The launch is said to have gone off without a hitch, and the actual trip to Apollo 13 to the moon’s orbit was uneventful. However, that all changed when the oxygen fuel tank on board the Odyssey command module exploded – putting the entire mission at risk, as well as the lives of the astronauts.
The fun, and all the amazing ideas at NASA down in Houston, now had to bring space enthusiasts home. In space, the pilots on board the Odyssey had to escape into the Aquarius landing stage and shut down the command section to save fuel and power.
During this period, condensation and the rapid decline in wealth became a constant concern. In the interview, Mattingly noted that he had a blank check to help get the astronauts home as soon as possible, since he had no specific job after being replaced. His journey of several thousand hours proved invaluable.
With the rest of the crew on the ground, Mattingly helped come up with new ways to set up a command center with very few supplies, and prevent crew members from dying of carbon dioxide buildup on the way home. After a harrowing journey around the moon, the mission’s “Failed Failure” ended after the space capsule was successfully shot down over the Pacific Ocean on April 17, 1970 – the three astronauts were recovered by the USS Iwo Jima.
During the successful Apollo 16 mission that began on April 16, 1972, Mattingly commanded the spacecraft that orbited the moon, where he used cameras and other sensors to record video and take pictures of the lunar surface.