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Teaching Space with Apollo 13
posted by: Melissa | March 11, 2020, 03:09 PM   

This upcoming April marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 13. For those unfamiliar with the flight, or who have the tendency to get the Apollo missions mixed up, Apollo 13 is known for being the flight that almost failed. The crew survived an explosion that caused extensive damage to the shuttle and nearly killed them before they circled the moon and headed back to Earth. Their journey marks the farthest that humans had ever travelled from Earth allowing them to view the far side of the moon. Their story of bravery was memorialized in the 1995 movie starring Tom Hanks


As we approach the 50th anniversary, attention is once again being paid to the flight, making it a wonderful teachable moment. Here are a few things you can incorporate into your lessons:


  • After surviving the explosion, the crew circled the moon. NASA has released an HD video that recreates the moon voyage as seen by the Apollo 13 crew.
  • The Space Center in Houston has released an infographic detailing the makeshift repairs the crew made so they could return to Earth.
  • Ars Technica, the online science and technology magazine, has released a series of short videos on the Apollo missions, including one on Apollo 13.
  • The website Hack the Moon has an article about all the hacks the crew did to the spacecraft to make it back safely. It’s appropriate for most age groups.
  • While the crew was passing the far side of the moon, it was unable to communicate to ground control, leaving NASA unsure of whether the crew lived or died. The Smithsonian has a documentary clip about those tense moments.
  • Katherine Johnson, one of the celebrated “hidden figures,” just recently passed away. This article from Forbes discusses her role in saving the Apollo 13 mission and is a good way to teach both scientific history and honor Women's History Month.


Do you have plans to incorporate the Apollo 13 mission in your lessons?

Share below!

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