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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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We have collaboratively explained Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ",". xkcd comics, and only Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ",". (Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ",".%) remain. Add yours while there's a chance!

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'Oh, hey Mom. No, nothing important, just at work.'
Title text: 'Oh, hey Mom. No, nothing important, just at work.'


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Incomplete. Why is NASA unengaged in the issue? What is the relevance of prioritizing a call from mom over an exploding manned space ship? Why is the anachronistic monitor present?
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

Apollo 13 was intended to be the third manned landing on the moon. On its way there, however, during a routine stirring of the hydrogen and oxygen tanks, an explosion occurred that resulted in a frantic effort by Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center (located in Houston), that resulted in the safe return of all three astronauts. A memorable understatement was astronaut James Lovell's transmission to Mission Control: "Houston, we've had a problem".

These are the same events, except with much less help from Misson Control (and somewhat anachronistic technology). In reality, Mission Control had to figure out thousands of little problems that popped out due to the explosion, from how to get the astronauts back, to how the astronauts can jury-rig CO2 removal equipment (intended for the command module) to work with the lunar module (to which the astronauts had evacuated).

At first glance, this comic appears to be an "alternate reality" view at what might have happened next, had the Houston ground crew not been as vigilant as they were. It is meant to contrast history with Cueball's (lack of) action. It leaves implicit the consequences of this inaction, for greater shock. However, Cueball's desk has a flat screen monitor, which had not been invented at the time of Apollo 13, when the screen would have been a CRT. This may be an error by Randall or it may indicate that the comic is depicting what would have happened if the incident happened today.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Name for capsule? Also, descriptions need work.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
[The lunar lander and module shown with debris near by in foreground, in space with the Earth in the background.]
Lovell: Houston, we have a problem
[Cueball sitting In front of two monitors wearing a headset.]
Cueball: Cool.
Lovell: ...What? Houston, we stirred our O2 tank and it exploded!
Cueball: Sounds like you suck at stirring.
[Capsule shown from a greater distance, with Earth beside it.]
Lovell: ...Houston? Are you-
Cueball: Listen, I've got another call.
Cueball: Good luck landing your airplane or whatever.

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