Apollo 13

Question: How come all news networks refused to show Apollo 13's live TV broadcast?

Answer: The US had been to the moon twice before. America had already become jaded with NASA's successes and weren't interested in minute by minute coverage before they'd even reached the lunar surface.

Brian Katcher

The American public was not jaded with the lunar program so much as it was the Big Three television networks that had become complacent.

Charles Austin Miller

Question: Why did the Apollo 13 spacecraft need a parachute? They were landing on water not solid ground. It's easier to survive a fall when landing on water, so why would they need a parachute if they were landing on water?

Chosen answer: Spacecraft re-enter Earth's atmosphere at extremely high velocity (thousands of miles per hour). Atmospheric friction slows the spacecraft descent somewhat; but, without parachutes, the Apollo spacecraft would still reach the surface traveling at hundreds of miles per hour. Landing in water at such high speed would be like hitting concrete, which would of course be instantly fatal. Hence the necessity of multiple parachutes. The Apollo program (and all early U.S. manned space programs) chose to land in the ocean for two reasons: 1) It was easier to track spacecraft re-entry from horizon-to-horizon at sea without visual and radar obstacles, and; 2) It was faster and easier to position several Navy vessels in the general splashdown location, then deploy helicopters to rapidly retrieve the astronauts and their spacecraft.

Charles Austin Miller

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

Cubs Fan Premium member

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.

Xofer

Question: How come Marilyn can't let her daughter go out as a hippie for Halloween?

adamtrainman@aol.com

Answer: Most likely because at the time, Hippies represented the counter-culture, which is/was in direct opposition to the conservative generation of the mother and not something Marilyn would want associated with the Lovells family given their high profile.

kayelbe

Question: What made the banging the sound the crew heard before the oxygen tank exploded?

Answer: When Mission Control asked Jack Swigert to "stir" the No. 2 oxygen tank, Swigert complied; immediately, the astronauts heard and felt a loud banging noise followed by an actual explosion. As it happened, there were damaged electrical wires powering the "cryo-stir" fan inside oxygen tank No.2. Those wires violently shorted out when Swigert activated them, sparking an intense fire (fueled by the ship's pure oxygen atmosphere), destroying vital tank insulation, and overheating the No.2 oxygen tank to the point of rupture in a matter of seconds. So, the banging noises they heard just before the explosion were the result of electrical wiring violently shorting out and a flash-fire erupting, which precipitated the tank explosion.

Charles Austin Miller

Oddly enough, Jack Swigert had stirred the No. 2 oxygen tank a couple of times earlier in the mission, with no problems whatsoever. Why the wiring suddenly failed on this last attempt is still a subject of debate.

Charles Austin Miller

Question: Why couldn't the fuel cells be opened again once they were closed?

Answer: The reactant valves to the fuel cells could not be re-opened once they were closed (except by ground servicing) because they are very delicate and must be precisely calibrated. Although CAPCOM tells Lovell to manually close the valves for cells 1 and 3, they had already failed and closed so this had no effect.

Sierra1 Premium member

Did they really try closing fuel cells 1 and 3 like in the movie?

Question: In the ending credits, you see "The Whiz Kid" and "The Whiz Kid's mom". Who are they and where do they appear in the movie? I have looked, but I have never seen Austin O'Brien anywhere in the movie even though he is listed in the credits as "The Whiz Kid", same with the Whiz Kid's mom. Is this a mistake or do they appear in some background?

Chosen answer: Austin O'Brien has stated in an interview that although he filmed a scene it was dropped from the movie.

sarcar

Question: What did Houston mean by they need Omni bravo?

Answer: The Apollo spacecraft had 4 omni-directional control antennas, designated A, B, C, and D. "Omni Bravo" was the B antenna. When Mission Control in Houston said they needed Omni Bravo, it meant they wanted Apollo 13 to try to activate the B antenna.

Charles Austin Miller

What were Omni-directional control antennas?

Omni Directional Control Antennas were capable of sending and receiving signals from any direction. The Apollo 13 spacecraft had 4 redundant antennas of this type, which allowed Mission Control in Houston to remotely control certain systems when necessary.

Question: What caused the oxygen tank to explode?

Answer: Other answer is not entirely correct. The O2 tank was dropped in the North American factory, but they were unable to find any damage so they installed it on the Apollo 13 SM. 2 years later the spacecraft was sitting on the pad at Kennedy and they did the "plugs out test" with the spacecraft fully fuelled and running on internal systems. After the test was completed engineers tried to drain the tank and found they couldn't, the drain tube had been damaged when it was dropped. In order to empty the tank, they decided to run the heaters all night to boil the LOX off. This introduced the second problem: The spacecraft was engineered to run on 65 volts but the tank heater and fan were engineered to run on 28 volts. NASA changed the spec and it didn't find it's way to the sub-sub-contractor. NASA->North American->Tank Fabricator->Sensor manufacturer. With the heater running all night at 3 times the voltage it effectively cooked the elements, burning off insulation and such. When they ran the electronics inside the tank, it exposed bare wire inside the LOX to electrical current. Two of those bare wires shorted causing the explosion.

