22 April 1970

The first Earth Day is celebrated

Earth Day
Earth Day Flag.png
The unofficial Earth Day Flag created by John McConnell includes The Blue Marble photograph taken by the crew of Apollo 17
SignificanceSupport for environmental protection
DateApril 22
Next time22 April 2022 (2022-04-22)

Earth Day is an annual event on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First held on April 22, 1970, it now includes a wide range of events coordinated globally by EarthDay.org (formerly Earth Day Network)[1] including 1 billion people in more than 193 countries.[1][2]

In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be observed on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature's equipoise was later sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later United States Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed the idea to hold a nationwide environmental teach-in on April 22, 1970. He hired a young activist, Denis Hayes, to be the National Coordinator. Nelson and Hayes renamed the event "Earth Day". Denis and his staff grew the event beyond the original idea for a teach-in to include the entire United States. More than 20 million people poured out on the streets, and the first Earth Day remains the largest single day protest in human history. Key non-environmentally focused partners played major roles. Under the leadership of labor leader Walter Reuther, for example, the United Auto Workers (UAW) was the most instrumental outside financial and operational supporter of the first Earth Day.[3][4][5] According to Hayes, "Without the UAW, the first Earth Day would have likely flopped!"[6] Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom award in recognition of his work.[7]

The first Earth Day was focused on the United States. In 1990, Denis Hayes, the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international and organized events in 141 nations.[8][9][10]

On Earth Day 2016, the landmark Paris Agreement was signed by the United States, the United Kingdom, China, and 120 other countries. This signing satisfied a key requirement for the entry into force of the historic draft climate protection treaty adopted by consensus of the 195 nations present at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

Numerous communities engaged in Earth Day Week actions, an entire week of activities focused on the environmental issues that the world faces.[11] On Earth Day 2020, over 100 million people around the world observed the 50th anniversary in what is being referred to as the largest online mass mobilization in history.[2]

1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill

On January 28, 1969, a well drilled by Union Oil Platform A off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, blew out. More than three million gallons of oil spewed, killing more than 10,000 seabirds, dolphins, seals, and sea lions. As a reaction to this disaster, activists were mobilized to create environmental regulation, environmental education, and Earth Day. Among the proponents of Earth Day were the people in the front lines of fighting this disaster, Selma Rubin, Marc McGinnes, and Bud Bottoms, founder of Get Oil Out.[12] Denis Hayes, organizer of the first Earth Day said that Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin was inspired to create Earth Day upon seeing Santa Barbara Channel 800 square-mile oil slick from an airplane.[12][13]

Santa Barbara's Environmental Rights Day 1970

On the first anniversary of the oil blowout, January 28, 1970, Environmental Rights Day was created and the Declaration of Environmental Rights was read. It had been written by Rod Nash during a boat trip across the Santa Barbara Channel while carrying a copy of Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence.[12] The organizers of Environmental Rights Day, led by Marc McGinnes, had been working closely over a period of several months with Congressman Pete McCloskey (R-CA) to consult on the creation of the National Environmental Policy Act, the first of many new environmental protection laws sparked by the national outcry about the blowout/oil spill and on the Declaration of Environmental Rights. Both McCloskey (Earth Day co-chair with Senator Gaylord Nelson) and Earth Day organizer Denis Hayes, along with Senator Alan Cranston, Paul Ehrlich, David Brower and other prominent leaders, endorsed the Declaration and spoke about it at the Environmental Rights Day conference. According to Francis Sarguis, "the conference was sort of like the baptism for the movement." According to Hayes, this was the first giant crowd he spoke to that "felt passionately, I mean really passionately, about environmental issues." Hayes also thought the conference might be the beginning of a real movement.[12] Nash, Garrett Hardin, McGinnes and others went on to develop the first undergraduate Environmental Studies program of its kind at the University of California at Santa Barbara.[14]

Earth Day 1970

President Richard Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon plant a tree on the White House South Lawn to recognize the first Earth Day.

The seeds that grew into the first Earth Day were planted by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. An ardent conservationist and former two-term governor of Wisconsin, Nelson had long sought ways to increase the potency of the environment as a political issue. The extraordinary attention garnered by Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, the famous 1968 Earthrise NASA photograph of the earth from the moon, the saturation news coverage given to the Santa Barbara oil spill[15] and the Cuyahoga River catching fire in early 1969[16] led Nelson to think the time was ripe for an environmental initiative. As a result of interactions with his staff and with Fred Dutton,[17] a prominent Democratic operative who had been Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign manager, Nelson became convinced that environmental teach-ins on college campuses could serve as such a vehicle.[18]

Teach-Ins had been held on hundreds of college campuses to debate the war in Vietnam. They generally reflected the divide between those who thought of Vietnam as a bulwark to stop additional countries falling to communism like dominos, versus those who believed that the war was the latest stage of a nationalist, anti-colonialist campaign[19] by Vietnamese who had fought against China, then France, Japan, France again, and now the United States. These debates elevated arguments over the war in the public consciousness and enlisted a generation of student activists.[citation needed]

Nelson asked public interest lawyer Anthony Roisman[20] to establish a non-profit, Environmental Teach-In, Inc., to manage the campaign, and recruited a small board of directors. He asked Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey[11] to co-chair the board to ensure it was bipartisan and bicameral.[12]

On September 20, 1969, Senator Nelson first announced his plans for an “environmental teach-In” in a little publicized talk at the University of Washington. “I am convinced that the same concern the youth of this nation took in changing this nation’s priorities on the war in Vietnam and on civil rights can be shown for the problem of the environment. That is why I plan to see to it that a national teach-in is held.”[13]

Senator Nelson went on to encourage teach-ins at many more speeches. A November talk at Airlie House had a New York Times reporter in the audience. The resulting front-page article[14] was a turning point. Letters of inquiry from across the country began to pour into Nelson's Senate office. The article piqued the interest of Denis Hayes, then a graduate student at Harvard. Hayes traveled to Washington DC, and arranged a 10-minute visit with Senator Nelson (which stretched into two hours).[21] Hayes returned to Harvard with the charter to organize Boston. After a few days of reference checks,[22] he was asked to drop out of Harvard to become executive director of the national campaign.[23]

Because of the non-hierarchical tenor of the times, Hayes suggested that people be designated coordinators rather than directors. He became the national coordinator,[24] and he quickly hired various regional coordinators, a press coordinator, a K-12 coordinator, a volunteer coordinator, etc. At its peak, the national office had a few dozen paid staff, each earning a flat $375/month, plus more than 100 regular volunteers.[citation needed]

As the talented regional coordinators fanned out across the country, however, they immediately encountered two problems. First, by 1970, the concept of “teach-ins” had become passé. Moreover, teach-ins generally involved debates, and no one was pro-pollution. Second, and more troubling, leading activists on college campuses were deeply involved in the anti-war and civil rights movements. They tended to view the environment as a distraction.[23]

The “Earth Day” name

The solution to the first problem came from an unexpected direction. Shortly after the turn of the year, a quiet man named stopped by the national offices and volunteered to help. Koenig was a Madison Avenue giant. His campaign for Volkswagen, “Think Small,” was later cited by Advertising Age as the “greatest advertising campaign of the 20th century.”[25]

Over coffee, Hayes confided that the “teach-in” moniker was not working and asked whether Koenig had any ideas. Koenig asked for a few days. A week later, he returned with an assortment of mock-ups for ads, laid out around the announcement of “Ecology Day,” “Environment Day,” “Earth Day,” and “E Day.” Koenig said that his personal favorite was Earth Day – in part, because April 22 happened to be his birthday, and "birthday" rhymes with "Earth Day."[26] Hayes immediately agreed. Koenig offered to prepare a fully refined ad. Hayes insisted that it include a small coupon soliciting funds for the threadbare operation. Koenig ad was visually arresting, and perfectly summed up the issues and values, the feisty-but-welcoming tone that the campaign had adopted. Hayes loved it and decided to bet the farm. He committed about half of all the money in the campaign's bank account to buy a full-page in the Sunday New York Times opinion section.[citation needed]

The ad was a huge success. Overnight, “Earth Day” became the almost-universally-used name for the upcoming event. The ad generated more than enough revenue to repay its cost, and thousands of potential organizers sent in their names and addresses along with their checks. In future months, magazines and alternative newspapers ran the ad for free, generating still more names and more financial support. The national office started using Environmental Action, rather than Environmental Teach-in, on its letterhead and publications to promote Earth Day.[27]

At this point, Hayes made a far-reaching decision. In those early days, it would have been easy to obtain trademark protection for Earth Day and force compliance with a set of standards by anyone using it. Hayes decided, however, that he wanted the name to be broadly used by anyone who planned to focus on environmental issues that spring.[28]

Although “Earth Day” swiftly replaced Environmental Teach-in, the second problem proved more complicated. College activists, for the most part, viewed anything other than ending the war as a distraction. A majority of the Earth Day staff had cut their teeth as organizers against the war and saw no conflict. The war appeared to be winding down, and they felt it was prudent to start paying attention to the far more profound changes needed to produce a healthy, sustainable America. But time was short, and college activists were not responding.[citation needed]

Hayes spent a day reviewing the letters Senator Nelson had received, and discovered that very few were from college students. Most were from women who appeared to be college-educated homemakers who wanted to do something to improve the world for their children. Another large share was from K-12 teachers.[citation needed]

Hayes decided to shift the campaign's focus from colleges and universities to community organizing. Building off the successful strategies of the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement, he decided to promote large urban rallies, focused on major environmental issues, while also encouraging environmental education at the K-12 level.[citation needed]

Bryce Hamilton, who had been Midwest coordinator, was shifted to K-12 coordinator, and it proved to be a great choice.[29] Hamilton reached out to the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, and the National Science Teachers Association to enlist their members; he provided materials to thousands of educators who wrote to the group directly; and he distributed the most creative ideas he received from anyone to everyone else. In April, more than 10,000 primary and secondary schools engaged in Earth Day activities, mostly education and service actions like beach clean-ups, tree planting, and recycling.[citation needed]

Walt Kelly created an anti-pollution poster featuring his comic strip character Pogo with the quotation "We have met the enemy and he is us" to promote the 1970 Earth Day. Environmental groups have sought to make Earth Day into a day of action to change human behavior and provoke policy changes.[30]

The first Earth Day "brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform."[31] Earth Day is now observed in 192 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit EARTHDAY.ORG (formerly Earth Day Network). According to Denis Hayes, the first Earth Day 1970 organizer and current Board Chair Emeritus of EARTHDAY.ORG, Earth Day is now "the largest secular day of protest in the world, and more than a billion people participate in Earth Day actions every year."[32]

By far the largest source of funding for the first Earth Day was organized labor. The United Auto Workers (UAW) had been led by Walter Reuther since 1946, and he was a progressive supporter of civil rights, opposed the war, and championed the environment. He was a founding member of the Coalition for Clean Air, which successfully lobbied for the Clean Air Act of 1970. Walter Reuther, president of the United Auto Workers, made the first donation to support the first Earth Day in the amount of $2,000.[33] Under his leadership, the UAW also funded telephone capabilities so that the organizers could communicate and coordinate with each other from all across the United States.[4] The UAW also financed, printed, and mailed all of the literature and other materials for the first Earth Day and mobilized its members to participate in the public demonstrations across the country. According to Denis Hayes, "The UAW was by far the largest contributor to the first Earth Day" and "Without the UAW, the first Earth Day would have likely flopped!" Hayes further said, "Walter’s presence at our first press conference utterly changed the dynamics of the coverage—we had instant credibility."[34]

At a meeting of the Environmental Teach-In board of directors, the chair of the finance committee arrived with a check for $20,000 from Standard Oil of New Jersey (now ExxonMobil). That would have provided a powerful measure of financial relief for the financially strapped group. But Hayes declined the check, convincing the board that it would destroy the credibility of the nascent organization. He said that he would be delighted to accept money from clean sources, but no other corporate money was ever raised for the national organization.[citation needed]

Individual donations were a significant source of funding, generally accompanied with a contribution slip from the Earth Day Ad providing the donor's name and address. Larry Rockefeller persuaded Robert Rauschenberg to create and donate a batch of Earth Day lithographs, but the Earth Day staff lacked contacts in the art world who were able to sell them for their $2,000 market value, so they were provided to donors for much less.[citation needed]

The sale of standard posters and especially pins brought in additional revenue. The staff refused to sell bumper strips because they would be attached to cars.[citation needed]

The Dirty Dozen

The staff of Environmental Teach-In resigned immediately after Earth Day and most moved directly to a new organization, Environmental Action, with a tax status that permitted lobbying and a more activist stance.[35] EA immediately confronted a problem that had been looming in the background throughout the campaign. Some of the staff had been drawn to the movement through science and culture and felt that politics was inherently dirty and government was irredeemably compromised. This group believed that by living lives of voluntary simplicity, employing tools like those that filled the resolutely-nonpolitical Whole Earth Catalog, they could force the world to adapt to them. Their theory of change was modeled loosely on the southern African Americans who sat at segregated lunch counters, drank from segregated lunch counters, and sat in the front of the bus, it ignored the role of strategic litigation[36] federal legislation, and electoral politics[37] in cementing lasting change.

Other staff members had worked in the Robert Kennedy, Gene McCarthy, and various congressional campaigns before Earth Day. They believed that lasting progress could only come through institutional change. 1970 was a Congressional election year. They had just organized the largest demonstration in the nation's history in order to support environmental values. Former Lindsay organizer, Steve Haft, summed up this faction's attitude at an Environmental Action staff meeting, “We had 20 million people in the streets in an election year, and you plan to sit out the election? Are you nuts?”[citation needed]

In order to square the circle, Hayes proposed that the group not endorse any candidates but that it try to defeat 12 of the worst. If having a terrible environmental record became a political liability, it would inevitably lead to better environmental legislation. Haft was selected to coordinate the Dirty Dozen campaign. With just $50,000 to defeat 12 incumbent members of the House, the odds were long.[38]

To improve the odds, the group selected candidates who not only had lousy environmental records—which were plentiful—but who also had won their most recent race by a narrow margin; who were on the wrong side of an important environmental issue in their districts; and who lived in areas where talented Earth Day organizers resided. In the end, seven of the original Dirty Dozen were defeated—five Republicans and two Democrats. And the first to fall was George Fallon, chairman of the hugely powerful House Public Works Committee.[39]

Representative Pete McCloskey, Earth Day co-chair, credits the Dirty Dozen's defeat of key Congressional leaders with the unstoppable wave of environmental legislation that immediately followed: the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and others.[40]

The University of Michigan Teach-in

As the tone of major planned Earth Day activities shifted to become less academic and more confrontational, and the Environmental Action newsletter emphasized the need for broad structural change, interest in the event began to mount among college student activists.[citation needed]

One place where the interest in a teach-in was robust from the beginning was the University of Michigan. The very first teach-in on the Vietnam War had been held at the University of Michigan in March 1965, and a group of students, led by Doug Scott,[41] decided to mark the 5-year anniversary with an environmental teach-in on March 11–14, 1970.[42] The Michigan teach-in presented a series of speeches dealing with a variety of environmental problems, along with some debate over the best tactics and solutions. No one, including the president of Dow Chemical, argued for more environmental destruction.

After the University of Michigan Teach-in, there was an explosion of interest on other college campuses. Upwards of 2,000 universities, colleges, and junior colleges ultimately put on events. By the end, the national staff had a hard time merely keeping up with the colleges that called to register events.[citation needed]

The Focus on Pollution

The delicate line straddled by organizers was to attract the seasoned activists who would demand far-reaching change without alienating the middle class whose active participation and political support were seen as essential. The greatest environmental insults were visited on the poor. Factories and power plants were located in the poorest neighborhoods. Freeways were plowed through the poorest neighborhoods. Toxic waste dumps were situated in the poorest neighborhoods. But these problems tended not to affect the middle class.[citation needed]

The solution was to promote an overarching concern with air and water pollution, which affected everyone, while encouraging each community to pay attention to whatever other issues were of most concern to it. Earth Day included events that focused on fighting freeways, protecting the ozone layer, organic food, whales and endangered species, oil spills, the military use of Agent Orange in Vietnam, overpopulation, peeling lead paint in ghetto housing, opposition to the Supersonic Transport, and myriad other topics. At one event, college students would pound an automobile apart with sledge hammers,[43] or, wearing gas masks, would block traffic on a freeway. At other events, grade-school students would plant trees, pick up litter in city parks, or identify birds. Earth Day welcomed them all.[citation needed]

Regional coordinators focused heavily on finding and enlisting the best local leadership in major metropolitan areas. For instance, Hayes flew to Chicago to help organize a subtle coup, replacing a pro-business Earth Day organization with a Saul Alinsky affiliated group called Campaign Against Pollution.[44] CAP abruptly shifted the focus away from recycling to focus on two issues: opposition to a massive proposed freeway program, the Crosstown Expressway, and protesting the uncontrolled air pollution Commonwealth Edison was pouring into Chicago's air—more sulfur pollution than all other companies combined.[45] Although mailings went out to thousands of communities of all sizes, the campaign focused especially hard on large cities.[citation needed]

New York City

In the winter of 1969–1970, a group of students met at Columbia University to hear Denis Hayes talk about his plans for Earth Day. Among the group were Fred Kent, Pete Grannis, and Kristin and William Hubbard. This group agreed to head up the New York City activities within the national movement. Fred Kent took the lead in renting an office and recruiting volunteers. The liberal Republican mayor of New York, John Lindsay, saw the environment as an issue that could help unite his then-troubled city. Moreover, he viewed the environment as a progressive wedge issue that would position him as clearly distinct from President Nixon's ultra-conservative “Southern Strategy,”[46] in a struggle for the soul of the Republican Party. He became fully engaged in supporting the event, and he delegated many of the talented young staff who had been drawn to his administration to help as well.[citation needed]

U.S. Senator Edmund Muskie speaking at Fairmount Park, Philadelphia on Earth Day, 1970

"The big break came when Mayor Lindsay agreed to shut down Fifth Avenue for the event. A giant cheer went up in the office on that day," according to Kristin Hubbard (now Kristin Alexandre). "From that time on we used Mayor Lindsay's offices and even his staff. I was Speaker Coordinator but had tremendous help from Lindsay staffer Judith Crichton." Mayor Lindsay completely closed down Fifth Avenue to traffic from E. 14th Street to West 59th Street (Central Park)—more than 2 miles—and 14th Street between 3rd and 7th Avenues.[47] An estimated one million participants took part—right in the nerve center of the nation's communications complex.[citation needed]

In addition to shutting down Fifth Avenue, Mayor John Lindsay made Central Park available for Earth Day. In Union Square, the New York Times estimated crowds of up to 20,000 people at any given time and, perhaps, more than 100,000 over the course of the day.[48] Since Manhattan was also the home of NBC, CBS, ABC, The New York Times, Time, and Newsweek, it provided the best possible anchor for national coverage from their reporters throughout the country.[49]


U.S. Senator Edmund Muskie was the keynote speaker on Earth Day in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. Other notable attendees included consumer protection activist and presidential candidate Ralph Nader, landscape architect Ian McHarg, Nobel prize-winning Harvard biochemist George Wald, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott, and poet Allen Ginsberg.[citation needed]

Earth Day 1980

The 1970s were a period of substantial environmental legislation, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Superfund, Toxics Substances Control Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. It had seen the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the banning of DDT and of lead in gasoline. Jimmy Carter was president.

The 1980 Earth Day effort was led by Mike McCabe and Byron Kennard,[50] and the general mood was festive and celebratory. The principal Washington, DC event was a festival[51] held in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House.

