, as "a great success in the ability of people to take an almost certain catastrophe and turn it into a successful recovery."
At the time of the oxygen-tank explosion two days into the mission, Lovell, Haise and fellow astronaut Jack Swigert were not fully aware of the seriousness of their situation.
"Well, when the explosion occurred and we sort of found out and assessed on our own that we weren't going to land on the moon, the first thoughts were one of disappointment," said Lovell. "We didn't realize the significance or the danger."
But soon Lovell realized that so much of the spacecraft was totally useless and he spoke to mission control at the Johnson Space Center in Texas those now-famous words: "Houston, we've had a problem."
"The two fuel cells, or the three fuel cells, failed," Lovell said. "The two oxygen tanks failed. We lost communication. We lost the use of our computer for a while. And consequently we had never really practiced for that."
For five days, the crew of Apollo 13 and mission specialists on the ground dealt with problem upon problem, shorting of food and water, dealing with a loss of heat and even using the Lunar Module as a so-called "life boat" during the return trip to Earth.
"We always were able to solve a crisis as it came up someway, jury-rigging, or doing something to keep our spacecraft going, and finally for a safe landing," Lovell said.
The Apollo 13 crisis facinated the nation.
Large crowds gathered at New York's Grand Central Station to watch the astronauts' successful landing in the Pacific and the hero's welcome for Lovell, Swigert and Haise aboard the U.S.S. Iwo Jima recovery ship.

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