O2 TANK EXPLOSION… 40 years ago tonight

40 years ago.

The time of the explosion of the O2 tank:

April 14, 1970, 03:07:53 UTC
April 13, 22:07:53 EST

I’ll be watching the movie Apollo XIII tonight at that time.

40 years ago.

I remember being glued to the TV.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. I understand they used slide rules to bring the astronauts home. Pretty amazing.

  2. ejcmartin says:

    My boys 4&8 love to watch the launch sequence from the movie Apollo 13. My four year-old loves to do the countdown when he is in the swing at the playground. Shortly after “lift off” he usually yells out “we have cleared the tower!” and the “clock is running” from the movie. Recently he was pretend to do a lift off and said “get ready for a little choke, fellas” (not jolt as in the movie). He explained to my wife that “they ate too many french fries in space and they might choke.”
    It was quite an amazing feat. Glad to hear recently that a group of Canadians at University of Toronto were thanked for their calculations 40 years ago.

  3. drwob says:

    Father, if you haven’t read it, Jim Lovell’s book “Lost Moon” (upon which the movie Apollo 13 was partially based) is a must-read.

  4. ghp95134 says:

    From the moon, knowledge? I’ll see if the gift shop carries that patch.


  5. deborah-anne says:

    drwob- Read it, loved it and you are right–a must-read!

  6. What an amazing story this was!

  7. RichR says:


    In a commentary on the movie, Jim Lovell said that they didn’t really use slide rules like they showed. NASA had basic computers that did the trajectory computations for them. The particular scene that showed slide rules really only involved basic addition – something that required no slide rules at all.

    Lovell wrote a great book on this event in NASA history. I’ve read it twice. It’s riveting. A great techno-read. It’s called “Lost Moon”.

    If you like Apollo XIII, you’ll love “In the Shadow of the Moon.” It’s also by Ron Howard, but focuses on the emotional and patriotic aspects of manned space flight. The music score is spectacular, and Mike Collin’s narration is the best I’ve ever seen on a space documentary.

  8. RichR says:

    Yeah, here’s that book:

    Lost Moon

  9. Rich: I like the slide rules.

  10. Rich, the computers of 40 years ago couldn’t have been much more powerful than a slide rule!

  11. California Girl 21 says:

    One of my favorite filk songs (no, that’s not a typo), is “The Ballad of Apollo 13”, words by William Warren, to the tune of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. Lyrics can be found here:


    When I was in fifth grade, I failed a math test because the teacher had rolled an old black-and- white TV set into the classroom, so we could watch a splashdown. (I don’t know why she thought we would ignore the TV and concentrate on the test….) Anyway, I only figured out a couple of years ago that that was in the spring of 1970, and therefore, probably Apollo 13. That would explain the TV–back in those days, we NEVER had TV in the classroom (unlike now).

  12. bookworm says:

    The Adler Planetarium in Chicago has special events all this month commemorating Apollo 13. Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Gene Kranz themselves attended one of them a few days ago.

    Do the news bulletins by ABC’s Jules Bergman in the movie “Apollo 13” bring back memories too?

  13. bookworm says:

    In other news… Lovell, Neil Armstrong, and Eugene Cernan (the last man on the moon, with Apollo 17) have signed an open letter sharply critical of Pres. Obama’s decision to scrap future moon missions:


    While I’m not a space expert or even a space geek, I HAVE often wondered why on earth (pardon the pun) we’ve never gone back to the moon, or established some kind of permanent facility there like a Hubble-type telescope or other observing station.

  14. chironomo says:

    I understand they used slide rules to bring the astronauts home. Pretty amazing

    My father was an engineer for Honeywell Systems which designed and monitored the thermostat and air control systems aboard these ships.
    He was not involved in the Apollo XIII mission but he had this amazing slide-rule that was about 1 1/2 feet long and had 4 different moving slides…made of wood and ivory inlay with etched glass slide indicator. These were serious pieces of equipment for their time.

  15. chcrix says:

    I have all the old mission patches: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab.

    “Ex Luna Scientia” is IMO the classiest looking of them all. Too bad the mission did not succeed.

    I’m sure that some of those engineers were running calculations on their slide rules. 1970 was just about the time that I started to see $100 calculators become visible on campus.

    If it is still there (I assume it is) it is worth taking the Cape Canaveral tour that shows the original block house for the Mercury missions. Looks like something you’d put up in a back yard. The whole early space program could be run with slide rules and newtonian physics.

  16. RuariJM says:

    I remember the excitement and tension, too.

    But spare a moment to remember January 27, 1967 – Grissom, White & Chafee – also. I recall being shocked by that tragedy.

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