Apollo 13 was the seventh manned mission in the Apollo space program and the third intended to land on the Moon. The craft was launched on April 11, 1970, at 14:13 EST (19:13 UTC) from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the Service Module (SM) upon which the Command Module (CM) had depended. Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water, and the critical need to make makeshift repairs to the carbon dioxide removal system, the crew returned safely to Earth on April 17, 1970, six days after launch.
The flight passed the far side of the Moon at an altitude of 254 kilometers (137 nautical miles) above the lunar surface, and 400,171 km (248,655 mi) from Earth, a spaceflight record marking the farthest humans have ever traveled from Earth. The mission was commanded by James A. Lovell with John L. "Jack" Swigert as Command Module Pilot and Fred W. Haise as Lunar Module Pilot. Swigert was a late replacement for the original CM pilot Ken Mattingly, who was grounded by the flight surgeon after exposure to German measles.
The story of the Apollo 13 mission has been dramatized multiple times, most notably in the 1995 film Apollo 13.
According to the standard crew rotation in place during the Apollo program, the prime crew for Apollo 13 would have been the backup crew for Apollo 10 with Mercury and Gemini veteran L. Gordon Cooper in command. That crew was composed of
Deke Slayton, NASA's Director of Flight Crew Operations, never intended to rotate Cooper and Eisele to another mission, as both were out of favor with NASA management for various reasons (Cooper for his lax attitude towards training, and Eisele for incidents aboard Apollo 7 and an extra-marital affair). He assigned them to the backup crew simply because of a lack of flight-qualified manpower in the Astronaut Office at the time the assignment needed to be made. Slayton felt Cooper had no more than a very small chance of receiving the Apollo 13 command, if he did an outstanding job with the assignment, which he did not. Despite Eisele's issues with management, Slayton always intended to assign him to a future Apollo Applications Program mission rather than a lunar mission, but this program was eventually cut down to only the Skylab component.