Apollo 13

Apollo 13 (1995)

80 corrected entries

(12 votes)

Corrected entry: In the reentry scene in the Command Module, the astronauts are sitting with their backs are against the Earth and the CM is decelerating. The condensed water droplets should be dropping towards the Earth not the opposite. In the movie, the droplets fly away from the Earth. (02:06:00)

Correction: The drops are coming off the panel and dripping onto the astronauts, so toward the heat shield. This is the correct direction given the capsule is decelerating.


Corrected entry: As the Apollo 13 Command, Service and Lunar Modules near the Earth they make a comment about "shallowing" and this is due to a "couple hundred pounds of moon rocks" that the crew failed to collect. In reality, this configuration (CM, SM and LM) does not exist on return to the earth as the LM descent stage is left on the moon and the ascent stage is jettisoned after the crew returns from the moons surface. They may be shallowing but it's not due to moon rocks, it's due to the LM (5000-10000 lbs).

Correction: They've already accounted for the weight of the LEM. But they took the prescribed weight of the other modules for the return trip and forgot that they have previously included the weight of the rocks in that weight.


Corrected entry: When Marilyn has the nightmare about Jim's mission meeting disaster, the Capcom says, "We show S4B shutdown," and then a few seconds later says, "when you get in the LEM." This makes no sense, because S4B (Saturn 4B Booster) shutdown happens before the LEM is even docked (and days before anybody would actually get in the LEM). Granted, it's a dream, but Marilyn Lovell was actually fairly knowledgeable about the way lunar missions worked, and you'd think that if she could dream everything else correctly (the layout of the capsule, for instance), she (or the filmmakers) would get that detail correct.

Correction: It's a dream. These are not required to make factual sense, even if the dreamer in question is well acquainted with the subject matter. I'm pretty knowledgeable about cats, and am therefore reasonably sure that they can't fly, yet have, on occasion, had a dream that involved cats doing precisely that. Factually incorrect, but that's dreams for you.


Corrected entry: Mission Control in Houston calls up "B.P.C. Clear", meaning that the 'Boost Protective Cover' has been safely jettisoned during ascent. However, the call comes on screen before it is shown being jettisoned.

Correction: "BPC clear" does not mean that it (and the rest of the LES) has been jettisoned. It means that the LES is ready to be jettisoned.

Corrected entry: In the television interview, when the expert is describing the tolerance requirements for re-entry angle, he asks the reader to imagine that the earth is a basketball and the moon is a softball, and that the two balls are 14 feet apart, which is about 16.8 times the diameter of a basketball. The distance from the earth to the moon is about 30.14 times the diameter of the earth. This means that the 14 feet should really have been about 25 feet. Finally, the expert says that the re-entry angle has to be accurate to within 2.5 degrees, which he says is like aiming for a target the thickness of a sheet of paper. 2.5 degrees at 30 feet is actually about 13.14 inches thick (even at 14 feet, 2.5 degrees is about 7.34 inches).


Correction: Re-entry angle refers to the angle at which the spacecraft will re-enter the atmosphere, presumably with respect to the earth's surface. That angle would have to be correct within 2.5°. This post seems to refer to an angle of trajectory between the moon and earth, which would not have been the concern in preparing for re-entry.

Correction: The correction to the correction is wrong and makes the same mistake as the original entry. The expert isn't talking about a 2.5 degree error in the trajectory from the moon to the earth. He is talking about a 2.5 degree error in the angle of re-entry. A 2.5 degree error in the trajectory would give a much bigger error in the angle of re-entry.

Peter Harrison

Correction: I noted the same thing and it bothered me. It doesn't matter if the angle is with respect to to the moon or the earth. The expert's opinion was 2.5° based on 14 feet. That is 7." A far cry from the thickness of paper. Either the writers took extreme literary license for drama or the 'expert', (if actual testimony), was incorrect. It's simple math, not rocket science.

Correction: Yes, if you are out by 2.5° at the moon, you are going to be 13.14 inches out at the earth if the distance is 30 feet. But that is not what we are talking about. If you are 2.5° out at the moon, you will miss the earth completely. The question is, from the point where we leave moon orbit, how much tolerance is there to get a re-entry angle into the earth's atmosphere within 2.5°. The answer is not much.

