President Nixon awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to flight directors who helped bring Apollo 13 safely home. Left to right: Flight Directors Glynn S. Lunney, Eugene F. Kranz, Gerald Griffin and Milton L. Windler; Director of Flight Operations Sigurd A. Sjoberg. Seated at left are Mrs. Nixon and Dr. Thomas O. Paine, NASA Administrator.
I have Astronaut Swigert on board. He reports he feels fine. . . I have Captain Lovell aboard. He reports he feels fine.
Forty-five minutes from splashdown--the fastest recovery ever--they were safe on Iwo Jima's red-carpeted deck. Microphones had been set up. The admiral and the captain spoke. The ship's chaplain prayed. A band played. But Jim Lovell, Jack Swigeft, and Fred Haise were too tired for public speeches.
From the flight deck of the Iwo Jima to American Samoa, to Hawaii and on to Houston, the crew of Apollo 13 traveled on a wave of applause. President Nixon presented the Medal of Freedom to the three astronauts and to Sigurd A. Sjoberg, Director of Flight Operations, and to Flight Directors Glynn S. Lunney, Eugene F. Kranz, Gerald Griffin, and Milton L. Windler.
The President of the United States summarized the reaction of many when he said, "The three astronauts did not reach the Moon, but they reached the hearts of millions of people in America and in the world."
Fiction had turned to fact in the flight of Odyssey and Aquarius. The tension, the agony, and the relief were understated by Jim Lovell: "We do not realize what we have on Earth until we leave it."
But all expressed confidence in America's program of space exploration and planned to "learn from our mistakes and get on with the job."
The astronauts and President Nixon, after ceremonies in which they were awarded the Presidenti: Medal of Freedom. Left to right: Haise, Lovell, the President and Swigert.