Apollo 13

Question: Did the scene where the astronauts take off their bio-med sensors really happen?

Answer: According to transcripts of the actual mission's audio recordings, yes. Though the movie can be lauded for its extent of accuracy, it still has moments of artistic license. In the transcripts, the last reference to BIOMED is between Cap Comm (CC) and Jim Lovell (CDR). CC: "The other thing is, if anyone has on any BIOMED, would you switch your switch to __ your BIOMED switch to that position." CDR: "Understand the first, Vance, and no-one has on any BIOMED__." CC: "Okay." CDR: "Fred and Jack are maneuvering things around right now, and mine is long since departed the scene."

Super Grover Premium member

Answer: From what I've read, they really did remove them, but not in the overly dramatic way shown in the film.

raywest Premium member

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.


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.


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

Fred Haise: It hurts when I urinate.
Jim Lovell: Well, you're not getting enough water.
Fred Haise: No, I'm drinkin' my rations, same as you... I think old Swigert gave me the clap. Been pissin' in my relief tube.
Jim Lovell: Well, that'd be a hot one at the debriefing for the flight surgeons... Another first for America's spacemen.

More quotes from Apollo 13
Apollo 13 mistake picture

Trivia: The Captain of the Iwo-Jima who Tom Hanks talks to at the end of the movie is the real Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell.

More trivia for Apollo 13

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