Earth Day 1990 to 1999

Mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting the status of environmental issues onto the world stage, Earth Day activities in 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Unlike the first Earth Day in 1970, this 20th Anniversary was waged with stronger marketing tools, greater access to television and radio, and multimillion-dollar budgets.[52]

Two separate groups formed to sponsor Earth Day events in 1990: The Earth Day 20 Foundation, assembled by Edward Furia (Project Director of Earth Week in 1970), and Earth Day 1990, assembled by Denis Hayes (National Coordinator for Earth Day 1970). Senator Gaylord Nelson, the original founder of Earth Day, was honorary chairman for both groups. The two did not combine forces over disagreements about leadership of combined organization and incompatible structures and strategies. Among the disagreements, key Earth Day 20 Foundation organizers were critical of Earth Day 1990 for including on their board Hewlett-Packard, a company that at the time was the second-biggest emitter of chlorofluorocarbons in Silicon Valley and refused to switch to alternative solvents. In terms of marketing, Earth Day 20 had a grassroots approach to organizing and relied largely on locally based groups like the National Toxics Campaign, a Boston-based coalition of 1,000 local groups concerned with industrial pollution. Earth Day 1990 employed strategies including focus group testing, direct mail fund raising, and email marketing.[52]

The Earth Day 20 Foundation highlighted its April 22 activities in George, Washington, near the Columbia River with a live satellite phone call with members of the historic Earth Day 20 International Peace Climb who called from their base camp on Mount Everest to pledge their support for world peace and attention to environmental issues.[53] The Earth Day 20 International Peace Climb was led by Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Mt. Everest (many years earlier), and marked the first time in history that mountaineers from the United States, Soviet Union, and China had roped together to climb a mountain, let alone Mt. Everest.[53] The group also collected more than two tons of trash (transported down the mountain by support groups along the way) that was left behind on Mount Everest from previous climbing expeditions. The master of ceremonies for the Columbia Gorge event was the TV star, John Ratzenberger, from Cheers, and the headlining musician was the "Father of Rock and Roll", Chuck Berry.[53]

Warner Bros. Records released an Earth Day-themed single in 1990 entitled "Tomorrow's World", written by Kix Brooks (who would later become one-half of Brooks & Dunn) and Pam Tillis.[54] The song featured vocals from Lynn Anderson, Butch Baker, Shane Barmby, Billy Hill, Suzy Bogguss, Kix Brooks, T. Graham Brown, The Burch Sisters, Holly Dunn, Foster & Lloyd, Vince Gill, William Lee Golden, Highway 101, Shelby Lynne, Johnny Rodriguez, Dan Seals, Les Taylor, Pam Tillis, Mac Wiseman, and Kevin Welch. It charted at number 74 on the Hot Country Songs chart dated May 5, 1990.[55]

Earth Day 2000–2019

Earth Day 2000

As the millennium approached, Hayes agreed to spearhead another campaign, this time focusing on global warming and pushing for clean energy. The April 22 Earth Day in 2000 combined the big-picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990. For 2000, Earth Day had the internet to help link activists around the world. By the time April 22 came around, 5,000 environmental groups around the world were on board reaching out to hundreds of millions of people in a record 184 countries. Events varied: A talking drum chain traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa, for example, while hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., USA.[citation needed]

Earth Day 2001

Google's first Earth Day doodle was in 2001.[56]

Earth Day 2003

The theme for Earth Day 2003 was the Water for Life Campaign. This year, Earth Day Network developed a water quality project called “What’s in Your Water?”[57] Water-related events were held on every continent, including water workshops, exhibitions, concerts, and more in Togo, Egypt, the Cook Islands, Jordan, Palestine, Japan, Venezuela, Slovenia, Nigeria, and Canada.[58][59][60] Educational curricula, teacher's guides, water testing kits, and posters focused on water.

Campaign for Communities, an initiative led by NAACP, Latino organizations including Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, and other organizations focused on environmental justice, created events focused on low income communities around the U.S. These events were also focused on building support among low income communities through clean ups, park revitalization, and town halls focused on integrating the environmental movement with community and social justice causes.[61][62]

Earth Day 2004

In the U.S. in 2004, Earth Day Network and its partners focused on voter registration for Earth Day, registering hundreds of thousands of voters.[63][64] Major tree planting events also took place. Other prominent U.S. Earth Day events included an annual cleanup in Dayton, Ohio and the 3rd Annual Community Based Solutions to Environmental Health & Justice Conference in Seattle, Washington.[65][66]

Earth Day 2005

The theme for Earth Day 2005 was Healthy Environments for Children.[67]

Earth Day 2006

Earth Day 2006 focused on science and faith. Earth Day expanded into Europe for Earth Day 2006 and events and speeches were held in most of the EU countries. Key events included the “Festival on Climate Change” in Utrecht, the Netherlands, which was focused on “How to break away from the oil dependence,” and included Earth Day founder Denis Hayes and members of the Dutch and E.U. parliament, NGOs, local authorities, and media representatives. In the first of two years of Earth Day events in Ukraine, Denis Hayes also attended and spoke at the “Chernobyl 20 Remembrance for the Future” conference in Kiev, Ukraine.[68] 2006 also saw events in China organized between Earth Day Network and Global Village Beijing educating communities about energy savings, the first ever coordinated Earth Day events in Moscow, Russia, a scientific panel and a religious response panel on climate change throughout the U.S., and a “Conserve Your Energy” event in Philadelphia.[69][70]

Earth Day 2007

Thousands of Earth Day projects were held across the globe that ranged from energy efficiency events, protests, letter writing campaigns, civic and environmental k-12 education trainings, urban and rural cleanups, and water projects with a particular focus on building a broader and more diverse environmental movement.[71] Major events took place in Kyiv, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; Tuvalu; Philippines; Togo; and Madrid, Spain.[citation needed]

In the US, civil rights, religious, and social justice leaders joined Earth Day Network the week of April 16 through April 20 to demand Congress on behalf of their communities and their constituencies that there be no “grandfathering” of pollution permits, that an immediate reduction in carbon emissions be imposed through legislation and that all revenues generated from a carbon tax or a government auction of carbon permits be used for public benefit. Earth Day Network partnered with Green Apple Music & Arts Festival to mark Earth Day with weekend-long events featuring music and entertainment in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago.[72] More than 200,000 people attended the events and millions of people were reached through the media.

The Global Warming in the Pulpit Pledge campaign which mobilized priests, ministers, rabbis, and other faith leaders across the U.S. and Canada to make a commitment to preach on global climate change as a moral issue was launched.[73] Later in 2007, Live Earth, a global music event, was held across the world.[citation needed]

Earth Day 2008

Earth Day 2008 galvanized millions of people around the world in a Call For Climate. In the U.S., the campaign challenged the public to make one million calls to Congress about pushing for climate change legislation.[74] 2008 also included large climate rallies in eight major U.S. cities including Washington, D.C., New York, Miami, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, to which around 350,000 people attended. Washington, D.C. hosted actor Edward Norton, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, and James Hansen of NASA to deliver a strong global warming message and call for tough and fair climate action by Congress. O.A.R., Umphrey's McGee, Warren Haynes, Mambo Sauce, and Blake Lewis of American Idol entertained enthusiastic crowds, and the event was covered live by CNN and The Weather Channel plus scores of other media that carried the Call for Climate message.[75] Many Earth Day events were held around the world from the Earth Day on Campus campaign.[76]

Earth Day 2009

The 2009 National Teach-In on Global Warming Solutions reached college campuses, civic organizations, and faith groups across the U.S. As part of this event, members of Congress addressed college and high school campuses in their districts via video conference.[77]

Earth Day 2010 (40th anniversary)

An estimated one billion people around the world took action for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.[78] An estimated 20,000 partners took action on climate change and other environmental issues through climate rallies, Billion Acts of Green™, and by engaging civil leaders in plans to build a green economy, connected through the online action center at EARTHDAY.ORG.[79] Through the Global Day of Conversation, more than 200 elected officials in more than 39 countries took part in active dialogues with their constituents about their efforts to create sustainable green economies and reduce their carbon footprints.[80] Students around the world participated in school greenings, featuring community clean ups, solar energy systems, school gardens, and environmental curriculum.[81] Earth Day Network announced a partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment's Avatar Home Tree Initiative to plant one million trees in 15 countries by the end of 2010.[82]

The Climate Rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. drew in more than 150,000 activists to demand that U.S. Congress pass comprehensive climate legislation in 2010.[83] The nine-hour event featured more than 70 high-profile speakers, including leadership from the faith, labor, civil rights, environmental communities, the private sector, leading climate scientists, celebrities, Cabinet Secretaries, international political leaders, and local government officials.[citation needed]

In partnership with the Peace Corps, Earth Day Network worked with local volunteers to implement environmental and civic education programs, tree plantings, village clean ups, and recycling seminars in rural areas in Ukraine, the Philippines, Georgia, Albania, and Kolkata, India.[84] In 2010, Earth Day Network also established a satellite office in Kolkata, India.[citation needed]

As part of a nationwide commemoration of the 40th anniversary in Morocco, the government announced a unique National Charter for the Environment and Sustainable Development, the first commitment of its kind in Africa and the Arab world, which will inform new environmental laws for the country. The Kingdom of Morocco also pledged to plant one million trees.[85]

Earth Day 2011

2011 Earth Day events included an environmental forum for local political leaders and the first ever Earth Day celebration in Tunis City and primary school events throughout Iraq. In 17 of the world's most severely deforested countries, Earth Day Network completed a project to plant over 1.1 million trees. Across the globe, more than 100 million Billion Acts of Green were registered.[86][87] In September 2011, at the Clinton Global Initiative, President Clinton recognized this project as an exemplary approach to addressing global challenges.[88]

Earth Day 2012

A Billion Acts of Green® were achieved on Earth Day 2012, with Earth Day Network announcing the accomplishment at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio.[89][90] A Billion Acts of Green® is billed as the world's largest environmental service campaign, inspiring and rewarding both simple individual acts and larger organizational initiatives that further the goal of measurably reducing carbon emissions and supporting sustainability.[91] [92] The Campaign for Communities engaged elected officials in finding solutions to local environmental challenges.[93] Faith programs saw Catholic parishes and churches across the U.S. take action on Earth Day through sermons and other activities, including four events at the National Cathedral and a conference at the St. Sophia Cathedral and National Religious Coalition on Creation Care (NRCC).[94][95][96] Mobilize the Earth™ events throughout all of India's states and geographic regions, coordinated by Earth Day Network India, included rallies, concerts, competitions, seminars, art shows, plantation drives, signature campaigns, and workshops.[97][98][99]

Earth Day 2013

The goal of Earth Day 2013 was to personalize the massive challenge that climate change presents, while uniting people around the globe into a powerful call to action with the theme: The Face of Climate Change. To illustrate that climate change is not a remote problem for our leaders but is impacting real people, animals, and places everywhere, EDN collected images sent into #faceofclimate and displayed them in a collage at thousands of events around the world—from schools to parks to government buildings.[100] High level organizations and individuals participated in the campaign including the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, US Secretary of State, and many more.[101]

Meanwhile, stories of hope inspired communities to take action[102] and MobilizeU, a program to educate and activate college students around Earth Day and environmental issues, expanded in 2013 to 296 universities in 51 countries on six continents and in 46 US states.[103]

In Washington, D.C., EDN presented Earth Month at Union Station, a four-week series of events that featured an environmental film festival, renewable energy demonstrations, farmers markets, NASA educational exhibits, and public talks by scientists and astronauts. In partnership with Washington, D.C. Public Schools, EDN also presented a STEM Fair at Union Station.[104]

Earth Day 2014

The goal of Earth Day 2014 was to dramatically personalize the massive challenges surrounding global climate change and weave that into both Earth Day 2014 and the five-year countdown to Earth Day 2020, the 50th anniversary. It was an opportunity to unite people worldwide into a common cause and call for action.[citation needed]

The theme of Earth Day 2014 was Green Cities.[105] Earth Day Network launched the Green Cities campaign in the fall of 2013 to help cities around the world become more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint. Focused on three key elements – buildings, energy, and transportation – the campaign aims to help cities accelerate their transition to a cleaner, healthier, and more economically viable future through improvements in efficiency, investments in renewable technology, and regulation reform.[citation needed]

Earth Day 2015

To recognize the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, the 2015 global theme was termed “It’s Our Turn to Lead.”[106]

That year, Earth Day was a part of the steady drumbeat towards Paris for the UNFCCC COP 21 climate talks that December. With a binding treaty on climate change expected from this conference, this is a pivotal year for the environmental movement. Earth Day Network's (EDN) campaigns focused on instigating environmental advocacy, as well as strengthening climate communication and education.[citation needed]

EDN designed and executed four campaigns for its major constituencies: Green Cities, MobilizeU, Climate Education Week, and Faith Mobilization, all of which concentrated on the organization's theme: “It’s Our Turn to Lead”.[citation needed] In addition, EDN hosted Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day,[107] in partnership with Global Poverty Project (GPP) on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This venue allowed EDN and GPP to inspire and activate a new generation of global activists. The event worked to establish the intersection between eradicating global poverty and stopping climate change. Earth Day Network worked directly with major partners to garner large-scale commitments to stop climate change.[citation needed]

Earth Day 2016

The theme for Earth Day 2016 was Trees for Earth.[108] India, the Caribbean, Vietnam, and Morocco made substantial government commitments. The Black Lives Matter organization, which was created in 2013, also engaged with EarthDay.org in community panels. Close to 700 million community members, organizations and school children took part in Earth Day 2016. Over 36 million trees were planted in India. “Earth Day Network” (now EARTHDAY.ORG) was accepted as an entry on Baidu Baike, a major online cyclopedia in China.[citation needed]

Hundreds of mayors across the world participated in Earth Day 2016 primarily focused on urban planning and reforestation.[citation needed]

Signing of the Paris Agreement at the UN

It was no accident that the United Nations selected Earth Day[109] to sign the most significant climate accord in the history of the climate movement. On Earth Day 2016, world leaders from 175 nations broke a record by doing exactly that.

Earth Day 2017

For Earth Day 2017, Earth Day Network launched the goal of global environmental and climate literacy by 2020. EDN envisioned a world that is fluent in the concepts of climate change and aware of its unprecedented threat to our planet. Environmental and climate literacy is the engine not only for creating green voters and advancing environmental and climate laws and policies, but also for accelerating green technologies and jobs.

To that end, the 2017 Earth Day theme is environmental and climate education. EDN knows that education is the foundation for progress. Before we can solve the dire environmental threats facing us in the 21st century, we must build a global citizenry knowledgeable in environmental science and fluent in local and global ecological issues. A world with a more educated populace internalizes values – such as environmental protection – and is empowered to act in defense of these values.

To support this Earth Day theme, EDN promoted teach-ins as an activity to educate communities on global environmental issues and how global environmental issues impact local communities. EDN teach-ins strove to empower attendees with real, tangible actions they could take for the environment.

EDN developed an extensive global outreach strategy to promote Earth Day and assist organizations with producing a variety of actions, including teach-ins, in their own communities. Staff sent thousands of emails and made hundreds of phone calls, and revamped the organization's social media. Additionally, EDN created five teach-in toolkits, with accompanying translations in four languages, to help constituencies organize and mobilize their communities.

Finally, EDN hosted the flagship March for Science march, rally, and teach-ins on Earth Day on the Washington Monument Grounds in Washington D.C. This event rallied and empowered attendees to support science and evidence-based policy. Approximately 100,000 people attended.

Earth Day 2018

Earth Day 2018's theme, End Plastic Pollution, was dedicated to building a world of educated citizens who understand the environmental, climate, and health consequences of using plastic.[110] Through an online Plastics Pollution Calculator, consumers calculated how much disposable plastic they used in a year and planned how to reduce this amount of waste.[111] A Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit also educated consumers about actions to reduce their plastic footprint. Events worldwide in The Gambia, Italy, Thailand, Japan, India, the U.S., among others, included plastic cleanups, teach-ins, and festivals in which 10,000 partners participated.[112] In April 2018, the Google search for “Plastic Pollution” saw the highest trends in the previous five years, 5.5 million pages in 17 languages were created on the internet about “Earth Day 2018” and “plastics,” and global media outlets with a combined audience of 450+ million people covered the campaign. The phrase “plastic pollution” on social media in the U.S. alone reached more than 155 million people. As a result, over 23,0000+ plastic cleanups were registered on Google, 60 countries introduced single-use plastic bans and legislation, and companies such as Coca-Cola and Starbucks announced steps to eliminate and significantly reduce plastic pollution.[113]

Earth Day 2019

Earth Day 2019's theme was Protect Our Species. For this campaign, events and programs spread information about the causes and consequences of growing species extinctions.[114] Earth Day Network partnered with Keep America Beautiful and National Cleanup Day for the inaugural nationwide Earth Day Clean Up. Cleanups were held in all 50 States, 5 U.S. Territories, 5,300 sites and had more than 500,000 volunteers.[115][116] Thousands of locations featured ads with vivid photos of important species. Viewers were encouraged to share photos of ads on social media with the tag #ProtectOurSpecies.[117] Earth Day 2019 also encouraged participants to protect threatened species through educational resources, tree plantings, and a climate action guide.[118]

Earth Day 2020–2030

Earth Day 2020

Earth Day 2020 was the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. As marches and gatherings were canceled due to the COVID pandemic — including a large scale event on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. — Earth Day quickly pivoted from mobilizing millions on the ground to raising hundreds of millions of voices digitally to address urgent threats.[119][120] Over 100 million people took action in 192 countries to honor Earth Day's 50th Anniversary in what is being referred to as the largest online mass mobilization in history.[121]

Earth Day Network and the Future Coalition organized Earth Day Live, a three-day livestream event which ran from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET on April 22, 23 and 24.[122][123] The event featured speakers from all corners of the environmental movement, youth leaders, A-list celebrities, and global voices. Pope Francis, Secretary General of the UN Antonio Guterres, mayors around the world, Sec. John Kerry, Vice President Al Gore, Ministers of the Environment from multiple countries, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Ed Markey, Prince Albert of Monaco – all joined in.[124] Governments, municipalities, and corporations made bold new commitments.[125] The event also saw performances by musicians such as Dave Matthews, Ziggy Marley, Jason Mraz, Angélique Kidjo, Emily Wells, Aimee Mann, Ted Leo, Jack Johnson, Questlove, Talib Kweli, among others.[122][126]

The series “We Don’t Have Time,” broadcast from Stockholm, Sweden, featured top experts on climate change including Professor Jeffrey Sachs; Christiana Figueres; Johan Rockstrom and Nick Robins as well as youth entrepreneurs and activists.[127] The UN Convention on Climate Change also promoted Earth Day 2020 through videos, social media posts and messages under the theme Climate Actors Message, including Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa; COP25 and Chile Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt; Helena Hemersson, the CEO of H&M and Nigel Topping, the COP26 UK Climate Champion.[128]

Earth Day 2020 was a major topic across media platforms, including leading magazines and environmental publications such as Parade Magazine and The Times of India; television stations such as CBS and CNN; and many more.[129][130][131][132][133][134] On January 5, 2020, Earth Day's 50th anniversary year began with a full page in the Sunday New York Times, referencing a similar black and white advertisement that appeared in the Times 50 years earlier on the first Sunday in 1970.[135]

Through social media, Earth Day participants joined digital events and shared their support.[136] Through Instagram, HRH The Prince of Wales reminded followers that nature is vital to human health and wellbeing.[137]

“ For fifty years, since the very first Earth Day, I have dedicated a large part of my life to championing more balanced sustainable approaches whether in farming, forestry, fisheries, urban planning or corporate social responsibility. But as we look to shape the next fifty years, I very much need your help. To reflect and inspire the world to action, while aiming for a green recovery, I would ask you to join me by sharing your vision for a more sustainable future (socially, environmentally and economically) using the hashtag ReimagineReset.'.”

