Apollo 13 Re-entry

Air New Zealand DC-8 sees the Re-entry

Auckland Star

As Apollo 13 re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, passengers on an Air New Zealand DC8 flying from Nadi in Fiji to Auckland witnessed the Command and Service modules streaking through the morning twilight. The Auckland Star reported the sighting on their front page.

Click the image for a larger version – or click here for a scan of just the text.

Thanks to Ted Barnes (ex Orroral Valley) and Bill Howard (Puke Ariki and District Libraries, New Plymouth, New Zealand) for finding the microfiche copy of the page. (The Auckland Star ceased publication in the late 1970s.)

Auckland Star

This photo was featured on the Astronomy Picture of the Day for July 9, 1995.

Picture credit is ‘Unknown’, but it is clearly the photo that was first published in The Auckland Star on Saturday April 18, 1970 – taken by someone (perhaps a member of the flight crew) on the Air New Zealand flight.


The photograph was taken by Ken Hickson, who worked for Air New Zealand at the time.

Ken writes (20 November 2016),

“I was on the aircraft as an Air New Zealand staffer. The Air New Zealand PR manager decided to send me to accompany an Auckland Star photographer in the hope that we would witness the re-entry on the return flight from Nadi.

The Auckland Star photographer gave me his second camera and I used it to see if I could capture anything from a passenger window – not the flight deck. Miraculously I managed to do just that as I’m not a photographer and it wasn’t my camera.

When the newspaper’s official photographer returned to his darkroom to develop the film from his and the camera I used, he discovered that my shot was the best. He didn’t have to tell me that, but he did. He also gave me a print of the shot used in the newspaper that day.”

Ken now runs a consultancy in Singapore, Sustain Ability Showcase Asia. He is still a working journalist/editor and is author of six books.

Auckland Star

In response to my request for a higher resolution image, Andrew Rennie kindly sent this scan of the photo from the newspaper.

Large (1.1MB), Larger (4.1MB).

Auckland Star

And here is the microfiche copy with Andrew Rennie’s scan of the photo inserted.

photo by Peter Gabelish

Peter Gabelish, a passenger on the same Air New Zealand flight, was on his way from the US back to Sydney.

He, along with the other passengers, viewed the re-entry fireball and, a few minutes later, took this photo of the trail left by Apollo 13. The spacecraft travelled from right to left, into the Pacific dawn.

With thanks to Peter Gabelish for his kind permission to use the photo, and also thanks to Bill Keel for the tip.

back in Sydney

This article, from page 3 of Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph for 19th April 1970, tells the story of those at Sydney Video, in the Overseas Telecommunications Commission’s international exchange at Paddington in Sydney.

Mentioned are Laurie Rutledge, Peter Trost, Ed Mason and Peter O’Donaghue.