Answer: The oxygen tank had been used previously on the Apollo 10 mission, but tests revealed a fault, so it was taken out. For Apollo 13, that tank was reused after refurbishment, but one important thing that had changed was the voltage and amperage running through it to keep the oxygen warm; it was doubled for the Apollo 13. That melted through the isolation material, causing a short, which caused the tank to explode.

Friso94

Question: What caused the oxygen tank to overheat that led to the explosion?

Answer: In real life, there were a number of incidents that ended up damaging the number 2 oxygen tank, which was then installed in Apollo 13, without anyone realizing there was a dangerous problem. Exposed fan wires inside the tank caught the teflon lining of the tank on fire when the power fans were turned on for the third time. The following website explains the pre-flight issues that damaged the tank as well as the chain reaction of events after the fire. https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/lunar/ap13acc.html.

Bishop73

Question: I've always wondered about one scene in the movie. It happens when Tom Hanks says, "prepare for a little jolt, fellas." We see the astronauts being propelled forward in their seats as the spacecraft accelerates very quickly. But the only time you'd be going forward was if you were riding in a car and the brakes were suddenly slammed on, right? Can someone explain this to me?

Answer: While this did actually happen on Apollo 13 it was completely unexpected, the "get ready for a little jolt" line was made up for the movie. There are retro rockets on the S1-C (first) stage of the Saturn V that are supposed to fire at separation to slow the S1-C and create more separation before the S-2 ignites. The retros fired one second early on this mission so it was before separation and the unexpected reverse thrust is what caused them to get thrown forward. Apparently Jim Lovell even had marks on his helmet from hitting it on the panel when this happened.

Chosen answer: You have to think three-dimensionally. The rocket is travelling upwards under the thrust of the first stage - the moment that thrust cuts off, the only force acting on the ship is gravity, so it's effectively as if the brakes have been slammed on, relatively speaking, as they are no longer moving forwards anywhere near as fast. Then the second-stage engines kick in, propelling them upwards at speed again, pushing them back into their seats.

Tailkinker Premium member

Question: When Apollo 13 launches, there is a lot of white stuff that look like shingles (I don't know how else to describe it) that fall off the space craft as it is rising. What is it?

Chosen answer: It's ice that condensed on the side of the rocket. The fuel has to be kept at low temperature, leading to the rocket being extremely cold.

Tailkinker Premium member

Question: Did anyone play him- or herself in this movie? That seems to be typical for many movies of this kind, but I'm not aware of anyone doing it in Apollo 13 (yes, I know Jim Lovell had a cameo at the end).

Chosen answer: Other than a few individuals who appears in archive footage taken from the era, who could technically be said to be playing themselves, no, there's nobody. Too much time has really passed since the original events for anybody to be convincing as their younger selves.

Tailkinker Premium member

Answer: Marilyn Lovell also played herself. She is in the viewing stands clapping.

Marilyn Lovell doesn't play herself, she just has a cameo (the same as Jim Lovell) where she plays on onlooker at the site.

Bishop73

Question: One of the mistakes listed for this film says that Lovell's daughter Barbara slams a copy of the not-yet-released Beatles album "Let It Be" into her rack. How can you tell what album she's holding in that scene, when you only get a split-second glimpse of it? Without using slow-motion or freeze-frame (which is not permitted for mistake submissions), it doesn't seem possible to conclusively identify the album in question. Or is the background music for that scene a song from that particular Beatles album?

Chosen answer: "Let It Be" has a very distinctive cover. If you look at the cover, and then re-watch that scene, you should recognize that it is indeed that album.

Cubs Fan Premium member

Question: In the scene where Lovell's wife is watching an interview of Lovell, he is asked if he can recall a moment when he experienced fear. Lovell proceeds to talk about a time when he's in a fighter jet and gets lost. Is this story a real life experience of the real Jim Lovell, or did they make it up for the movie?

Chosen answer: It's a true story. I read it in Lovell's book Lost Moon. Great book.

William Bergquist

Question: There's an "abort" dial Tom Hanks looks at once as they are taking off and once when the engine shuts off. What would happen if he turned the abort dial?

Chosen answer: The launch escape system, the 'spike' mounted above the command module, would fire a set of four thrusters designed to pull the command module away from the rest of the launch vehicle. Pitch thrusters fire to move the command module laterally, in order to avoid the possibility of the module being hit by the oncoming launch vehicle, or to prevent the module from landing in a dangerous location in the event of a launchpad fire. Once these thrusters have done their job, the escape system jettisons and the module lands using the onboard parachutes. The above describes what happens when the control is rotated in the counter-clockwise direction indicated by the control's legend. If the control is instead rotated in the clockwise direction then control of the rocket passes from the computers built into the Saturn V rocket (later jettisoned with the stages) to the computers built into the command module proper. This control was never used in an Apollo launch.

Tailkinker Premium member

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