Near Disaster Of the Apollo Flight Program
Apr. 11-17, 1970: The flight of Apollo 13 was one of the near disasters of the Apollo flight program. At 56 hours into the flight, an oxygen tank in the Apollo service module ruptured and damaged several of the power, electrical, and life support systems. People throughout the world watched and waited and hoped as NASA personnel on the ground and the crew, well on their way to the Moon and with no way of returning until they went around it, worked together to find a way safely home.
While NASA engineers quickly determined that sufficient air, water, and electricity did not exist in the Apollo capsule to sustain the three astronauts until they could return to Earth, they found that the Lunar Module a self contained spacecraft unaffected by the accident could be used as a "lifeboat" to provide austere life support for the return trip. It was a close-run thing, but the crew returned safely on April 17, 1970. The near disaster served several important purposes for the civil space program especially prompting reconsideration of the propriety of the whole effort while also solidifying in the popular mind NASA's technological genius.
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