The Apollo 1 crew is shown getting into their spacecraft for a simulation that goes terribly wrong when a fire starts and they can't get out. Walter Cronkite
says in voice-over, "Inspired by the late President Kennedy
, in only 7 years America has risen to the challenge of what he called the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked. After trailing the Russians for years with our manned space program, and after that sudden horrible fire on the launch pad during a routine test that killed American astronauts Gus Grissom
, Ed White
, and Roger Chaffee
, there were serious doubts that we could beat the Russians to the Moon. But tonight, a mere eighteen months after the tragedy of Apollo 1, the entire world watched in awe as Neil Armstrong
and Buzz Aldrin
landed on the Moon. The big news came just a moment ago. Mission Control gave the astronauts permission to go for the extra-vehicular activity, that is, for the walk on the Moon, far earlier than anticipated, 9 pm Eastern Daylight Time."
It's July 20, 1969. Astronaut Jim Lovell
) is having a party at his house to celebrate the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Astronaut Jack Swigert
) is telling a blonde girl named Tracy about "penetrating the Lunar Module," demonstrating this with a glass and a beer bottle. "When you feel that thing slide in, everything's clickin', it's like no other feeling in the world." She laughs at his double entendre.
Lovell comes in and jokingly asks what the big occasion is. Swigert asks how things are going at Mission Control, and he says, "It's a nervous time. They're pacing around, smoking like chimneys, [Flight Director] Gene Kranz
is gonna have puppies." Swigert introduces Lovell to Tracy by saying, "This is the man. Gemini 7, Gemini 12, Apollo 8, they were the first ones around the moon, this guy did ten laps." Lovell says, "With one hand on the wheel." His wife Marilyn (Kathleen Quinlan
) asks where he's been; he shows her a case of "the last champagne in the city of Houston." He gives it to his son Jay (Max Elliott Slade
), a military cadet, to put on ice, and tells him to get a haircut. Jay protests that he's on vacation.
Lovell has many pictures and mementos from the Apollo 8 mission in his house. Astronauts Ken Mattingly
) and Fred Haise
) look at them. They're scheduled to fly on Apollo 14 with Lovell. Mattingly says he wouldn't mind being up there tonight; Haise tells him their day is coming. Mattingly says his cousin called and asked who they bribed to get on Jim Lovell's crew. "I just told him, they wanted to make sure he got the best." Haise says, "Well, they got that right." The two shake hands.
Everyone gathers in front of the TV to watch the Moon walk. Astronaut Pete Conrad
) gets up to say he appreciates everyone coming to "this dress rehearsal party for my Apollo 12 landing." Lovell tells him to sit down. Conrad says, "I think we should take a moment to appreciate the exemplary, hell, damn near heroic effort displayed by Neil Armstrong's backup for this historic Moon walk, and of course his crew. Let's hear it for Jim Lovell, Ken Mattingly and Fred Haise!" Everyone claps. Marilyn tells them to quiet down as Neil Armstrong appears on the screen. Lovell calls for his three younger children to come and watch. Conrad jokingly asks Lovell if it's too late for Armstrong to abort; Lovell says, "No, he still has time to get out. He just needs somebody to wave him off. Pull up, Neil!" Other people laugh and yell, "Pull up!" Marilyn again says, "Sssh!" On TV, Cronkite expresses amazement at how good the pictures from the Moon are, and Armstrong describes the lunar surface. Then he steps down from the ladder and says, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
Later, Lovell stands in his backyard looking at the almost-full moon. He closes one eye and covers the moon with his thumb. Marilyn comes outside and says, "You're drunk, Lovell." "Yeah," he admits. "I'm not used to the champagne." She says, "Me neither. I can't deal with cleaning up; let's sell the house." Lovell says, "All right, let's sell the house. They're back inside now, looking up at us. Isn't that something?" Marilyn settles into a lawn chair and says Armstrong's wife probably won't get any sleep tonight, and that when Lovell was on the moon's far side on Apollo 8, she didn't sleep and just stayed up vacuuming the house. Lovell says, "Christopher Columbus and Charles Lindbergh
and Neil Armstrong." He laughs and repeats, "Neil Armstrong!" Marilyn laughs too. He sits down in a chair next to hers and says, "From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the Moon. And it's not a miracle; we just decided to go. On Apollo 8, we were so close. Just 60 nautical miles down, and it was like I could just . . . step out and walk on the face of it. I want to go back there." Marilyn asks where Mount Marilyn is on the moon because Lovell named it after her. He tries to point out where it is. She says she doesn't see it. He tells her she has to look harder, then crawls into her chair with her and starts kissing her as they both laugh.
On October 30, Lovell is giving some politicians and other people a tour of NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building at Cape Kennedy. He tells them, "The astronaut is only the most visible member of a very large team, and all of us, right down to the guy sweeping the floor, are honored to be a part of it. What did the man say, give me a lever long enough and I'll move the world? Well, that's exactly what we're doing here. This is divine inspiration, folks. It's the best part of every one of us, the part that believes anything is possible. Things like a computer that can fit into a single room and hold millions of pieces of information, or the Saturn 5 rocket. Now, this is the actual launch vehicle that will be taking Alan Shepard
and his crew on the first leg of the Apollo 13 mission." A politician in the group asks when Lovell will go up again. He says he's going to command Apollo 14 next year. The politician says, "If there is an Apollo 14. Now Jim, people in my state have been asking why we're continuing to fund this program now that we've beaten the Russians to the moon." Lovell replies, "Imagine if Christopher Columbus came back from the New World, and no one returned in his footsteps." A woman asks how people go to the bathroom in space. Lovell tells her, "It's a highly technical process of cranking down the window and looking for a gas station." Deke Slayton
), one of the Mercury Seven astronauts, comes in. Lovell tells the tour group that Slayton hands out the flight assignments, so the astronauts kick back part of their salaries to him every month; he asks how much Slayton wants this month. Slayton says something's come up and they need to talk.
Back at the Lovell home in Houston, his older daughter Barbara (Mary Kate Schellhardt
) is arguing with Marilyn about her hippie Halloween costume. The two younger children, Jeffrey (Miko Hughes
) and Susan (Emily Ann Lloyd
), are dressed as a skeleton and a ballerina; Marilyn says Barbara's costume is too revealing. Lovell comes home unexpectedly. After greeting everyone, he says, "You know that Easter vacation trip we had planned for Acapulco?" Marilyn says, "Uh-oh." Jim says, "I was thinking there might be a slight change in destination . . . maybe, say, the moon." Marilyn gasps and hugs him. He says that he, Haise and Mattingly have been bumped up to the prime crew of Apollo 13 because Alan Shepard has a recurrent ear infection. Marilyn says, "You're moving up six months?" Barbara interrupts to ask her father if she can wear her hippie costume. He says sure, but Marilyn protests, so he changes his answer to, "No! No, absolutely not." Barbara storms out of the room. Marilyn asks if NASA is rushing things and if they'll be ready in six months. He says they'll be ready and that he wouldn't want to be around Shepard tonight. Before he leaves the house, he says, "I'm gonna walk on the moon, Marilyn." She says, "I know, I can't believe it. Naturally, it's 13. Why 13?" Lovell says, "It comes after 12, hon." She smirks at him.
