Original crew of Apollo 13

13 April

Today in 1970, three days into the flight of Apollo 13 to the Moon, an oxygen tank exploded, badly damaging Odyssey, the spacecraft. The three astronauts (above), who were 210,000 miles from earth, were in grave danger of their lives. The calamity created worldwide concern and prayer around the world. Large crowds of people gathered to pray in New York’s Times Square, at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall, and in St Peter’s Square, Rome, where the Pope prayed for the astronauts.

‘We cannot forget, at this moment, the fate of the Apollo 13 astronauts. We share the universal trepidation for the fate of these space-flight heroes at the unexpected end of their daring and unhappy adventure. We will therefore raise a prayer to our Father who is in heaven for those daring men, now in danger, and to us more brothers than ever.’ Pope Paul VI

While we’re thinking of the heavens… Today in 2029, the asteroid Apophis, 340m long, will perform a close fly-by of the Earth, missing us by a mere 32,000 kilometres (20,000 miles), which is 10 times closer to us than the Moon. The space rock has previously been a worry to scientists, who thought it might collide with Earth in 2068, but it’s now been taken off Nasa’s list of objects which might trigger the Last Judgment.

It is Madame Guyon’s birthday. She was born today in 1648. She was both famous and persecuted for her mysticism, which focused on living constantly in the presence of God. She spent seven years in the Bastille for her beliefs.

‘It is a great truth, wonderful as it is undeniable, that all our happiness—temporal, spiritual, and eternal — consists in one thing; namely, in resigning ourselves to God, and in leaving ourselves with Him, to do with us and in us just as He pleases.’ Madame Guyon

Handel’s Messiah was first performed on this day in 1742 at The Music Hall in Fishamble Street in Dublin, because the composer was ‘reluctant to submit such music to the capricious taste of aristocratic London.’ When it later made it across the sea, the English clergy abhorred ‘the sacrilege of converting the Life and Passion of Christ into theatrical entertainment.’

Seventeen years later, on Good Friday 1759, George Frideric Handel died. He had collapsed at a performance of the Messiah a week earlier, and said ‘I want to die on Good Friday in the hope of rejoining the good God, my sweet Lord and Saviour, on the day of his Resurrection.’ Actually, he probably didn’t die until after midnight, but hopefully it still counts.

Today is the feast of St Caradoc, the 12th century Welsh hermit who lived in a hut on Gower. He is the patron saint of harpists.

Image: NASA/NASA KSC

Time-travel news is written by Steve Tomkins and Simon Jenkins

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