Factual error: When Lovell's daughter is complaining that the Beatles have broken up, she slams the album Let It Be into her rack. The scene takes place on the day of the initial explosion aboard Apollo 13, April 13 1970 - immediately prior to the Lovell family attending the screening of a television broadcast from the spacecraft. Let It Be was not released as an album until May 9th, 1970. In April Ringo was still recording drum tracks, not even possible for an advance copy to get out.
Factual error: Technician John Aaron states that the damaged ship will need to use "less amps than this" as he points to a vintage 'Mr. Coffee' coffee-maker on his desk. Mr. Coffee was not introduced until 1972.
Factual error: When the cabin temperature drops, an astronaut's breath is visible. His visible breath rises as he exhales. This is an effect of gravity - on earth the water vapor in breath, which is the component that becomes visible in the cold, rises because it is lighter than the surrounding air. Since the astronaut was in a "weightless" environment, his breath should have travelled in a straight path from his mouth into the surrounding atmosphere, rather than rising.
Factual error: Moments before and during the lift-off of the Saturn V, Ken Mattingly is shown to be watching from a somewhat private grassy field. Wherever he is supposed to be, he is far too close to the launch pad. No unauthorized persons were allowed to be that close, and certainly not in an undisclosed and unsupervised area, not the least of which was for security reasons. The fact that Mattingly is an astronaut would not give him carte blanch to do this, and his training and discipline would prevent his ever attempting doing so in the first place. In reality, Mattingly was in Houston at Mission Control at the time. Otherwise it is a nice shot.
Factual error: During the launch sequence, all nine swingarms on the launch tower are seen retracting, one by one, as the Saturn V reaches full thrust. In real life, only five swingarms would still be attached to the rocket during this phase. These "in-flight" arms would swing away as the rocket lifted off and cleared the launcher.
Factual error: When the LM separates from the CM just prior to re-entry, what you see in the film is an undocking, rather than a jettison. The difference is that in a jettison the CM's docking probe is pulled out of the CM to make way for parachute deployment, while in an undocking the probe (the triangular shaped thing pointing "forward" of the CM) is left to allow for redocking later. And in case you're wondering how the astronauts transferred between the two while docked with the probe in place, the answer is that they didn't - they dismantled it to create the tunnel. As an interesting aside, in real life the CAPCOM (I think it was Joe Kerwin) gave a go for "undocking" then corrected himself moments later using the phrase "correction, go for jettison").
Visible crew/equipment: Just after Lovell secures the hatch for LM jettison, and Swigert states "Okay, pyro batts look good, I don't think we're gonna have to tie those other batteries," there is a visible bearded crew member wearing glasses and a hoodie on the lower right hand side of the screen. This is only visible in the fullscreen version. (02:01:00)
Factual error: The fiery rocket plume left behind the Saturn V as it is ascending directly after lift off is far too small and short. In reality the flaming rocket plume was easily 2 to 3 times the diameter of the entire ship and at least 3 to 4 times the length.
Deliberate mistake: Near the end of the movie, there is a shot of the "Iwo Jima" with the two recovery helicopters taking off. For a moment, you can see the number 11 on the inboard side of the ship's island, which identifies it as the USS New Orleans (LPH-11), a sister of the Iwo Jima. Admittedly, it was the best the producers could do, since by the time the movie was made, the Iwo Jima (LPH-2) had been decommissioned.
Continuity mistake: When they are in orbit and Fred vomits you see Jim taking off his suit and an open hatch to the LEM which has not been docked yet. Later when preparing to jettison the LEM you see Jim closing the hatch over this tunnel.
Continuity mistake: When the astronauts are in space and are taking their equipment off, Jack Swigert removes his outer suit gloves then removes his white glove liners and tucks them into the floating suit glove, but next shot Swigert is still wearing the black suit gloves, and it then cuts to Swigert removing his helmet and he is still wearing the white glove liners.
Revealing mistake: In the final 1/2 hour there's a scene in which Kevin Bacon is drifting weightlessly in the lunar module, with a roll of duct tape floating nearby. Just during the last couple of seconds of this shot, suddenly he & the roll accelerate to the right. As everyone now knows the zero-g scenes were photographed on-board an aircraft which flies free-fall arcs for up to about 20 seconds before having to level off. The sudden acceleration on the set means that shot was filmed just as the plane was leveling off from a dive. (01:53:40)
Factual error: During the Engine 5 cutoff, they show the abort handle unarmed. However, it is required that the abort handle be armed throughout the entire launch.
Factual error: On several occasions the astronauts address the Capcom as "Andy." None of the Apollo 13 Capcoms were named Andy. Their names were Jack Lousma, Joe Kerwin, John Young and Vance Brand.
Suggested correction: While that is technically correct, many characters were condensed or changed to suit the movie. It's not a documentary, after all, it's a movie based on true events.
No, it's not a documentary, but all of the other characters have their "real life" names. Why change this one?
"Andy" was used to avoid viewer confusion between Jack Swigert and CAPCOM Jack Lousma.
They changed and condensed many items in the movie. "I vunder where Gunther Vent" quote was from Apollo 7, not 13. The EECOM John Aaron was given another name, and the "steely eyed missile man" quote was from Apollo 12. Marilyn Lovell didn't lose her wedding ring in the shower, she found it.
No, they used John Aaron's real first name, which did clash with John Young (played by Ben Marley) when they were in the simulator scene together.
Factual error: The initial smoke shown coming out of the rocket gimbals during 'ignition sequence start' is not nearly fast or 'enthusiastic' enough. Additionally, there was in fact only a very tiny amount of white smoke/vapor emitted, and it almost instantly developed into a fiery, violent semi-transparent rocket plume. There is just way too much white vapor for too long a period shown in the film.
Factual error: The NASA "worm" logo shown in the film was not created until 1975.
Factual error: In the scene right after the Apollo 11 landing, where Lovell is in the garden with his wife, he is playing with his thumb and the waxing moon. He covers the moon with his thumb repeatedly. Usually the diameter of the moon disk is about half of the diameter of the thumbnail on an outstretched arm of an average adult. Since Lovell's arm is not fully stretched the moon should appear even smaller. In this scene we see a moon approximately of the size of the whole thumbnail. In relation to Lovell's thumbnail that moon is far too large. (00:05:05)
Factual error: During the launch sequence, a car that appears to be from the 1990's is parked in the background. (00:30:15)
Visible crew/equipment: Right after the explosion, Lovell tells Houston that they've got multiple cautions and warnings, and they've got to restart, then Swigert says, "I'm going to SCS," and he flips the switch. In the next wideshot of the trio, we can see the arm and fingers of a hidden crew member wearing a short sleeve blue shirt, who's holding up a hose at the bottom right corner of the screen. This is only visible in the fullscreen version. (00:51:20)
Factual error: The paint scheme shown on the Apollo 13 rocket is incorrect: The paint scheme shown in the movie is what was used on the development versions of the Saturn 1-C first stage, and featured a large black band around the middle. Technicians found it much too hot to work inside the pre-launch first stage from the heat generated from this paint scheme. Subsequently, the paint scheme was much simplified to a near all-white version for the first stage beginning with Apollo 4. All subsequent ship-stacks (including Apollo 13) featured this newer paint scheme.