The film contains an explicit notice that "certain characters and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes", so these changes are not goofs. For instance, the Lovells did not host a party during the Apollo 11 landing; Jim Lovell and Fred Haise were filmed sitting to Capcom Charlie Duke's left in mission control during the landing. Kenneth Mattingly was also at Mission Control when the Apollo 13 accident happened, and was not really the person who devised the power-up procedure. There are various other minute contradictions of history and the film is prey to a large number of factual errors due to the large volume of documentary footage/evidence from the actual event. This is not a documentary.
The controller giving the typhoon prediction for the landing area can be seen holding a full color satellite picture of the region. There were no color satellite pictures at the time - especially not in (near) real time.
The Apollo 13 Spacecraft and Launch Vehicle is depicted as being delivered to the Launch Pad on April 9, 1970 - two (2) days before launch. Much more "pad time" was required, and Apollo 13 was actually delivered to Launch Pad 39A on December 15, 1969.
During the TV broadcast from space, when Haise plays "Spirit in the Sky" on the cassette player, a cassette with a transparent shell is visible through the window of the tape player as it spins in zero-g. Moments later, Haise is shown holding the player and the tape now has a black shell with colored stripes on the label. Additionally, transparent-shell cassettes were not introduced until the late 1980s or early 90s.
When Marilyn Lovell calls NASA after the explosion, she is talking on a handset which has an RJ (Registered Jack) style connector. These style jacks were not introduced until the mid 1970s as ordered by the FCC.
A TV scene at Mission Control shows Houston Astros player Jimmy Wynn hitting a home run on 13 April 1970. The Astros were shut out by the Los Angeles Dodgers 2-0 that day. The home run shown was hit 10 June 1967, in a game between Cincinnati and Houston, it was the longest in Crosley field history.
The news van for Houston TV station KTRK-TV seen parked outside the Lovell residence - the '13' logo on the van was introduced in 1971 a few years after Capital Cities Communications took ownership until 1986 where CapCities purchased ABC-TV which ushered in the modern-day ABC13 in Houston, TX (KTRK-TV is an ABC owned/operated TV network). The logo was phased out in 1995 prior to the Walt Disney Company purchase of Capital Cities/ABC Television.
A technician is wearing a Rockwell International logo on his coveralls; the logo was seen as early as 1971. North American Rockwell became Rockwell International only in 1973 when they acquired Collins Radio. The aircraft division of North American Aviation/North American Rockwell was known as North American Aircraft Operations.
Visible in the background of mission control once the crisis starts, collecting the audio of some of the controllers. This could be because the command center was being televised (which is not mentioned at all, so it probably wasn't), but it is not seen in any later shot of the command center in that scene, including the following wide shot.
Just after the explosion, when Lovell is saying "we've got multiple caution and warnings, Houston," the MET clock (Mission Elapsed Time in hours, minutes, and seconds) is plainly visible reading 091:34:10. When next seen less than a minute later, it has backed up to 056:55:12.
At the beginning of the movie, Jim comes home with some champagne and greets Jack and Tracy. When Jack starts telling Tracy about some of the things Jim's done, she says, "Wow," with her hands clasped up by her chest. In the next shot, her hands are clasped down by her waist.
Shortly after lift-off, as the crew are removing their gloves and helmets. In the first shot, Jack Swigert is seen removing his gloves and glove liners. The next shot shows Swigert removing his helmet while still wearing his white glove liners.
At the end of the film, Gene Kranz sits down in his chair and puts his hand to his head. A few seconds later, in the shot showing Kenneth Mattingly, Kranz can be seen in the background sitting down again in the same manner.
Shortly before re-entry, a NASA worker says, " Velocity now reading 34,802 feet per second, range to go 26,025 nautical miles," and Gene Kranz has his top button done up and his tie pulled up. Before and after this shot, Kranz' shirt and tie are undone.
In the shot over Fred's shoulder he is reading the letter and looking at the pictures of Mary, you see him fold up the letter and place it and the pictures in the green envelope. In the next shot when Jim grabs the floating picture of Mary, you see Fred folding the letter again and putting it in the envelope again.
(at around 17 mins) As the gear is emptied onto the table to solve the CO2 filter problem, the square shaped filter rolls further away from the man who, in the very next shot, picks it up from right in front of himself and gives the instructions to the others.