Three months before the launch, Lovell, Haise and Mattingly spend time in the simulator and practice docking with the lunar excursion module (LEM). The technicians shut down some of the thrusters without warning to see how Mattingly would handle this during an actual flight. Mattingly is caught off guard for a moment, but he manages to complete the procedure successfully. Lovell says, "Gentleman, that is the way we do that." Haise says, "Man, that woke me up." When they get out of the simulator, Lovell describes the experience as "three hours of boredom followed by seven seconds of sheer terror." Everyone is impressed with Mattingly for his handling of the problem, but he says he used up too much fuel and wants to do the simulation again. Haise complains that they have to get up early the next day, but Mattingly says his rate of turn is too slow and that he wants to do it again. Lovell says, "Well, let's get it right." They get ready to do it again.
Marilyn has a nightmare about things going terribly wrong during the Apollo 13 mission. She dreams that the hatch gets blown, the cabin gets de-pressurized, and her husband gets knocked out of the ship and into space. She wakes up in the morning frightened. It is three weeks prior to launch. Lovell is already up; he's in Jeffrey's bedroom having a cup of coffee and answering Jeffrey's questions about the flight. Marilyn stands in the hallway and listens. Jeffrey asks how long it will take to get to the moon; Lovell talks to him about the launch and the lunar orbit, and demonstrates how that works with a miniature model of the spacecraft. He holds up the model of the LM and says, "Then Fred and I float down the tunnel into this guy, the Lunar Module, this spidery-looking guy . . . only holds two people and it's just for landing on the moon. And I take the controls, and I steer it around, and I fly it down, adjusting it here, the attitude there, pitch, roll . . . for a nice, soft, landing on the moon. Better than Neil Armstrong. Way better than [Apollo 12 commander] Pete Conrad." Marilyn smiles at this. Jeffrey asks if Lovell knew the astronauts in the fire, referring to the Apollo 1 disaster. Lovell says yes, he knew all of them. Jeffrey asks if that could happen again. Lovell says, "Well, I'll tell you something about that fire. Um, a lot of things went wrong. The door, it's called the hatch, they couldn't get it open when they needed to get out. That was one thing. And, uh, well, a lot of things went wrong in that fire." Jeffrey asks if they fixed it. "Oh, yes, absolutely, we fixed it," Lovell reassures him. "It's not a problem anymore."
It's evening. Lovell and Marilyn are in their red Corvette on the way to a public appearance. Marilyn complains that NASA shouldn't be asking her husband to do public appearances with a training schedule this tight. They stop at a red light. A guy in another car recognizes Lovell. "Hey, you're Jim Lovell, aren't you? Hey! Lucky 13! Right on!" Lovell smiles and salutes him. The light turns green. Lovell's engine stalls. "That's the second time it's done that," he complains and restarts it. Marilyn tells him that the children have a busy school schedule and she's thinking about not going to the launch because "the kids need me at home." Lovell says, "Marilyn, we've had these kids for awhile now. They've never kept you from coming to the other launches." Marilyn says she's worried about his mother, who had a stroke recently. Lovell says his mom is fine. Marilyn says, "It's not like I've never been to a launch before. The other wives have not done three. I just don't think I can go through all that. I'll just be glad when this one's over." Lovell says, "Well, you're gonna miss a hell of a show."
Jim gets on the plane to fly to Florida for the launch. Marilyn is outside doing yard work and looks up to see a plane fly overhead.
Four days before the launch, Lovell, Haise and Mattingly are at a press conference. They wear their spacesuits and pose for pictures before a background photo of a nebula. A reporter asks if the number 13 bothers them. Haise says only if it's a Friday. The reporter persists, "Apollo 13, lifting off at 1300 hours and 13 minutes and entering the Moon's gravity on April 13th?" Lovell says Mattingly has been doing some scientific experiments on this phenomenon. Mattingly says, "Yes, well, I had a black cat walk over a broken mirror under the Lunar Module ladder, it didn't seem to be a problem." Haise says, "We also considered a real helpful letter from a fella who said we ought to take a pig up with us for good luck." The reporters laugh. One of them asks if it bothers the crew that the public sees the flight as routine. Lovell replies, "There's nothing routine about flying to the Moon. I can vouch for that. And I think that an astronaut's last mission, his final flight, well, that's always gonna be very special." A reporter asks why this is his last. Lovell says, "I'm in command of the best ship with the best crew that anybody could ask for. And I'll be walking in a place where there's 400 degrees difference between sunlight and shadow. I can't imagine ever topping that."
Two days before the launch, Lovell is approached by Deke Slayton and the Flight Surgeon (Christian Clemenson
) who tell him there's a problem. Backup crew member Charlie Duke
has been diagnosed with measles; this means all the astronauts have been exposed. Lovell says he's had the measles. Slayton says, "Ken Mattingly hasn't."
Lovell, Slayton, the Flight Surgeon and NASA Director Chris Kraft
) meet in Kraft's office. Lovell is angry that they want to break up his crew "two days before the launch, when we can predict each other's moves, when we can read the tone of each other's voices." The Flight Surgeon says Mattingly will get seriously ill at an important stage of the mission. Lovell complains that his backup, Jack Swigert, "has been out of the loop for weeks." Kraft says NASA can either replace Mattingly with Swigert or bump all three of them to a later mission. Lovell says, "I've trained for the Fra Mauro highlands, and this is Flight Surgeon horseshit, Deke!" Slayton just says if Lovell decides to hold out for Mattingly, he won't be on Apollo 13 and it's his decision.
Swigert is in the shower with a girlfriend when the phone rings. He says he has to answer it because "I'm on the backup crew, and the backup crew has to set up the guest list and book the hotel room." He answers the phone wearing a towel and says, very calmly, "Yes sir. Uh-huh, I understand. Thank you, sir." He hangs up the phone with a dazed expression, walks a few steps, then screams for joy.
Mattingly sits in a room at the Kennedy Space Center looking stunned, having just been told by Lovell that he won't be on the mission. He tries to maintain his composure, but he's visibly shocked and disappointed. "Damn. Medical guys. I had the feeling when they started doing all the blood tests that ... I mean, I know it's their ass if I get sick up there, but I mean... Jesus! Oh, boy. Swigert, he'll be fine. He's, uh, he's strong. It'll be a hell of a mission. One for the books. You're sure about this, Jim? I mean, why don't I go upstairs and talk to Deke? I'm sure we can work this out." Lovell says this was his decision. Mattingly says it must have been a tough one. "Look, I don't have the measles. I'm not gonna get the measles." He storms out of the room. Haise follows him. Lovell stays where he is and looks at the floor.
