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.

Xofer

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.

stiiggy

Question: Did the interior of the Apollo 13 spacecraft really become cold, and frosty as shown in the movie?

Answer: From what I have read, according to the real astronauts, it was not as cold in the capsule as was depicted in the film. The movie exaggerated that for dramatic effect.

raywest Premium member

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?

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: 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

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?

Answer: Yes they did. And as in the movie, it was futile since the reac valves had failed anyway.

stiiggy

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: 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?

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

I get it. The fuel needs to be kept at low temperatures. Otherwise the rocket would overheat, and explode.

The fuel does not have to be kept at low temperatures. The ice "shingles" form on the outside skin of the Saturn V that surrounds the oxidiser tanks. The oxidiser is liquid oxygen, which liquefies at −182.96 °C, cold enough to freeze atmospheric water vapour into ice.

The answer to the question states that the fuel has to be kept at a low temperature.

Then the answer is wrong. The fuel of the Saturn V (kerosene) was kept at ambient temperature whereas the oxidiser (liquid oxygen) was kept at near cryogenic temperatures. Look, this isn't rocket science! No, wait, yes it is.

Then why is the ice there?

It forms the skin of the Saturn V that encloses the oxidiser tanks. The liquid oxygen in the tanks is so cold (−182.96 °C) that atmospheric water freezes into ice and is dislodged when the Saturn V is launched.

Ever noticed a wet can or glass of a cold drink in the summer? That's humidity from the air condensing on the cold surface of the glass. Now imagine if that can or glass were about 300° BELOW 0. That same humidity would condense and freeze. It being Florida in July, very humid, lots of condensation turning to ice. It didn't happen to the Space Shuttle because the tank was covered in that brown foam to insulate it like a styrofoam cooler.

Question: Since it was so cold on the return journey to Earth, why didn't the astronauts wear their full space suits they wore on lift-off to keep warm? The just seem to be wearing their lightweight flight overalls.

stiiggy

Answer: Because they need to be able to move quickly through the confined space of the module, and the full suits would be far too bulky in an emergency.

The older Apollo missions all splashed down with full suits and helmet on. Just the launch suits, not the much bulkier EVA (moon walk) suits.

stiiggy

Answer: According to Jim Lovell in a later interview about the mission, the crew considered putting on their space suits but in addition to them being too bulky, there was concern the suits would make them perspire too much, thus making them wet and even colder. It wasn't quite as cold as depicted in the movie, it was always above freezing, and there were no icy windows or frozen hot dogs.

raywest Premium member

Answer: In addition, since they have to leave the ship after landing, the suit filling with water would be very dangerous.

LorgSkyegon

The launch abort mode was for an ocean landing, so they would have been just as vulnerable at the start of the mission. I get your line of thinking though.

stiiggy

Question: I have heard that the news broadcasts used in the movies are copies of actual broadcasts, is this true?

Answer: Indeed, some are. The shots of Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra are actual news reports.

stiiggy

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.

Answer: Omni directional antennas can broadcast in any direction at once, as opposed to one that can only broadcast to a particular spot.

stiiggy

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?

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

sarcar

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 crew put on their spacesuits, then go out and assess the damage?

dizzyd

Answer: That would involve depressurizing the command module and LEM. Given that a substantial percentage of their on-board O2 supply just got vented into space, wasting more at that point to only confirm what they already knew wasn't worth the trouble.

kayelbe

Answer: Even if they could go out and assess the damage, they didn't have the tools, materials, or knowledge to actually be able to fix it.

LorgSkyegon

Question: Was the atmosphere and splash landing as dramatic as shown in the movie?

Answer: Naturally the movie ramps up the drama, but it was a fairly accurate depiction. The radio blackout lasted a little longer than depicted in the film due to the shallow angle of the ship's reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. Also, the first communication from the capsule was not from Jim Lovell and was from Jack Swiggert, who said, "Okay, Joe." The amount of condensation shown inside the capsule was also accurate.

raywest 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).

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: 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?

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

William Bergquist

Question: Did the OC2 gauge really drop to zero after fuel cells 1 and 3 were closed, as shown in the movie?

Answer: Yes it's absolutely true. The crew didn't realise that the REAC valves had already been damaged by the explosion which is why shutting the valves achieves nothing.

stiiggy

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?

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

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?

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

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.

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

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.

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

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