Apollo 13
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Apollo 13 (1995/I) More at IMDbPro »

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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Apollo 13 can be found here.

Veteran astronaut James Lovell (Tom Hanks), along with Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) and Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon), are assigned to NASA's Apollo 13 mission with the goal of landing a man on the moon for the third time. On April 11th, 1970, they are successfully launched. However, on the third day out, one of the two oxygen tanks in the Command module Odyssey explodes and the other is found to be leaking, forcing them to abort the mission and return to Earth. While the astronauts are forced to run on minimum systems to conserve power, Flight director Gene Krantz (Ed Harris), astronaut Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise), and the rest of the Mission Control team search for ways to keep the atmosphere breathable inside the Lunar Module Aquarius and help the astronauts conserve power. Meanwhile, the astronauts' wives and family as well as the entire world wait anxiously for their safe return.

The screenplay for Apollo 13, written by American screenwriters William Broyles, Jr and Al Reinert, was based on Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 (1994) by astronaut James Lovell and TIME magazine writer Jeffrey Kluger.

According to Apollo 13 Flight Dynamics Officer Jerry Bostick, no. In preparation for the movie, the writers interviewed Bostick about the experience. One of their questions was "Weren't there times when everybody, or at least a few people, just panicked?" Bostick's answer was "No, when bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them. We never panicked, and we never gave up on finding a solution." When the writers got in their car to leave, they immediately decided that "failure is not an option" would be the tagline for the movie. They then decided to give the line to Gene Krantz.

Normal reentry blackout was about three minutes. Apollo 13 came in on a shallower trajectory than other missions resulting in a longer period in the upper atmosphere where there was less deceleration of the capsule. The reduced pace of deceleration lengthened the time that the heat of reentry produced ionized gasses capable of attenuating the radio signal (blackout). The projection from the reentry crew in Houston had been for 3 minutes and 30 seconds and there was some alarm when radio contact could not be established after that amount of time had elapsed.

He says:


Our mission was called a "successful failure" in that we returned safely but never made it to the moon. In the following months, it was determined that a damaged coil built inside the oxygen tank sparked during our cryo stir and caused the explosion that crippled the Odyssey. It was a minor defect that occurred two years before I was even named the flight's commander. Fred Haise was going back to the moon on Apollo 18, but his mission was canceled due to budget cuts. He never flew in space again. Nor did Jack Swigert, who left the astronaut corps and was elected to Congress from the state of Colorado, but he died of cancer before he was able to take office. Ken Mattingly orbited the moon as command-module pilot of the Apollo 16 and even flew the space shuttle, having never gotten the measles. Gene Kranz retired as director of flight operations just not long ago. And many others in Mission Control have gone on to other things, but some are still there. And as for me, the seven extraordinary days of Apollo 13 were my last in space. I watched other men walk on the moon and return safely, all from the confines of Mission Control. I sometimes catch myself looking up at the moon, remembering the changes of fortune in our long voyage, thinking of the thousands of people who worked to bring us home. I look up at the moon and wonder when will we be going back and who will that be?

The Lunar Module was designed for an impact area into a deep oceanic trench, because it was carrying a "nuclear battery" called an RTG, which was supposed to be left on the moon to power the various scientific instruments that they were going to deploy. They wanted to make sure that the RTG and the several pounds of plutonium fuel inside it would be as isolated from the environment as possible once it re-entered. The RTG casing was designed to withstand an explosion on launch or an unprotected re-entry without breaking open in the atmosphere. It should still be right where it landed, deep in the ocean, heating the water around it and hopefully not corroding away too badly.

All three astronauts move into the Command Module of the Odyssey in order to jettison the Service Module. Upon its jettison, they are finally able to see the extent of the damage and wonder whether the Odyssey's heat shields are intact, necessary to keep them from burning up on re-entry. Swigert successfully gets the Odyssey started up by transmitting extra power from the Aquarius, which they also jettison just before re-entering the Earth's atmosphere. As everyone on the ground anxiously waits, praying that the heat shield will hold through the inferno of re-entry, the Odyssey goes into communications blackout (a period of radio silence due to ionization interference). When the blackout time goes beyond the expected three minutes, the command center goes into complete silence. Only Mattingly's voice can be heard asking, "Odyssey, this is Houston. Do you read me?" Suddenly, the Odyssey emerges from the clouds with all three of its parachutes open. Lovell's voice is heard, saying, "Hello, Houston. This is Odyssey. It's good to see you again." Everyone breaks into cheers and applause, Kranz collapses in his chair, and the module lands safely in the South Pacific where they are rescued by divers and taken by helicopter to the USS Iwo Jima on April 17th, seven days after being launched into space. In the final scene, Lovell, Haise, and Swigert emerge from their helicopter on the deck of the Iwo Jima to the cheers of a hero's welcome. In a voiceover, Lovell tells what caused the explosion and what the future holds for Haise, Swigert, Mattingly, and Kranz.

For the most part, the film is accurate, but as with most historical docudramas, some dramatic license was taken. Some notable examples: Haise never blamed Swigert for the accident, and the fight between them never actually happened (Jim Lovell mentions this on the Special Edition DVD commentary); The NASA director says that if Swigert can't dock with the lunar module, they don't have a mission. In reality, if Swigert couldn't have docked, Haise or Lovell could have done it; Gene Kranz never said "failure is not an option"; it was actually Jack Swigert, not Lovell, who made the first transmission to mission control after emerging from re-entry. Jim Lovell also mentions on the DVD commentary that he felt that the Grumman Corporation "got a bum rap" in the film by being portrayed with a "no-can-do" attitude. In reality, they played a key role in bringing the astronauts home safely. The movie gives the impression that the Lunar-Module-to-Command-Module reverse power transfer and subsequent power-up sequence are masterminded by Ken Mattingly. The Ken Mattingly character as portrayed in the movie is in fact a composite character representing a team of people including Charlie Duke. The power-up procedure is mainly credited to John Aaron who was known as a notoriously efficient problem solver. The communications blackout lasted only 33 seconds longer than the expected three minutes, not the four or more minutes as depicted in the film. In real life, Marilyn Lovell retrieved her ring from the shower drain.

The vest was made by Gene's wife, who makes him a new one every time he supervises a new space mission. If you listen closely while the box is being delivered to Gene, one of his crew remarks, "Can't argue with tradition!" The ground crew are just giving Gene a friendly hard time over it, picking on him because his wife cares about him enough to sew for him each time. Also, it seems that Mrs Krantz took a bit longer to make this particular vest because you can hear Gene mutter "Thank you, Tom [the tech who brings Gene the box]. I was gettin' worried."

Quite simply both modules were constructed by two different companies who installed their own differing designs regarding the CO2 filters.

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