Peter Harrison

Corrected entry: As the spacecraft nears Earth the men in Mission Control remark that its angle of approach continues to wander away from plan. They figure out that it's due to the absence of the originally planned mass of moon rocks. This is wrong in several ways. First, it could not wander off course while coasting due only to the vehicle mass. From the time of Galileo it's been known that objects fall with equal acceleration (at a given distance) regardless of mass. Indeed, if that were the reason then the mass difference would not just be a lack of moon rocks, but also the extra unplanned mass of the entire lunar module. The actual reason was simply the slow leaking of gases from the damaged vehicle, acting as a low thrust rocket motor pushing it sideways. (01:53:20)

Correction: As the men at mission control assumed it was due to moon rocks at the time, the film was just repeating what they said on the transcripts. So it is not a factual error.

Correction: Actually it wasn't a leak due to damage, but due to the LM's steam sublimator (cooling system) giving a tiny thrust.

Corrected entry: The small torch handed to Thomas K. Mattingly (played by Gary Sinise) as he first gets into simulator looks to be a modern Mini MagLite. They didn't come on sale until 1984.


Correction: We never actually see Ken being given the flashlight he'll be using in the simulations, only that he insists on being given precisely the same things the astronauts have aboard with them, and that is what he uses. That aside, what we see in the film are not Mini Maglites, though they are indeed miniature flashlights known as the Apollo astronaut penlight, model FA-5. Right after Jim tells Jack about the urine bags, there's a nice closeup of Fred holding one, with its distinctive bulb end casing.

Super Grover

I happily stand corrected. Thanks for improving my trivia :).


Corrected entry: When the crew are on their way back to Earth, Fido states "Flight. We're still shallowing up a bit in the re-entry corridor. It's almost like they're under weight." After some discussion in Mission Control, the crew is advised "We gotta get the weight right. We were expecting you to be toting a couple of hundred pounds of moonrocks." The amount of propellant in the LEM (since they didn't land, or return to lunar orbit) plus the fact that the LEM still had the descent stage attached, which, if they had landed would have been left on the moon would have more than made up for the weight of the rocks they were supposed to be carrying. But far, far worse than that is the fact that how much they weigh makes no difference at all, as Commander David Scott proved on Apollo 15 when he showed that a hammer and a feather dropped at the same time on the moon land at the same exact instant proving Galileo's law of gravity, that all objects fall at the same speed regardless of mass. (01:53:30)

Correction: That refers solely to things falling by means of gravity without air resistance. An object with a larger mass will require more force to move. Under the principle of F=M*A, it is also true that A=F/M.


Corrected entry: Right before the command module begins reentry to Earth, a hurricane is on Earth. When the Apollo mission took place (April 11-17, 1970) there were no hurricanes, cyclones, or typhoons.

Correction: To quote Wikipedia: "On April 17, 1970, Apollo 13 was making its final descent over the splashdown zone when they spotted Cyclone Helen as they were re-entering the earths atmosphere. Mission control had been tracking the storm to make sure it did not interfere with the missions re-entry."


Correction: Jim Lovell says on the DVD commentary the typhoon warning really happened and was not added by the filmmakers.

Corrected entry: In the shot of Fred and Mary Haise at the Apollo 11 lunar landing party Mary is obviously pregnant. Apollo 11 was nine months before Apollo 13 and Mary is supposedly 8 months pregnant at the launch of Apollo 13. She does not have a baby during Apollo 13 and even if she was pregnant during Apollo 11 it would not have showed yet.

Correction: I disagree rather strongly with the statement "Mary is obviously pregnant" during the Apollo 11 lunar landing party at the Lovell house. We see Mary Haise in a few shots wearing her high-waisted white dress, and she does not look pregnant.

Super Grover

Corrected entry: When the astronauts are too shallow for re-entry because they are too light, it is mentioned they should have been carrying 200lbs of moon rock. Yet the lander portion of the lunar module, which is supposed to be left on the moon, is still attached to the ship all the way to jettison before re-entry, weighing far more than 200lb.

Correction: Mission control likely took what would have been the normal reentry weight and added in the weight of the lander and things inside it. But they forgot to subtract the weight of the moon rocks.