Lovell, Haise and their new crew member Swigert go through a re-entry simulation. Swigert sees a warning light that their trajectory is too shallow. He tries to correct it, becoming increasingly nervous in the process, but instead they come in too steep. "12 G's, we're burning up," Lovell announces. A technician says he gave the crew a false indicator light at entry interface and that Mattingly didn't get it the first time either. Haise says he's feeling "char-broiled." Lovell asks what happened. Swigert says, "Came in too steep. We're dead." Haise says, "No shit." Lovell says they're going to do the simulation again. Slayton wants to talk to him first. Lovell tells him, "If I had a dollar for every time they killed me in this thing, I wouldn't have to work for you, Deke. We have two days, and we'll be ready. Let's do it again." Slayton turns to the technicians and says, "Do it again."
The night before the launch, the astronauts see their families for the last time before the mission. They have to stand across the road from them to prevent any last-minute exposure to germs. Haise's young sons try to run across the road to see him and have to be stopped. His wife Mary (Tracy Reiner
) tells them, "We don't want Daddy to get any of our germs and get sick in outer space, right?" She is very pregnant. Haise says, "Princess, you look beautiful." A woman calls out to Swigert. He smiles at her. Marilyn appears suddenly and joins the crowd. Lovell says, "Well, hey, that looks like Marilyn Lovell. But it can't be, she's not coming to the launch." Marilyn says, "I heard it was gonna be a hell of a show." Lovell asks who told her this, and she replies, "Some guy I know." He laughs and says, "You can't live without me!" A NASA member tells everyone to say goodnight because the astronauts have a big day tomorrow. Everyone says goodnight. Lovell asks Marilyn if she heard about Ken. She says yes. He blows her a kiss and she returns the gesture.
It's April 11th, launch day. The Apollo 13 crew begins the long process of getting suited up. Swigert and Haise both say they're feeling good when asked. Lovell jokes with Pad Leader Guenter Wendt
and says, "I wonder where Guenter went?" in a German accent.
Meanwhile, Marilyn takes a shower in her motel room, and her wedding ring slips off and falls down the drain.
Swigert says, "I'm gonna give these guys a beautiful ride" before the technician puts on his helmet. Swigert appears to be holding his breath; the technician asks if he needs more air, but he shakes his head. Presumably he is just nervous.
Marilyn and Mary get ready to watch the launch. Mary says, "I hate this already." Referring to her pregnancy, Marilyn asks if she's "about to pop." Mary says, "No, I got 30 days till this blast-off."
At Mission Control in Houston, lead Flight Director Gene Kranz (Ed Harris
) also has to get suited up for the mission. As the leader of the White Team, it's a NASA tradition for him to wear a white vest with the mission insignia. A box containing the vest is delivered to him. The Flight Dynamics Officer (FIDO for short) and Guidance joke about how Kranz's last vest "looked like he bought it off a gypsy."
The astronauts get into the Command Module (CM, named Odyssey) and get strapped down. The Pad Leader says, "Jim, you're all set." They shake hands, then the hatch is closed.
In the Mission Control room, Kranz puts on his vest. Everyone applauds and whistles. A controller yells out, "Hey Gene, I guess we can go now!" Kranz says, "Save it for splashdown, guys."
Kranz sits down at his desk with a cup of coffee and goes through the checklist with the flight controllers. Everyone says they're go for launch. He radios Launch Control at the Kennedy Space Center and tells them. The Pad Leader says they're go for launch.
Mattingly gets out of his car in a field near the Cape to watch the launch.
Apollo 13 lifts off on time at 1:13 as the crowd applauds. Launch Control says they've cleared the tower. Kranz says, "Okay guys, we got it!"
Mattingly watches the spacecraft, shielding his eyes with one hand and saying, "Come on, baby."
Swigert says altitude and velocity are "right on the line."
Kranz asks how they look. FIDO says things are looking good.
Lovell says, "EDS to manual, inboard. Get ready for a little jolt, fellas!" The crew is thrown violently forward, then slammed back against their seats. Swigert comments, "That was some little jolt."
Something unexpected happens. The center engine on the Saturn 4-B booster cuts out early. Lovell reports this to Mission Control. Kranz asks the other controllers what this will do to them. Lovell looks at the "abort" handle as he says, "Houston, what's the story on engine 5?" FIDO tells Kranz they'll be fine as long as they don't lose another engine. CapCom (short for Capsule Communicator) says they're not sure why this happened, "but the other engines are go, so we're just gonna burn those remaining engines for a little bit longer." Lovell looks at Haise and Swigert and says, "Looks like we've just had our glitch for this mission."
The Saturn 4-B booster is shut down. The crew takes off their gloves and helmets. They're now in zero gravity; they smile as they watch the items float in the air.
Back at the Cape, Mary says she can't believe Marilyn has been to four launches. Marilyn says the worst part's over. Mary says, "It is?" Marilyn admits, "This doesn't stop for me until he lands on that aircraft carrier." Mary says she seems very calm, but Marilyn says, "If a Flight Surgeon had to okay me for this mission, I'd be grounded." Reporters want to talk to them. Marilyn says confidentially to Mary, "Remember, you're proud, happy and thrilled." A reporter asks how they feel. Mary says, "Well, very proud and very happy, and we're thrilled."
FIDO reports that the Translunar Injection (a burn to point the spacecraft towards the moon) looks good. Kranz stands up and says, "Okay guys, we're going to the Moon!"
On Apollo 13, Swigert gets into the pilot's seat to get ready for the docking procedure with the LEM. Haise and Lovell start taking off their space suits. Haise has a very uncomfortable look on his face, then he vomits. Lovell tells him the same thing happened to Frank Borman
on Apollo 8, but Haise says he just ate too much breakfast and is fine. As they get the Service Module aligned with the LM, Kranz says to watch the telemetry and Slayton says, "If Swigert can't dock this thing, we don't have a mission." Lovell tells Swigert twice to watch the alignment as he and Haise look on nervously. Swigert says, "Don't worry, guys, I'm on top of it." On the ground, Slayton says, "Come on, rookie, park that thing." Kranz is literally holding his breath. Finally, Swigert says, "Houston, we have hard dock." CapCom tells him that's a good deal.
Swigert is eager to take off his bulky space suit. Lovell says he and Swigert are going to eat. Haise protests that he's hungry too, despite his earlier nausea. Lovell asks if he's sure. Haise says, "I could eat the ass out of a dead rhinoceros." Lovell gives him a strange look.
The White Team goes off duty in Mission Control and the next shift of controllers comes in. EECOM (the Electronic and Environmental Engineer for the CM's systems, played by Clint Howard
) says the mission is "by the numbers so far."
It's Day 3 of the mission. Lovell urinates into his relief tube and jokes that it's too bad they can't demonstrate this on TV. The urine is dumped overboard and freezes into a cloud of golden crystals. Haise jokes about "the constellation Urion" and what a beautiful sight it is.
At the Lovell home, Barbara doesn't want to go to her father's television broadcast because she is sulking about the Beatles breaking up, and she complains that he won't know if they're there anyway, but Marilyn insists that she go to it.
