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“Houston, We’ve Had A Problem…” A First-Hand Account Of The Apollo 13 Mission 6

Every day on Art&Seek, we’re talking to people who have tips for virtual art experiences.  Share yours with us on Facebook, Instagram, or @artandseek on Twitter. Click above to listen to former KERA reporter BJ Austin, share her tip with KERA’s Nilufer Arsala. 

The crew members of the Apollo 13 mission, (from left) astronauts Fred W. Haise Jr., lunar module pilot; James A. Lovell Jr., commander; and John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot. Photo: NASA

April 11 marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission, and many of a certain age–say, those born before the mid-60s–remember the dramatic events that unfolded in that second week of April 1970.  The mission was supposed to land and explore the Fra Mauro area of the moon, but an explosion on board forced Apollo 13 to circle the moon without landing. For four days the world watched as NASA mission control and the crew worked frantically to bring the three American astronauts home.

Watch Allen Public Library’s live virtual event, Apollo 13: A Miracle In Outer Space at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 21 at

The saga of Apollo 13 has been retold countless times, but few can say they had a front-row seat to the historic event. Writer-historian Rusty Williams can claim just that. He’ll tell his first-hand story at a live virtual presentation at the Allen Public Library. Former KERA-FM reporter B. J. Austin will interview Williams at the event.

Apollo 13 mission control. Photo: Associated Press/NASA

Williams was just a 22-year-old senior at North Texas State University when he managed to secure press credentials for the launch as a junior reporter for the Associated Press. He witnessed the Apollo 13 emergency from the Mission Operations Control Room at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston.

Austin has known Williams for years but admits that even she had never heard this story until a few months ago. “Rusty was manning the AP desk at NASA after the main AP staff had left for the night when he heard the famous words “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” said Austin. “That night, Williams, the unpaid intern, wrote the breaking news delivered on AP teletypes worldwide.”

In addition to the live virtual presentation, the library will also accept questions from the audience via email at

Rusty Williams

Rusty Williams is an award-winning writer and speaker, the author of four history books.  His “Red River Bridge War: A Texas-Oklahoma Border Battle” (Texas A&M University Press, 2016) was named “Best Book of Oklahoma History, 2016” by the Oklahoma Historical Society.  “My Old Confederate Home—A Respectable Place for Civil War Veterans“(University Press of Kentucky, 2010) won the 2011 Douglas S. Freeman Award for Southern History.

Got a tip? Email Therese Powell at You can follow her on Twitter @TheresePowell13

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