Lift-off for the Apollo 13 mission came on April 11, 1970, at 13:13 Central Standard Time. There was a small hiccup during the launch as the centre engine in the second stage had to be shut down early because of a malfunction known as ‘pogo oscillation’. Automatic cut-offs stopped the problem before it could do any damage, and in any event, the remaining engines burned longer, and the vehicle continued to a successful orbit.
Such a problem was hardly unusual. Given the complexity and inherent risk of any space mission, it would have been far more notable had the flight gone off without a hitch. Solving problems was all in a day’s work for NASA’s experienced Mission Control team, but what happenenext tested their capabilities and processes to the hilt.