Apollo 13 crew returned home 46 years ago on April 17

On April 17, 1970 the Apollo 13 crew safely returned to Earth after a failed mission to the moon.

By Kelley Forrester, Larry King Now

Forty-six years ago on April 17, 1970 the Apollo 13 crew safely splashed down to Earth following an explosion during a flight to the moon. 

Apollo 13 crew on April 17, 1970

Image courtesy of NASA.

On April 11, 1970 mission commander James Lovell was launched into space, along with astronauts Fred Haise and John Swigert. More than halfway to the moon and 56 hours later, an oxygen tank exploded. A spark followed by a fire burst oxygen tank number 2 in the spacecraft's Command Service Module causing an explosion. 

The explosion led to the loss of all fuel-cell electricity and depleted the oxygen and water supply. 

Swigert communicated the issue to mission control on land, "Houston, we've had a problem here."

The crew was forced to abort the mission and focus on the return home. All three crew members piled into the Lunar Module, which was only intended to support two astronauts for about 50 hours. It now needed to support all three astronauts for four days while they circled the moon. 

After making their way around the moon, the crew began the long journey back into the Earth's atmosphere. On April 17, Apollo 13 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean near an awaiting recovery team. 

Although the crew never landed on the moon, Apollo 13 was deemed a "successful failure" because of the experience gained from rescuing the crew. 

Astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, looks back on his time in space in this episode of Larry King Now:

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