Earth Day 2020 featured programs on education, faith, plastic cleanup, citizen science, reforestation, conservation, food and agriculture, art, green cities and voter mobilization. Acting both globally and locally, Earth Day followers worked to spread climate literacy, end plastic pollution, adopt plant-based diets, preserve biodiversity, and reforest the earth.[citation needed]

Earth Day 2021

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the Leaders Summit on Climate

The Earth Day 2021 theme is Restore Our Earth and features five primary programs: The Canopy Project, Food and Environment, Climate Literacy, the Global Earth Challenge, and The Great Global CleanUp.[138] During the week of Earth Day, EARTHDAY.ORG and lead organizers, Education International, Hip Hop Caucus, and Earth Uprising organized three separate parallel climate action summits on climate literacy, environmental justice, and youth-led climate-focused issues. EARTHDAY.ORG also organized the second-annual Earth Day Live livestream event (April 22, 2021) featuring global activists, international leaders, and influencers.[139]

The Biden Administration organized a 2021 Leaders' Climate Summit. This virtual Zoom-like meeting featured 40 world leaders and dozens of speakers, including Pope Francis, Xiye Bastida, Danielle Merfeld, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, GE Renewable Energy, Anna Borg, President and CEO, Vattenfall, and Abdullah Subai, Minister of Municipality and Environment, Qatar.[140][141][142]

Volunteers at Sure We Can clean McKibbin Street for Earth Day 2021

Earth Day Canada

Paul Tinari officially launched the first Canadian Earth Day on September 11, 1980 – included are Flora MacDonald MP, Ken Keyes and Dr. Ronald Watts

The first Canadian Earth Day (French: Jour de la Terre) was held on Thursday, September 11, 1980, and was organized by Paul D. Tinari, then a graduate student in Engineering Physics/Solar Engineering at Queen's University. Flora MacDonald, then MP for Kingston and the Islands and former Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, officially opened Earth Day Week on September 6, 1980, with a ceremonial tree planting and encouraged MPs and MPPs across the country to declare a cross-Canada annual Earth Day. The principal activities taking place on the first Earth Day included educational lectures given by experts in various environmental fields, garbage and litter pick-up by students along city roads and highways as well as tree plantings to replace the trees killed by Dutch elm disease.[143][144]

History of the Equinox Earth Day (March 20)

The equinoctial Earth Day is celebrated on the March equinox (around March 20) to mark the arrival of astronomical spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and of astronomical autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. An equinox in astronomy is that point in time (not a whole day) when the Sun is directly above the Earth's equator, occurring around March 20 and September 23 each year. In most cultures, the equinoxes and solstices are considered to start or separate the seasons, although weather patterns evolve earlier.

John McConnell[145] first introduced the idea of a global holiday called "Earth Day" at the 1969 UNESCO Conference on the Environment. The first Earth Day proclamation was issued by San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto on March 21, 1970. Celebrations were held in various cities, such as San Francisco and in Davis, California with a multi-day street party. UN Secretary-General U Thant supported McConnell's global initiative to celebrate this annual event; and on February 26, 1971, he signed a proclamation to that effect, saying:[146]

May there be only peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life.

United Nations secretary-general Kurt Waldheim observed Earth Day with similar ceremonies on the March equinox in 1972, and the United Nations Earth Day ceremony has continued each year since on the day of the March equinox (the United Nations also works with organizers of the April 22 global event). Margaret Mead added her support for the equinox Earth Day, and in 1978 declared:[147]

Earth Day is the first holy day which transcends all national borders, yet preserves all geographical integrities, spans mountains and oceans and time belts, and yet brings people all over the world into one resonating accord, is devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature and yet draws upon the triumphs of technology, the measurement of time, and instantaneous communication through space.
Earth Day draws on astronomical phenomena in a new way – which is also the most ancient way – by using the Vernal Equinox, the time when the Sun crosses the equator making the length of night and day equal in all parts of the Earth. To this point in the annual calendar, EARTH DAY attaches no local or divisive set of symbols, no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another. But the selection of the March Equinox makes planetary observance of a shared event possible, and a flag which shows the Earth, as seen from space, appropriate.

At the moment of the equinox, it is traditional to observe Earth Day by ringing the Japanese Peace Bell, which was donated by Japan to the United Nations.[148] Over the years, celebrations have occurred in various places worldwide at the same time as the UN celebration. On March 20, 2008, in addition to the ceremony at the United Nations, ceremonies were held in New Zealand, and bells were sounded in California, Vienna, Paris, Lithuania, Tokyo, and many other locations. The equinox Earth Day at the UN is organized by the Earth Society Foundation.[149]

Earth Day ringing the peace bell is celebrated around the world in many towns, ringing the Peace Bell in Vienna,[150] Berlin, and elsewhere. A memorable event took place at the UN in Geneva, celebrating a Minute for Peace ringing the Japanese Shinagawa Peace Bell with the help of the Geneva Friendship Association and the Global Youth Foundation,[151] directly after in deep mourning about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant catastrophe 10 days before.

Beside the Spring Equinox for the Northern Hemisphere, the observance of the Spring Equinox for the Southern Hemisphere in September is of equal importance. The International Day of Peace[152] is celebrated on September 21, and can thus be considered to accord with the original intentions of John McConnell, U Thant and others.

April 22 observances

Growing eco-activism before Earth Day 1970

In 1968, Morton Hilbert and the U.S. Public Health Service organized the Human Ecology Symposium, an environmental conference for students to hear from scientists about the effects of environmental degradation on human health.[153] This was the beginning of Earth Day. For the next two years, Hilbert and students worked to plan the first Earth Day.[154] In April 1970—along with a federal proclamation from U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson—the first Earth Day was held.[155]

Project Survival, an early environmentalism-awareness education event, was held at Northwestern University on January 23, 1970. This was the first of several events held at university campuses across the United States in the lead-up to the first Earth Day. Also, Ralph Nader began talking about the importance of ecology in 1970.

The 1960s had been a very dynamic period for ecology in the US. Pre-1960 grassroots activism against DDT in Nassau County, New York, and widespread opposition to open-air nuclear weapons tests with their global nuclear fallout, had inspired Rachel Carson to write her influential bestseller, Silent Spring (1962).

Significance of April 22

Global selfie – Earth Day, April 22, 2014.

Nelson chose the date to maximize participation on college campuses for what he conceived as an "environmental teach-in". He determined the week of April 19–25 was the best bet as it did not fall during exams or spring breaks.[156] Moreover, it did not conflict with religious holidays such as Easter or Passover, and was late enough in spring to have decent weather. More students were likely to be in class, and there would be less competition with other mid-week events—so he chose Wednesday, April 22. The day also fell after the anniversary of the birth of noted conservationist John Muir. The National Park Service, John Muir National Historic Site, has a celebration every year on or around Earth Day (April 21, 22 or 23), called Birthday-Earth Day, in recognition of Earth Day and John Muir's contribution to the collective consciousness of environmentalism and conservation.[157][158]

Unbeknownst to Nelson,[159] April 22, 1970, was coincidentally the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin, when translated to the Gregorian calendar (which the Soviets adopted in 1918). Time reported that some suspected the date was not a coincidence, but a clue that the event was "a Communist trick", and quoted a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution as saying, "subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them."[160] J. Edgar Hoover, director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, may have found the Lenin connection intriguing; it was alleged the FBI conducted surveillance at the 1970 demonstrations.[161] The idea that the date was chosen to celebrate Lenin's centenary still persists in some quarters,[162][163] an idea borne out by the similarity with the subbotnik instituted by Lenin in 1920 as days on which people would have to do community service, which typically consisted in removing rubbish from public property and collecting recyclable material. Subbotniks were also imposed on other countries within the compass of Soviet power, including Eastern Europe, and at the height of its power the Soviet Union established a nationwide subbotnik to be celebrated on Lenin's birthday, April 22, which had been proclaimed a national holiday celebrating communism by Nikita Khrushchev in 1955.

Earth Day songs

There are many songs that are performed on Earth Day, that generally fall into two categories: popular songs by contemporary artists not specific to Earth Day that are under copyright or new lyrics adapted to children's songs.

See also


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Earth Day

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External links


11 April 1970

Apollo 13 is launched.

Apollo 13
see caption
Odyssey's damaged service module, as seen from the Apollo Lunar Module Aquarius, hours before reentry
Mission typeCrewed lunar landing attempt (H)
  • CSM: 1970-029A
  • LM: 1970-029C
SATCAT no.4371[1]
Mission duration5 days, 22 hours, 54 minutes, 41 seconds[2]
Spacecraft properties
Launch mass45,931 kilograms (101,261 lb)[3]
Landing mass5,050 kilograms (11,133 lb)[4]
Crew size3
Start of mission
Launch dateApril 11, 1970, 19:13:00 (1970-04-11UTC19:13Z) UTC
RocketSaturn V SA-508
Launch siteKennedy LC-39A
End of mission
Recovered byUSS Iwo Jima
Landing dateApril 17, 1970, 18:07:41 (1970-04-17UTC18:07:42Z) UTC
Landing siteSouth Pacific Ocean
21°38′24″S 165°21′42″W / 21.64000°S 165.36167°W / -21.64000; -165.36167 (Apollo 13 splashdown)
Flyby of Moon (orbit and landing aborted)
Closest approachApril 15, 1970, 00:21:00 UTC
Distance254 kilometers (137 nmi)
Docking with LM
Docking dateApril 11, 1970, 22:32:08 UTC
Undocking dateApril 17, 1970, 16:43:00 UTC
Apollo 13 logo Three astronauts posing behind a lunar globe
Lovell, Swigert, Haise 

Apollo 13 (April 11–17, 1970) was the seventh crewed mission in the Apollo space program and the third meant to land on the Moon. The craft was launched from Kennedy Space Center on April 11, 1970, but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank in the service module (SM) failed two days into the mission. The crew instead looped around the Moon and returned safely to Earth on April 17. The mission was commanded by Jim Lovell, with Jack Swigert as command module (CM) pilot and Fred Haise as Lunar Module (LM) pilot. Swigert was a late replacement for Ken Mattingly, who was grounded after exposure to rubella.

A routine stir of an oxygen tank ignited damaged wire insulation inside it, causing an explosion that vented the contents of both of the SM's oxygen tanks to space. Without oxygen, needed for breathing and for generating electric power, the SM's propulsion and life support systems could not operate. The CM's systems had to be shut down to conserve its remaining resources for reentry, forcing the crew to transfer to the LM as a lifeboat. With the lunar landing canceled, mission controllers worked to bring the crew home alive.

Although the LM was designed to support two men on the lunar surface for two days, Mission Control in Houston improvised new procedures so it could support three men for four days. The crew experienced great hardship, caused by limited power, a chilly and wet cabin and a shortage of potable water. There was a critical need to adapt the CM's cartridges for the carbon dioxide scrubber system to work in the LM; the crew and mission controllers were successful in improvising a solution. The astronauts' peril briefly renewed public interest in the Apollo program; tens of millions watched the splashdown in the South Pacific Ocean on television.

An investigative review board found fault with preflight testing of the oxygen tank and the fact that Teflon was placed inside it. The board recommended changes, including minimizing the use of potentially combustible items inside the tank; this was done for Apollo 14. The story of Apollo 13 has been dramatized several times, most notably in the 1995 film Apollo 13 – based on Lost Moon, the 1994 memoir co-authored by Lovell – and an episode of the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon.


In 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy challenged his nation to land an astronaut on the Moon by the end of the decade, with a safe return to Earth.[5] NASA worked towards this goal incrementally, sending astronauts into space during Project Mercury and Project Gemini, leading up to the Apollo program.[6] The goal was achieved with Apollo 11, which landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the lunar surface while Michael Collins orbited the Moon in Command Module Columbia. The mission returned to Earth on July 24, 1969, fulfilling Kennedy's challenge.[5]

NASA had contracted for fifteen Saturn V rockets to achieve the goal; at the time no one knew how many missions this would require.[7] Since success was obtained in 1969 with the sixth Saturn V on Apollo 11, nine rockets remained available for a hoped-for total of ten landings. After the excitement of Apollo 11, the general public grew apathetic towards the space program and Congress continued to cut NASA's budget; Apollo 20 was canceled.[8] Despite the successful lunar landing, the missions were considered so risky that astronauts could not afford life insurance to provide for their families if they died in space.[note 1][9]

see caption
Mission Operations Control Room during the TV broadcast just before the Apollo 13 accident. Astronaut Fred Haise is shown on the screen.

Even before the first U.S. astronaut entered space in 1961, planning for a centralized facility to communicate with the spacecraft and monitor its performance had begun, for the most part the brainchild of Christopher C. Kraft Jr., who became NASA's first flight director. During John Glenn's Mercury Friendship 7 flight in February 1962 (the first crewed orbital flight by the U.S.), one of Kraft's decisions was overruled by NASA managers. He was vindicated by post-mission analysis and implemented a rule that, during the mission, the flight director's word was absolute[10]—to overrule him, NASA would have to fire him on the spot.[11] Flight directors during Apollo had a one-sentence job description, "The flight director may take any actions necessary for crew safety and mission success."[12]

In 1965, Houston's Mission Control Center opened, in part designed by Kraft and now named for him.[10] In Mission Control, each flight controller, in addition to monitoring telemetry from the spacecraft, was in communication via voice loop to specialists in a Staff Support Room (or "back room"), who focused on specific spacecraft systems.[11]

Apollo 13 was to be the second H mission, meant to demonstrate precision lunar landings and explore specific sites on the Moon.[13] With Kennedy's goal accomplished by Apollo 11, and Apollo 12 demonstrating that the astronauts could perform a precision landing, mission planners were able to focus on more than just landing safely and having astronauts minimally trained in geology gather lunar samples to take home to Earth. There was a greater role for science on Apollo 13, especially for geology, something emphasized by the mission's motto, Ex luna, scientia (From the Moon, knowledge).[14]

Astronauts and key Mission Control personnel

Apollo 13's mission commander, Jim Lovell, was 42 years old at the time of the spaceflight, which was his fourth and last. He was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and had been a naval aviator and test pilot before being selected for the second group of astronauts in 1962; he flew with Frank Borman in Gemini 7 in 1965 and Buzz Aldrin in Gemini 12 the following year before flying in Apollo 8 in 1968, the first spacecraft to orbit the Moon.[15] At the time of Apollo 13, Lovell was the NASA astronaut with the most time in space, with 572 hours over the three missions.[16]

Jack Swigert, the command module pilot (CMP), was 38 years old and held a B.S. in mechanical engineering and an M.S. in aerospace science; he had served in the Air Force and in state Air National Guards and was an engineering test pilot before being selected for the fifth group of astronauts in 1966.[17] Fred Haise, the lunar module pilot (LMP), was 35 years old. He held a B.S. in aeronautical engineering, had been a Marine Corps fighter pilot, and was a civilian research pilot for NASA when he was selected as a Group 5 astronaut.[18] Apollo 13 was Swigert's and Haise's only spaceflight.[19]

According to the standard Apollo crew rotation, the prime crew for Apollo 13 would have been the backup crew[note 2] for Apollo 10, with Mercury and Gemini veteran Gordon Cooper in command, Donn F. Eisele as CMP and Edgar Mitchell as LMP. Deke Slayton, NASA's Director of Flight Crew Operations, never intended to rotate Cooper and Eisele to a prime crew assignment, as both were out of favor – Cooper for his lax attitude towards training, and Eisele for incidents aboard Apollo 7 and an extramarital affair. He assigned them to the backup crew because no other veteran astronauts were available.[22] Slayton's original choices for Apollo 13 were Alan Shepard as commander, Stuart Roosa as CMP, and Mitchell as LMP. However, management felt Shepard needed more training time, as he had only recently resumed active status after surgery for an inner ear disorder and had not flown since 1961. Thus, Lovell's crew (himself, Haise and Ken Mattingly), having all backed up Apollo 11 and being slated for Apollo 14, was swapped with Shepard's.[22]

see caption
Swigert, Lovell and Haise the day before launch

Swigert was originally CMP of Apollo 13's backup crew, with John Young as commander and Charles Duke as lunar module pilot.[23] Seven days before launch, Duke contracted rubella from a friend of his son.[24] This exposed both the prime and backup crews, who trained together. Of the five, only Mattingly was not immune through prior exposure. Normally, if any member of the prime crew had to be grounded, the remaining crew would be replaced as well, and the backup crew substituted, but Duke's illness ruled this out,[25] so two days before launch, Mattingly was replaced by Swigert.[17] Mattingly never developed rubella and later flew on Apollo 16.[26]

For Apollo, a third crew of astronauts, known as the support crew, was designated in addition to the prime and backup crews used on projects Mercury and Gemini. Slayton created the support crews because James McDivitt, who would command Apollo 9, believed that, with preparation going on in facilities across the US, meetings that needed a member of the flight crew would be missed. Support crew members were to assist as directed by the mission commander.[27] Usually low in seniority, they assembled the mission's rules, flight plan, and checklists, and kept them updated;[28][29] for Apollo 13, they were Vance D. Brand, Jack Lousma and either William Pogue or Joseph Kerwin.[note 3][34]

For Apollo 13, flight directors were: Gene Kranz, White team,[35] (the lead flight director);[36][37] Glynn Lunney, Black team; Milton Windler, Maroon team and Gerry Griffin, Gold team.[35] The CAPCOMs (the person in Mission Control, during the Apollo program an astronaut, who was responsible for voice communications with the crew)[38] for Apollo 13 were Kerwin, Brand, Lousma, Young and Mattingly.[39]

Mission insignia and call signs

see caption
Apollo 13 flown silver Robbins medallion

The Apollo 13 mission insignia depicts the Greek god of the Sun, Apollo, with three horses pulling his chariot across the face of the Moon, and the Earth seen in the distance. This is meant to symbolize the Apollo flights bringing the light of knowledge to all people. The mission motto, Ex luna, scientia (From the Moon, knowledge), appears. In choosing it, Lovell adapted the motto of his alma mater, the Naval Academy, Ex scientia, tridens (From knowledge, sea power).[40][41]

On the patch, the mission number appeared in Roman numerals as Apollo XIII. It did not have to be modified after Swigert replaced Mattingly, as it is one of only two Apollo mission insignia—the other being Apollo 11—not to include the names of the crew. It was designed by artist Lumen Martin Winter, who based it on a mural he had painted for the St. Regis Hotel in New York City.[42] The mural was later purchased by actor Tom Hanks,[43] who portrayed Lovell in the movie Apollo 13, and is now in the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Illinois.[44]

The mission's motto was in Lovell's mind when he chose the call sign Aquarius for the lunar module, taken from Aquarius, the bringer of water.[45][46] Some in the media erroneously reported that the call sign was taken from a song by that name from the musical Hair.[46][47] The command module's call sign, Odyssey, was chosen not only for its Homeric association but to refer to the recent movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, based on a short story by science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke.[45] In his book, Lovell indicated he chose the name Odyssey because he liked the word and its definition: a long voyage with many changes of fortune.[46]

