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.
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: 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").
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.
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.
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.
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: 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.
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.
Factual error: When the astronauts pose for their photo shoot, the flag behind them has only 48 stars (a bit hard to tell, since it's rolled up, but the stars are arranged in straight rows parallel to the stripes, which was the arrangement used on the 48-star flag). It's 1970, so it should be a 50-star flag.
Continuity mistake: After Houston reacquires contact with the spacecraft following re-entry, Gene Kranz sits down in his chair, obviously full of emotion. The camera then cuts to a wide shot of Mission Control before panning in on Ken Mattingly. Before the camera zeroes in on Ken, watch the top left corner of the screen and you can see Gene sit down again.
Factual error: It is shown that people are casually having conversation next to the giant rocket-ship transporter, known as the 'crawler'. In fact, the crawler is so noisy that no one could possibly have a conversation near it. All technicians who 'drive' the crawler (an eight man crew) and anyone in the vicinity of an operating crawler wear sound-cancelling headphones whenever near it.
Deliberate mistake: During the scene where the astronauts are building the makeshift CO2 scrubbers, the camera zooms out of the lunar module through the window, and we can see that the interior of the lunar module is oriented incorrectly compared to the exterior. The tunnel leading to the command module is on the top in the interior shot, but on the left in the exterior shot.
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.
Continuity mistake: 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.
Factual error: The remaining smoke plume after the Saturn V liftoff is about 80 miles too low. It's apparent that an aircraft flew over the space center to leave a feeble 'movie' plume. Also, when the Apollo 13 crew blasts out of Earth orbit, the ship is pointed straight at the Moon, meaning that once they travelled the 240,000 miles to the Moon's orbit path, the Moon would be several thousand miles to their left.
Continuity mistake: While the flight director (Gene) is talking to a guy about bringing the spacecraft's power down, there is a side shot of Gene saying: "that's the deal?" now, his hands are in front of him (playing with a pen) the very next shot he has his hands by his side and the man next to him has his head in a different position (a very short time to move your arms and head like that).
Continuity mistake: When Lovell is writing the gimbal conversions, as Haise says the computer is up, Lovell is clutching the left side of the paperwork and writing with his right hand. In the next frame with the camera closely showing the conversions, Lovell's left hand is now holding the paperwork at the bottom (the left side of the paperwork is now clear of his left hand).
Factual error: As Lovell explains the Apollo 1 fire to his son (in 1967), a large RC model aircraft can be seen over the child's shoulder. The N-Number (tail number) for FAA registration is N1976M. The particular aircraft represented on screen is a Cessna 182P - which according to FAA records - wasn't built until 1976.
Continuity mistake: When Lovell and Haise discuss their families and Haise's illness, Lovell grabs a picture of Mary from the air and comments on, while Haise is seen putting a green letter back into its envelope. It cuts to show a close-up of Haise's hands pulling the letter and the photo from the envelope as if he just opened it (which would have happened moments earlier).
Visible crew/equipment: During the moon landing daydream sequence, Lovell is shown performing the typical low-gravity moon walk. The thin wires used to facilitate the hopping effect can be seen at the top of the frame, and stand out against the light metal finish of the lunar lander.
Continuity mistake: When Capcon 1 and John Young are watching Haise start to play the background music they are standing near their fairly clean desks in Mission Control. About 20 seconds later, after the Haise children laugh and Lovell says there seems to have been a last-minute change in the programme, the camera shows Capcon 1 and Young now seated eating dinner. Considering the amount of junk food now laid over their area and Capcon 1 half-way through eating his burger they appear to have been eating for at least several minutes, not 20 seconds.
Continuity mistake: When Blanche is waiting for her son's broadcast to appear on TV she is seated beside two women. When she is told "this is all the channels we get" the middle woman moves her left hand to her face. In the next frame with the camera angle in front of the viewers the middle woman's left hand is at her lap.
Continuity mistake: The direction of the spacecraft keeps changing. After the extraction of the LM (Lunar Module), the craft is travelling with the CSM (Command/Service Module) engine bell facing forward. After the explosion, it is shown with the LM facing forward. Going around the moon, and back to earth, the CSM is again facing forward.
Factual error: At the end of the movie, when the astronauts debark from the helicopter and are surrounded by the crew of the U.S.S. Iwo Jima, there are a number of junior enlisted men wearing combination caps. (The type worn by Chief Petty Officers and commissioned officers.) That they are junior enlisted men is obvious by the rank insignia on their left sleeves and by the silver USN and Eagle emblem on their caps. (Chief's caps have a large gold and silver anchor insignia, and officer's caps have a large gold officer's crest.) The U.S. Navy did, for a few years, replace the junior enlisted men's traditional white hat with the combination cap, but the change was not announced until 1972, two years after the Apollo 13 mission, and the Navy reverted to white hats in 1983, twelve years before the movie was made.
Revealing mistake: As Jim Lovell looks down on Fra Mauro and has a dream about an EVA (walk) on the moon, we soon see a view of Jim's legs as he jumps from the Lunar Module ladder down to the lunar surface. If you look closely, just as his left leg flings backwards from the ladder, you can see that not only do his pants appear to be a cheap replica of the actual Apollo space suit, his ankle (with bare flesh) is visible just under. If your body were exposed to the vacuum of the moon, you'd be killed.
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