Today, April 17, in History

Apollo 13 returns to Earth, 1970
AMERICAN REVOLUTION
Colbert launches raid on Fort Carlos, Arkansas, 1783
AUTOMOTIVE
Ford Mustang debuts at World’s Fair, 1964
CIVIL WAR
Battle of Plymouth, North Carolina, begins, 1864
COLD WAR
The Bay of Pigs invasion begins, 1961
CRIME
A single horsehair uncovers a murderer, 1936
DISASTER
Volcanic eruption kills 80,000, 1815
GENERAL INTEREST
Benjamin Franklin dies, 1790
Yugoslavia surrenders, 1941
Architect of Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring resigns, 1969
HOLLYWOOD
General Hospital airs 10,000th episode, 2002
LITERARY
Isak Dinesen is born, 1885
MUSIC
Eddie Cochran dies, and Gene Vincent is injured, in a UK car accident, 1960
OLD WEST
Life of Billy the Kid arrives at Library of Congress, 1882
PRESIDENTIAL
JFK waits for word on the Bay of Pigs invasion, 1961
SPORTS
Mike Schmidt hits four consecutive homers, 1976
VIETNAM WAR
First antiwar protest of the year is conducted, 1972
Cambodia falls to the Khmer Rouge, 1975
WORLD WAR I
Second Battle of Gaza, 1917
WORLD WAR II
The Yugoslav army surrenders, 1941
General Henri Giraud makes his great escape, 1942
Americans seize 1,100 tons of uranium, 1945

With the world anxiously watching, Apollo 13, a U.S. lunar spacecraft that suffered a severe malfunction on its journey to the moon, safely returns to Earth.

On April 11, the third manned lunar landing mission was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying astronauts James A. Lovell, John L. Swigert, and Fred W. Haise. The mission was headed for a landing on the Fra Mauro highlands of the moon. However, two days into the mission, disaster struck 200,000 miles from Earth when oxygen tank No. 2 blew up in the spacecraft. Swigert reported to mission control on Earth, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here,” and it was discovered that the normal supply of oxygen, electricity, light, and water had been disrupted. The landing mission was aborted, and the astronauts and controllers on Earth scrambled to come up with emergency procedures. The crippled spacecraft continued to the moon, circled it, and began a long, cold journey back to Earth.

The astronauts and mission control were faced with enormous logistical problems in stabilizing the spacecraft and its air supply, as well as providing enough energy to the damaged fuel cells to allow successful reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Navigation was another problem, and Apollo 13‘s course was repeatedly corrected with dramatic and untested maneuvers. On April 17, tragedy turned to triumph as the Apollo 13 astronauts touched down safely in the Pacific Ocean.

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