Apollo 13 Disaster Unfolds In Real Time In These Archival Videos

By Nick Venable | Published

There’s a very good chance you’re familiar with the nearly tragic events surrounding NASA’s famed Apollo 13 mission, and a slightly lesser chance you’ve watched Ron Howard’s solid (if dramatically overbearing) feature film of the same name, in which an AIDS-ridden Tom Hanks stoically saves the day with a volleyball named Wilson. (It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, so I may have fudged the details.) In any case, there’s no possible way Hollywood could have properly conveyed the severity of the events, regardless of their sound intentions. So now we have the video above, called “As It Happened,” which is the latest in a line of videos on the fabulous lunarmodule5 YouTube page, where the entire Apollo 13 mission, from launch to splashdown, is being archived for easy public consumption. Well, easy assuming you don’t easily freak out listening to would-be disasters as they’re happening.

Grab your earphones, as one speaker will be outputting the radio telecommunication between the Apollo 13 crew and ground control in Houston, and in the other speaker you’ll hear the conversation between Houston and the flight control team. Oddly enough, you won’t hear anybody rattling off a string of obscenities or begging for the help of the Aztec moon god Tecciztecatl to keep them safe. These guys were all true professionals.

The visuals are another wonderful aspect. There’s a digital version of the ship seen in one corner with an instrument panel in another. But the bottom windows feature both ground control crews and footage from inside the spacecraft. Plus, we also get TV footage from the 24 hours following the events. Not everything is timed perfectly to the audio or anything, but that’s hardly a problem.

And if hearing the words “Houston, we’ve had a problem” isn’t enough for you, here is the full audio taken during the manual burn portion of the mission. Sure, it doesn’t seem quite as exciting as it does in the movies, but this actually happened, and Commander Jim Lovell, Command Pilot Jack Swigert, and Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise were in no way guaranteed to have a happy ending the way most films do. This is about bravery and meticulous attention to detail, without a sweeping score to remind you where your emotions are supposed to be.

If this mission has taught us anything, it’s “always have a Plan B.” Also, make sure you’re wearing clean space underwear. And now for some of that sweeping score to remind me where my emotions are supposed to be.