Lovell begins the broadcast and says, "Good evening, America, and welcome aboard Apollo 13! I'm Jim Lovell and we're broadcasting to you tonight from an altitude of almost 200,000 miles away from the face of the Earth. And we have a pretty good show in store for you tonight. We are going to show you just what our life is like for the three of us here in the vast expanse of outer space. Okay, one of the first things we'd like to do is provide you with the appropriate background music. So, hit it there, Freddo!" Haise turns on the tape player and plays "Spirit in the Sky." Lovell says, "That was supposed to be the theme to '2001
' in honor of our Command Module Odyssey, but there seems to have been a last-minute change in the program." CapCom says he's going to take his entire collection of Johnny Cash
with him on Apollo 19.
Henry Hurt (Xander Berkeley
), NASA's Public Affairs Officer, tells Marilyn that the broadcast won't appear on TV because none of the networks consider the mission very exciting. Lovell's mother Blanche (Jean Speegle Howard
), who is in a nursing home, is annoyed about not being able to see the broadcast.
Swigert and Haise open a package of Tang and laugh at how the droplets float in the air. Haise tries to pass one of the droplets to Swigert. It splashes him in the face instead. Marilyn asks if they know they're not on the air. Henry says, "We'll tell them when they get back." Swigert says that if anyone from the IRS is watching, he forgot to file his 1040 return, which is due in two days. "I meant to do it today, but, uh . . ." Some people in Mission Control laugh but EECOM says, "That's no joke. They'll jump on him!"
Lovell and Haise move into the LEM. Lovell says, "Well, folks, as you can probably tell, the Aquarius isn't much bigger than a couple of telephone booths. The skin of the LEM in some places is only as thick as a couple of layers of tinfoil, and that's all what protects us from the vacuum of space. We can get away with this because the LEM is designed only for flight in outer space." Lovell heads back up the tunnel into the CM. Haise bangs the cabin repressurization valve, startling Lovell, Swigert and everyone down in Mission Control. Then he laughs and says, "Gotcha!" Lovell sighs and says, "Houston. That bang you heard was Fred Haise on the cabin repress valve. He really gets our hearts going every time with that one. Okay, we're about ready to close out the Aquarius and return to the Odyssey. Our next broadcast will be from Fra Mauro on the surface of the Moon. So, this is the crew of the Apollo 13 wishing everyone back on Earth a pleasant evening."
The broadcast ends. Marilyn, Mary and their children leave.
CapCom says the show was excellent. Swigert says thank you. CapCom gives him some "housekeeping procedures" to do, including stirring the oxygen tanks. Swigert does so. There's an explosion in an oxygen tank. The spacecraft is violently shaken. Several alarms go off. A panel blows off the Service Module in a shower of sparks.
Swigert says, "Hey, we've got a problem here." Lovell asks what he did. He says he just stirred the tanks. In Mission Control, EECOM and Guidance are surprised when their computer screens flicker. CapCom exchanges a confused look with Kranz and says, "This is Houston, say again please?" Lovell says, "Houston, we have a problem." He starts trying to explain everything that's going wrong. The thrusters are acting strange, the computer is off-line, and there are "multiple caution and warnings." Referring to the loud explosion, Haise says, "Christ, that was no repress valve!"
At Mission Control, the Flight Surgeon says to Kranz, "Jesus, Flight, their heart rates are skyrocketing." Kranz asks EECOM what's happening. He replies, "O2 tank 2 not reading at all, tank 1 is at 725 psi and falling. Fuel cells 1 and 3 are ... oh boy, what's going on here? Flight, let me get back to you?" Several controllers start talking to Kranz at the same time, reporting various other problems. Kranz says, "One at a time, people! One at a time. One at a time. EECOM, is this an instrumentation problem or are we looking at real power loss here?" EECOM says, "It's reading a quadruple failure, that can't happen! It's gotta be instrumentation."
Lovell thinks maybe the LEM was hit by a meteor and tells Swigert to close the hatch between the LEM and the CM. Haise tries to explain to Mission Control what's happening. "We had a pretty large bang there associated with a master alarm . . . we got a wicked shimmy up here." Kranz, listening, says, "EECOM, GNC [Guidance, Navigation and Control], these guys are talking about bangs and shimmies up there. Doesn't sound like instrumentation to me."
Swigert complains that the hatch won't seal. Lovell says, "Just stow it. If we'd been hit by a meteor, we'd be dead by now." Haise is having trouble talking to CapCom; the signal is weak. Lovell takes the controls and says, "I'm gonna try to get us out of this lurch." Swigert looks at all the warning lights and tries to list all the systems that are down. "I don't know, maybe this a caution and warning failure." Lovell looks out the window and sees a white mist. "Houston. We are venting something out into space. I can see it outside of Window 1 right now. It's definitely a gas of some sort. It's got to be the oxygen."
Everyone in Mission Control is stunned for a moment. CapCom finally says, "Roger, Odyssey. We copy your venting." Everyone starts talking at once, sounding increasingly frantic. Kranz stands up and says, "Okay, listen up. Quiet down, people. Quiet down. Quiet down! Let's stay cool, people. Procedures, I need another computer up in the RTCC [Real Time Computer Complex]. I want everybody to alert your support teams. Wake up anybody you need, get them in here. Let's work the problem, people. Let's not make things worse by guessing!"
CapCom tries to reassure the crew. "We are going around the room now. We're gonna get you some answers." The oxygen levels continue to fall.
Kranz lights a cigarette and says to EECOM, "Can we review our status here, Sy? Let's look at this thing from a, uh, from a standpoint of status. What have we got on the spacecraft that's good?" EECOM says, "I'll get back to you, Gene."
Haise says, "We're not gonna have power much longer. The ship's bleeding to death."
EECOM reluctantly tells Kranz that they should shut down the reactant valves on the fuel cells. Kranz asks what good that will do. EECOM says, "If that's where the leak is, we can isolate it. We can isolate it there, we can save what's left in the tanks, and we can run on the good cell." Kranz protests, "You close 'em, you can't open 'em again! You can't land on the Moon with one healthy fuel cell!" EECOM stands up to face him and says, "Gene, the Odyssey is dying. From my chair here, this is the last option." Kranz says okay and tells CapCom to tell the crew. CapCom says, "We want you to close reac valves on cells 1 and 3. Do you copy?" Lovell, startled, says, "Are you saying you want the whole smash? Closing down the reac valves for the fuel cells' shut down? Shutting down the fuel cells. Did I hear you right?" Kranz says they heard him right and to tell them it's the only way they think they can stop the leak. CapCom relays this to the crew.
Lovell says, "We just lost the Moon," and tells Haise to shut down the valves. Swigert says, "If this doesn't work, we're not gonna have enough power left to get home." Haise shuts down the valves but the oxygen levels keep falling. Lovell looks out the window at the leaking oxygen and asks how long it takes to power up the LEM. Haise says three hours by the checklist. Lovell says, "We don't have that much time." Haise immediately crawls into the tunnel to start the power-up.