Space vehicle

CSM-109 Odyssey in the Operations and Checkout Building

The Saturn V rocket used to carry Apollo 13 to the Moon was numbered SA-508, and was almost identical to those used on Apollo 8 through 12.[48] Including the spacecraft, the rocket weighed in at 2,949,136 kilograms (6,501,733 lb).[3] The S-IC stage's engines were rated to generate 440,000 newtons (100,000 lbf) less total thrust than Apollo 12's, though they remained within specifications. Extra propellant was carried as a test, since future J missions to the Moon would require more propellant for their heavier payloads. This made the vehicle the heaviest yet flown by NASA, and Apollo 13 was visibly slower to clear the launch tower than earlier missions.[49]

The Apollo 13 spacecraft consisted of Command Module 109 and Service Module 109 (together CSM-109), called Odyssey, and Lunar Module 7 (LM-7), called Aquarius. Also considered part of the spacecraft was the launch escape system, which would propel the command module (CM) to safety in the event of a problem during liftoff, and the Spacecraft–LM Adapter, numbered as SLA-16, which housed the lunar module (LM) during the first hours of the mission.[50][51]

The LM stages, CM and service module (SM) were received at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in June 1969; the portions of the Saturn V were received in June and July. Thereafter, testing and assembly proceeded, culminating with the rollout of the launch vehicle, with the spacecraft atop it, on December 15, 1969.[50] Apollo 13 was originally scheduled for launch on March 12, 1970; in January of that year, NASA announced the mission would be postponed until April 11, both to allow more time for planning and to spread the Apollo missions over a longer period of time.[52] The plan was to have two Apollo flights per year and was in response to budgetary constraints[53] that had recently seen the cancellation of Apollo 20.[54]

Training and preparation

Lovell practices deploying the flag

The Apollo 13 prime crew undertook over 1,000 hours of mission-specific training, more than five hours for every hour of the mission's ten-day planned duration. Each member of the prime crew spent over 400 hours in simulators of the CM and (for Lovell and Haise) of the LM at KSC and at Houston, some of which involved the flight controllers at Mission Control.[55] Flight controllers participated in many simulations of problems with the spacecraft in flight, which taught them how to react in an emergency.[11] Specialized simulators at other locations were also used by the crew members.[55]

The astronauts of Apollo 11 had minimal time for geology training, with only six months between crew assignment and launch; higher priorities took much of their time.[56] Apollo 12 saw more such training, including practice in the field, using a CAPCOM and a simulated backroom of scientists, to whom the astronauts had to describe what they saw.[57] Scientist-astronaut Harrison Schmitt saw that there was limited enthusiasm for geology field trips. Believing an inspirational teacher was needed, Schmitt arranged for Lovell and Haise to meet his old professor, Caltech's Lee Silver. The two astronauts, and backups Young and Duke, went on a field trip with Silver at their own time and expense. At the end of their week together, Lovell made Silver their geology mentor, who would be extensively involved in the geology planning for Apollo 13.[58] Farouk El-Baz oversaw the training of Mattingly and his backup, Swigert, which involved describing and photographing simulated lunar landmarks from airplanes.[59] El-Baz had all three prime crew astronauts describe geologic features they saw during their flights between Houston and KSC; Mattingly's enthusiasm caused other astronauts, such as Apollo 14's CMP, Roosa, to seek out El-Baz as a teacher.[60]

Concerned about how close Apollo 11's LM, Eagle, had come to running out of propellant during its lunar descent, mission planners decided that beginning with Apollo 13, the CSM would bring the LM to the low orbit from which the landing attempt would commence. This was a change from Apollo 11 and 12, on which the LM made the burn to bring it to the lower orbit. The change was part of an effort to increase the amount of hover time available to the astronauts as the missions headed into rougher terrain.[61]

The plan was to devote the first of the two four-hour lunar surface extravehicular activities (EVAs) to setting up the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) group of scientific instruments; during the second, Lovell and Haise would investigate Cone crater, near the planned landing site.[62] The two astronauts wore their spacesuits for some 20 walk-throughs of EVA procedures, including sample gathering and use of tools and other equipment. They flew in the "Vomit Comet" in simulated microgravity or lunar gravity, including practice in donning and doffing spacesuits. To prepare for the descent to the Moon's surface, Lovell flew the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle (LLTV).[63] Despite the fact that four of the five LLTVs and similar Lunar Landing Research Vehicles crashed during the course of the Apollo program, mission commanders considered flying them invaluable experience.[64]

Experiments and scientific objectives

Lovell (left) and Haise during geology training in Hawaii, January 1970

Apollo 13's designated landing site was near Fra Mauro crater; the Fra Mauro formation was believed to contain much material spattered by the impact that had filled the Imbrium basin early in the Moon's history. Dating it would provide information not only about the Moon, but about the Earth's early history. Such material was likely to be available at Cone crater, a site where an impact was believed to have drilled deep into the lunar regolith.[65]

Apollo 11 had left a seismometer on the Moon, but the solar-powered unit did not survive its first two-week-long lunar night. The Apollo 12 astronauts also left one as part of its ALSEP, which was nuclear-powered.[66] Apollo 13 also carried a seismometer (known as the Passive Seismic Experiment, or PSE), similar to Apollo 12's, as part of its ALSEP, to be left on the Moon by the astronauts.[67] That seismometer was to be calibrated by the impact, after jettison, of the ascent stage of Apollo 13's LM, an object of known mass and velocity impacting at a known location.[68]

Other ALSEP experiments on Apollo 13 included a Heat Flow Experiment (HFE), which would involve drilling two holes 3.0 metres (10 ft) deep.[69] This was Haise's responsibility; he was also to drill a third hole of that depth for a core sample.[70] A Charged Particle Lunar Environment Experiment (CPLEE) measured the protons and electrons of solar origin reaching the Moon.[71] The package also included a Lunar Atmosphere Detector (LAD)[72] and a Dust Detector, to measure the accumulation of debris.[73] The Heat Flow Experiment and the CPLEE were flown for the first time on Apollo 13; the other experiments had been flown before.[70]

Haise practices removing the fuel capsule from its transport cask mounted on the LM. The real cask sank unopened into the Pacific Ocean with its radioactive contents.

To power the ALSEP, the SNAP-27 radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) was flown. Developed by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, SNAP-27 was first flown on Apollo 12. The fuel capsule contained about 3.79 kilograms (8.36 lb) of plutonium oxide. The cask placed around the capsule for transport to the Moon was built with heat shields of graphite and of beryllium, and with structural parts of titanium and of Inconel materials. Thus, it was built to withstand the heat of reentry into the Earth's atmosphere rather than pollute the air with plutonium in the event of an aborted mission.[74]

A United States flag was also taken, to be erected on the Moon's surface.[75] For Apollo 11 and 12, the flag had been placed in a heat-resistant tube on the front landing leg; it was moved for Apollo 13 to the Modularized Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA) in the LM descent stage. The structure to fly the flag on the airless Moon was improved from Apollo 12's.[76]

For the first time, red stripes were placed on the helmet, arms and legs of the commander's A7L spacesuit. This was done as, after Apollo 11, those reviewing the images taken had trouble distinguishing Armstrong from Aldrin, but the change was approved too late for Apollo 12.[77] New drink bags that attached inside the helmets and were to be sipped from as the astronauts walked on the Moon were demonstrated by Haise during Apollo 13's final television broadcast before the accident.[78][79]

Apollo 13's primary mission objectives were to: "Perform selenological inspection, survey, and sampling of materials in a preselected region of the Fra Mauro Formation. Deploy and activate an Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package. Develop man's capability to work in the lunar environment. Obtain photographs of candidate exploration sites."[80] The astronauts were also to accomplish other photographic objectives, including of the Gegenschein from lunar orbit, and of the Moon itself on the journey back to Earth. Some of this photography was to be performed by Swigert as Lovell and Haise walked on the Moon.[81] Swigert was also to take photographs of the Lagrangian points of the Earth-Moon system. Apollo 13 had twelve cameras on board, including those for television and moving pictures.[70] The crew was also to downlink bistatic radar observations of the Moon. None of these was attempted because of the accident.[81]

Flight of Apollo 13

Apollo 13's complete circumlunar flight trajectory drawn to scale, showing its distance to the Moon when the accident occurred
The circumlunar trajectory followed by Apollo 13, drawn to scale; the accident occurred about 56 hours into the mission
Apollo 13 spacecraft configuration during most of the journey

Launch and translunar injection

Apollo 13 launches from Kennedy Space Center, April 11, 1970

The mission was launched at the planned time, 2:13:00 pm EST (19:13:00 UTC) on April 11. An anomaly occurred when the second-stage, center (inboard) engine shut down about two minutes early.[82][83] This was caused by severe pogo oscillations. Starting with Apollo 10, the vehicle's guidance system was designed to shut the engine down in response to chamber pressure excursions.[84] Pogo oscillations had occurred on Titan rockets (used during the Gemini program) and on previous Apollo missions,[85][86] but on Apollo 13 they were amplified by an interaction with turbopump cavitation.[87][88] A fix to prevent pogo was ready for the mission, but schedule pressure did not permit the hardware's integration into the Apollo 13 vehicle.[84][89] A post-flight investigation revealed the engine was one cycle away from catastrophic failure.[84] In spite of the shutdown, the four outboard engines and the S-IVB third stage burned longer to compensate, and the vehicle achieved very close to the planned circular 190 kilometers (100 nmi) parking orbit, followed by a translunar injection (TLI) about two hours later, setting the mission on course for the Moon.[82][83]

After TLI, Swigert performed the separation and transposition maneuvers before docking the CSM Odyssey to the LM Aquarius, and the spacecraft pulled away from the third stage.[90] Ground controllers then sent the third stage on a course to impact the Moon in range of the Apollo 12 seismometer, which it did just over three days into the mission.[91]

The crew settled in for the three-day trip to Fra Mauro. At 30:40:50 into the mission, with the TV camera running, the crew performed a burn to place Apollo 13 on a hybrid trajectory. The departure from a free-return trajectory meant that if no further burns were performed, Apollo 13 would miss Earth on its return trajectory, rather than intercept it, as with a free return.[92] A free return trajectory could only reach sites near the lunar equator; a hybrid trajectory, which could be started at any point after TLI, allowed sites with higher latitudes, such as Fra Mauro, to be reached.[93] Communications were enlivened when Swigert realized that in the last-minute rush, he had omitted to file his federal income tax return (due April 15), and amid laughter from mission controllers, asked how he could get an extension. He was found to be entitled to a 60-day extension for being out of the country at the deadline.[94]

Entry into the LM to test its systems had been scheduled for 58:00:00; when the crew awoke on the third day of the mission, they were informed it had been moved up three hours and was later moved up again by another hour. A television broadcast was scheduled for 55:00:00; Lovell, acting as emcee, showed the audience the interiors of Odyssey and Aquarius.[95] The audience was limited by the fact that none of the television networks were carrying the broadcast,[96] forcing Marilyn Lovell (Jim Lovell's wife) to go to the VIP room at Mission Control if she wanted to watch her husband and his crewmates.[97]


Approximately six and a half minutes after the TV broadcast – approaching 56:00:00 – Apollo 13 was about 180,000 nautical miles (210,000 mi; 330,000 km) from Earth.[98] Haise was completing the shutdown of the LM after testing its systems while Lovell stowed the TV camera. Jack Lousma, the CAPCOM, sent minor instructions to Swigert, including changing the attitude of the craft to facilitate photography of Comet Bennett.[98][99]

The pressure sensor in one of the SM's oxygen tanks had earlier appeared to be malfunctioning, so Sy Liebergot (the EECOM, in charge of monitoring the CSM's electrical system) requested that the stirring fans in the tanks be activated. Normally this was done once daily; a stir would destratify the contents of the tanks, making the pressure readings more accurate.[98] The Flight Director, Kranz, had Liebergot wait a few minutes for the crew to settle down after the telecast,[100] then Lousma relayed the request to Swigert, who activated the switches controlling the fans,[98] and after a few seconds turned them off again.[99]

Ninety-five seconds after Swigert activated those switches,[100] the astronauts heard a "pretty large bang", accompanied by fluctuations in electrical power and the firing of the attitude control thrusters.[101][102] Communications and telemetry to Earth were lost for 1.8 seconds, until the system automatically corrected by switching the high-gain S-band antenna, used for translunar communications, from narrow-beam to wide-beam mode.[103] The accident happened at 55:54:53 (03:08 UTC on April 14, 10:08 PM EST, April 13). Swigert reported 26 seconds later, "Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here," echoed at 55:55:42 by Lovell, "Houston, we've had a problem. We've had a Main B Bus undervolt."[98]

Lovell's initial thought on hearing the noise was that Haise had activated the LM's cabin-repressurization valve, which also produced a bang (Haise enjoyed doing so to startle his crewmates), but Lovell could see that Haise had no idea what had happened. Swigert initially thought that a meteoroid might have struck the LM, but he and Lovell quickly realized there was no leak.[104] The "Main Bus B undervolt" meant that there was insufficient voltage produced by the SM's three fuel cells (fueled by hydrogen and oxygen piped from their respective tanks) to the second of the SM's two electric power distribution systems. Almost everything in the CSM required power. Although the bus momentarily returned to normal status, soon both buses A and B were short on voltage. Haise checked the status of the fuel cells and found that two of them were dead. Mission rules forbade entering lunar orbit unless all fuel cells were operational.[105]

In the minutes after the accident, there were several unusual readings, showing that tank 2 was empty and tank 1's pressure slowly falling, that the computer on the spacecraft had reset and that the high-gain antenna was not working. Liebergot initially missed the worrying signs from tank 2 following the stir, as he was focusing on tank 1, believing that its reading would be a good guide to what was present in tank 2; so did controllers supporting him in the "back room". When Kranz questioned Liebergot on this, he initially responded that there might be false readings due to an instrumentation problem; he was often teased about that in the years to come.[11] Lovell, looking out the window, reported "a gas of some sort" venting into space, making it clear that there was a serious problem.[106]

Since the fuel cells needed oxygen to operate, when Oxygen Tank 1 ran dry, the remaining fuel cell would shut down, meaning the CSM's only significant sources of power and oxygen would be the CM's batteries and its oxygen "surge tank". These would be needed for the final hours of the mission, but the remaining fuel cell, already starved for oxygen, was drawing from the surge tank. Kranz ordered the surge tank isolated, saving its oxygen, but this meant that the remaining fuel cell would die within two hours, as the oxygen in tank 1 was consumed or leaked away.[105] The volume surrounding the spacecraft was filled with myriad small bits of debris from the accident, complicating any efforts to use the stars for navigation.[107] The mission's goal became simply getting the astronauts back to Earth alive.[108]

Looping around the Moon

This depiction of a direct abort (from a 1966 planning report) contemplates returning from a point much earlier in the mission, and closer to Earth, than where the Apollo 13 accident occurred.
NASA - Apollo 13 Lunar Mission - Views Of The Moon (2:24)

The lunar module had charged batteries and full oxygen tanks for use on the lunar surface, so Kranz directed that the astronauts power up the LM and use it as a "lifeboat"[11] – a scenario anticipated but considered unlikely.[109] Procedures for using the LM in this way had been developed by LM flight controllers after a training simulation for Apollo 10 in which the LM was needed for survival, but could not be powered up in time.[108] Had Apollo 13's accident occurred on the return voyage, with the LM already jettisoned, the astronauts would have died,[110] as they would have following an explosion in lunar orbit, including one while Lovell and Haise walked on the Moon.[111]

A key decision was the choice of return path. A "direct abort" would use the SM's main engine (the Service Propulsion System or SPS) to return before reaching the Moon. But the accident could have damaged the SPS, and the fuel cells would have to last at least another hour to meet its power requirements, so Kranz instead decided on a longer route: the spacecraft would swing around the Moon before heading back to Earth. Apollo 13 was on the hybrid trajectory which was to take it to Fra Mauro; it now needed to be brought back to a free return. The LM's Descent Propulsion System (DPS), although not as powerful as the SPS, could do this, but new software for Mission Control's computers needed to be written by technicians as it had never been contemplated that the CSM/LM spacecraft would have to be maneuvered from the LM. As the CM was being shut down, Lovell copied down its guidance system's orientation information and performed hand calculations to transfer it to the LM's guidance system, which had been turned off; at his request Mission Control checked his figures.[108][112] At 61:29:43.49 the DPS burn of 34.23 seconds took Apollo 13 back to a free return trajectory.[113]

The Apollo 13 crew photographed the Moon out of the Lunar Module.

The change would get Apollo 13 back to Earth in about four days' time – though with splashdown in the Indian Ocean, where NASA had few recovery forces. Jerry Bostick and other Flight Dynamics Officers (FIDOs) were anxious both to shorten the travel time and to move splashdown to the Pacific Ocean, where the main recovery forces were located. One option would shave 36 hours off the return time, but required jettisoning the SM; this would expose the CM's heat shield to space during the return journey, something for which it had not been designed. The FIDOs also proposed other solutions. After a meeting involving NASA officials and engineers, the senior individual present, Manned Spaceflight Center director Robert R. Gilruth, decided on a burn using the DPS, that would save 12 hours and land Apollo 13 in the Pacific. This "PC+2" burn would take place two hours after pericynthion, the closest approach to the Moon.[108] At pericynthion, Apollo 13 set the record (per the Guinness Book of World Records), which still stands, for the highest absolute altitude attained by a crewed spacecraft: 400,171 kilometers (248,655 mi) from Earth at 7:21 pm EST, April 14 (00:21:00 UTC April 15).[114][note 4]

While preparing for the burn the crew was told that the S-IVB had impacted the Moon as planned, leading Lovell to quip, "Well, at least something worked on this flight."[117][118] Kranz's White team of mission controllers, who had spent most of their time supporting other teams and developing the procedures urgently needed to get the astronauts home, took their consoles for the PC+2 procedure.[119] Normally, the accuracy of such a burn could be assured by checking the alignment Lovell had transferred to the LM's computer against the position of one of the stars astronauts used for navigation, but the light glinting off the many pieces of debris accompanying the spacecraft made that impractical. The astronauts used the one star available whose position could not be obscured – the Sun. Houston also informed them that the Moon would be centered in the commander's window of the LM as they made the burn, which was almost perfect – less than 0.3 meters (a foot) per second off.[117] The burn, at 79:27:38.95, lasted four minutes, 23 seconds.[120] The crew then shut down most LM systems to conserve consumables.[117]

Return to Earth

Swigert with the rig improvised to adapt the CM's lithium hydroxide canisters for use in the LM

The LM carried enough oxygen, but that still left the problem of removing carbon dioxide, which was absorbed by canisters of lithium hydroxide pellets. The LM's stock of canisters, meant to accommodate two astronauts for 45 hours on the Moon, was not enough to support three astronauts for the return journey to Earth.[121] The CM had enough canisters, but they were the wrong shape and size to work in the LM's equipment. Engineers on the ground devised a way to bridge the gap, using plastic, covers ripped from procedures manuals, duct tape, and other items.[122][123] NASA engineers referred to the improvised device as "the mailbox".[124] The procedure for building the device was read to the crew by CAPCOM Joseph Kerwin over the course of an hour, and it was built by Swigert and Haise; carbon dioxide levels began dropping immediately. Lovell later described this improvisation as "a fine example of cooperation between ground and space".[125]

Lovell tries to rest in the frigid spacecraft

The CSM's electricity came from fuel cells that produced water as a byproduct, but the LM was powered by silver-zinc batteries which did not, so both electrical power and water (needed for equipment cooling as well as drinking) would be critical. LM power consumption was reduced to the lowest level possible;[126] Swigert was able to fill some drinking bags with water from the CM's water tap,[117] but even assuming rationing of personal consumption, Haise initially calculated they would run out of water for cooling about five hours before reentry. This seemed acceptable because the systems of Apollo 11's LM, once jettisoned in lunar orbit, had continued to operate for seven to eight hours even with the water cut off. In the end, Apollo 13 returned to Earth with 12.8 kilograms (28.2 lb) of water remaining.[127] The crew's ration was 0.2 liters (6.8 fl oz) of water per person per day; the three astronauts lost a total of 14 kilograms (31 lb) among them, and Haise developed a urinary tract infection.[128][129] This infection was probably caused by the reduced water intake, but microgravity and effects of cosmic radiation might have impaired his immune system's reaction to the pathogen.[130]

