Apollo 13

The Apollo 13 space flight is renown for the words, “Houston we have a problem.” transmitted from the spacecraft to mission control.

The routine of the space flight less than a year after John Glenn had set foot on the moon was shattered by these words. The stranded flight crew, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert fight a desperate battle to survive while the ground crew at mission control race against the time and the odds to bring them home

Another quote attributed to Lovell arises during the film when an earlier interview is replayed as part of the extensive media coverage of the stricken space flight.

In the film the role of Commander Jim Lovell is played by Tom Hanks.

The interviewer probes and invites Lovell to recall any incidents in his notable career where he was ever scared. Lovell recalls instances of flame-outs wondering whether the engine would fire up again concluding that generally things worked out.

The interviewer probes a little further asking whether there was a specific instance in an aircraft emergency where Lovell can recall fear.

Lovell responds with the story of a flight over the Sea of Japan in a banshee at night in combat conditions so there was no running lights on the aircraft carrier. His radar was jammed and the homing signal gone because someone in Japan was using the same frequency.

Looking down he can only see the big black ocean so he flips on his map light and suddenly, zap, everything shorts out, cockpits lights and instruments. He doesn’t know his altitude short out and low on fuel he contemplates ditching the plane. And in the darkness he sees this green trail, like a giant carpet laid out beneath him leading him home. It was the algae, the florescent stuff lighting up that gets churned up in the wake of a big ship.

“If my cockpit lights hadn’t shorted there’s no way I would have known.”

“You never know what events will transpire to get you home.”


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