The Apollo 13 mission was launched on April 11th, 1970, but only two days later, a technical fault caused the mission to be aborted. The crew shut down the command module of the shuttle, and used the lunar module, or the landing portion of the shuttle, as their journey vehicle back to Earth. The shutting down of the faulty electrical system caused several hardships for the astronauts, such as limited power supply, and shortage of cabin heat and water. The astronauts on the flight, Commander Jim Lovell, command module pilot Jack Swigert, and lunar module pilot Fred Haise showed remarkable composure to steer the spacecraft back to Earth. The profiles of these individuals are shared in detail as follows.
He was the commander of the Apollo 13 mission. Even before this mission he was the 'world's most traveled human', having completed 572 hours in space and a distance of 7 million miles. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on March 25, 1928, Lovell was a safety engineer with the Fighter Squadron 101, at the Naval Air Station in Oceana, Virginia. On his first flight in space, he orbited the earth on board Gemini 7. He also flew in the Gemini 9 and Gemini 12 missions. He was also a part of the backup crew along with Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin for the Apollo 8 mission.
He was actually supposed to lead the Apollo 14 expedition, but switched places with commander Alan Shepard, who was originally leading the Apollo 13 crew. After his return from that 'failed yet successful' mission, he was appointed the deputy director of science and space applications at the Johnson Space Center in 1971. He directed the group of scientists monitoring the moon landings during the final 3 Apollo missions. Presently, he is the chairman of Lovell Communications and an initiative called 'Mission HOME' for encouraging and raising awareness about space. He lives near Chicago with his wife and four children.
He was born on August 30, 1931, in Denver, Colorado. He was interested in flying since his childhood days. In fact, he got his pilot's license at the tender age of 16. Thereafter, he completed his master's degree in aerospace science from Rensselaer Polytechnic in New York, and an MBA degree from Hartford University, Connecticut.
He was among the 19 astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966, for a space training program. Since the earlier projects already had trainee astronauts, Swigert became a part of the support crew. He was a hardworking man, and left nothing to chance. His area of expertise was Apollo command module emergency procedures, an area which would later play a crucial part in their safe return to earth. He served as a support member of the earlier Apollo missions and was a stand-in for Apollo 13. Ken Mattingly, who was originally supposed to commander the flight, had to be replaced because of the possibility of an infection by German measles. Jack Swigert took his place, and was on board for 142 hours and 54 minutes in space.
He was supposed to be a part of the joint US-Soviet mission 'Apollo-Soyuz', but was disqualified for selling his autograph to a German stamp dealer. From 1973 to 1977, he served as the executive director of the Committee on Science and Technology of the US House of Representatives. He made an unsuccessful attempt in 1978 to get into the US Senate as a Senator from his home state of Colorado, but lost the primaries. His next attempt, in 1982, saw him win the Congressional berth but, unfortunately, on the eve of his election he was diagnosed with a malignant tumor. He was operated upon, but the cancer had spread, and he passed away on December 27, 1982, before he was sworn into office.
Haise was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, on November 14, 1933. He was appointed as the lunar module pilot for the Apollo flight, before which he was a research pilot with NASA's Flight Research Center at the Edward Air Force Base, California. Before being assigned a prime role in the Apollo 13 mission, he worked on the development and testing of the Apollo lunar module and its associated systems. He became an expert of the same, and it was this lunar module which served as a 'lifeboat' for their journey back to earth. He suffered a major accident in 1973 when he was flying a replica Japanese World War II plane for the Confederate Air Force, but survived against all odds.
He served as a technical assistant to the Space Shuttle Orbiter project from 1973 to 1976. He resigned from NASA to become the vice president of space programs at Grumman Aerospace Corporation. Presently, he is retired and leads a quiet life in Texas.
Although they were lucky to survive a malfunction of such a great magnitude, it was their brilliance and willpower which brought them back home. Each of the three valiant astronauts were deservedly honored with the President's Medal upon their successful return.