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April 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission to land on the Moon. The mission, which was the third to try and land on the Moon, launched on April 11, 1970, 9 months after Apollo 11 and 5 months after Apollo 12. Apollo 11, the first mission to land on the Moon, was watched by an estimated 650 million people around the world. For reference, the population of the world was 3.6 billion at the time. By the time Apollo 13 launched, people had grown disinterested in space travel and humans going to the Moon. Many people saw it as routine and people thought that going to the Moon would be a regular occurrence in the near future.

The lack of interest in space travel at the time was evidenced by the fact that none of the American TV networks showed the planned TV broadcast from Apollo 13. The astronauts, Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise, thought they were broadcasting live to the world when in fact only their families and colleagues were able to watch. Approximately six minutes after the end of the TV broadcast, Lunar Module pilot Fred Haise was running tests on the lunar module when the crew heard a “pretty large bang” along with malfunctions in the ship. 26 seconds after the accident, Swigert and Lovell radioed NASA with the now-famous phrase “Houston, we’ve had a problem”.

The crew quickly realised the severity of the problem, one of the oxygen tanks was completely empty and the second tank was slowly losing oxygen. At the same time, Captain Lovell noticed “a gas of some sort” leaking from the ship into space. The crisis worsened as the crew had to transfer to the lunar lander in order to use it as a lifeboat. The only option for NASA and Apollo 13 was to try and help the astronauts survive long enough to make it back to Earth. Apollo 13 had little oxygen, water, power and was travelling towards the Moon with no way of turning right back around to Earth. The only option was to try and travel around the Moon and back to Earth.

Looping around the Moon was just one of many challenges that the astronauts would face. Normally, astronauts would use the flight computer to help guide them around the Moon but the computer wouldn’t work. This meant they had to manually fly the ship, something that is incredibly dangerous and easy to get wrong. This was just one of the many ways in which the crew could have died had they got it wrong. They used the position of the Moon and the sun to guide them and they travelled for over 4 minutes to get on a path around the Moon and back to Earth. Thanks to the skill of the crew, they executed the manoeuvre almost perfectly.

On the way back to Earth, the challenges were far from over. Without heating, due to the batteries being turned off to save power, the temperature in the ship dropped to 3°C. The crew had just 200ml of water each day and the ship was filling with poisonous carbon dioxide. The crew had to build an oxygen filter out of plastic, tape, paper and other items they had available. The crew had to do two more manual manoeuvres when getting close to the Earth in order to fix their position correctly. Any slight error in their position would cause them to miss Earth or die on reentry. They then had to separate the lunar lander, the ship that had kept them alive, from their command module that was designed for their return to Earth.

On April 17, 1970, Apollo 13 returned safely to Earth. The near-disaster had captured the attention of the world once again and in 1995, the movie “Apollo 13” starring Tom Hanks was released. NASA has been celebrating the miraculous recovery of the ship with special websites and information about the mission. Jim Lovell and Fred Haise, the two astronauts who should have walked on the Moon, are still alive today.

Difficult words

Evidenced (v): To show something is true.

Broadcasting (v): For a program to be put on TV or radio.

Approximately (adv): About, not exact.

Radioed (v): To contact someone using a radio.

Looping (v): To go around in a circular motion.

Manually (adv): To do something yourself rather than allowing it to be done by a machine.

Execute (v): To do something, put into effect.

Manoeuvre (n): A move requiring skill.

Reentry (n): To enter again.

Activities

For listening practise, listen to the recorded article here:

British English:

American English:

Match the Synonym!

1. Evidence A. Show a program.
2. Broadcasting B. Circling
3. Approximately C. Do something.
4. Radioed D. Skilled move.
5. Looping E. By radio
6. Manually F. Done by you.
7. Execute G. Prove
8. Manoeuvre H. Come back.
9. Reentry I. About

True or False?

1. Apollo 13 was the first mission to land on the Moon. T / F

2. No TV networks chose to broadcast Apollo 13. T / F

3. In 1970, people had grown disinterested with travel to the Moon. T / F

4. There was no noise to warn the astronauts there was a problem. T / F

5. The “large bang” occurred during the TV broadcast. T / F

6. One of the oxygen tanks had depleted completely. T / F

7.  Captain Lovell noticed some liquid leaking from the ship into space. T / F

8. Apollo 13 was able to immediately turn the ship around and go back to Earth. T / F

9. The astronauts had to manually fly the ship. T / F

10. The crew built an oxygen filter out of materials they had. T / F

Unscramble the sentence!