EECOM tells Kranz, "15 minutes of oxygen and that's it. The Command Module will be dead." Kranz tells everyone, "Okay guys, listen up, here's the drill! We're moving the astronauts over to the LEM, we gotta get some oxygen up there. TELMU, Control, I want an emergency power procedure, the essential hardware only! GNC, EECOM! We're gonna be shutting down the Command Module at the same time, we're gonna have to transfer the guidance system from one computer to the other, so I want those numbers up and ready when our guys are in position!" Everyone starts working on these things right away. Kranz tells Kraft, "The Lunar Module just became a lifeboat."
CapCom tells the crew they need to power down the CM and power up the LEM so they should get somebody over there. Lovell says Haise is already in the LEM. CapCom says they only have 15 minutes of life support in the Odyssey. Lovell tells Haise it's worse than he thought, and moves into the LEM to help him with the power-up.
The Gold Team Flight Director Glynn Lunney
) comes on duty, and Kranz says, "If Jack can't get that guidance program transferred before they go dead in there--" Lunney says, "They won't even know which way they're pointed." Kranz says, "That's right." Lunney says, "That's a bad way to fly."
CapCom warns the crew that they only have about 12 minutes to power up the LM. Haise says he can't see any stars because there's so much debris outside. Lovell is afraid that his numbers for the guidance program aren't right. "We've got negative visibility in our star field, and if this paperwork isn't right, who knows where we'll end up out here."
Mattingly, still depressed about not being on Apollo 13 and not showing any signs of measles, sits at home in Houston drinking beer and watching The Tonight Show
. The host starts talking about Swigert. "He's the kind they say has a girl in every port. He has that reputation. I think he's sort of foolishly optimistic, though, taking nylons and Hershey bars to the moon." Mattingly doesn't feel like listening to this. He turns off the TV, takes the phone off the hook and goes to bed. This makes him miss an ABC News Special Report about Apollo 13.
Marilyn is watching the news report and talking to NASA on the phone at the same time. Conrad listens in an on extension. On television, Jules Bergman
says, "The Apollo 13 spacecraft has lost all electrical power, and astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert are making their way through the tunnel into the Lunar Module, using it as a lifeboat, so they'll have electrical power for their radios on the Command Module. Apollo 13 is apparently also losing breathing oxygen . . . The emergency has ruled out any chance of a lunar landing and could endanger the lives of the astronauts themselves, if the LEM's oxygen supply plus whatever is left of the Command Module's oxygen can't last them until they can get back to Earth."
Marilyn is frustrated at her inability to get a straight answer from NASA. "No, don't give me that NASA bullshit! I want to know what's happening with my husband!"
On Apollo 13, control is switched from the CM to the LEM, but Lovell is struggling with the controls. Haise says, "She wasn't designed to fly attached like this." Lovell says, "It's like flying with a dead elephant on our back."
Guidance says they're getting close to gimbal lock. CapCom says, "Watch that middle gimbal, we don't want you tumbling off into space." Lovell snaps, "Freddo, inform Houston I'm well aware of the goddamn gimbals!" A moment later, he adds, "I don't need to hear the obvious, I got the frappin' eight-ball right in front of me!" He doesn't realize that they're on VOX (Voice Activated Communication) and that Mission Control heard his outburst until CapCom tells him. Haise says sorry and switches off the microphone.
Marilyn's youngest son Jeffrey is having trouble sleeping. He wants to know why so many people have gathered at their house. Marilyn tries to stay calm as she tells him, "Something broke on your Daddy's spaceship. And he's going to have to turn around before he even gets to the Moon." Remembering what his father told him about Apollo 1, Jeffrey says, "Was it the door?"
Lovell tells Mission Control, "We've had to learn how to fly all over again, but we are doing better up here now." CapCom tells Swigert to finish powering down the CM. Swigert asks if they'll be able to power it up again later, because it will get very cold. CapCom tells him they'll have to deal with that later. The CM is shut down. Swigert says, "This is Odyssey, signing off," and sits alone in the dark for a moment with a sad expression. Then he joins Lovell and Haise, who are in the LEM wondering what to do next.
The flight controllers meet in a room at Mission Control. Kranz walks in and says, "I want you all to forget the flight plan! From this moment on we are improvising a new mission." He turns on an overhead projector and starts to draw a diagram, but the projector shorts out so he has to draw on the chalkboard instead. "How do we get our people home? They are here. Do we turn 'em around, straight back, direct abort?" The Retrofire officer (RETRO for short) says yes. FIDO protests, "No, sir! We get them on a free-return trajectory. It's the option with the fewest question marks for safety." Kranz agrees. "We use the moon's gravity, slingshot them around." RETRO and Control protest that the LEM won't support three people for the amount of time this will take; it was only designed for two people for a day and a half. RETRO says they have to do a direct abort and "bring the guys right home right now." FIDO says, "We don't even know if the Odyssey's engine's even working, and if there's been serious damage to this spacecraft--" Guidance interrupts, "They blow up and they die!" Everyone starts arguing. Kranz says, "Let's hold it down, people. The only engine we've got with enough power for direct abort is the SPS on the Service Module. From what Lovell has told us, it could've been damaged in an explosion, so let's consider that engine dead. We light that thing up, could blow the whole works. It's just too risky. We're not gonna take that chance. About the only thing the Command Module is good for is re-entry, so that leaves us with the LEM. Which means free return trajectory. Once we get the guys around the Moon, we'll fire up the LEM engine, make a long burn, pick up some speed, get them home as quick as we can." The Grumman representative (from the company that built the LEM) says, "We can't make any guarantees. We designed the LEM to land on the Moon, not fire the engine out there for course corrections." Kranz says, "Well, unfortunately, we're not landing on the Moon, are we? I don't care what anything was designed
to do. I care about what it can
do. So let's get to work. Let's lay it out, okay?"
It's Day 4. The Flight Surgeon tells CapCom that the flight plan has to be changed so the crew can get some sleep. CapCom tells him to talk to the Flight Activities Officer. Kraft is talking to Slayton and Lunney; Kranz walks past and overhears them say that someone wants a quote from a Flight Director. He asks who. They tell him President Nixon
wants odds on whether the crew will get home safely. Kranz says, "We are not losing the crew." Kraft says they have to give Nixon odds. "Five to one against, three to one?" Lunney says he doesn't think the odds are that good. Kranz repeats, "We are not losing those men!" He pinches the bridge of his nose like he has a headache and mutters to himself. Slayton says to Kraft, quietly so Kranz won't hear, "Look, tell him three to one."
Apollo 13 is about to go around the Moon and lose radio signal. Swigert and Haise look out at the Moon, awestruck. Haise says, "Mare Tranquillitatis. Neil and Buzz's old neighborhood. Coming up on Mount Marilyn. Jim, you gotta take a look at this." Lovell just says he's already seen it (on Apollo 8). Before they lose the radio signal, Swigert says, "So long, Earth. Catch you on the flip side."
