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The Apollo 13 astronauts, from left: James A. Lovell Jr., commander; Thomas K. Mattingly II, command module pilot; and Fred W. Haise Jr., lunar module pilot, is a special transmission for the Washington Post shown April 4, 1970.

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Ground controllers at Mission control, Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Tex., join in prayer as the television screen flashes the prayer of thanksgiving aboard the USS Iwo Jima after the successful splashdown of the Apollo 13 spacecraft, April 17, 1970. 

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The crew of the Apollo 13 lunar landing mission are shown in their space suits on their way to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Kennedy, Fla., Saturday, April 11, 1970. Flight Commander James A. Lovell Jr., is waving, followed by Lunar Module pilot John L. Swigert Jr., and Command Module pilot Fred W. Haise Jr.

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In this April 11, 1970 file photo, the Saturn rocket carrying the Apollo 13 spacecraft lifts off the launch pad at Cape Kennedy, Fla.

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Florida palms frame the Apollo 13 spacecraft as it lifts from its pad at Cape Kennedy carrying astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and John Swigert to the moon, April 11, 1970. 

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London evening newspapers bannerline the Apollo 13 troubles outlining the battle to bring the astronauts and their crippled spaceship back to Earth from a quarter million miles away. London, April 14, 1970.

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People in Rome look at newspapers April 14, 1970 headlining trouble that developed aboard the Apollo 13 which led to the cancellation of the spacecraft's attempt to land on the moon. 

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Chicago Cubs co-captains Ernie Banks and Ron Santo, right, bow heads as master of ceremonies Milton Berle leads opening-day crowd in prayer for safe return of Apollo 13 astronauts Tuesday, April 14, 1970 in Chicago. Cubs played Philadelphia before a capacity crowd in Chicago. 

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In this April 11, 1970 file photo, Apollo 13 commander James A. Lovell Jr., foreground, speaks during a news conference in Cape Kennedy, Fla. before the spacecraft launched on its ill-fated journey to the moon. At center is astronaut Fred Haise.

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Apollo 13 astronauts Fred W. Haise, James A. Lovell and John L. Swigert, left to right, leave a helicopter to step aboard carrier Iwo Jima in the Pacific ocean after their successful recovery on Friday, April 17, 1970. 

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The television screens in windows of RCA Exhibition Hall on 49th street in Midtown Manhattan are carefully scrutinized by passersby concerned with the safety of the Apollo 13 astronauts near splashdown on the afternoon of April 17, 1970.

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The time is 1:00 p.m. EST, and all eyes are focused on the television screen in Grand Central Station in New York City, April 17, 1970 watching for the safe landing of the Apollo 13 astronauts in the Pacific.

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Astronaut Thomas Stafford, left, and Donald Slayton, Director of Flight Crew Operations, puff on big cigars and applaud as the Apollo 13 made a successful splashdown, April 17, 1970, Houston, Tex. Other members of the Mission Control teams surround the console. 

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Marilyn Lovell is shown with her with children, from left, Susan, Barbara and Jeffrey, as she speaks to the media after her husband Jim Lovell's safe splashdown in Apollo 13 following its aborted lunar landing mission, April 17, 1970.

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James Lovell III, 15-year-old cadet at St. John’s Military Academy at Delafield, Wis., intently watches his father on television at the home of the academy’s commandant, April 17, 1970, in Delafield, Wis. Young Lovell sat tensely throughout the recovery of Apollo 13 command capsule and later broke into a wide smile of relief. 

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Safely aboard the prime recovery ship, USS Iwo Jima, astronauts James Lovell, squatting, and John Swigert, inspect the Apollo 13 command module that carried them to a safe spl ashdown in the South Pacific, Friday, April 17, 1970. The command module was carried to the hanger deck of the Iwo Jima after being hoisted aboard the vessel following the pick up of the three astronauts on Friday.

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Faces reflect the serious side of the Apollo 13 spaceflight as Commander James A. Lovell Jr., told of the experience to crowds that welcomed the crew at Ellington AFB, Houston, Tex., April 19, 1970. On the stand behind Lovell are, left to right: Mrs. Lovell; Mrs. Fred W. Haise Jr.; Fred W. Haise Jr., lunar module pilot; and John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot. 

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Apollo 13 astronauts John Swigert Jr., with his arms upraise and James Lovell ride in parade in their honor, Friday, May 2, 1970 through Chicago’s financial district as confetti streams from the skyscrapters. 

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Confetti pours from the skyscrapers in Chicago’s financial district, May 1, 1970 as Apollo 13 astronauts John Swigert Jr., and James Lovell ride in a motorcade during a parade in their honor. 

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Confetti pours from the skyscrapers in Chicago’s financial district, May 1, 1970 as Apollo 13 astronauts John Swigert Jr., waving left, and James Lovell ride in a motorcade during a parade in their honor.


On April 11, 1970 the ill-fated Apollo 13 crew blasted off from Cape Canaveral for an expected moon landing. But that all changed when an oxygen tank exploded and the crew was forced to return to earth. Here's a look back at the event.