Greg Dwyer

Correction: The weight of the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) would never play a part in NASA's calculations of reentry weight. NASA was only concerned with the exact weight of the Command Module as it entered Earth's upper atmosphere. The LEM was jettisoned long before the Command Module approached the reentry window and was never a weight consideration (they were only using the LEM and its oxygen supply as a "lifeboat"). And, besides, in micro-gravity the LEM and Command Modules were essentially weightless. As the Command Module reentered Earth's atmosphere, it was 200 lbs too light because it wasn't carrying the expected Moon rock samples. This lack of mass threatened to bounce the Command Module off the Earth's upper atmosphere, which would have been disastrous for the crew. If they had thought about it in advance, the crew should have cannibalized 200 lbs of equipment from the LEM before they jettisoned it, adding the necessary weight to the Command Module for reentry.

Corrected entry: When Lovell is imagining walking on the moon, he looks at the Earth, which is near the horizon. The Earth is far too large (or too close) in the shot, something he would have known as he had seen Earth from the moon on Apollo 8 while they orbited (and took that famous Earthrise photo).

Correction: A character imagining something larger than it should be is hardly a mistake.

Corrected entry: The film features a portable cassette player. The first commercial portable cassette player (The Sony Walkman TPS-L2) wasn't released until July 1, 1979, 9 years after the Apollo 13 mission. (01:36:20)

Correction: It is not the Sony Walkman TPS-L2 of 1979 that we see in the film. It's the Sony model TC-50 that was used on NASA space missions. See here: http://www.walkmancentral.com/products/tc-50 (at this website we can also find the TPS-L2).

Super Grover

Corrected entry: When Jim Lovell is talking to his son about landing on the moon, he says his moon landing will be "Better than Neil Armstrong; way better than Pete Conrad." In fact, while Armstrong did make a less-than-stellar landing (hampered by low fuel and a problem with his targeting computer), Pete Conrad's Apollo 12 landing was nearly perfect.

Correction: So what? There's always a healthy level of rivalry among such people. If Lovell reckons that he can land better than his predecessors did, then it's not a mistake to say so; people are entitled to have opinions. Bear in mind that Lovell would consider Armstrong's landing, hampered by fuel and computer problems, to be a more impressive feat than Conrad's relatively mundane experience, so it's quite reasonable that he would rank them in that order.


Corrected entry: The scene showing the astronauts thrust towards the forward panels, and then violently back into their 'couches' is meant to show the massive thrust from the ascent and second stage engines. In fact, this sequence is inaccurate: The earlier Mercury and Gemini rockets did indeed create this massive 10 to 15-G load momentarily upon the astronauts, but the Saturn V did no such thing. The Saturn V never exceeded more than 2 Gs during any portion of lift off or ascent, and was in fact referred to as the "old man's rocket" by astronauts in reference to its relatively mild G-loads during flight.

Correction: This actually happened with the Apollo 13 mission. It wasn't supposed to, hence Swigert's sarcastic comment about "some little jolt", but a slight mistiming in the engine firing caused it.


I think the point of the entry is that Lovell tells them to expect the jolt, implying that it was a feature of a Saturn V launch and that Lovell would be aware of it since he had experienced a Saturn V launch before, with Apollo 8. The scene as written is meant, then, to demonstrate Lovell's experience in spaceflight, even though the jolt would have been a surprise to him too.


Corrected entry: Many times in the movie, the Capcom refers to the CM and LM by their individual call signs, "Odyssey" and "Aquarius." In real life, those call signs would only be used when the LM had separated from the CM for a lunar landing. While the two ships were docked, as they were in this case for the entire mission, the single call sign "Apollo 13" would be used instead.

Correction: While this is true for a "routine" mission, Apollo 13 was not a mission anymore once it became "an emergency" situation. Remember that Lovell and his team had to use the Lunar Module as a "lifeboat" to survive the trip home. They don't refer to the Odyssey and the Aquarius separately until after the explosion. On a normal mission, the lunar module would not be attached to the SM or the CSM for the return trip. Using the call signs as opposed to similar sounding terms LM, SM, and CSM was also done to avoid confusion for the astronauts, as everything they had to do to get home was an unorthodox method that had never been attempted before, and the cold and lack of sleep was making it harder for them to concentrate.