(at around 19 mins) In the overhead shot of the the rocket being transported to the launch pad, it can be seen that the mobile launcher (that is the box-shaped structure resting on the crawler on which in turn the booster sits) reaches well over the crawler's track chain. In the shot in which Lovell walks alongside the crawler (5 seconds earlier), the whole mobile launcher structure is missing.
When the astronauts are getting their suits put on for the launch, someone asks Swigert "Do you need more air?" Swigert shakes his head. As the camera zooms in slowly, a reflection of three crew members can be seen in his helmet.
When heading around the moon, we see the Earth about 50% lit on the left, so the Sun is to our left. Our perspective shifts to view the spacecraft starting to go around the Moon, incurring an almost 90% counter-clockwise rotation with respect to the Earth, in which case the Sun's position shifts to about the top of our view. Yet when we see the Moon, the left side is dark, where we would expect to see the dark side at the bottom of the screen, and certainly the light/dark line parallel to that of the Earth.
After the party, Jim holds his thumb in front the gibbous moon. Then, telling Marilyn where to find "her" mountain, he says the Sea of Tranquility is "where the shadow crosses the white part." The terminator was in fact near the Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969, but the moon was less than half full; it's depicted as gibbous, with the terminator on the other side.
On rounding the Moon, Haise (Bill Paxton) is shown with a camera and mentions "Mare Tranquillitatis, where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed.." - the portion of the Moon shown is actually Palus Putredinis (Marsh of Decay), with the river-like Hadley Rille prominently seen crossing it. This was the landing site for Apollo 15 in July of 1971.
In the sequence of Lovell on the lunar surface, the Earth is shown just above the horizon, implying the location on the Moon is somewhere around the edge of the portion that we can see from Earth, but the Fra Mauro landing site was much closer to the centre of the Moon's visible disk, so the Earth should be much higher in the sky.
During the trip to the moon, a full moon and a full earth can be seen from the windows of the spacecraft. If the spaceship was between the earth and the moon, it would not have been possible to see the "full phases" of the earth and the moon at the same time. One of the two would have to have the shadow dark side facing the spacecraft.
While the spacecraft is on the dark side of the moon and their communications are in blackout, Haise and Swigert are looking down on the lunar surface and they see the landing site of Apollo 11 and the site they were supposed to land at until the accident. Those aren't on the dark side of the moon and they would have been able to communicate with Houston during that time.
The astronauts are shown looking at Mare Tranquilitatis, then crossing from sunlight into shadow, followed by loss of signal, all within seconds. In fact at loss of signal they had been in the moon's shadow for some time and were nowhere near Mare Tranquilitatis.
When flying over the Moon, Haise looks down at the surface and says "Sea of Tranquillity", when the view out of the window does not show the smooth plains of that area. The scene shown is a mountainous area with a curving rille running though it; it is actually the Apollo 15 landing site at Hadley Rille.
On the morning of the launch in Florida, an exterior shot of the hotel Marilyn Lovell is staying at (when she loses her wedding ring in the shower) indicates the "Safari Inn" which is actually on W. Olive Ave in Burbank, Ca.
Before re-entry, the crew were informed that their course was
shallowing because they did not have the lunar samples that would have been gathered if they had landed on the Moon. This is incorrect. Just as Galileo (and the Apollo 15 astronauts) showed that objects of different mass fall at the same rate in a vacuum, Apollo 13's trajectory wasn't affected by its mass. The actual cause was the lunar module cooling system that evaporated water into space, creating an unintended and small but significant thrust. Ballast WAS transferred to the CM to shift its center of gravity for proper aerodynamic lift and steering during the actual re-entry.
Lovell is incorrectly shown taking off his space suit while Swigert is performing the Transpositon and Docking Maneuver. Due to the risk of a collision, all three astronauts would be fully suited for this maneuver. Note the transmission from Houstion just prior to this event: "We recommend you secure cabin pressurization at this time." This action is never done unless the crew is fully suited.
Several times on the "outbound" portion of the flight, the Apollo spacecraft is seen heading directly towards the moon. If this happened in real life, they would miss the moon by tens of thousands of miles. Since it takes 4 days to get to the moon, they would have to be heading towards a point well ahead of where the moon was at the beginning of their flight. In other words, they have to aim towards where the moon is going to be in 4 days, and that would not be directly ahead of them.
