Forty-five years ago, on April 11, 1970, when Apollo 13 was launched into space, manned missions to the moon were just starting to seem like something that the U.S. had a handle on. The space race had been won. There had been no recent disasters. The technology had already been proven. Discussions of NASA missions were as likely to involve budget bickering as they were grand dreams of exploration.
So what happened to Apollo 13 was, TIME noted a few weeks later, when the astronauts on board had safely returned to earth after their calamitous journey, a reminder of the ever-present danger and bravery involved in space flight.