Apollo 13...Houston, We Have a Problem

Painting Completed 1995
26 x 39 inches, Acrylic on Aircraft Plywood

The explosion of oxygen tank number two was the defining moment in the voyage of Apollo 13. This would begin some of America's finest hours in space flight.

Astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise thought that having two liquid oxygen tanks aboard provided satisfactory system redundancy. If one failed the other had a sufficient supply to get safely home. An explosion that tore away piping from both tanks was not considered possible. Unfortunately, it happened that way anyway.

I have painted the explosion in space as a number of individually distinct particles streaming away from tank number two. The particles are liquid oxygen and vaporized tank and wiring and insulation materials, everything near the point of detonation. I do not believe an explosive cloud forms in the vacuum of space as it does on Earth because everything I saw move in space moved in a straight line. For example, there was no dirt cloud as we landed on the Moon, just small pieces of dirt speeding away radially from the rocket engine exhaust.

This painting was created to celebrate the motion picture, "Apollo 13" directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton and Gary Sinise. The movie tells the remarkable and inspiring story of how astronauts deep in space and engineers and scientists on planet Earth worked together to chance an almost fatal tragedy into a triumph of human skill and spirit.