In 1961, President John F. Kennedy set a challenge before the American people: to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade: "Now is the time to take longer strides — time for a great new American enterprise — time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth."

While many American citizens were caught up in the adventure of the space program, others saw it as yet another example of competition with Russia who had a satellite orbit the Earth before the United States did. Some thought allowing Russia to get ahead in space was the moral equivalent of war. Or as columnist George Will put it: "Space is primarily about politics, in a grand sense. ... It is about defining and shaping the nation's spirit and confronting its enemies."

The U.S. put a man on the moon in 1969, and other impressive space flights followed. Then in April 1970, Apollo 13 captured the public's imagination for new reasons. An explosion crippled the spacecraft and it was not at all certain that the crew could make it back to Earth. Over the next days they became inspiring models of teamwork, patience, and resilience. The country set out to conquer outer space and learned instead about our inner selves.

To Name This Day:


A short but telling Timeline puts the Apollo 13 mission in perspective: "The Apollo 13 mission was intended as a lunar landing. An explosion in one of the oxygen tanks required mission commanders to cut the mission short."


Apollo 13 vividly chronicles the most dramatic space flight in history. Director Ron Howard hits all the emotional high spots in this pulse-pounding drama about the first critical experiment in space rescue. Apollo 13 reminds us of the dangers faced by astronauts and the courage needed to activate grace under pressure.

Spiritual Practices

Besides its scientific achievements and historical significance, Apollo 13 is example of what we can all learn from the failures in our lives and how we can respond with resilience. Here are two practices to honor the crew of Apollo 13 on this anniversary by following their examples.