1970: Apollo 13

As a picture of Apollo 13 astronaut James Lovell flashes on a giant television screen from the recovery carrier Iwo Jima, jublilant flight controllers celebrate the safe return of the Apollo 13 crew.

Hollywood rehashed this thrilling space debacle in 1995 with Ron Howard’s film, Apollo 13. If you haven’t seen the movie, here’s the shorthand version: On April 11, 1970, the seventh manned Apollo mission launched from Kennedy Space Center to fly 200,000 miles to the moon to explore the Fra Mauro formation, an intriguing 53-mile-wide crater surrounded by highlands.

Less than 56 hours into the launch, the astronauts heard a loud explosion and thought a meteorite had hit the ship. The source of the bang was a ruptured oxygen tank, which raised havoc for the crew, depleting their oxygen supply, and severely crippling the supply of potable water and heat. Most critical, however, was the need to jury-rig the carbon dioxide removal system, which the astronauts did with help from engineers on the ground. After a harrowing re-entry, Apollo 13 safely splashed down in the South Pacific on April 17.

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