“Houston, we’ve had a problem” were the words sent from Apollo 13, which was launched for the moon April 11, 1970. Mission control identified that an oxygen tank had exploded, irreparably damaging the craft.
Thousands prayed in New York City’s Times Square, at Chicago’s Board of Trade, at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and in St. Peter’s Square where the Pope led 50,000 people in prayer for the astronauts’ safe return. President Richard Nixon asked the nation observe a Day of Prayer.
The New York Times reported, April 15, 1970, “Plight of 3 Apollo 13 Crewmen Stirs World Interest”: “In the United States there was an outpouring of prayer. … The Senate and House passed resolutions yesterday asking all Americans to pray, at 9 o’clock Eastern standard time last night, for the safe return of their countrymen … and … urged businesses and communications media to pause … for the prayers at that hour. Special services and masses were called for in thousands of churches and synagogues around the country – at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Thomas Episcopal Church and Temple Emanu-el in New York City … Rabbi Abraham Gross, president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, called on all clergymen to pray for the safe return of Apollo 13. … In Baltimore, Frank Gunter Jr., Maryland chairman of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, asked all residents of the state to observe a minute of silent prayer at 4 P.M. yesterday. … At West Point, N.Y., where the Empire National Bank was holding its stockholders meeting in the Hotel Thayer, the session was closed with a prayer for the astronauts. …”
The New York Times continued, April 15, 1970: ‘Oh, God, I hope they return safely,’ a woman in the streets of Budapest said. … Everywhere, people prayed. In the Vatican, Pope Paul offered prayers for the safe return of the three men. Thousands of people of all faiths flocked to churches in Georgetown, Guyana, to pray. … And in Cheshire County, N.H., in the southwest corner of the state, at noon yesterday, all the church bells pealed.”
TV newsman Walter Cronkite reported: “Perhaps never in human history has the entire world been so united by such a global drama.”
In sub-zero temperature, the crew pieced together an oxygen filter, jump-charged the command module batteries, and manually steered the ship to land in the ocean near a raging hurricane.
On April 19, 1970, President Richard Nixon spoke at Kawaiahao Church, one of the oldest Christian Church in Hawaii: “When we learned of the safe return of our astronauts, I asked that the Nation observe a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving today. …”
Nixon continued: “This event reminded us that in these days of growing materialism, deep down there is still a great religious faith in this Nation. … I think more people prayed last week than perhaps have prayed in many years in this country. … We pray for the assistance of God when … faced with … great potential tragedy.”
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