Fifty years ago, on April 11, 1970, the Apollo 13 mission launched from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. Like Apollo 11 and Apollo 12, the goal of the mission was to land on the Moon. However astronauts Jim Lovell, John Swigert, and Fred Haise would face a nearly fatal issue with their capsule. Just two days into the mission, the crew initiated a routine stirring of one of the oxygen tanks. Then an explosion occurred, causing a disruption to the life support systems. As a result the entire three-person crew had to move into the Lunar Module, which was only engineered to support the two astronauts that were supposed to land on the Moon. NASA then quickly improvised a system that would support all three crew members for four days–the time it would take to loop around the Moon and get back to Earth.

It was this incident that prompted the now famous line, “Houston, we have a problem.” Luckily, thanks to NASA’s ingenuity, and unflappability from the crew, all three safely made it back to Earth on April 17, 1970. This week, in honor of Apollo 13’s 50th anniversary, we will travel alongside the crew and see the mission from their perspective.

Before astronauts leave Earth they practice their Extra Vehicular Activity or EVA’s and rock collection activities in locations around the country. Here, astronaut Fred Haise, the Apollo 13 lunar pilot, is using an Apollo Lunar Surface drill.Photograph: NASA
While Apollo 13 flew behind the Moon they captured this photo of Tsiolkovsky crater. Other smaller impact craters are visible too, revealing the complex surface texture of our rocky satellite.Photograph: NASA
This view was taken from inside the capsule as the crew circled the Moon. While beautiful, images like this are tinged with sadness, as both Jim Lovel and Rusty Siwgart looked down at a surface they’d never visit.Photograph: NASA
Prior to re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, the crew jettisoned the capsule and used the lunar module as a lifeboat. Then they took a photo of the explosion site and the subsequent damage done to the cells. If you look towards the right where components are exposed, you can see the area that was damaged.Photograph: NASA
The crew took this spectacular image of the Earth while returning from the Moon. You can still make out the Southern United States, Baja and part of Mexico.Photograph: NASA
After two intense days of what you might call extreme work-arounds, all three crew members of Apollo 13 landed safely back on Earth. This is their capsule and parachutes touching down in the South Pacific.Photograph: NASA

Head over here to look at more space photos.

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