Apollo 13 crew visits Chicago's Adler Planetarium

Apollo 13 astronauts are shown at Cape Kennedy, Fla., before embarking on their space flight that has turned into a desperate attempt to return home to earth. From left are: Flight Commander Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and John Swigert. Photo taken April 14, 1970.

April 12, 2010 3:50:37 PM PDT
Forty years ago, a failed mission became NASA's finest hour.On Monday, the astronauts and flight directors for the Apollo 13 mission met up at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, which has an exhibit called "Shoot for the Moon," to celebrate a milestone in American space history.

The mission to the moon nearly turned into a disaster when an oxygen tank exploded. For astronaut James Lovell the extent of the problem wasn't immediately apparent.

"There was an oxygen tank going up and it took us a while to find out. When we saw the oxygen explosion we knew we were in deep trouble," said Capt. James Lovell, Apollo 13 astronaut.

The crew spent the next four days in the Lunar Module. To make matters worse, fellow astronaut Fred Haise developed health issues.

"I had a urinary tract infection which the byproduct is chills an fever, similar to having a case of the flu, so you feel pretty lousy, but it does not affect what you have to do," said Fred Haise, Apollo 13 astronaut.

At mission control in Houston, the flight directors were trying to come up with a solution to bring the astronauts home safely. One of the greatest challenges was trying to make a carbon dioxide filter that would fit into the cylinder on the lunar module.

"We had to create a little channel to make the air go through it. We used an old sock and a lot of duct tape," said Gerald Griffin, Apollo 13 Flight Director.

With the world watching, eventually the crew was able to restart the command module and return safely to earth. It was made into a movie.

"Ron howard, when he started said, 'I want you to go tell me if you see anything that's not technically correct, let me know,'" said Griffin.

The Apollo 13 crew and ground control said they would love to see space exploration continue and want to spark an interest in the youth of the country.