(Above) President Richard M. Nixon and the Apollo 13 crew salute U.S. flag during the post-mission ceremonies at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. Earlier, the astronauts John Swigert, Jim Lovell and Fred W. Haise were presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the Chief Executive.
Apollo 13, launched on April 11, 1970, was NASA’s third manned mission to the moon. Two day later on April 13 while the mission was en route to the moon, a fault in the electrical system of one of the Service Module’s oxygen tanks produced an explosion that caused both oxygen tanks to fail and also led to a loss of electrical power. The command module remained functional on its own batteries and oxygen tank, but these were usable only during the last hours of the mission. The crew shut down the Command Module and used the Lunar Module as a “lifeboat” during the return trip to earth. Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, and a shortage of potable water, the crew returned to Earth, and the mission was termed a “successful failure.”