Notwithstanding that this movie used dramatic license to make a better story, a few points should be clarified, particularly concerning the portrayals of Astronaut Fred Haise and the Grumman Corporation: Fred Haise was considered one of the best and brightest of his group (1966); the scenes where he gives Jack Swigert a dirty look in the Simulator, blames Swigert for the Accident, and nearly screws up the course correction maneuver are not supported by any historical account available to this contributor. Grumman Corporation Personnel worked as hard as anyone else on the team to bring the Apollo 13 Crew home safely; the display of "no can do" attitude shown in the movie is not supported by any historical account available to this contributor. This movie also neglects the contributions of Astronaut Charlie Duke; by the time of the Accident, he was no longer contagious but still feeling unwell. He got out of his sick bed to help devise new Lunar Module Procedures, just as Kenneth Mattingly is shown doing for the Command Module - in fact, Duke helped devise the course correction maneuver in the Lunar Module Simulator.
Heading back to Earth, an explosion occurs and the alarmed crew request confirmation that it was a "Helium Disc". To save weight, most of the helium to pressurize the descent stage propellants was stored in a cold, supercritical state. The tank was very well insulated, but heat did slowly leak in, so if the descent engine were not used by a certain time (long after the scheduled landing) a burst disc would rupture to protect the tank from excessive pressure. Since Apollo 13 only fired the descent engine for a few short course corrections, the rupture of the disc was fully expected and it did not concern either the crew or Mission Control. However, another and wholly unexpected small explosion - not depicted in the movie - did occur in the descent stage during the return to earth. An apparent momentary short circuit caused one of the descent stage batteries to vent quite forcefully. Because of the serious shortage of battery power this caused considerable concern, but fortunately the battery recovered.
In the film, Jim Lovell suggests using the cross hairs on the window of the CM and line it up with the terminator line of the earth as a procedure to navigate without the computer. This appears to be an idea "plucked out of the air" by Lovell, and Houston have to confer in order to see if it would work.
In reality this procedure was practiced by Lovell on Apollo 8 in preparation for just such a malfunction of the computer and Houston had full procedural guidelines in place.
The actual problem was that the explosion had created a cloud of sunlit debris that made it impossible to align the inertial guidance platform by sighting stars. The sun, earth and moon were not normally used for this because of their large sizes, but the debris cloud made them the only usable visual references.
In the opening sequence, the Apollo 1 crew is shown being sealed into their capsule by an outward opening hatch. One of the main reasons the crew perished in the fire was that the Block I Apollo capsule in service at that time was equipped with an inward opening hatch. In only a few seconds the buildup of pressure caused by the fire made such an escape hatch nearly impossible to open.
Each stage of the Saturn V in this film burns as a bright yellow flame.
The second and third stages of the Saturn V were fueled with liquid hydrogen, LH2, which would have burned pale blue, like the SSME's on the space shuttle. Only the first stage of the Saturn V burned bright yellow, because the fuel was kerosene. The hydrazine-fueled Service Module and LM burned blue in the film, and this was accurate.
When the S-II center engine fails during launch, four engine status lights are on and the #5 light is flashing. The engine status lights are actually off for normal operation and on continuously when an engine malfunctions.
The Apollo 13 crew are all shown wearing U.S. Naval Aviator wings on their flight suits. While these wings were correct for Jim Lovell (U.S. Navy) and Fred Haise (U.S. Marine Corps), Jack Swigert actually served in the U.S. Air Force. Further, Fred Haise had transferred from the Marine Corps into the Oklahoma Air National Guard in 1959, so by the time of the Apollo 13 mission, he, like Jack, would have been wearing his Air Force pilot wings.
When performing the Lithium Hydroxide canister adaptation, Capcom asks for the cover to be ripped off the flight plan. This is later used to stop the bag being sucked into the canister, but instead an EVA cue card was used. Secondly, there is a short scene when Lovell states he has inserted a sock into the canister. Although it was suggested that a piece of sock be used by Houston (among other suggestions), the actual item used was a piece of towel.
When Apollo 13 goes around the Moon and experiences loss of signal with Mission Control, they are also shown going into the Moon's shadow. This would only happen if the Moon's phase was full, which it wasn't.
The swingarms connecting the launch vehicle to the tower do not come back one at a time as depicted. There are nine swingarms; four retract during the countdown. The last five retract simultaneously with first motion at T=0. As the crew walks across swingarm 9 to the White Room for boarding, swingarm 8 servicing the Service Module is missing. It correctly appears in other shots of the Saturn V.
