Space exploration: What happens when things go wrong in space?

Did You Know: Space – What happens when things go wrong in space?

Sometimes things don’t go as planned when astronauts are in space.

However, lots of people back on Earth work with astronauts to help them get through any emergencies, as happened with the Apollo 13 mission…


Apollo 13 was meant to be the third manned mission to land on the moon. The American astronauts on this trip were Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise.

What happened?

On the way to the moon, a spark in an oxygen tank caused an explosion on the spacecraft.

It wouldn’t be safe to land on the moon, so the astronauts had to return home quickly.

Solving problems

There were lots of problems to solve to get the astronauts home safely. Mission control worked hard until they figured out the best ways to keep the crew safe.

Arriving home

Three days after the mission was aborted, or cut short, the crew splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean. They were given a hero’s welcome.

Apollo 13’s journey

After finding the problems with their spacecraft, the crew of Apollo 13 had to act fast. To get back home, they had to use the moon’s gravity to slingshot them safely back to Earth

  1. Apollo 13 was launched on April 11,1970
  2. About 200,000 miles (320,000 km) from Earth, a fire started on the spacecraft and the mission was aborted
  3. Apollo 13 went around the far side of the moon one before heading home
  4. Close to Earth, the crew had to power up the spacecraft
  5. Splashdown! Apollo 13 arrived home safely on April 17, 1970

How do astronauts stay safe in space?

Soyuz spacecraft

The Soyuz spaceship is a Russian craft that takes astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). If they need to leave the ISS in an emergency, astronauts can use it to return to Earth.

This spacecraft is known as a Crew Return Vehicle (CRV).

Launch Escape System

Rockets have a Launch Escape System (LES). If anything goes wrong soon after the rocket’s launch from Earth, the LES engines fire and carry the crew capsule a safe distance away from the rocket.