Corrected entry: During liftoff, one of the five second stage engines fails. This is indicated by a shot of the control panel, and one of the five indicator lights is flashing with a buzzer going off loudly in time with the flashing light. In fact engine failures were indicated by having a light simply go out, and there was no buzzer. Director Ron Howard originally shot the scene accurately, having a light just turn off was visually uninteresting and did not convey the drama of an engine failure. After getting the OK from Astronaut and technical advisor Dave Scott, the more dramatic indication was used.

Correction: Artistic decision to convey the drama and assist the audience, not really a movie mistake. A typical embellishment which is quite permissible in movie world.


Correction: Actually the indicator lit up if an engine was generating less than optimal thrust (ie a shutdown) While you are correct it did not flash or set off a caution/warning tone, all lights would have been extinguished and 5 would be lit with a solid light.

Corrected entry: At the beginning of the film Walter Cronkite is narrating "a mere 18 months after the tragedy of Apollo 1..." The Apollo 1 tragedy occurred 27 Jan 67, while the moon landing of Apollo 11 occurred 20 July 69. The two events are actually separated by a little less than 30 months.

Correction: That's a character mistake, and a rather famous one at that. Crokite really DID make that mistake during that broadcast.

Corrected entry: In the scenes at the Lovell's home, as the crew nears re-entry, the priest, (who is wearing Catholic priest clothes), is wearing a wedding ring. (02:07:01)

Correction: Catholic priests do, in fact, wear wedding rings. They are 'married' to the Church. Nuns wear them as well - they are 'brides of Christ.' It serves the same purpose as someone who is married to another human wearing a wedding ring - it shows their commitment.


Correction: The real life priest was Episcopalian, Father Donald Raish, and the actual pictures from the time show him wearing similar clothes. Episcopalian priests appear to be allowed to marry.

Corrected entry: When Engine 5 of the S-II booster fails, as Lovell is waiting for word from Houston, he stares at the abort handle. However, at that point, the escape tower had already been jettisoned, so turning the abort handle would not have done anything.

Correction: The abort handle would jettison the command and service modules. Look under Mode II here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_abort_modes.

David George

Perhaps, but jettisoning the command module wouldn't have been of any use in a launch emergency. The purpose of the abort handle was to get the spacecraft away from an out-of-control booster that might crash, explode, or break apart (which was the fear with the center engine malfunction), so simply separating the CM wouldn't do any good without the rockets in the escape tower (which had already been jettisoned by that point) to propel the CM a safe distance away from the booster. In practical terms, the abort handle was no longer any use to the astronauts after jettisoning the tower, so Lovell fixating on it when he does in the movie is still a mistake.

As mentioned by David George please read the listed Wikipedia article. Quote: "With the LES jettisoned, the Command/Service Module (CSM) would separate as a whole from the rocket and use its large engine and RCS engines to move clear of the rocket and align itself. The CM would then separate from the SM and splash down." Source: 'https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_abort_modes' See: 'Mode II' So the movie does state a possible action for this moment and is not regarded as a factual mistake.

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.

More mistakes in Apollo 13

Marilyn Lovell: Naturally, it's 13. Why 13?
Jim Lovell: It comes after 12, hon.

More quotes from Apollo 13

Trivia: The Apollo 13 mission set a record for the greatest distance from Earth ever achieved by mankind. This occurred because unlike the other Apollos, Apollo 13 did not make a burn behind the moon to drop into lunar orbit. The free-return trajectory the mission followed took the spacecraft farther behind the moon than any other mission.

More trivia for Apollo 13

Question: When Aquarius is descending during re-entry, why is the Navy preparing Search & Rescue instead of the Coast Guard?

Cubs Fan

Chosen answer: Aquarius was most likely going to splashdown in international waters; since the U.S. Coast Guard only has jurisdiction within American waters, the Navy would have to rescue them.


Answer: Because the Navy was assigned the Search, Rescue and Recovery task for all of NASA's space program. Imagine how long it would take the Coast Guard to get to the other side of the world.


More questions & answers from Apollo 13

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