Lovell says "If I'm in the left-hand seat when the call comes up, *I* stir the tanks." The cryo tank switches and gauges were actually between the middle and right-hand seats where they could be reached by the lunar module pilot (Fred Haise) in the right seat, acting as CSM flight engineer, monitoring power and environmental systems. The left seat controls and displays were for real-time piloting.
The TV camera in the CSM/LM did not have a viewfinder as depicted in the film. Nor did it have a red light to show it was on. A custom modified mini B&W monitor on the top of the camera allowed the astronauts to see where they were shooting. Such a device was used on the color camera in the CSM since Apollo 10.
During the course correction sequence in the L.E.M., Swigert is shown floating around weightless. When the engine is burning, the spacecraft is accelerating and those inside would not be in a zero-g environment.
During the mid-course correction the LM engine exhaust is shown as bright yellow in color. The lunar module's hypergolic propellants actually produce a nearly transparent flame. Even the bright plumes from other liquid fueled rocket engines operating in an atmosphere will diverge rapidly and become nearly invisible in vacuum.
This is seen in the lunar module ascents during the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions, mistakenly cited by conspiracy theorists as "evidence" that the lunar landings were faked.
In the opening scene, where the Apollo 1 crew is walking across the swing arm, the Service Module is incorrectly shown as a Block II Service Module (grey w/ white areas); Apollo 1, Serial Number 012, was a Block I Spacecraft--its Service Module was all-white, like the toy spacecraft Jim Lovell shows his son later in the movie.
The mating of launch vehicle stage components was a much more delicate and deliberate process that this movie depicts. Tours, even for high-level VIPs, would most likely be suspended while such operations were in progress. For the scene where the Third Stage is being lowered onto the Second Stage, a retractable work platform, curved to fit around the Second Stage, would have been in place just below the Upper Field Joint (top of Second Stage). Numerous hard-hatted workers, most on their knees, would have been on the edge of this platform, making sure that the two stages were in correct alignment for mating.
At 40 minutes into the film, we see a crescent moon. Apollo 13 then zooms from lower left into the center of the frame, straight toward the Moon. The engine glow dies and a voice-over announces S-IVB shutdown. While visually dramatic, TLI (translunar injection) always took place with the vehicle parallel to the local horizontal and on the opposite side of the earth from where the moon would be at arrival into lunar orbit.
During the mid course correction, the spacecraft is seen franticly steering towards earth as the engines are fired. This is how you would correct the course of an airplane or boat, not a spacecraft. The spacecraft would have been oriented so the thrust of the engines would be approximately 90 degrees from the intended course, and then the correction burn would have commenced. The view of Apollo 13 as you looked towards the earth would be of its side, not its engine.
The Booster flight controller is seen in Mission Control at the time of the explosion. Booster flight controllers are employed by the Marshall Space Flight Center, and are only concerned with the performance of the Saturn V launch vehicle. They leave as soon as Trans-Lunar Injection is complete, and as such, he would have been long gone by the time the explosion happened.
When the broadcast from the lunar mission was being received but not actually shown on the airwaves, one of the monitors shows I Dream of Jeannie being aired instead. The ship's broadcast was on Monday, 13 April 1970, but I Dream of Jeannie was aired on Tuesday in that season.
The roll pattern painted on the Saturn V at launch was different from the actual Apollo 13 launch. The pattern depicted was that of the 500F facilities "Pathfinder" used to validate the launch pad and other facilities in 1967, and the paint scheme was changed, particularly the roll patterns on the first stage, and the black stripe at the top of the third stage.
Just after acquisition of signal, Houston tells the astronauts that their speed is "approximately 7,062 feet per second" and their altitude above the moon is 56 nautical miles. That speed is 500 ft/s below lunar escape velocity at that altitude, hence impossible on a free return trajectory. In fact, any free return trajectory symmetrical about the moon-earth line would put them at over 100 nautical miles altitude at acquisition of signal.
Apollo 13 incorrectly shown going around the Moon with Lunar Module (LM) (Aquarius) Landing Legs still folded. These had to be extended before the Descent Propulsion System (DPS) could be fired, which had been done (for the first of three times) many hours before. Once extended, the legs could not be retracted.
During the launch, frozen and chilled condensed air is seen around the Apollo/Saturn stack, due to the low temperature of the fuels inside. However chilled air is also seen around the Apollo Service Module, which is incorrect, and around the Lunar Module Adaptor, which is not a fuel tank.