Apollo 13: Houston, We've Got a Problem (1970) — Documentary about the mission by NASA (28:21)

Inside the darkened spacecraft, the temperature dropped as low as 3 °C (38 °F).[131] Lovell considered having the crew don their spacesuits, but decided this would be too hot. Instead, Lovell and Haise wore their lunar EVA boots and Swigert put on an extra coverall. All three astronauts were cold, especially Swigert, who had got his feet wet while filling the water bags and had no lunar overshoes (since he had not been scheduled to walk on the Moon). As they had been told not to discharge their urine to space to avoid disturbing the trajectory, they had to store it in bags. Water condensed on the walls, though any condensation that may have been behind equipment panels[132] caused no problems, partly because of the extensive electrical insulation improvements instituted after the Apollo 1 fire.[133] Despite all this, the crew voiced few complaints.[134]

Flight controller John Aaron, along with Mattingly and several engineers and designers, devised a procedure for powering up the command module from full shutdown – something never intended to be done in flight, much less under Apollo 13's severe power and time constraints.[135] The astronauts implemented the procedure without apparent difficulty: Kranz later credited the fact that all three astronauts had been test pilots, accustomed to having to work in critical situations with their lives on the line, for their survival.[134]

Recognizing that the cold conditions combined with insufficient rest would hinder the time critical startup of the command module prior to reentry, at 133 hours into flight Mission Control gave Lovell the okay to fully power up the LM to raise the cabin temperature, which included restarting the LM's guidance computer. Having the LM's computer running enabled Lovell to perform a navigational sighting and calibrate the LM's IMU. With the lunar module's computer aware of its location and orientation, the command module's computer was later calibrated in a reverse of the normal procedures used to set up the LM, shaving steps from the restart process and increasing the accuracy of the PGNCS-controlled reentry.[136]

Reentry and splashdown

Despite the accuracy of the transearth injection, the spacecraft slowly drifted off course, necessitating a correction. As the LM's guidance system had been shut down following the PC+2 burn, the crew was told to use the line between night and day on the Earth to guide them, a technique used on NASA's Earth-orbit missions but never on the way back from the Moon.[134] This DPS burn, at 105:18:42 for 14 seconds, brought the projected entry flight path angle back within safe limits. Nevertheless, yet another burn was needed at 137:40:13, using the LM's reaction control system (RCS) thrusters, for 21.5 seconds. The SM was jettisoned less than half an hour later, allowing the crew to see the damage for the first time, and photograph it. They reported that an entire panel was missing from the SM's exterior, the fuel cells above the oxygen tank shelf were tilted, that the high-gain antenna was damaged, and there was a considerable amount of debris elsewhere.[137] Haise could see possible damage to the SM's engine bell, validating Kranz's decision not to use the SPS.[134]

Spaceship contacts ocean under parachute
Apollo 13 splashes down in the South Pacific on April 17, 1970

The last problem to be solved was how to separate the lunar module a safe distance away from the command module just before reentry. The normal procedure, in lunar orbit, was to release the LM and then use the service module's RCS to pull the CSM away, but by this point, the SM had already been released. Grumman, manufacturer of the LM, assigned a team of University of Toronto engineers, led by senior scientist Bernard Etkin, to solve the problem of how much air pressure to use to push the modules apart. The astronauts applied the solution, which was successful.[138] The LM reentered Earth's atmosphere and was destroyed, the remaining pieces falling in the deep ocean.[110][139] Apollo 13's final midcourse correction had addressed the concerns of the Atomic Energy Commission, which wanted the cask containing the plutonium oxide intended for the SNAP-27 RTG to land in a safe place. The impact point was over the Tonga Trench in the Pacific, one of its deepest points, and the cask sank 10 kilometers (6 mi) to the bottom. Later helicopter surveys found no radioactive leakage.[134]

Ionization of the air around the command module during reentry would typically cause a four-minute communications blackout. Apollo 13's shallow reentry path lengthened this to six minutes, longer than had been expected; controllers feared that the CM's heat shield had failed.[140] Odyssey regained radio contact and splashed down safely in the South Pacific Ocean, 21°38′24″S 165°21′42″W / 21.64000°S 165.36167°W / -21.64000; -165.36167 (Apollo 13 splashdown),[141] southeast of American Samoa and 6.5 km (3.5 nmi) from the recovery ship, USS Iwo Jima.[142] Although fatigued, the crew was in good condition except for Haise, who was suffering from a serious urinary tract infection because of insufficient water intake.[129] The crew stayed overnight on the ship and flew to Pago Pago, American Samoa, the next day. They flew to Hawaii, where President Richard Nixon awarded them the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor.[143] They stayed overnight, and then were flown back to Houston.[144]

En route to Honolulu, President Nixon stopped at Houston to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Apollo 13 Mission Operations Team.[145] He originally planned to give the award to NASA administrator Thomas O. Paine, but Paine recommended the mission operations team.[146]

Public and media reaction

Nobody believes me, but during this six-day odyssey we had no idea what an impression Apollo 13 made on the people of Earth. We never dreamed a billion people were following us on television and radio, and reading about us in banner headlines of every newspaper published. We still missed the point on board the carrier Iwo Jima, which picked us up, because the sailors had been as remote from the media as we were. Only when we reached Honolulu did we comprehend our impact: there we found President Nixon and [NASA Administrator] Dr. Paine to meet us, along with my wife Marilyn, Fred's wife Mary (who, being pregnant, also had a doctor along just in case), and bachelor Jack's parents, in lieu of his usual airline stewardesses.

— Jim Lovell[129]

Worldwide interest in the Apollo program was reawakened by the incident; television coverage was seen by millions. Four Soviet ships headed toward the landing area to assist if needed,[147] and other nations offered assistance should the craft have to splash down elsewhere.[148] President Nixon canceled appointments, phoned the astronauts' families, and drove to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, where Apollo's tracking and communications were coordinated.[147]

The rescue received more public attention than any spaceflight to that point, other than the first Moon landing on Apollo 11. There were worldwide headlines, and people surrounded television sets to get the latest developments, offered by networks who interrupted their regular programming for bulletins. Pope Paul VI led a congregation of 10,000 people in praying for the astronauts' safe return; ten times that number offered prayers at a religious festival in India.[149] The United States Senate on April 14 passed a resolution urging businesses to pause at 9:00 pm local time that evening to allow for employee prayer.[147]

An estimated 40 million Americans watched Apollo 13's splashdown, carried live on all three networks, with another 30 million watching some portion of the six and one-half hour telecast. Even more outside the U.S. watched. Jack Gould of The New York Times stated that Apollo 13, "which came so close to tragic disaster, in all probability united the world in mutual concern more fully than another successful landing on the Moon would have".[150]

Investigation and response

Review board

Oxygen tank number 2, showing heater and thermostat unit

Immediately upon the crew's return, NASA Administrator Paine and Deputy Administrator George Low appointed a review board – chaired by NASA Langley Research Center Director Edgar M. Cortright and including Neil Armstrong and six others[note 5] – to investigate the accident. The board's final report, sent to Paine on June 15,[152] found that the failure began in the service module's number 2 oxygen tank.[153] Damaged Teflon insulation on the wires to the stirring fan inside Oxygen Tank 2 allowed the wires to short circuit and ignite this insulation. The resulting fire quickly increased pressure inside the tank and the tank dome failed, filling the fuel cell bay (SM Sector 4) with rapidly expanding gaseous oxygen and combustion products. The escaping gas was probably enough by itself to blow out the aluminum exterior panel to Sector 4, but combustion products generated as nearby insulation ignited would have added to the pressure. The panel's departure exposed the sector to space, snuffing out the fire, and it probably hit the nearby high-gain antenna, disrupting communications to Earth for 1.8 seconds.[154] The sectors of the SM were not airtight from each other, and had there been time for the entire SM to become as pressurized as Sector 4, the force on the CM's heat shield would have separated the two modules. The report questioned the use of Teflon and other materials shown to be flammable in supercritical oxygen, such as aluminum, within the tank.[155] The board found no evidence pointing to any other theory of the accident.[156]

Panel in the process of being blown out
Further along in the process
Panel similar to the SM Sector 4 cover being ejected during a test performed as part of the investigation

Mechanical shock forced the oxygen valves closed on the number 1 and number 3 fuel cells, putting them out of commission.[157] The sudden failure of Oxygen Tank 2 compromised Oxygen Tank 1, causing its contents to leak out, possibly through a damaged line or valve, over the next 130 minutes, entirely depleting the SM's oxygen supply.[158][159] With both SM oxygen tanks emptying, and with other damage to the SM, the mission had to be aborted.[160] The board praised the response to the emergency: "The imperfection in Apollo 13 constituted a near disaster, averted only by outstanding performance on the part of the crew and the ground control team which supported them."[161]

Oxygen Tank 2 was manufactured by the Beech Aircraft Company of Boulder, Colorado, as subcontractor to North American Rockwell (NAR) of Downey, California, prime contractor for the CSM.[162] It contained two thermostatic switches, originally designed for the command module's 28-volt DC power, but which could fail if subjected to the 65 volts used during ground testing at KSC.[163] Under the original 1962 specifications, the switches would be rated for 28 volts, but revised specifications issued in 1965 called for 65 volts to allow for quicker tank pressurization at KSC. Nonetheless, the switches Beech used were not rated for 65 volts.[164]

At NAR's facility, Oxygen Tank 2 had been originally installed in an oxygen shelf placed in the Apollo 10 service module, SM-106, but which was removed to fix a potential electromagnetic interference problem and another shelf substituted. During removal, the shelf was accidentally dropped at least 5 centimeters (2 in), because a retaining bolt had not been removed. The probability of damage from this was low, but it is possible that the fill line assembly was loose and made worse by the fall. After some retesting (which did not include filling the tank with liquid oxygen), in November 1968 the shelf was re-installed in SM-109, intended for Apollo 13, which was shipped to KSC in June 1969.[165]

The Countdown Demonstration Test took place with SM-109 in its place near the top of the Saturn V and began on March 16, 1970. During the test, the cryogenic tanks were filled, but Oxygen Tank 2 could not be emptied through the normal drain line, and a report was written documenting the problem. After discussion among NASA and the contractors, attempts to empty the tank resumed on March 27. When it would not empty normally, the heaters in the tank were turned on to boil off the oxygen. The thermostatic switches were designed to prevent the heaters from raising the temperature higher than 27 °C (80 °F), but they failed under the 65-volt power supply applied. Temperatures on the heater tube within the tank may have reached 540 °C (1,000 °F), most likely damaging the Teflon insulation.[163] The temperature gauge was not designed to read higher than 29 °C (85 °F), so the technician monitoring the procedure detected nothing unusual. This heating had been approved by Lovell and Mattingly of the prime crew, as well as by NASA managers and engineers.[166][167] Replacement of the tank would have delayed the mission by at least a month.[128] The tank was filled with liquid oxygen again before launch; once electric power was connected, it was in a hazardous condition.[160] The board found that Swigert's activation of the Oxygen Tank 2 fan at the request of Mission Control caused an electric arc that set the tank on fire.[168]

The board conducted a test of an oxygen tank rigged with hot-wire ignitors that caused a rapid rise in temperature within the tank, after which it failed, producing telemetry similar to that seen with the Apollo 13 Oxygen Tank 2.[169] Tests with panels similar to the one that was seen to be missing on SM Sector 4 caused separation of the panel in the test apparatus.[170]

Changes in response

Redesigned oxygen tank for Apollo 14

For Apollo 14 and subsequent missions, the oxygen tank was redesigned, the thermostats being upgraded to handle the proper voltage. The heaters were retained since they were necessary to maintain oxygen pressure. The stirring fans, with their unsealed motors, were removed, which meant the oxygen quantity gauge was no longer accurate. This required adding a third tank so that no tank would go below half full.[171] The third tank was placed in Bay 1 of the SM, on the side opposite the other two, and was given an isolation valve that could isolate it from the fuel cells and from the other two oxygen tanks in an emergency and allow it to feed the CM's environmental system only. The quantity probe was upgraded from aluminum to stainless steel.[172]

All electrical wiring in Bay 4 was sheathed in stainless steel. The fuel cell oxygen supply valves were redesigned to isolate the Teflon-coated wiring from the oxygen. The spacecraft and Mission Control monitoring systems were modified to give more immediate and visible warnings of anomalies.[171] An emergency supply of 19 litres (5 US gal) of water was stored in the CM, and an emergency battery, identical to those that powered the LM's descent stage, was placed in the SM. The LM was modified to make transfer of power from LM to CM easier.[173] Devices were placed in the S-II second stage to counteract pogo oscillations.[174]


President Richard Nixon awarding the Apollo 13 astronauts the Presidential Medal of Freedom

On February 5, 1971, Apollo 14's LM, Antares, landed on the Moon with astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell aboard, near Fra Mauro, the site Apollo 13 had been intended to explore.[175] Haise served as CAPCOM during the descent to the Moon,[176] and during the second EVA, during which Shepard and Mitchell explored near Cone crater.[177]

None of the Apollo 13 astronauts flew in space again. Lovell retired from NASA and the Navy in 1973, entering the private sector.[178] Swigert was to have flown on the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (the first joint mission with the Soviet Union) but was removed as part of the fallout from the Apollo 15 postal covers incident. He took a leave of absence from NASA in 1973 and left the agency to enter politics, being elected to the House of Representatives in 1982, but died of cancer before he could be sworn in.[179] Haise was slated to have been the commander of the canceled Apollo 19 mission, and flew the Space Shuttle Approach and Landing Tests before retiring from NASA in 1979.[180]

Several experiments were completed during Apollo 13, even though the mission did not land on the Moon.[181] One involved the launch vehicle's S-IVB (the Saturn V's third stage), which on prior missions had been sent into solar orbit once detached. The seismometer left by Apollo 12 had detected frequent impacts of small objects onto the Moon, but larger impacts would yield more information about the Moon's crust, so it was decided that, beginning with Apollo 13, the S-IVB would be crashed into the Moon.[182] The impact occurred at 77:56:40 into the mission and produced enough energy that the gain on the seismometer, 117 kilometers (73 mi) from the impact, had to be reduced.[91] An experiment to measure the amount of atmospheric electrical phenomena during the ascent to orbit – added after Apollo 12 was struck by lightning – returned data indicating a heightened risk during marginal weather. A series of photographs of Earth, taken to test whether cloud height could be determined from synchronous satellites, achieved the desired results.[181]

As a joke, Grumman issued an invoice to North American Rockwell, prime contractor for the CSM, for "towing" the CSM most of the way to the Moon and back. Line items included 400001 miles at $1 each (plus $4 for the first mile); $536.05 for battery charging; oxygen; and four nights at $8 per night for an "additional guest in room" (Swigert). After a 20% "commercial discount", and a 2% discount for timely payment, the final total was $312,421.24. North American declined payment, noting that it had ferried three previous Grumman LMs to the Moon without compensation.[183][184][185]

The Apollo 13 command module Odyssey on display at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas

The CM was disassembled for testing and parts remained in storage for years; some were used for a trainer for the Skylab Rescue Mission. That trainer was subsequently displayed at the Kentucky Science Center. Max Ary of the Cosmosphere made it a project to restore Odyssey; it is on display there, in Hutchinson, Kansas.[186]

Apollo 13 was called a "successful failure" by Lovell.[187] Mike Massimino, a Space Shuttle astronaut, stated that Apollo 13 "showed teamwork, camaraderie and what NASA was really made of".[111] The response to the accident has been repeatedly called, "NASA's finest hour";[188][189][190][191] it is still viewed that way.[111] Author Colin Burgess wrote, "the life-or-death flight of Apollo 13 dramatically evinced the colossal risks inherent in manned spaceflight. Then, with the crew safely back on Earth, public apathy set in once again."[192]

William R. Compton, in his book about the Apollo Program, said of Apollo 13, "Only a heroic effort of real-time improvisation by mission operations teams saved the crew."[193] Rick Houston and Milt Heflin, in their history of Mission Control, stated, "Apollo 13 proved mission control could bring those space voyagers back home again when their lives were on the line."[194] Former NASA chief historian Roger D. Launius wrote, "More than any other incident in the history of spaceflight, recovery from this accident solidified the world's belief in NASA's capabilities".[195] Nevertheless, the accident convinced some officials, such as Manned Spaceflight Center director Gilruth, that if NASA kept sending astronauts on Apollo missions, some would inevitably be killed, and they called for as quick an end as possible to the program.[195] Nixon's advisers recommended canceling the remaining lunar missions, saying that a disaster in space would cost him political capital.[196] Budget cuts made such a decision easier, and during the pause after Apollo 13, two missions were canceled, meaning that the program ended with Apollo 17 in December 1972.[195][197]

Popular culture, media and 50th anniversary

see caption
Command module replica used during Apollo 13 filming

The 1974 movie Houston, We've Got a Problem, while set around the Apollo 13 incident, is a fictional drama about the crises faced by ground personnel when the emergency disrupts their work schedules and places further stress on their lives. Lovell publicly complained about the movie, saying it was "fictitious and in poor taste".[198][199]

"Houston ... We've Got a Problem" was the title of an episode of the BBC documentary series A Life At Stake, broadcast in March 1978. This was an accurate, if simplified, reconstruction of the events.[200] In 1994, during the 25th anniversary of Apollo 11, PBS released a 90-minute documentary titled Apollo 13: To the Edge and Back.[201][202]

Following the flight, the crew planned to write a book, but they all left NASA without starting it. After Lovell retired in 1991, he was approached by journalist Jeffrey Kluger about writing a non-fiction account of the mission. Swigert died in 1982 and Haise was no longer interested in such a project. The resultant book, Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, was published in 1994.[203]

The next year, in 1995, a film adaptation of the book, Apollo 13, was released, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks as Lovell, Bill Paxton as Haise, Kevin Bacon as Swigert, Gary Sinise as Mattingly, Ed Harris as Kranz, and Kathleen Quinlan as Marilyn Lovell. James Lovell, Kranz, and other principals have stated that this film depicted the events of the mission with reasonable accuracy, given that some dramatic license was taken. For example, the film changes the tense of Lovell's famous follow-up to Swigert's original words from, "Houston, we've had a problem" to "Houston, we have a problem".[98][204] The film also invented the phrase "Failure is not an option", uttered by Harris as Kranz in the film; the phrase became so closely associated with Kranz that he used it for the title of his 2000 autobiography.[204] The film won two of the nine Academy Awards it was nominated for, Best Film Editing and Best Sound.[205][206]

In the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, co-produced by Hanks and Howard, the mission is dramatized in the episode "We Interrupt This Program". Rather than showing the incident from the crew's perspective as in the Apollo 13 feature film, it is instead presented from an Earth-bound perspective of television reporters competing for coverage of the event.[207]

In 2020, the BBC World Service began airing 13 Minutes to the Moon, radio programs which draw on NASA audio from the mission, as well as archival and recent interviews with participants. Episodes began airing for Season 2 starting on March 8, 2020, with episode 1, "Time bomb: Apollo 13", explaining the launch and the explosion. Episode 2 details Mission Control's denial and disbelief of the accident, with other episodes covering other aspects of the mission. The seventh and final episode was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In "Delay to Episode 7", the BBC explained that the presenter of the series, medical doctor Kevin Fong, had been called into service.[208][209]

In advance of the 50th anniversary of the mission in 2020, an Apollo in Real Time site for the mission went online, allowing viewers to follow along as the mission unfolds, view photographs and video, and listen to audio of conversations between Houston and the astronauts as well as between mission controllers.[210] Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NASA did not hold any in-person events during April 2020 for the flight's 50th anniversary, but premiered a new documentary, Apollo 13: Home Safe on April 10, 2020.[211] A number of events were rescheduled for later in 2020.[212]



  1. ^ No Apollo astronaut flew without life insurance, but the policies were paid for by private third parties whose involvement was not publicized.[9]
  2. ^ The role of the backup crew was to train and be prepared to fly in the event something happened to the prime crew.[20] Backup crews, according to the rotation, were assigned as the prime crew three missions after their assignment as backups.[21]
  3. ^ Some sources list Kerwin[30] and others list Pogue as the third member[31][32][33]
  4. ^ The record was set because the Moon was nearly at its furthest from Earth during the mission. Apollo 13's unique free return trajectory caused it to go approximately 100 kilometers (60 mi) further from the lunar far side than other Apollo lunar missions, but this was a minor contribution to the record.[115] A reconstruction of the trajectory by astrodynamicist Daniel Adamo in 2009 records the furthest distance as 400,046 kilometers (248,577 mi) at 7:34 pm EST (00:34:13 UTC). Apollo 10 holds the record for second-furthest at a distance of 399,806 kilometers (248,428 mi).[116]
  5. ^ The others were Robert F. Allnutt (Assistant to the Administrator, NASA Hqs.); John F. Clark (Director, Goddard Space Flight Center); Brig. General Walter R. Hedrick Jr. (Director of Space, DCS/RED, Hqs., USAF); Vincent L. Johnson (Deputy Associate Administrator-Engineering, Office of Space Science and Applications); Milton Klein (Manager, AEC-NASA Space Nuclear Propulsion Office); Hans M. Mark (Director, Ames Research Center).[151]


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External links

NASA reports


4 March 1970

French submarine Eurydice explodes underwater, resulting in the loss of the entire 57-man crew.

