Voices from the Moon

What it was like, in the astronauts’ own words.

Jim Lovell, Apollo 13 Commander

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(NASA)

And of course, people often say, “Did you take a suicide pill?” or something like that. You didn’t [need] those. All you had to do was crank open the little valve to the hatch there…open up the little vent valve….Never would’ve thought about it [on Apollo 13] until all hope was lost. And then our idea was, if all hope was lost, if we went by the Earth—say we missed the Earth, and we were on an orbit about the sun, if we had exceeded the escape velocity….My idea was to hold off, you know, as long as we had options, as long as we could stand it, send back data….We probably would have been farther out than anybody. And then, you know, then we would decide, you know, what to do….Maybe we would have all committed suicide by opening up the vent valve. And that would have been the end of the deal.

(Photo: Lovell inside the lunar module Aquarius.)

About Andrew Chaikin

Andrew Chaikin (andrewchaikin.com) is the author of A Man on the Moon, A Passion for Mars, and other books on space exploration. He has been an adviser to NASA on space policy.

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