Marilyn Lovell and Mary Haise are shown viewing the liftoff from the stands and before the rocket has cleared the tower they are looking high in the sky. They should be looking almost straight forward at that time.
The five F-1 engines do NOT start simultaneously as depicted. The center (inboard) engine starts first, followed by pairs at 200 millisecond intervals. Additionally, they're depicted as CO2 fire extinguishers. In reality the sequence began with a narrow stream of liquid oxygen falling through the combustion injectors.
At the VAB showing the construction of the Saturn V, the Stage 3 section is shown in the assembly bay with the assembled boosters already in place and being lifted from that position. In reality, new sections are readied in the center bay of the VAB and lifted by crane up and over the bay separators into the proper assembly bay then down on to the booster assembly, and not from the bottom of the assembly bay.
When Jim Lovell comes home to tell his wife that he will be on Apollo 13, he mentions that Alan Shepard's ear infection has flared up. In actuality, Alan Shepard did have an inner ear problem that was diagnosed as Menieres Disease, but this was surgically corrected, and he was returned to flight status after five years. The reason Shepard and his crew were not on Apollo 13 was because NASA wanted to give him more time in the simulator. This was the only time that NASA vetoed Deke Slayton's astronaut recommendation.
As Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, Walter Cronkite says the Apollo 11 landing is 18 months after the tragic Apollo 1 launchpad fire. It was actually 30 months after but that is what Cronkite actually said.
"Houston, we have a problem," is probably the world's most known misquote. After the bang, the conversation was as follows. Jack Swigert: "Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here." Jack Lousma: "This is Houston. Say again please." Jim Lovell: "Houston, we've had a problem. We've had a main B bus undervolt." However, this was a deliberate change suggested by Tom Hanks to better convey the sense of urgency in the scene (see trivia).
After Gene Kranz has drawn the diagram on the blackboard, he exclaims that 45 hours is not sufficient for the spacecraft to cover the distance between the Moon and the Earth (it is actually about 90 hours/4 days). John Aaron explains that the batteries would die out in 16 hours (and not 45 hours as was being presumed till then) at the current rate of consumption (60 Amps; Amperes, a measure of electric current). He suggests that the consumption be brought down to 12 Amps (about a fifth of the current consumption rate) by shutting down all non-critical systems in the spacecraft. It would be fair to deduce then, that:
(i) The batteries would now last 5 times longer (about 16 * 5 = 80 hours), almost enough for the spacecraft to re-enter Earth's atmosphere.
(ii) The charge in the batteries was somewhere between 900 Ah and 1000 Ah (Ampere-Hour, a measure of charge in a battery); drawing 60 Amps from the battery for 16 hours would give 60 Amps * 16 hours = 960 Ah.
However, when Kenneth Mattingly enters the scene to simulate the re-entry procedures, John asks his team to keep an eye on the ammeter (used to measure the strength of current, and labeled AMPERES) in the simulator, such that the moving black pointer never crosses the 20 Amps notch (shown by the fixed red pointer). The 12 Amps benchmark was for the Lunar Module, giving the power requirements to get back towards Earth (at this point the Command Module was drawing zero Amps, as it was completely powered down). The 20 Amps were the power requirements for the Command Module, which were only required for the last few hours before re-entry.
The umbilical normally conserved the LM batteries by powering the LM from the CSM's fuel cells. On Apollo 13 it was reversed to recharge the CM entry batteries with spare energy in the LM batteries. The CSM's fuel cells failed shortly after the explosion, throwing the load onto the entry batteries and seriously depleting them before the CSM could be shut down. They were the CM's only power source during the re-entry.
When Lovell is fantasizing about taking his first steps on the moon, the front of the LM is shown in full sunlight. In reality, they always landed with the sun at their backs, in order to use the shadow of the LM as a point of reference during their descent. The front side of the LM should have been in shadow. Since it's a daydream, inaccuracies are permitted.
Approximately 17:47, there is a photo session. The Hasselblad 500 camera used is out of film. It is shown by the red arc on the film magazine. A camera with all film unexposed should view a "metallic" arc, rather than a red one.
When Deke Slayton pulls up to Jim Lovell while he is near the crawler to tell him of Charlie Duke's measles, the trees in the background have no leaves. This would not be the case in Florida, especially in April. Additionally, there is steam coming from the car's exhaust, indicating cold temperatures. The weather is overcast. When Lovell is seen later in Slayton's office, presumably only minutes or hours later, the trees outside the window are covered with green leaves and the sun is out.