Flore, sister-ship of Eurydice
Flore, sister ship of Eurydice
Launched19 June 1962
Commissioned26 September 1964
Out of service4 March 1970
FateLost in accident 4 March 1970
General characteristics
Class and type Daphné-class submarine
  • 869 tonnes surfaced
  • 1,043 tonnes submerged
Length57.75 m (189.5 ft)
Beam6.74 m (22.1 ft)
Draught5.25 m (17.2 ft)
PropulsionDiesel-electric, two shafts, 1,600 shp
  • Submerged: 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)
  • Snorkelling: 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph)
  • Surfaced: 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
RangeSurfaced: 10,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) at 7 knots (13 km/h; 8.1 mph)
Endurance30 days
Test depth300 m (980 ft)

Eurydice was a French submarine, one of nine of the Daphné class.

On 4 March 1970, while diving in calm seas off in the Mediterranean, 35 miles (56 km) east of Toulon, a geophysical laboratory picked up the shock waves of an underwater explosion. French and Italian search teams found an oil slick and a few bits of debris, including a part that bore the name Eurydice.

The cause of the explosion was never determined. All 57 crew were lost.

The USNS Mizar took part in a search for the missing Eurydice and on 22 April 1970 they discovered several large pieces of wreckage in depths from 600 to 1,100 metres off Cape Camarat near Saint-Tropez.

See also


External links

15 January 1970

Muammar Gaddafi is proclaimed premier of Libya.

Muammar Gaddafi
معمر القذافي
Moamer el Gadafi (cropped).jpg
Gaddafi, pictured shortly after his seizure of power, on a visit to Yugoslavia in 1970
Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution of Libya
In office
1 September 1969 – 20 October 2011[a]
Prime Minister
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byMustafa Abdul Jalil (Chairman of the National Transitional Council)
Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council of Libya
In office
1 September 1969 – 2 March 1977
Prime MinisterMahmud Sulayman al-Maghribi
Abdessalam Jalloud
Abdul Ati al-Obeidi
Preceded byIdris (King)
Succeeded byHimself (Secretary General of the General People's Congress)
Secretary General of the General People's Congress
In office
2 March 1977 – 2 March 1979
Prime MinisterAbdul Ati al-Obeidi
Preceded byHimself (Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council)
Succeeded byAbdul Ati al-Obeidi
Prime Minister of Libya
In office
16 January 1970 – 16 July 1972
Preceded byMahmud Sulayman al-Maghribi
Succeeded byAbdessalam Jalloud
Chairperson of the African Union
In office
2 February 2009 – 31 January 2010
Preceded byJakaya Kikwete
Succeeded byBingu wa Mutharika
Personal details
Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi

c.  1942
Qasr Abu Hadi, Sirte, Italian Libya
Died(2011-10-20)October 20, 2011 (aged 68–69)
Sirte, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (now Libya)
Cause of deathGunshot wound
Resting placeIn an unknown location in the Libyan Desert
Political partyArab Socialist Union (1971–1977)
Independent (1977–2011)
  • Fatiha al-Nuri
    (m. 1969; div. 1970)
  • (m. 1970)
Alma materUniversity of Libya
Benghazi Military University Academy
Royal Military Academy
Military service
Allegiance Kingdom of Libya
Libyan Arab Republic
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
Branch/serviceLibyan Army
Years of service1961–2011
CommandsLibyan Armed Forces
Battles/wars1969 Libyan coup d'état
Libyan–Egyptian War
Chadian–Libyan conflict
Uganda–Tanzania War
First Liberian Civil War
1986 United States bombing of Libya
First Libyan Civil War

Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi[b] (c. 1942 – 20 October 2011), commonly known as Colonel Gaddafi, was a Libyan revolutionary, politician and political theorist. He governed Libya as Revolutionary Chairman of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then as the "Brotherly Leader" of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011. He was initially ideologically committed to Arab nationalism and Arab socialism but later ruled according to his own Third International Theory.

Born near Sirte, Italian Libya, to a poor Bedouin family, Gaddafi became an Arab nationalist while at school in Sabha, later enrolling in the Royal Military Academy, Benghazi. Within the military, he founded a revolutionary group which deposed the Western-backed Senussi monarchy of Idris in a 1969 coup. Having taken power, Gaddafi converted Libya into a republic governed by his Revolutionary Command Council. Ruling by decree, he deported Libya's Italian population and ejected its Western military bases. Strengthening ties to Arab nationalist governments—particularly Gamal Abdel Nasser's Egypt—he unsuccessfully advocated pan-Arab political union. An Islamic modernist, he introduced sharia as the basis for the legal system and promoted "Islamic socialism". He nationalized the oil industry and used the increasing state revenues to bolster the military, fund foreign revolutionaries, as well as implement social programs emphasizing house-building, healthcare and education projects. In 1973, he initiated a "Popular Revolution" with the formation of Basic People's Congresses, presented as a system of direct democracy, but retained personal control over major decisions. He outlined his Third International Theory that year in The Green Book.

Gaddafi transformed Libya into a new socialist state called a Jamahiriya ("state of the masses") in 1977. He officially adopted a symbolic role in governance but remained head of both the military and the Revolutionary Committees responsible for policing and suppressing dissent. During the 1970s and 1980s, Libya's unsuccessful border conflicts with Egypt and Chad, support for foreign militants, and alleged responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing in Scotland left it increasingly isolated on the world stage. A particularly hostile relationship developed with the United States, United Kingdom and Israel, resulting in the 1986 U.S. bombing of Libya and United Nations–imposed economic sanctions. From 1999, Gaddafi shunned pan-Arabism and encouraged rapprochement with Western nations and pan-Africanism; he was Chairperson of the African Union from 2009 to 2010. Amid the 2011 Arab Spring, protests against widespread corruption and unemployment broke out in Eastern Libya. The situation descended into civil war, in which NATO intervened militarily on the side of the anti-Gaddafist National Transitional Council (NTC). The government was overthrown and Gaddafi retreated to Sirte, only to be captured and killed by NTC militants.

A highly divisive figure, Gaddafi dominated Libya's politics for four decades and was the subject of a pervasive cult of personality. He was decorated with various awards and praised for his anti-imperialist stance, support for Arab—and then African—unity, as well as for significant improvements that his government brought to the Libyan people's quality of life. Conversely, many Libyans strongly opposed his social and economic reforms; he was posthumously accused of sexual abuse. He was condemned by many as a dictator whose authoritarian administration systematically violated human rights and financed global terrorism.

Early life

Childhood: 1940s to 1950

Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi[13] was born near Qasr Abu Hadi, a rural area outside the town of Sirte in the deserts of Tripolitania, western Libya.[14] His family came from a small, relatively uninfluential tribal group called the Qadhadhfa,[15] who were Arabized Berber in heritage.[16] His mother was named Aisha bin Niran (died 1978), and his father, Mohammad Abdul Salam bin Hamed bin Mohammad, was known as Abu Meniar (died 1985); the latter earned a meagre subsistence as a goat and camel herder.[17] Claims have been made that his maternal grandmother was a Jew who converted to Islam.[18]

Along with other nomadic Bedouins, the family were illiterate and kept no birth records.[19] Many biographers have used 7 June; however, his birthday is not known with certainty and sources have set it in 1942 or the spring of 1943,[19] although his biographers David Blundy and Andrew Lycett noted that it could have been pre-1940.[20] His parents' only surviving son, he had three older sisters.[19] Gaddafi's upbringing in Bedouin culture influenced his personal tastes for the rest of his life; he preferred the desert over the city and would retreat there to meditate.[21]

From childhood, Gaddafi was aware of the involvement of European colonial powers in Libya; his nation was occupied by Italy, and during the North African Campaign of the Second World War it witnessed conflict between Italian and British forces.[22] According to later claims, Gaddafi's paternal grandfather, Abdessalam Bouminyar, was killed by the Italian Army during the Italian invasion of 1911.[23] At the end of the Second World War in 1945, Libya was occupied by British and French forces. Britain and France considered dividing the nation between their empires, but the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) decided that the country was to be granted political independence,[24] and in 1951 created the United Kingdom of Libya, a federal state under the leadership of a pro-Western monarch, Idris, who banned political parties and centralized power in his own hands.[24]

Education and political activism: 1950–1963

Gaddafi's earliest education was of a religious nature, imparted by a local Islamic teacher.[25] Subsequently, moving to nearby Sirte to attend elementary school, he progressed through six grades in four years.[26] Education in Libya was not free, but his father thought it would greatly benefit his son despite the financial strain. During the week Gaddafi slept in a mosque, and at weekends walked 20 miles (32 km) to visit his parents.[27] At school, Gaddafi was bullied for being a Bedouin, but was proud of his identity and encouraged pride in other Bedouin children.[26] From Sirte, he and his family moved to the market town of Sabha in Fezzan, south-central Libya, where his father worked as a caretaker for a tribal leader while Muammar attended secondary school, something neither parent had done.[28] Gaddafi was popular at this school; some friends made there received significant jobs in his later administration, most notably his best friend, Abdul Salam Jalloud.[29]

Egyptian President Nasser was Gaddafi's political hero.

Many teachers at Sabha were Egyptian, and for the first time, Gaddafi had access to pan-Arab newspapers and radio broadcasts, especially the Cairo-based Voice of the Arabs.[30] Growing up, Gaddafi witnessed significant events rock the Arab world, including the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, the Suez Crisis of 1956, and the short-lived existence of the United Arab Republic (UAR) between 1958 and 1961.[31] Gaddafi admired the political changes implemented in the Arab Republic of Egypt under his hero, President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser argued for Arab nationalism; the rejection of Western colonialism, neo-colonialism, and Zionism; and a transition from capitalism to socialism.[32] Gaddafi was influenced by Nasser's book, Philosophy of the Revolution, which outlined how to initiate a coup.[33] One of Gaddafi's Egyptian teachers, Mahmoud Efay, was reportedly sympathetic towards the youth's political ideas, and advised him that a successful revolution would need the support of the army.[34]

Gaddafi organized demonstrations and distributed posters criticizing the monarchy.[35] In October 1961, he led a demonstration protesting against Syria's secession from the UAR, and raised funds to send cables of support to Nasser. Twenty students were arrested as a result of the disorder. Gaddafi and his companions also broke windows in a local hotel that was accused of serving alcohol. To punish Gaddafi, the authorities expelled him and his family from Sabha.[36] Gaddafi moved to Misrata, there attending Misrata Secondary School.[37] Maintaining his interest in Arab nationalist activism, he refused to join any of the banned political parties active in the city—including the Arab Nationalist Movement, the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, and the Muslim Brotherhood—claiming that he rejected factionalism.[38] He read voraciously on the subjects of Nasser and the French Revolution of 1789, as well as the works of the Syrian political theorist Michel Aflaq and biographies of Abraham Lincoln, Sun Yat-sen, and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.[38]

Military training: 1963–1966

Gaddafi briefly studied history at the University of Libya in Benghazi before dropping out to join the military.[39] Despite his police record, in 1963 he began training at the Royal Military Academy, Benghazi, alongside several like-minded friends from Misrata. The armed forces offered the only opportunity for upward social mobility for underprivileged Libyans, and Gaddafi recognized it as a potential instrument of political change.[40] Under Idris, Libya's armed forces were trained by the British military; this angered Gaddafi, who viewed the British as imperialists, and accordingly, he refused to learn English and was rude to the British officers, ultimately failing his exams.[41] British trainers reported him for insubordination and abusive behaviour, stating their suspicion that he was involved in the assassination of the military academy's commander in 1963. Such reports were ignored, and Gaddafi quickly progressed through the course.[42]

With a group of loyal cadres, in 1964 Gaddafi established the Central Committee of the Free Officers Movement, a revolutionary group named after Nasser's Egyptian predecessor. Led by Gaddafi, they met secretively and were organized into a clandestine cell system, offering their salaries into a single fund.[43] Gaddafi travelled around Libya collecting intelligence and developing connections with sympathizers, but the government's intelligence services ignored him, considering him little threat.[44] Graduating in August 1965,[45] Gaddafi became a communications officer in the army's signal corps.[46]

In April 1966, he was assigned to the United Kingdom for further training; over nine months he underwent an English-language course at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, an Army Air Corps signal instructors course in Bovington Camp, Dorset, and an infantry signal instructors course at Hythe, Kent.[47] Despite later rumours to the contrary, he did not attend the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.[44] The Bovington signal course's director reported that Gaddafi successfully overcame problems learning English, displaying a firm command of voice procedure. Noting that Gaddafi's favourite hobbies were reading and playing football, he thought him an "amusing officer, always cheerful, hard-working, and conscientious".[48] Gaddafi disliked England, saying British Army officers racially insulted him and finding it difficult adjusting to the country's culture; asserting his Arab identity in London, he walked around Piccadilly wearing traditional Libyan robes.[49] He later related that while he travelled to England believing it more advanced than Libya, he returned home "more confident and proud of our values, ideals and social character".[50]

Libyan Arab Republic

Coup d'état: 1969

People of Libya! In response to your own will, fulfilling your most heartfelt wishes, answering your most incessant demands for change and regeneration, and your longing to strive towards these ends: listening to your incitement to rebel, your armed forces have undertaken the overthrow of the corrupt regime, the stench of which has sickened and horrified us all. At a single blow our gallant army has toppled these idols and has destroyed their images. By a single stroke it has lightened the long dark night in which the Turkish domination was followed first by Italian rule, then by this reactionary and decadent regime which was no more than a hotbed of extortion, faction, treachery and treason.

—Gaddafi's radio speech after seizing power, 1969[51]

Idris' government was increasingly unpopular by the latter 1960s; it had exacerbated Libya's traditional regional and tribal divisions by centralizing the country's federal system to take advantage of the country's oil wealth.[52] Corruption and entrenched systems of patronage were widespread throughout the oil industry.[53] Arab nationalism was increasingly popular, and protests flared up following Egypt's 1967 defeat in the Six-Day War with Israel; Idris' administration was seen as pro-Israeli due to its alliance with the Western powers.[54] Anti-Western riots broke out in Tripoli and Benghazi, while Libyan workers shut down oil terminals in solidarity with Egypt.[54] By 1969, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was expecting segments of Libya's armed forces to launch a coup. Although claims have been made that they knew of Gaddafi's Free Officers Movement, they have since claimed ignorance, stating that they were instead monitoring Abdul Aziz Shalhi's Black Boots revolutionary group.[55]

In mid-1969, Idris travelled abroad to spend the summer in Turkey and Greece. Gaddafi's Free Officers recognized this as their chance to overthrow the monarchy, initiating "Operation Jerusalem".[56] On 1 September, they occupied airports, police depots, radio stations, and government offices in Tripoli and Benghazi. Gaddafi took control of the Berka barracks in Benghazi, while Omar Meheishi occupied Tripoli barracks and Jalloud seized the city's anti-aircraft batteries. Khweldi Hameidi was sent to arrest crown prince Sayyid Hasan ar-Rida al-Mahdi as-Sanussi and force him to relinquish his claim to the throne.[57] They met no serious resistance and wielded little violence against the monarchists.[58]

Once Gaddafi removed the monarchical government, he announced the foundation of the Libyan Arab Republic.[59] Addressing the populace by radio, he proclaimed an end to the "reactionary and corrupt" regime, "the stench of which has sickened and horrified us all".[60] Due to the coup's bloodless nature, it was initially labelled the "White Revolution", although was later renamed the "One September Revolution" after the date on which it occurred.[61] Gaddafi insisted that the Free Officers' coup represented a revolution, marking the start of widespread change in the socio-economic and political nature of Libya.[62] He proclaimed that the revolution meant "freedom, socialism, and unity", and over the coming years implemented measures to achieve this.[63]

Consolidating leadership: 1969–1973

The 12 member central committee of the Free Officers proclaimed themselves the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), the government of the new republic.[64] Lieutenant Gaddafi became RCC chairman, and therefore the de facto head of state, also appointing himself to the rank of colonel and becoming commander-in-chief of the armed forces.[65] Jalloud became Prime Minister,[66] while a civilian Council of Ministers headed by Sulaiman Maghribi was founded to implement RCC policy.[67] Libya's administrative capital was moved from al-Beida to Tripoli.[68]

The flag of republican Libya used by Gaddafi's government from 1969 to 1972

Although theoretically a collegial body operating through consensus building, Gaddafi dominated the RCC.[61] Some of the others attempted to constrain what they saw as his excesses.[69] Gaddafi remained the government's public face, with the identities of the other RCC members only being publicly revealed on 10 January 1970.[70] All young men from (typically rural) working and middle-class backgrounds, none had university degrees; in this way they were distinct from the wealthy, highly educated conservatives who previously governed the country.[71]

The coup completed, the RCC proceeded with their intentions of consolidating the revolutionary government and modernizing the country.[61] They purged monarchists and members of Idris' Senussi clan from Libya's political world and armed forces; Gaddafi believed this elite were opposed to the will of the Libyan people and had to be expunged.[72] "People's Courts" were founded to try various monarchist politicians and journalists, many of whom were imprisoned, although none executed. Idris was sentenced to execution in absentia.[73]

In May 1970, the Revolutionary Intellectuals Seminar was held to bring intellectuals in line with the revolution,[74] while that year's Legislative Review and Amendment united secular and religious law codes, introducing sharia into the legal system.[75] Ruling by decree, the RCC maintained the monarchy's ban on political parties, in May 1970 banned trade unions, and in 1972 outlawed workers' strikes and suspended newspapers.[76] In September 1971, Gaddafi resigned, claiming to be dissatisfied with the pace of reform, but returned to his position within a month.[66] In February 1973, he resigned again, once more returning the following month.[77]

Economic and social reform

Gaddafi at an Arab summit in Libya in 1969, shortly after the September Revolution that toppled King Idris I. Gaddafi sits in military uniform in the middle, surrounded by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (left) and Syrian President Nureddin al-Atassi (right).