Kranz stands alone in a dark room at Mission Control, watching television and looking very tired. They show a pre-flight interview with Swigert, who says, "When you go into the shadow of the Moon and the Moon is between you and the Sun, then you see stars that are more brilliant than anything you've ever seen on the clearest nights here on Earth. And then you pass into the lunar sunrise, over the lunar surface and... it must an awe-inspiring sight. I can't wait to see it myself."
Marilyn sits alone in her bedroom, listening to the radio communications on a squawk box. At the moment, there's only static. She cries.
The crew sees their landing site. "Wow," Swigert says. "Look at the Tsiolkovsky crater. I can't believe how bright the ejecta blanket is." Haise says, "It's like snow. It's beautiful." Lovell imagines what it would be like to walk on the moon. He imagines taking long strides across the lunar surface, putting a hand down to leave finger marks in the dust, and then staring at the far-away earth.
Mission Control gets the signal back. Lovell looks out the window, closes an eye, and holds his thumb up to cover the earth. Haise says he was tempted to take the LEM down and "do some prospecting." Lovell says, "Gentlemen, what are your intentions? I'd like to go home. We got a burn coming up. We're gonna need a contingency if we lose comm with Houston. Freddo, let's get an idea where we stand on the consumables. Jack, get into the Odyssey and bag up all the water you can before it freezes in there. Let's go home."
Kranz has another meeting with the flight controllers. "So you're telling me you can only give our guys 45 hours? That brings them to about there." He refers to a place on his diagram that is far from Earth. "Gentlemen, that's not acceptable." John Aaron
) interrupts to say that power is everything. 'Without it, they don't talk to us, they don't correct their trajectory, they don't turn the heatshield around. We gotta turn everything off. Now. They're not gonna make it to re-entry ... with everything on the LEM draws 60 amps. At that rate in 16 hours the batteries are dead, not 45. And so is the crew. We gotta get them down to 12 amps." Several people protest. Someone says, "You can't run a vacuum cleaner on 12 amps, John!" Aaron persists, "We have to turn off the radars, cabin heater, instrument displays, guidance computer, the whole smash." FIDO protests that they might need the guidance computer to do course corrections. Aaron says the longer they talk, the more power is being wasted. Kranz agrees to power down the LEM. He says, "Now in the meantime, we're gonna have a frozen Command Module up there. In a couple of days we're gonna have to power it up using nothing but the re-entry batteries." The controllers point out that this has never been done or even simulated. Kranz replies, "Well, we're gonna have to figure it out. I want people in our simulators, working re-entry scenarios. I want you guys to find every engineer who designed every switch, every circuit, every transistor and every lightbulb that's up there. Then I want you to talk to the guy on the assembly line who actually built the thing. Find out how to squeeze every amp out of both of these goddamn machines." Referring to the diagram again, he says, "I want this mark all the way back to Earth with time to spare. We've never lost an American in space and we're sure as hell not gonna lose one on my watch! Failure is not an option!"
Backup crew member John Young
) goes to Mattingly's house and wakes him up, saying, "Good, you're not dead. I've been trying to get in touch with you for 45 minutes." Mattingly is confused by this sudden intrusion. Young tells him, " I gotta get you in the simulators. We got a ship to land . . . There's been an explosion. Oxygen tanks are gone, two fuel cells gone, command module's shut down." Mattingly asks about the crew. Young says, "Crew's fine so far, trying to keep 'em alive in the LEM. We're gonna have to shut that down pretty soon too. We got a lot of people working the numbers on this one, Ken. Nobody's too sure how much power we're gonna have to hit re-entry. The command module's gonna be frozen up pretty good by then."
Mattingly arrives at Mission Control, having gotten fully dressed and fully awake in a short time. He talks to Young and Aaron about working on shortcuts for the power-up procedures, and gets into the simulator. It has to be cold and dark to reflect the present conditions on Apollo 13.
The Apollo 13 crew finishes powering down the LEM. After shutting down the guidance computer, Lovell says, "We just put Sir Isaac Newton in the driver's seat."
Some of the flight controllers are in a dark room taking a nap. Guidance comes in to get something and wakes one of them up. He squints at his watch and asks, "Is it AM or PM?" Guidance says, "AM. Very, very AM." The Flight Surgeon tells Slayton that Haise has a fever and the crew hasn't slept since the explosion. Slayton says, "I can't order these guys to go to sleep. Could you
sleep up there?"
The Flight Surgeon and some other controllers soon report a more serious problem to Kranz. The carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the LEM are rising because the filters weren't intended for three people. "They're already up to 8 on the gauges; anything over 15 and you get impaired judgment, blackouts, the beginnings of brain asphyxia." Kranz, who has yet another cigarette in his hand, asks about the scrubbers on the CM, only to be told they take square cartridges and the ones on the LEM are round. "Tell me this isn't a government operation," he sighs. The Flight Surgeon warns that the CO2 levels will get toxic. Kranz says, "Then I suggest you gentlemen invent a way to put a square peg in a round hole. Rapidly." A group of engineers starts working on a procedure to build a filter.
Marilyn is watching a pre-flight interview with Haise on TV. Henry comes to her house and tells her that the news people want to put a transmitter on her lawn to do live broadcasts. She says that she thought the media wasn't interested in the mission. Hurt tells her it's more dramatic now, but Marilyn says, "If landing on the moon wasn't dramatic enough for them, why should not landing on it be?" She refuses the media's request. "Those people don't put one piece of equipment on my lawn. If they have a problem with that, they can take it up with my husband. He'll be home ... on Friday!"
Day 5 of the mission. Swigert is sitting in the CM. His breath is visible in the cold air. The tape recorder is playing Hank Williams
. Haise is in the LEM. He takes some aspirin and looks at some photographs of his family. Lovell moves into the LEM, saying that the CM is too cold. He comments that Haise doesn't look good. Haise says he'll survive. Lovell tells him they have aspirin; Haise says he already took some. He says that Mary got pregnant by accident; Lovell replies that that has a tendency to happen. Haise wonders if the baby is a boy or a girl. Lovell says, "You're gonna find out soon enough." Haise says he never dreamed he would get to go on a real mission. "Most of the guys I graduated high school with never even left home, and here I am." Lovell says, "Yeah, here you are." Haise says, "It hurts when I urinate." Lovell says he isn't drinking enough water, but Haise says he's drinking the rationed amount. He jokes that Swigert used his relief tube and gave him a sexually transmitted disease. Lovell says, "That'll be a hot one at the debriefing for the Flight Surgeon. That's another first for America's space program." They laugh. Haise is worried about the cold affecting their battery efficiency. They start discussing this. Swigert comes into the LEM to ask if there's a re-entry plan yet. Lovell tells him to hang on, because he and Haise are working on something. Swigert says, "Listen. Listen. Listen. They gave us too much Delta-V. They had us burn too long. At this rate, we're gonna skip right out of the atmosphere, and we're never gonna get back." Haise asks how he figured that out; Swigert says, "I can add." Lovell and Haise tell him that Mission Control says they're fine. Swigert says, "What if they had made a mistake, all right, and there was no way to reverse it? You think they would tell us? There's no reason for them to tell us!" Haise thinks this is irrational. Lovell says, "All right, there's a thousand things that have to happen, in order; we are on number 8. You're talking about number 692." Swigert says, "And in the meantime, I'm trying to tell you we're coming in too fast. I think they know it, and I think that's why we don't have a goddamn re-entry plan, all right?" Lovell sarcastically says thank you, that's duly noted.
