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Apollo 13: Caritas, Veritas, and Actio

By Ms. Watson

Teacher of Grades 2-3

Adopted from The American Patriot's Almanac by John T. E. Cribb and William Bennett

On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13 lifted off from Cape Canaveral, carrying astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert on what was supposed to be the third U.S. mission to the moon.

Fifty-six hours into the fight, an explosion inside a liquid oxygen tank rocked the ship. "Houston, we've had a problem," Swigert reported to Mission Control. At once the spacecraft began to lose power. Lovell looked out a porthole and saw a catastrophe in the making. "We are venting something... into space," he radioed. The ship was losing oxygen used to generate power.

The spacecraft was dying — 200,000 miles from home. To save power in the command module [Odyssey], the astronauts squeezed into the frigid Lunar Module [Aquarius] and used it as a lifeboat. Their best shot at getting home was to loop around the moon and swing back toward Earth. On their current path, they'd miss the planet by 4,000 miles. They fired the Aquarius's engines to put them back on course.

The next three days became a race to solve one problem after another. When carbon dioxide threatened to kill the astronauts, they rigged air scrubbers with tape, plastic, and cardboard. They didn't trust the damaged system of the ship to navigate, so they steered by the sun and Earth. To save coolant water, they drank only six ounces of water a day. As they approached Earth, they climbed back into the Command Module and separated from the rest of the ship. "There's one whole side of that spacecraft missing!" a stunned Lovell reported, looking out a window.

Mission Control feared the capsule's heat shield had been damaged, but on April 17, Apollo 13 splashed down safely in the Pacific just three miles from the Carrier, Iwo Jima. A failed mission had turned into one of NASA's finest hours.

The flight of Apollo 13 provides valuable lessons in leadership, communication, resilience, creative problem-solving, courage, and teamwork when dealing with a crisis. Marking this as an inspirational example of caritas, veritas, and actio.

On a related note, at the Belmont devotional on April 13, Grade 2 and 3 students recited Try, Try Again by William Edward Hickson. Consider reading it here.


This historical thought was delivered by students in 2nd and 3rd grades at devotional on 4/13/23. Each week one class leads the student body in prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, scripture recitation, a meditation, and an historical thought. Family and friends are welcome, Thursdays 8:30-9:05 am.

Belmont is an independent K-12 school in the classical, Christian tradition. In partnership with parents, we invest in students — helping them acquire an education of the highest quality, find joy in life, and become influences for good in the world. If you are interested in receiving updates about Belmont, please subscribe to Exulto here by inserting your email.


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