Fifty years ago today, on April 17, 1970, the Apollo 13 spacecraft returned safely to Earth after its loop around the far side of the moon. Apollo 13 had been meant to land two astronauts on the moon. But an oxygen tank explosion two days into the journey imperiled the mission and the astronauts’ lives. Read more: It’s been 50 years since Apollo 13’s safe return to Earth
The explosion took place not long before the astronauts reached the moon. Mission Control in Houston decided it had no choice but to send the men around the moon’s far side, in order to set them on a path that would carry them back to Earth. This video uses data gathered from a robotic spacecraft now orbiting the moon – NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter – to recreate some of the stunning views of the moon that the Apollo 13 astronauts saw on their somber passage around the moon’s far side.
These visualizations, in 4K resolution, depict many different views of the lunar surface, starting with earthset and sunrise and concluding with the time Apollo 13 reestablished radio contact with Mission Control. Also depicted is the path of the free return trajectory around the moon, and a continuous view of the moon throughout that path.
All views have been sped up for timing purposes; they are not shown in real-time.
Bottom line: Video re-creates moon views seen by astronauts in the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission – 50 years ago – in April 1970.
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