Swigert accidentally smacks his head on the LEM ceiling and yells, "Ow! Goddamn this piece of shit!" Haise yells back, "Hey! This piece of shit's gonna get you home! That's because that's the only thing we got left, Jack!" Swigert asks what he's saying. Haise says, "I think you know what I'm saying." Swigert protests that all he did was stir the tanks. Haise asks him what the gauge was reading before he did it. Swigert says, "Don't tell me how to fly the damn CM!" Haise says Swigert doesn't know the reading. Swigert continues, "They brought me in here to do a job, they asked me to stir the damn tanks, and I stirred the tanks!" Lovell says, "Jack, stop kicking yourself in the ass." Swigert yells, "This is not my fault!" Lovell tells him, "No one is saying it is. If I'm in the left-hand seat when the call comes up, I stir the tanks." Swigert points to Haise and says, "Yeah, well, tell him that." Haise says he just asked what the gauge was reading and that Swigert doesn't know. Lovell gets impatient. "All right, we're not doing this, gentlemen. We're not gonna do this. We're not gonna go bouncing off the walls for 10 minutes, 'cause we're just gonna end up right back here with the same problems! Try to figure out how to stay alive!" CapCom interrupts. Lovell, in the same angry voice, says, "Are we on VOX!?" Haise says no. Lovell calmly says, "Yeah, Houston, this is Aquarius. Go ahead." A CO2 warning light comes on just as CapCom tells them to check their CO2 gauge. Lovell says the level is rising. Haise is confused because he went over the numbers three times but CapCom says they were expecting this. Lovell says, "Well, that's very comforting to know, Houston. What do we do about it?" CapCom says they're working on a procedure. Haise realizes his numbers are wrong because he only figured it for two people. Swigert says, "Maybe I should just hold my breath."
The engineers finish building the filter, and bring into the Mission Control room along with written instructions on how to make it. It's right on time; the crew is starting to cough from the poor air quality. CapCom instructs the crew how to build it with, among other things, duct tape, the flight plan cover, and a sock. They build it, put it in place and wait to see if it works. Lovell notices Haise and Swigert holding their breaths, and tells them to breathe normally. After a few moments, CO2 levels drop. Everyone is relieved. CapCom compliments one of the engineers by calling him "a steely-eyed missile man."
Meanwhile on TV, Jules Bergman reminds people that there is no rescue possible in space flight. Mary turns the TV off when she hears this. At a news conference, Kraft admits that this is the most serious situation NASA has ever encountered in manned space flight.
Mattingly is still in the simulator trying to figure out the power-up procedure. He uses too much power and has to start over. Young asks if he needs a break. Mattingly replies, "If they don't get one, I don't get one."
Marilyn and her daughters go to visit Blanche and tell her what's happened. They try to downplay the seriousness of the situation, but Marilyn admits there is danger and the girls are visibly frightened. Blanche says, "Don't worry. If they could get a washing machine to fly, my Jimmy could land it."
The crew is resting, listening to "Blue Moon" on the tape recorder. It gets slower and slower until the battery dies. CapCom tells Swigert that the President is going to give him an extension on his income tax return because he is "most decidedly out of the country." Swigert says that's wonderful news and practically breaks into tears because he's so tired.
The Flight Surgeon says Haise has a fever of 104 and the crew needs to sleep. CapCom tells them to get some more sleep because the Surgeon doesn't like his readings. Lovell says, "I am sick and tired of the entire western world knowing how my kidneys are functioning!" He rips his medical sensors off. The Flight Surgeon says, "Flight, I just lost Lovell!" CapCom tells Lovell there's been a drop-out on his medical sensors. Lovell says he's not wearing them. Kranz laughs and shrugs this off, so CapCom just says okay. Haise and Swigert tear their sensors off too. The Flight Surgeon exclaims, "Flight, now I'm losing all three of them!" Kranz says, "It's just a little medical mutiny, Doc. I'm sure the guys are still with us. Let's cut 'em some slack, okay?"
Day 6. GNC tells Kranz they need to do another burn because the trajectory is too shallow.
Haise is coughing and looking very sick. Lovell takes out a hot dog to eat; it's frozen solid. CapCom tells them they have to do a course correction without the guidance computer, but they're not sure how. Lovell figures out that they can use the Earth as a reference and steer the engines manually.
A news anchor on TV discusses the trajectory problems. "In order to enter the atmosphere safely, the crew must aim for a corridor just two and a half degrees wide. If they're too steep, they will incinerate in the steadily thickening air. If they're too shallow, they'll ricochet off the atmosphere like a rock skipping off a pond. The re-entry corridor is in fact so narrow, that if this basketball were the Earth, and this softball were the Moon, and the two were placed fourteen feet apart, the crew would have to hit a target no thicker than this piece of paper."
The course correction is difficult; Lovell asks Haise if he's up for it, and he says he is. It's hard to fly manually, and the crew is frantic and out of breath. When they finish, Lovell says, "Let's hope we don't have to do that again."
When the course correction is successful, the Grumman representative cheerfully exclaims, "How about that LEM, huh?" Kranz says, "I guess you can keep your job."
Mattingly describes the sequence he wants to use for re-entry. Aaron says they don't have enough power, and they have to trade off some of the systems. Mattingly says they need all the systems he's mentioned. They argue about it, and Mattingly says he'll find more power. Aaron admits he doesn't know where they'll find it.
A pre-flight interview with Lovell is shown on TV. Bergman asks if he's ever been scared in an airplane emergency, and Lovell describes a situation from when he was a test pilot: "I'm in a Banshee at night in combat conditions, so there's no running lights on the carrier. It was the Shangri-La, we were in the Sea of Japan. And my radar had jammed, and my homing signal was gone because somebody in Japan was actually using the same frequency, and so it was leading me away from where I was supposed to be. And I'm looking down at that big black ocean. So, I flip on my map light. And then all of a sudden, zap, everything shorts out right there in my cockpit, all my instruments are gone, my lights are gone, I can't even tell now what my altitude is. I know I'm running out of fuel, so I'm thinking about ditching in the ocean, so I look down there, and then in the darkness there's this green trail. It's like a long carpet that just laid out right beneath me, and it was the algae, right? It was that phosphorescent stuff that gets turned up in the wake of a big ship, and it was, it was, it was just leading me home. And, if my cockpit lights hadn't shorted out, there's no way I'd have ever been able to see that. So uh, you ... you never know what... what events are gonna transpire to get you home." Marilyn sits on the living room floor watching this with a very intense expression. The room is very crowded.