1. marks / mission / the / April 2020 / 50th anniversary / Apollo 13 / the / of

2. interest / was / The / of / at / evident / the time / in / lack / space travel

3. running / lunar / of / Fred Haise / tests / the / was / module

4. of / quickly / realised / the problem / The / crew / the / severity

5. they / This / the / meant / had / manually / ship / fly / to

Listening and Vocabulary

Listen to the article and fill in the words OR practice vocabulary and fill in the words.

British English:

American English:

Designed Worsened Poisonous
Population Module Mission
Miraculous Tanks Position

April 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 (1)____________ to land on the Moon. The mission, which was the third to try and land on the Moon, launched on April 11, 1970, 9 months after Apollo 11 and 5 months after Apollo 12. Apollo 11, the first mission to land on the Moon, was watched by an estimated 650 million people around the world. For reference, the (2)______________ of the world was 3.6 billion at the time. By the time Apollo 13 launched, people had grown disinterested in space travel and humans going to the Moon. Many people saw it as routine and people thought that going to the Moon would be a regular occurrence in the near future.

The lack of interest in space travel at the time was evidenced by the fact that none of the American TV networks showed the planned TV broadcast from Apollo 13. The astronauts, Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise, thought they were broadcasting live to the world when in fact only their families and colleagues were able to watch. Approximately six minutes after the end of the TV broadcast, Lunar Module pilot Fred Haise was running tests on the lunar (3)____________ when the crew heard a “pretty large bang” along with malfunctions in the ship. 26 seconds after the accident, Swigert and Lovell radioed NASA with the now-famous phrase “Houston, we’ve had a problem”.

The crew quickly realised the severity of the problem, one of the oxygen (4)_________ was completely empty and the second tank was slowly losing oxygen. At the same time, Captain Lovell noticed “a gas of some sort” leaking from the ship into space. The crisis (5)_____________ as the crew had to transfer to the lunar lander in order to use it as a lifeboat. The only option for NASA and Apollo 13 was to try and help the astronauts survive long enough to make it back to Earth. Apollo 13 had little oxygen, water, power and was travelling towards the Moon with no way of turning right back around to Earth. The only option was to try and travel around the Moon and back to Earth.

Looping around the Moon was just one of many challenges that the astronauts would face. Normally, astronauts would use the flight computer to help guide them around the Moon but the computer wouldn’t work. This meant they had to manually fly the ship, something that is incredibly dangerous and easy to get wrong. This was just one of the many ways in which the crew could have died had they got it wrong. They used the (6)___________ of the Moon and the sun to guide them and they travelled for over 4 minutes to get on a path around the Moon and back to Earth. Thanks to the skill of the crew, they executed the manoeuvre almost perfectly.

On the way back to Earth, the challenges were far from over. Without heating, due to the batteries being turned off to save power, the temperature in the ship dropped to 3°C. The crew had just 200ml of water each day and the ship was filling with (7)______________ carbon dioxide. The crew had to build an oxygen filter out of plastic, tape, paper and other items they had available. The crew had to do two more manual manoeuvres when getting close to the Earth in order to fix their position correctly. Any slight error in their position would cause them to miss Earth or die on reentry. They then had to separate the lunar lander, the ship that had kept them alive, from their command module that was (8)_____________ for their return to Earth.

On April 17, 1970, Apollo 13 returned safely to Earth. The near-disaster had captured the attention of the world once again and in 1995, the movie “Apollo 13” starring Tom Hanks was released. NASA has been celebrating the (9)____________ recovery of the ship with special websites and information about the mission. Jim Lovell and Fred Haise, the two astronauts who should have walked on the moon, are still alive today.

Conversation Questions

Take turns speaking with a partner or try to answer on your own:

1. Did you find this article interesting? Why or why not?
2. Did you learn anything new from this article? If so, what?
3. What do you think of this story?
4. Did you know about Apollo 13 before you read this story?
5. Have you seen the Apollo 13 film with Tom Hanks?
6. Have there been any famous disasters that were avoided in your country?
7. What do you think about the Apollo space program?
8. Do you think people would watch if humans went to the Moon again?
9. Have you ever been in a dangerous situation like these astronauts?
10. What do you think about people many years go thinking that going to the Moon would be routine in the future?
11. What technology would you like to see in 30 years?
12. Is space travel still important today?
13. Do you think space travel will ever be the same as air travel today?
14. Would you like to go to space? Why or why not?
15. 4 Apollo missions went to the Moon after Apollo 13, do you think they would have gone if the Apollo 13 astronauts had died?
16. How do you handle stressful situations?
17. Do you think astronauts who are currently on the international space station should stay there because of the coronavirus?
18. Do you like being away from home for a long time?
19. Do you think normal people will ever live in space or on another planet?
20. Is there anything you would like to ask the astronauts of Apollo 13?