The RCC's early economic policy has been characterized as being state capitalist in orientation.[78] Many schemes were established to aid entrepreneurs and develop a Libyan bourgeoisie.[79] Seeking to expand the cultivatable acreage in Libya, in September 1969 the government launched a "Green Revolution" to increase agricultural productivity so that Libya could rely less on imported food.[80] The hope was to make Libya self-sufficient in food production.[81] All land that had either been expropriated from Italian settlers or which was not in use was repossessed and redistributed.[82] Irrigation systems were established along the northern coastline and around various inland oases.[83] Production costs often surpassed the value of the produce and thus Libyan agricultural production remained in deficit, relying heavily on state subsidies.[84]

With crude oil as the country's primary export, Gaddafi sought to improve Libya's oil sector.[85] In October 1969, he proclaimed the current trade terms unfair, benefiting foreign corporations more than the Libyan state, and threatened to decrease production. In December Jalloud successfully increased the price of Libyan oil.[86] In 1970, other OPEC states followed suit, leading to a global increase in the price of crude oil.[85] The RCC followed with the Tripoli Agreement of 20 March 1971, in which they secured income tax, back-payments and better pricing from the oil corporations; these measures brought Libya an estimated $1 billion in additional revenues in its first year.[87]

Increasing state control over the oil sector, the RCC began a program of nationalization, starting with the expropriation of British Petroleum's share of the British Petroleum-N.B. Hunt Sahir Field in December 1971.[88] In September 1973, it was announced that all foreign oil producers active in Libya were to see 51 per cent of their operation nationalized, including the stake of Nelson Bunker Hunt, son of H.L. Hunt, who had played a key role in the discovery of oil in Libya.[89] For Gaddafi, this was an essential step towards socialism.[90] It proved an economic success; while gross domestic product had been $3.8 billion in 1969, it had risen to $13.7 billion in 1974, and $24.5 billion in 1979.[91] In turn, the Libyans' standard of life greatly improved over the first decade of Gaddafi's administration, and by 1979 the average per-capita income was at $8,170, up from $40 in 1951; this was above the average of many industrialized countries like Italy and the UK.[91] In 1969, the government also declared that all foreign owned banks must either close down or convert to joint-stock operations.[92]

In 1971, Egypt's Anwar Sadat, Libya's Gaddafi and Syria's Hafez al-Assad signed an agreement to form a federal Union of Arab Republics. The agreement never materialized into a federal union between the three Arab states.

The RCC implemented measures for social reform, adopting sharia as a basis.[93] The consumption of alcohol was prohibited, night clubs and Christian churches were shut down, traditional Libyan dress was encouraged, and Arabic was decreed as the only language permitted in official communications and on road signs.[94] The RCC doubled the minimum wage, introduced statutory price controls, and implemented compulsory rent reductions of between 30 and 40 per cent.[95] Gaddafi also wanted to combat the strict social restrictions that had been imposed on women by the previous regime, establishing the Revolutionary Women's Formation to encourage reform.[96] In 1970, a law was introduced affirming equality of the sexes and insisting on wage parity.[97] In 1971, Gaddafi sponsored the creation of a Libyan General Women's Federation.[98] In 1972, a law was passed criminalizing the marriage of any females under the age of sixteen and ensuring that a woman's consent was a necessary prerequisite for a marriage.[97] Gaddafi's regime opened up a wide range of educational and employment opportunities for women, although these primarily benefited a minority in the urban middle-classes.[97]

From 1969 to 1973, it used oil money to fund social welfare programs, which led to house-building projects and improved healthcare and education.[99] House building became a major social priority, designed to eliminate homelessness and to replace the shanty towns created by Libya's growing urbanization.[95] The health sector was also expanded; by 1978, Libya had 50 per cent more hospitals than it had in 1968, while the number of doctors had increased from 700 to over 3000 in that decade.[100] Malaria was eradicated, and trachoma and tuberculosis greatly curtailed.[100] Compulsory education was expanded from 6 to 9 years, while adult literacy programs and free university education were introduced.[101] Beida University was founded, while Tripoli University and Benghazi University were expanded.[101] In doing so, the government helped to integrate the poorer strata of Libyan society into the education system.[102] Through these measures, the RCC greatly expanded the public sector, providing employment for thousands.[99] These early social programs proved popular within Libya.[103] This popularity was partly due to Gaddafi's personal charisma, youth and underdog status as a Bedouin, as well as his rhetoric emphasizing his role as the successor to the anti-Italian fighter Omar Mukhtar.[104]

To combat the country's strong regional and tribal divisions, the RCC promoted the idea of a unified pan-Libyan identity.[105] In doing so, they tried discrediting tribal leaders as agents of the old regime, and in August 1971 a Sabha military court tried many of them for counter-revolutionary activity.[105] Long-standing administrative boundaries were re-drawn, crossing tribal boundaries, while pro-revolutionary modernizers replaced traditional leaders, yet the communities they served often rejected them.[106] Realizing the failures of the modernizers, Gaddafi created the Arab Socialist Union (ASU) in June 1971, a mass mobilization vanguard party of which he was president.[107] The ASU recognized the RCC as its "Supreme Leading Authority", and was designed to further revolutionary enthusiasm throughout the country.[108] It remained heavily bureaucratic and failed to mobilize mass support in the way Gaddafi had envisioned.[109]

Foreign relations

Gaddafi (left) with Egyptian President Nasser in 1969. Nasser privately described Gaddafi as "a nice boy, but terribly naïve".[110]

The influence of Nasser's Arab nationalism over the RCC was immediately apparent.[111] The administration was instantly recognized by the neighbouring Arab nationalist regimes in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Sudan,[112] with Egypt sending experts to aid the inexperienced RCC.[113] Gaddafi propounded pan-Arab ideas, proclaiming the need for a single Arab state stretching across North Africa and the Middle East.[114] In December 1969, Libya signed the Tripoli Charter alongside Egypt and Sudan. This established the Arab Revolutionary Front, a pan-national union designed as a first step towards the eventual political unification of the three nations.[115] In 1970 Syria declared its intention to join.[116]

Nasser died unexpectedly in September 1970, with Gaddafi playing a prominent role at his funeral.[117] Nasser was succeeded by Anwar Sadat, who suggested that rather than creating a unified state, the Arab states should create a political federation, implemented in April 1971; in doing so, Egypt, Syria, and Sudan received large grants of Libyan oil money.[118] In February 1972, Gaddafi and Sadat signed an unofficial charter of merger, but it was never implemented because relations broke down the following year. Sadat became increasingly wary of Libya's radical direction, and the September 1973 deadline for implementing the Federation passed by with no action taken.[119]

After the 1969 coup, representatives of the Four Powers—France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union—were called to meet RCC representatives.[120] The UK and the US quickly extended diplomatic recognition, hoping to secure the position of their military bases in Libya and fearing further instability. Hoping to ingratiate themselves with Gaddafi, in 1970 the US informed him of at least one planned counter-coup.[121] Such attempts to form a working relationship with the RCC failed; Gaddafi was determined to reassert national sovereignty and expunge what he described as foreign colonial and imperialist influences. His administration insisted that the US and the UK remove their military bases from Libya, with Gaddafi proclaiming that "the armed forces which rose to express the people's revolution [will not] tolerate living in their shacks while the bases of imperialism exist in Libyan territory." The British left in March and the Americans in June 1970.[122]

Moving to reduce Italian influence, in October 1970 all Italian-owned assets were expropriated, and the 12,000-strong Italian community was expelled from Libya alongside the smaller community of Libyan Jews. The day became a national holiday known as "Vengeance Day".[123] Italy complained that this was in contravention of the 1956 Italo-Libyan Treaty, although no UN sanctions were forthcoming.[124] Aiming to reduce NATO power in the Mediterranean, in 1971 Libya requested that Malta cease allowing NATO to use its land for a military base, in turn offering Malta foreign aid. Compromising, Malta's government continued allowing NATO to use the island, but only on the condition that NATO would not use it for launching attacks on Arab territory.[125] Over the coming decade, Gaddafi's government developed stronger political and economic links with Dom Mintoff's Maltese administration, and under Libya's urging Malta did not renew the UK's airbases on the island in 1980.[126] Orchestrating a military build-up, the RCC began purchasing weapons from France and the Soviet Union.[127] The commercial relationship with the latter led to an increasingly strained relationship with the US, which was then engaged in the Cold War with the Soviets.[128]

A 1972 anti-Gaddafist British newsreel including an interview with Gaddafi about his support for foreign militants

Gaddafi was especially critical of the US due to its support of Israel, and sided with the Palestinians in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, viewing the 1948 creation of the State of Israel as a Western colonial occupation forced upon the Arab world.[129] He believed that Palestinian violence against Israeli and Western targets was the justified response of an oppressed people who were fighting against the colonization of their homeland.[130] Calling on the Arab states to wage "continuous war" against Israel, in 1970 he initiated a Jihad Fund to finance anti-Israeli militants.[131] In June 1972 Gaddafi created the First Nasserite Volunteers Centre to train anti-Israeli guerrillas.[132]

Like Nasser, Gaddafi favoured the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his group, Fatah, over more militant and Marxist Palestinian groups.[133] As the years progressed however, Gaddafi's relationship with Arafat became strained, with Gaddafi considering him too moderate and calling for more violent action.[134] Instead, he supported militias like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, As-Sa'iqa, the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, and the Abu Nidal Organization.[135] He funded the Black September Organization whose members perpetrated the 1972 Munich massacre of Israeli athletes in West Germany and had the killed militants' bodies flown to Libya for a hero's funeral.[136]

Gaddafi financially supported other militant groups across the world, including the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, the Tupamaros, the 19th of April Movement and the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua, the ANC among other liberation movements in the fight against Apartheid in South Africa, the Provisional Irish Republican Army, ETA, Action directe, the Red Brigades, and the Red Army Faction in Europe, and the Armenian Secret Army, the Japanese Red Army, the Free Aceh Movement, and the Moro National Liberation Front in the Philippines. Gaddafi was indiscriminate in the causes which he funded, sometimes switching from supporting one side in a conflict to the other, as in the Eritrean War of Independence.[137] Throughout the 1970s these groups received financial support from Libya, which came to be seen as a leader in the Third World's struggle against colonialism and neocolonialism.[138] Though many of these groups were labelled "terrorists" by critics of their activities, Gaddafi rejected this characterization, instead considering them to be revolutionaries who were engaged in liberation struggles.[139]

The "Popular Revolution": 1973–1977

Gaddafi with Romanian communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu in Bucharest, Romania 1974

On 16 April 1973, Gaddafi proclaimed the start of a "Popular Revolution" in a speech at Zuwarah.[140] He initiated this with a five-point plan, the first point of which dissolved all existing laws, to be replaced by revolutionary enactments. The second point proclaimed that all opponents of the revolution had to be removed, while the third initiated an administrative revolution that Gaddafi proclaimed would remove all traces of bureaucracy and the bourgeoisie. The fourth point announced that the population must form People's Committees and be armed to defend the revolution, while the fifth proclaimed the beginning of a cultural revolution to expunge Libya of "poisonous" foreign influences.[141] He began to lecture on this new phase of the revolution in Libya, Egypt, and France.[142] As a process, it had many similarities with the Cultural Revolution implemented in China.[143]

As part of this Popular Revolution, Gaddafi invited Libya's people to found General People's Committees as conduits for raising political consciousness. Although offering little guidance for how to set up these councils, Gaddafi claimed that they would offer a form of direct political participation that was more democratic than a traditional party-based representative system. He hoped that the councils would mobilize the people behind the RCC, erode the power of the traditional leaders and the bureaucracy, and allow for a new legal system chosen by the people.[144] Many such committees were established in schools and colleges,[145] where they were responsible for vetting staff, courses, and textbooks to determine if they were compatible with the country's revolutionary ideology.[143]

The People's Committees led to a high percentage of public involvement in decision making, within the limits permitted by the RCC,[146] but exacerbated tribal divisions and tensions.[147] They also served as a surveillance system, aiding the security services in locating individuals with views critical of the RCC, leading to the arrest of Ba'athists, Marxists, and Islamists.[148] Operating in a pyramid structure, the base form of these Committees were local working groups, who sent elected representatives to the district level, and from there to the national level, divided between the General People's Congress and the General People's Committee.[149] Above these remained Gaddafi and the RCC, who remained responsible for all major decisions.[150] In crossing regional and tribal identities, the committee system aided national integration and centralization and tightened Gaddafi's control over the state and administrative apparatus.[151]

Third Universal Theory and The Green Book

An Arabic copy of The Green Book

In June 1973, Gaddafi created a political ideology as a basis for the Popular Revolution: Third International Theory. This approach regarded both the US and the Soviet Union as imperialist and thus rejected Western capitalism as well as Marxist-Leninist atheism.[152] In this respect, it was similar to the Three Worlds Theory developed by China's political leader Mao Zedong.[153] As part of this theory, Gaddafi praised nationalism as a progressive force and advocated the creation of a pan-Arab state which would lead the Islamic and Third Worlds against imperialism.[154] Gaddafi saw Islam as having a key role in this ideology, calling for an Islamic revival that returned to the origins of the Qur'an, rejecting scholarly interpretations and the Hadith; in doing so, he angered many Libyan clerics.[155] During 1973 and 1974, his government deepened the legal reliance on sharia, for instance by introducing flogging as punishment for those convicted of adultery or homosexual activity.[156]

Gaddafi summarized Third International Theory in three short volumes published between 1975 and 1979, collectively known as The Green Book. Volume one was devoted to the issue of democracy, outlining the flaws of representative systems in favour of direct, participatory GPCs. The second dealt with Gaddafi's beliefs regarding socialism, while the third explored social issues regarding the family and the tribe. While the first two volumes advocated radical reform, the third adopted a socially conservative stance, proclaiming that while men and women were equal, they were biologically designed for different roles in life.[157] During the years that followed, Gaddafists adopted quotes from The Green Book, such as "Representation is Fraud", as slogans.[158] Meanwhile, in September 1975, Gaddafi implemented further measures to increase popular mobilization, introducing objectives to improve the relationship between the Councils and the ASU.[159]

In 1975, Gaddafi's government declared a state monopoly on foreign trade.[160] Its increasingly radical reforms, coupled with the large amount of oil revenue being spent on foreign causes, generated discontent in Libya,[161] particularly among the country's merchant class.[162] In 1974, Libya saw its first civilian attack on Gaddafi's government when a Benghazi army building was bombed.[163] Much of the opposition centred around RCC member Omar Mehishi. With fellow RCC member , he began plotting a coup against Gaddafi. In 1975, their plot was exposed and the pair fled into exile, receiving asylum from Sadat's Egypt.[164] In the aftermath, only five RCC members remained, and power was further concentrated in Gaddafi's hands.[165] This led to the RCC's official abolition in March 1977.[159]

In September 1975, Gaddafi purged the army, arresting around 200 senior officers, and in October he founded the clandestine Office for the Security of the Revolution.[166] In April 1976, he called upon his supporters in universities to establish "revolutionary student councils" and drive out "reactionary elements".[167] During that year, anti-Gaddafist student demonstrations broke out at the universities of Tripoli and Benghazi, resulting in clashes with both Gaddafist students and police. The RCC responded with mass arrests and introduced compulsory national service for young people.[168] In January 1977, two dissenting students and a number of army officers were publicly hanged; Amnesty International condemned it as the first time in Gaddafist Libya that dissenters had been executed for purely political crimes.[169] Dissent also arose from conservative clerics and the Muslim Brotherhood, who accused Gaddafi of moving towards Marxism and criticized his abolition of private property as being against the Islamic sunnah; these forces were then persecuted as anti-revolutionary,[170] while all privately owned Islamic colleges and universities were shut down.[167]

Foreign relations

Following Anwar Sadat's ascension to the Egyptian presidency, Libya's relations with Egypt deteriorated.[171] Over the coming years, the two slipped into a state of cold war.[172] Sadat was perturbed by Gaddafi's unpredictability and insistence that Egypt required a cultural revolution akin to that being carried out in Libya.[171] In February 1973, Israeli forces shot down Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114, which had strayed from Egyptian airspace into Israeli-held territory during a sandstorm. Gaddafi was infuriated that Egypt had not done more to prevent the incident, and in retaliation planned to destroy the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2, a British ship chartered by American Jews to sail to Haifa for Israel's 25th anniversary. Gaddafi ordered an Egyptian submarine to target the ship, but Sadat cancelled the order, fearing a military escalation.[173]

Gaddafi in 1976 with his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi on his lap

Gaddafi was later infuriated when Egypt and Syria planned the Yom Kippur War against Israel without consulting him and was angered when Egypt conceded to peace talks rather than continuing the war.[174] Gaddafi became openly hostile to Egypt's leader, calling for Sadat's overthrow.[175] When Sudanese President Gaafar Nimeiry took Sadat's side, Gaddafi also spoke out against him, encouraging the Sudan People's Liberation Army's attempt to overthrow Nimeiry.[176] Relations with Syria also soured over the events in the Lebanese Civil War. Initially, both Libya and Syria had contributed troops to the Arab League's peacekeeping force, although after the Syrian army attacked the Lebanese National Movement, Gaddafi openly accused Syrian President Hafez al-Assad of "national treason"; he was the only Arab leader to criticize Syria's actions.[177] In late 1972 and early 1973, Libya invaded Chad to annex the uranium-rich Aouzou Strip.[178]

Intent on propagating Islam, in 1973 Gaddafi founded the Islamic Call Society, which had opened 132 centres across Africa within a decade.[179] In 1973 he converted Gabonese President Omar Bongo, an action which he repeated three years later with Jean-Bédel Bokassa, president of the Central African Republic.[180] Between 1973 and 1979, Libya provided $500 million in aid to African countries, namely to Zaire and Uganda, and founded joint-venture companies throughout the countries to aid trade and development.[181] Gaddafi was also keen on reducing Israeli influence within Africa, using financial incentives to successfully convince eight African states to break off diplomatic relations with Israel in 1973.[182] A strong relationship was also established between Gaddafi's Libya and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's Pakistani government, with the two countries exchanging nuclear research and military assistance; this relationship ended after Bhutto was deposed by Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in 1977.[183]

Gaddafi sought to develop closer links in the Maghreb; in January 1974 Libya and Tunisia announced a political union, the Arab Islamic Republic. Although advocated by Gaddafi and Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba, the move was deeply unpopular in Tunisia, and it was soon abandoned.[184] Retaliating, Gaddafi sponsored anti-government militants in Tunisia into the 1980s.[185] Turning his attention to Algeria, in 1975 Libya signed the Hassi Messaoud defensive alliance allegedly to counter alleged "Moroccan expansionism", also funding the Polisario Front of Western Sahara in its independence struggle against Morocco.[186] Seeking to diversify Libya's economy, Gaddafi's government began purchasing shares in major European corporations like Fiat as well as buying real estate in Malta and Italy, which would become a valuable source of income during the 1980s oil slump.[187]

Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

Foundation: 1977

On 2 March 1977, the General People's Congress adopted the "Declaration on the Establishment of the Authority of the People" at Gaddafi's behest. Dissolving the Libyan Arab Republic, it was replaced by the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Arabic: الجماهيرية العربية الليبية الشعبية الاشتراكية‎, al-Jamāhīrīyah al-‘Arabīyah al-Lībīyah ash-Sha‘bīyah al-Ishtirākīyah), a "state of the masses" conceptualized by Gaddafi.[188] A new, all-green banner was adopted as the country's flag.[189] Officially, the Jamahiriya was a direct democracy in which the people ruled themselves through the 187 Basic People's Congresses (BPCs), where all adult Libyans participated and voted on national decisions. These then sent members to the annual General People's Congress, which was broadcast live on television. In principle, the People's Congresses were Libya's highest authority, with major decisions proposed by government officials or with Gaddafi himself requiring the consent of the People's Congresses.[190] Gaddafi became General Secretary of the GPC, although he stepped down from this position in early 1979 and appointed himself "Leader of the Revolution".[191]

Flag of Libya (1977–2011)

Although all political control was officially vested in the People's Congresses, in reality Libya's existing political leadership continued to exercise varying degrees of power and influence.[189] Debate remained limited, and major decisions regarding the economy and defence were avoided or dealt with cursorily; the GPC largely remained "a rubber stamp" for Gaddafi's policies.[192] On rare occasions, the GPC opposed Gaddafi's suggestions, sometimes successfully; notably, when Gaddafi called on primary schools to be abolished, believing that homeschooling was healthier for children, the GPC rejected the idea.[192] In other instances, Gaddafi pushed through laws without the GPC's support, such as when he desired to allow women into the armed forces.[193] At other times, he ordered snap elections when it appeared that the GPC would enact laws he opposed.[194] Gaddafi proclaimed that the People's Congresses provided for Libya's every political need, rendering other political organizations unnecessary; all non-authorized groups, including political parties, professional associations, independent trade unions, and women's groups, were banned.[195] Despite these restrictions, St. John noted that the Jamhariyah system still "introduced a level of representation and participation hitherto unknown in Libya".[196]

With preceding legal institutions abolished, Gaddafi envisioned the Jamahiriya as following the Qur'an for legal guidance, adopting sharia law; he proclaimed "man-made" laws unnatural and dictatorial, only permitting Allah's law.[197] Within a year he was backtracking, announcing that sharia was inappropriate for the Jamahiriya because it guaranteed the protection of private property, contravening The Green Book's socialism.[198] His emphasis on placing his own work on a par with the Qur'an led conservative clerics to accuse him of shirk, furthering their opposition to his regime.[199] In July 1977, a border war broke out with Egypt, in which the Egyptians defeated Libya despite their technological inferiority. The conflict lasted one week before both sides agreed to sign a peace treaty that was brokered by several Arab states.[200] Both Egypt and Sudan had aligned themselves with the US, and this pushed Libya into a strategic, although not political, alignment with the Soviet Union.[201] In recognition of the growing commercial relationship between Libya and the Soviets, Gaddafi was invited to visit Moscow in December 1976; there, he entered talks with Leonid Brezhnev.[202] In August 1977, he visited Yugoslavia, where he met its leader Josip Broz Tito, with whom he had a much warmer relationship.[183]

Revolutionary Committees and furthering socialism: 1978–1980

If socialism is defined as a redistribution of wealth and resources, a socialist revolution clearly occurred in Libya after 1969 and most especially in the second half of the 1970s. The management of the economy was increasingly socialist in intent and effect with wealth in housing, capital and land significantly redistributed or in the process of redistribution. Private enterprise was virtually eliminated, largely replaced by a centrally controlled economy.

—Libyan Studies scholar Ronald Bruce St. John[203]

In December 1978, Gaddafi stepped down as Secretary-General of the GPC, announcing his new focus on revolutionary rather than governmental activities; this was part of his new emphasis on separating the apparatus of the revolution from the government. Although no longer in a formal governmental post, he adopted the title of "Leader of the Revolution" and continued as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.[204] The historian Dirk Vandewalle stated that despite the Jamahariya's claims to being a direct democracy, Libya remained "an exclusionary political system whose decision-making process" was "restricted to a small cadre of advisers and confidantes" surrounding Gaddafi.[205]

Libya began to turn towards socialism. In March 1978, the government issued guidelines for housing redistribution, attempting to ensure that every adult Libyan owned their own home. Most families were banned from owning more than one house, while former rental properties were expropriated by the state and sold to the tenants at a heavily subsidized price.[206] In September, Gaddafi called for the People's Committees to eliminate the "bureaucracy of the public sector" and the "dictatorship of the private sector"; the People's Committees took control of several hundred companies, converting them into worker cooperatives run by elected representatives.[207]

On 2 March 1979, the GPC announced the separation of government and revolution, the latter being represented by new Revolutionary Committees, who operated in tandem with the People's Committees in schools, universities, unions, the police force, and the military.[208] Dominated by revolutionary zealots, most of whom were youths, the Revolutionary Committees were led by Mohammad Maghgoub and a Central Coordinating Office based in Tripoli and met with Gaddafi annually.[209] Membership of the Revolutionary Committees was drawn from within the BPCs.[196] According to Bearman, the revolutionary committee system became "a key—if not the main—mechanism through which [Gaddafi] exercises political control in Libya".[210] Publishing a weekly magazine The Green March (al-Zahf al-Akhdar), in October 1980 they took control of the press.[208] Responsible for perpetuating revolutionary fervour, they performed ideological surveillance, later adopting a significant security role, making arrests and putting people on trial according to the "law of the revolution" (qanun al-thawra).[211] With no legal code or safeguards, the administration of revolutionary justice was largely arbitrary and resulted in widespread abuses and the suppression of civil liberties: the "Green Terror".[212]

Gaddafi with Yasser Arafat in 1977

In 1979, the committees began the redistribution of land in the Jefara plain, continuing through 1981.[213] In May 1980, measures to redistribute and equalize wealth were implemented; anyone with over 1000 dinar in their bank account saw that extra money expropriated.[214] The following year, the GPC announced that the government would take control of all import, export and distribution functions, with state supermarkets replacing privately owned businesses; this led to a decline in the availability of consumer goods and the development of a thriving black market.[215] Gaddafi was also frustrated by the slow pace of social reform on women's issues, and in 1979 launched a Revolutionary Women's Formation to replace the more gradualist Libyan General Women's Federation.[216] In 1978 he had established a Women's Military Academy in Tripoli, encouraging all women to enlist for training.[217] The measure was hugely controversial, and voted down by the GPC in February 1983. Gaddafi remained adamant, and when it was again voted down by the GPC in March 1984, he refused to abide by the decision, declaring that "he who opposes the training and emancipation of women is an agent of imperialism, whether he likes it or not."[218]

The Jamahiriya's radical direction earned the government many enemies. Most internal opposition came from Islamic fundamentalists, who were inspired by the events of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.[219] In February 1978, Gaddafi discovered that his head of military intelligence was plotting to kill him, and began to increasingly entrust security to his Qaddadfa tribe.[220] Many who had seen their wealth and property confiscated turned against the administration, and a number of Western-funded opposition groups were founded by exiles. Most prominent was the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL), founded in 1981 by Mohammed Magariaf, which orchestrated militant attacks against Libya's government.[221] Another, al-Borkan, began killing Libyan diplomats abroad.[222] Following Gaddafi's command to kill these "stray dogs", under Colonel Younis Bilgasim's leadership, the Revolutionary Committees set up overseas branches to suppress counter-revolutionary activity, assassinating various dissidents.[223] Although nearby nations like Syria and Israel also employed hit squads, Gaddafi was unusual in publicly bragging about his administration's use of them;[224] in 1980, he ordered all dissidents to return home or be "liquidated wherever you are".[225] In 1979 he also created the Islamic Legion, through which several thousand Africans were trained in military tactics.[226]

Libya had sought to improve relations with the US under the presidency of Jimmy Carter, for instance by courting his brother, the businessman Billy Carter,[227] but in 1979 the US placed Libya on its list of "State Sponsors of Terrorism".[228] Relations were further damaged at the end of the year when a demonstration torched the US embassy in Tripoli in solidarity with the perpetrators of the Iran hostage crisis.[229] The following year, Libyan fighters began intercepting US fighter jets flying over the Mediterranean, signalling the collapse of relations between the two countries.[228] Major sources in the Italian media have alleged that the Itavia Flight 870 was shot down during a dogfight involving Libyan, United States, French and Italian Air Force fighters in an assassination attempt by NATO members on an important Libyan politician, perhaps even Gaddafi, who was flying in the same airspace that evening.[230][231] Libyan relations with Lebanon and Shi'ite communities across the world also deteriorated due to the August 1978 disappearance of imam Musa al-Sadr when visiting Libya; the Lebanese accused Gaddafi of having him killed or imprisoned, a charge he denied.[232] Relations with Syria improved, as Gaddafi and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad shared an enmity with Israel and Egypt's Sadat. In 1980, they proposed a political union, with Libya promising to pay off Syria's £1-billion debt to the Soviet Union; although pressures led Assad to pull out, they remained allies.[233] Another key ally was Uganda, and in 1979, Gaddafi sent 2,500 troops into Uganda to defend the regime of President Idi Amin from Tanzanian invaders. The mission failed; 400 Libyans were killed and they were forced to retreat.[234] Gaddafi later came to regret his alliance with Amin, openly criticizing him as a "fascist" and a "show-off".[235]

Conflict with the US and its allies: 1981–1986

The early and mid-1980s saw economic trouble for Libya; from 1982 to 1986, the country's annual oil revenues dropped from $21 billion to $5.4 billion.[236] Focusing on irrigation projects, 1983 saw construction start on Libya's largest and most expensive infrastructure project, the Great Man-Made River; although designed to be finished by the end of the decade, it remained incomplete at the start of the 21st century.[237] Military spending increased, while other administrative budgets were cut back.[238] Libya's foreign debt rose,[239] and austerity measures were introduced to promote self-reliance; in August 1985 there was a mass deportation of foreign workers, most of them Egyptian and Tunisian.[240] Domestic threats continued to plague Gaddafi; in May 1984, his Bab al-Azizia home was unsuccessfully attacked by a militia—linked either to the NFSL or the Muslim Brotherhood—and in the aftermath 5,000 dissidents were arrested.[241]

Construction for the Great Man-Made River Project

Libya had long supported the FROLINAT militia in neighbouring Chad, and in December 1980, re-invaded Chad at the request of the FROLINAT-controlled GUNT government to aid in the civil war; in January 1981, Gaddafi suggested a political merger. The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) rejected this and called for a Libyan withdrawal, which came about in November 1981. The civil war resumed, and so Libya sent troops back in, clashing with French forces who supported the southern Chadian forces.[242] Many African nations were tired of Libya's interference in their affairs; by 1980, nine African states had severed diplomatic relations with Libya,[243] while in 1982 the OAU cancelled its scheduled conference in Tripoli to prevent Gaddafi gaining chairmanship.[244] Some African states, such as Jerry Rawlings' Ghana and Thomas Sankara's Burkina Faso, nevertheless had warm relations with Libya during the 1980s.[245] Proposing political unity with Morocco, in August 1984, Gaddafi and Moroccan monarch Hassan II signed the Oujda Treaty, forming the Arab–African Union; such a union was considered surprising due to the strong political differences and longstanding enmity that existed between the two governments. Relations remained strained, particularly due to Morocco's friendly relations with the US and Israel; in August 1986, Hassan abolished the union.[246]

In 1981, the new US President, Ronald Reagan, pursued a hard-line approach to Libya, claiming it to be a puppet regime of the Soviet Union.[247] In turn, Gaddafi played up his commercial relationship with the Soviets, revisiting Moscow in 1981 and 1985,[248] and threatening to join the Warsaw Pact.[249] The Soviets were nevertheless cautious of Gaddafi, seeing him as an unpredictable extremist.[250] In August 1981, the US staged military exercises in the Gulf of Sirte – an area which Libya claimed as a part of its territorial waters. The US shot down two Libyan Su-22 planes which were on an intercept course.[251] Closing down Libya's embassy in Washington, DC, Reagan advised US companies operating in Libya to reduce the number of American personnel stationed there.[252] In March 1982, the US implemented an embargo of Libyan oil,[253] and in January 1986 ordered all US companies to cease operating in the country, although several hundred workers remained when the Libyan government doubled their pay.[254] In Spring 1986, the US Navy again performed exercises in the Gulf of Sirte; the Libyan military retaliated, but failed as the US sank several Libyan ships.[255] Diplomatic relations also broke down with the UK, after Libyan diplomats were accused in the killing of Yvonne Fletcher, a British policewoman stationed outside their London embassy, in April 1984.[256]

After the US accused Libya of orchestrating the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing, in which two American soldiers died, Reagan decided to retaliate militarily.[257] The CIA was critical of the move, believing that Syria was a greater threat and that an attack would strengthen Gaddafi's reputation; however Libya was recognized as a "soft target".[258] Reagan was supported by the UK but opposed by other European allies, who argued that it would contravene international law.[259] In Operation El Dorado Canyon, orchestrated on 15 April 1986, US military planes launched a series of air-strikes on Libya, bombing military installations in various parts of the country, killing around 100 Libyans, including several civilians. One of the targets had been Gaddafi's home. Himself unharmed, two of Gaddafi's sons were injured, and he claimed that his four-year-old adopted daughter Hanna was killed, although her existence has since been questioned.[260] In the immediate aftermath, Gaddafi retreated to the desert to meditate.[261] There were sporadic clashes between Gaddafists and army officers who wanted to overthrow the government.[262] Although the US was condemned internationally, Reagan received a popularity boost at home.[263] Publicly lambasting US imperialism, Gaddafi's reputation as an anti-imperialist was strengthened both domestically and across the Arab world,[264] and, in June 1986, he ordered the names of the month to be changed in Libya.[265]

"Revolution within a Revolution": 1987–1998

The late 1980s saw a series of liberalizing economic reforms within Libya designed to cope with the decline in oil revenues. In May 1987, Gaddafi announced the start of the "Revolution within a Revolution", which began with reforms to industry and agriculture and saw the re-opening of small business.[266] Restrictions were placed on the activities of the Revolutionary Committees; in March 1988, their role was narrowed by the newly created Ministry for Mass Mobilization and Revolutionary Leadership to restrict their violence and judicial role, while in August 1988 Gaddafi publicly criticized them.[267]

Gaddafi at the 12th African Union conference in 2009

In March, hundreds of political prisoners were freed, with Gaddafi falsely claiming that there were no further political prisoners in Libya.[268] In June, Libya's government issued the Great Green Charter on Human Rights in the Era of the Masses, in which 27 articles laid out goals, rights, and guarantees to improve the situation of human rights in Libya, restricting the use of the death penalty and calling for its eventual abolition. Many of the measures suggested in the charter would be implemented the following year, although others remained inactive.[269] Also in 1989, the government founded the Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights, to be awarded to figures from the Third World who had struggled against colonialism and imperialism; the first year's winner was South African anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela.[270] From 1994 through to 1997, the government initiated cleansing committees to root out corruption, particularly in the economic sector.[271]

In the aftermath of the 1986 US attack, the army was purged of perceived disloyal elements,[272] and in 1988, Gaddafi announced the creation of a popular militia to replace the army and police.[273] In 1987, Libya began production of mustard gas at a facility in Rabta, although publicly denied it was stockpiling chemical weapons,[274] and unsuccessfully attempted to develop nuclear weapons.[275] The period also saw a growth in domestic Islamist opposition, formulated into groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Several assassination attempts against Gaddafi were foiled, and in turn, 1989 saw the security forces raid mosques believed to be centres of counter-revolutionary preaching.[276] In October 1993, elements of the increasingly marginalized army initiated a failed coup in Misrata, while in September 1995, Islamists launched an insurgency in Benghazi, and in July 1996 an anti-Gaddafist football riot broke out in Tripoli.[277] The Revolutionary Committees experienced a resurgence to combat these Islamists.[278]

In 1989, Gaddafi was overjoyed by the foundation of the Arab Maghreb Union, uniting Libya in an economic pact with Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria, viewing it as beginnings of a new pan-Arab union.[279] Meanwhile, Libya stepped up its support for anti-Western militants such as the Provisional IRA,[280] and in 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie in Scotland, killing 243 passengers and 16 crew members, plus 11 people on the ground. British police investigations identified two Libyans – Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah – as the chief suspects, and in November 1991 issued a declaration demanding that Libya hand them over. When Gaddafi refused, citing the Montreal Convention, the United Nations (UN) imposed Resolution 748 in March 1992, initiating economic sanctions against Libya which had deep repercussions for the country's economy.[281] The country suffered an estimated US$900 million financial loss as a result.[282] Further problems arose with the West when in January 1989, two Libyan warplanes were shot down by the US off the Libyan coast.[283]

Many Arab and African states opposed the UN sanctions, with Mandela criticizing them on a visit to Gaddafi in October 1997, when he praised Libya for its work in fighting apartheid and awarded Gaddafi the Order of Good Hope.[284] They would only be suspended in 1998 when Libya agreed to allow the extradition of the suspects to the Scottish Court in the Netherlands, in a process overseen by Mandela.[285] As a result of the trial, Fhimah was acquitted and al-Megrahi convicted.[286] Privately, Gaddafi maintained that he knew nothing about who perpetrated the bombing and that Libya had nothing to do with it.[287]

Pan-Africanism, reconciliation and privatization: 1999–2011

Links with Africa

Gaddafi wearing an insignia showing the image of the African continent

At the 20th century's end, Gaddafi—frustrated by the failure of his pan-Arab ideals—increasingly rejected Arab nationalism in favour of pan-Africanism, emphasizing Libya's African identity.[288] From 1997 to 2000, Libya initiated cooperative agreements or bilateral aid arrangements with 10 African states,[289] and in 1999 joined the Community of Sahel-Saharan States.[290] In June 1999, Gaddafi visited Mandela in South Africa,[291] and the following month attended the OAU summit in Algiers, calling for greater political and economic integration across the continent and advocating the foundation of a United States of Africa.[292] He became one of the founders of the African Union (AU), initiated in July 2002 to replace the OAU; at the opening ceremonies, he called for African states to reject conditional aid from the developed world, a direct contrast to the message of South African President Thabo Mbeki.[293] There was speculation that Gaddafi wanted to become the AU's first chair, raising concerns within Africa that this would damage the Union's international standing, particularly with the West.[294]

At the third AU summit, held in Tripoli, Libya in July 2005, Gaddafi called for greater integration, advocating a single AU passport, a common defence system, and a single currency, utilizing the slogan: "The United States of Africa is the hope."[295] His proposal for a Union of African States, a project originally conceived by Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah in the 1960s, was rejected at the 2001 Assembly of Heads of States and Government (AHSG) summit in Lusaka by African leaders who thought it "unrealistic" and "utopian".[296] In June 2005, Libya joined the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).[297] In March 2008 in Uganda, Gaddafi gave a speech once again urging Africa to reject foreign aid.[298] In August 2008, Gaddafi was proclaimed "King of Kings" by a committee of traditional African leaders;[299] they crowned him in February 2009, in a ceremony held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.[300] That same month, Gaddafi was elected as the chairperson of the African Union, a position he retained for one year.[301] In October 2010, Gaddafi apologized to African leaders for the historical enslavement of Africans by the Arab slave trade.[302]

Rebuilding links with the West

In 1999, Libya began secret talks with the British government to normalize relations.[303] In September 2001, Gaddafi publicly condemned the September 11 attacks on the US by al-Qaeda, expressing sympathy with the victims and calling for Libyan involvement in the US-led