Lovell tells Houston they need the re-entry procedure; CapCom says they'll have it soon. Lovell is exhausted and trying hard to keep his composure. He begs Mission Control to get the procedure up to them because they "can't throw things together at the last minute." He says, "We're all a little tired up here. The world's getting awfully big in the window." Slayton comes on the radio to reassure them that they'll get the procedure soon and that Mattingly is working on it.
Mattingly says that since the LEM draws back-up power from the CM, they should reverse the flow to get more power to the CM. There's no procedure for this, but Young and Aaron agree to try.
Kranz says he wants the power-up procedure; Slayton says they're working on it. Another controller says he'll get an estimate. Kranz shouts, "Goddamn it! I don't want another estimate! I want the procedures! Now!" He kicks a filing cabinet and stalks away.
Mattingly finally gets the power-up procedure to work. He, Aaron and Young waste no time bringing it to the flight controllers. Mattingly talks to the crew; Lovell asks him if the flowers are blooming in Houston, and Mattingly replies, "That's a negative, Jim. I don't have the measles." He gives the Flight Surgeon an annoyed look.
Neil Armstrong (Mark Wheeler
) and Buzz Aldrin (Larry Williams
) come to the Lovell home to wait for the re-entry. Marilyn wants them to talk to Blanche and distract her from all the "heavy predictions" being made on the news.
Mattingly gives Swigert the power-up procedure, and he writes it down, but then he squints at the page and says he can't read his own writing and must be more tired than he thought. Mattingly says he'll talk Swigert through it. Swigert looks at the condensation on the instrument panels and worries about them shorting out. He says, "It's like trying to drive a toaster through a car wash." Mattingly tells Lovell and Haise to transfer some ballast to the CM; they're underweight because they didn't bring home any rocks from the moon.
Meanwhile, Jay is at the St. John's Military Academy in Wisconsin. He and his fellow cadets watch the news and wait to see what will happen.
Swigert successfully powers up the CM. He says, "We got her back up, Ken. Boy, I wish you were here to see it." Mattingly says, "I'll bet you do." Haise says, "Way to go, Jack." Swigert smiles.
RETRO tells Kranz there is a typhoon warning on the edge of the prime recovery zone, but it's just a warning and it could miss them. Kranz has a rare pessimistic moment and says, "Only if their luck changes."
The crew jettisons the Service Module, getting their first look at just how much damage the explosion caused. Lovell exclaims, "One whole side of the spacecraft is missing!" He reports that a panel is blown out right up to the heatshield. Haise says the engine bell appears to be damaged. Swigert says, "Oh, man, that's incredible." Mattingly hears this and looks stricken. Slayton says, "The heatshield!" in an alarmed voice.
A news anchor on TV says that the heat builds up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit on a lunar re-entry flight. "If the heatshield is even slightly cracked, the extreme cold could have split it wide open. Worst of all, if the pyrotechnics that control the parachutes have been damaged, the chutes may not open at all, causing the spacecraft to hit the water not at a gentle 20 miles per hour, but at a suicidal 300." Marilyn hears this and buries her head in her hands.
Walter Cronkite talks about how many people around the world are waiting for updates on the mission and praying for the astronauts' safe return.
Lovell tells Haise they have to get out of the LEM; Haise is huddled in a corner and doesn't answer. Lovell asks if he's all right, and Haise stammers, "I'm freezing." Lovell asks if he can hold out a little longer; Haise says, "As long as I have to." He's shivering. Lovell hugs him to keep him warm, and says this won't last too much longer and they're going to land in the South Pacific in 80-degree weather. They get into the CM. Swigert helps strap Haise into his seat. Lovell realizes he is in Swigert's seat and says, "Sorry, Jack. This is an old habit. I'm kinda used to pilot's seat. She's yours to fly." He asks why Swigert put a "no" sign on the instrument panel. Swigert says, "I was getting a little punchy and I didn't want to cut the LEM loose with you guys still in it." Lovell says that was good thinking.
They jettison the LEM; Lovell stares after it. Haise swallows hard and says, "She sure was a good ship." Mattingly says, "Farewell, Aquarius, and we thank you."
The crew of the aircraft carrier USS Iwo Jima
is shown getting ready for the recovery operations.
Henry says, "The trajectory may be off, their thrusters may be frozen, their guidance system might be malfunctioning, their heatshield could be cracked, and their parachutes might be three blocks of ice. Clearly, we've got some obstacles to overcome." A reporter asks, "When will we know?" Henry says that radio blackout lasts for three minutes. "If they're not back in four, we'll know."
The Mission Control room is extremely crowded with people waiting for the re-entry. RETRO tells Kranz the trajectory is still slightly shallow and asks if they should tell the crew. Kranz asks if there's anything they can do about it. RETRO says not now. Kranz says, "Then they don't need to know, do they?"
Henry says there are so many variables and potential problems, he's "a little at a loss." Kraft says, "I know what the problems are, Henry. This could be the worst disaster NASA's ever experienced." Kranz turns to him and says, "With all due respect, sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour." Kraft whispers, "Okay."
It's almost time for entry interface. Lovell says, "Gentlemen, it's been a privilege flying with you." The CM flies toward Earth in a fiery cloud.
The Instrumentation and Communications Officer (INCO) says it's been three minutes, so blackout should be over. Mattingly asks if Odyssey reads him. No answer. Cronkite says, "Expected time of re-acquisition, the time when the astronauts were expected to come out of blackout, has come and gone. About all any of us can do now is just listen and hope. We're about to learn whether or not the heatshield which was damaged, as you remember, by the explosion three days ago, has withstood the inferno of re-entry."
Mattingly keeps trying to talk to the crew. INCO says it's been three and a half minutes, then four. Everyone else is quiet and solemn. Then they see the CM on the screen. The parachutes have deployed successfully. The next second, they hear Lovell say, "Hello, Houston? This is Odyssey. It's good to see you again." There's loud applause in Mission Control. At home, Marilyn screams and hugs her children. Mary does the same, exclaiming, "They made it!" Jay's classmates applaud, but he just looks shocked. Kranz falls into a chair with a hand over his face, tearful and overwhelmed. Mattingly fights back tears as well, but his voice is steady as he says, "Odyssey, Houston. Welcome home. We're glad to see you."
After splashdown, Lovell shakes hands with Haise and Swigert. Before a Navy diver comes to retrieve them from the CM, he says, "Houston, we're at stable one, the ship is secure. This is Apollo 13, signing off." Kranz exclaims, "Good job!" in a choked voice and gives a thumbs-up with both hands. Other people in the room continue to applaud.
The astronauts land on the USS Iwo Jima
and step out of the recovery helicopter to great applause. Shots of them being welcomed home by the Iwo Jima
's crew are interspersed with shots of everyone celebrating in Mission Control. Lovell does a voice-over. "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 cancelled because of 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 Apollo 16, and flew the Space Shuttle, having never gotten the measles. Gene Kranz retired as Director of Flight Operations just not long ago. And many other members of Mission Control have gone onto 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 and our house in Houston. 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 the three of us home. I look up at the Moon and wonder, when will we be going back, and who will that be?"