Apollo 13 is a 1995 American space documentary drama movie directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Ed Harris, and Gary Sinise. Screenplay by William Broyles Jr. and Al Reinert dramatizes the aborted 1970 Apollo 13 lunar mission and is an adaptation of the 1994 book Lost Moon: The Perilous Journey of Apollo 13 by astronaut Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger.
The movie depicts astronauts Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Hais aboard Apollo 13 for the fifth US manned mission to the moon, which was supposed to be the third to land. An onboard explosion deprives their spacecraft of most of its oxygen and electrical supplies, forcing NASA’s flight controllers to abort the moon landing and turning the mission into a search for scientific and mechanical solutions to get the three men home safely.
Howard went to great lengths to create a technically accurate movie, enlisting NASA’s assistance in training astronauts and flight controllers for his cast, and obtaining permission to shoot scenes aboard a reduced-gravity aircraft to realistically depict the weightlessness experienced by astronauts in space.
Apollo 13: Synopsis
On July 20, 1969, astronaut Jim Lovell hosts a house party where guests watch Neil Armstrong’s first human steps on the moon from Apollo 11. Afterward, Lovell, who flew around the moon on Apollo 8 in December 1968, told his wife Marilyn that he intended to return to the moon, to walk on its surface.
Three months later, while Lovell is giving a VIP tour of NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building, his boss, Deke Slayton, informs him that due to problems with Alan Shepard’s crew, Lovell’s crew will fly Apollo 13 instead of Apollo 14. Lovell, Ken Mattingly, and Fred Haise train for their new mission.
A few days before kickoff, Mattingly is exposed to German measles, and the flight surgeon requests that Mattingly’s backup, Jack Swigert, be replaced. Lovell resists breaking up his team but backs down when Slayton threatens to kick his crew on a later mission. Marilyn has a nightmare about her husband being killed in space as the launch date approaches but goes to Kennedy Space Center the night before launch to see him off.
On April 11, 1970, Flight Director Gene Kranz of the Houston Mission Control Center gives the go-ahead for the launch of Apollo 13. As the Saturn V rocket ascends through the atmosphere, the second stage engine shuts down prematurely, but the craft reaches its parking Earth orbit. After the third stage fires to send Apollo 13 to the moon, Swigert performs a maneuver that attaches the Odyssey command module to the Aquarius lunar module and pulls it away from the spent rocket.
Three days into the mission, the crew conducts a telecast, which the networks refuse to air live. After Swigert turns on the fans to mix the liquid oxygen as requested by Mission Control, one of the tanks explodes, emptying its contents into space and the ship collapses. It is soon discovered that the second tank is leaking.
They attempt to stop the leak by shutting down fuel cells #1 and #3, but to no avail. With the fuel cells closed, the moon landing must be aborted. Lovell and Haise must urgently power up the Aquarius to use as a “lifeboat” to return to Earth, as Swigert shuts down the Odyssey before the battery runs out. In Houston, Kranz assembled his team to come up with a plan to get the astronauts home safely, declaring that “failure is impossible.” Controller John Aaron recruits Mattingly to help him devise a procedure to restart the Odyssey for landing on Earth.
As Swigert and Haise watch the moon pass below them, Lovell laments his lost hope of walking on its surface, then turns their attention to getting home. With the Aquarius running on minimal electrical power, the crew suffers from freezing conditions and Haise begins to feel ill and develops a moderate fever. Swigert suspects they are doomed, but mission control keeps it a secret; Haise angrily blames the accident on Swigert’s inexperience, but Lovell quickly silences the arguments.
With carbon dioxide nearing dangerous levels, ground control must quickly devise a way to make the Command Module’s square chemical charges work in the Lunar Module’s round pods. With Aquarius’ guidance systems shut down, the crew must perform a difficult but vital course correction by manually igniting the lunar module’s engine.
Mattingly and Aaron try to find a way to turn on the command module systems without drawing too much power and eventually hand the process over to Swigert, who restarts the Odyssey by transferring extra power from the Aquarius. When the crew jettisons the service module, they are surprised to see the extent of the damage, raising new concerns that the heat shield has been damaged by the explosion.
When they launch the Aquarius and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, no one is sure if the Odyssey’s heat shield is intact. The tense period of radio silence due to the ionization blackout is longer than usual, but the astronauts report that everything is fine, everyone around the world is celebrating their safe return and watching the Odyssey splash in the Pacific Ocean.
As helicopters bring the three men aboard the rescue ship USS Iwo Jima to a hero’s welcome, Lovell’s commentary describes the cause of the explosion and the subsequent careers of Hais, Swigert, Mattingly, and Kranz. He wonders if and when humanity will return to the moon.
Apollo 13 Ending Explained: What Happened At The End?
The astronauts go into the capsule, disconnect the lunar module and see how badly the service module has been damaged. They were lucky to escape alive. As they descend, the silence is deafening.
The film Apollo 13 ends with the safe return of the astronauts. They are greeted by their families and President Nixon. The final scene of the film shows footage of real Apollo 13 astronauts Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), Fred Haise (Bill Paxton), and Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) being awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor by President Gerald Ford.
Apollo 13 is a thrilling film that tells the true story of one of NASA’s most infamous missions. The film’s conclusion is heartwarming and inspiring as the astronauts are welcomed home by their families and President Nixon. The final scene shows the actual Apollo 13 astronauts who received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. It is a fitting tribute to their bravery and determination. Apollo 13 is a must-see movie for anyone interested in space exploration or NASA history.
Haise and Swigert watch the moon pass below them as Lovell laments the missed opportunity to walk on its surface, then focus on getting home. The crew suffers from the cold as the Aquarius runs on minimal electrical power. And Haise gets sick and gets a moderate fever. Swigert believes they are doomed, but Mission Control denies this; Haise is furious and blames the accident on Swigert’s inexperience, but Lovell quickly puts an end to the bickering.
Ground control must quickly figure out a way to keep the Command Module’s square chemical cartridges working in the Lunar Module’s round canisters when carbon dioxide levels reach dangerous levels. With Aquarius’ guidance systems shut down, the crew must manually start the lunar module’s engine, a complex but necessary course correction.
Mattingly and Aaron try to turn on the command module’s systems without using up too much power. And finally, they send the progress to Swigert, who reboots the Odyssey by transferring the extra power from Aquarius.
Related – Alba Season 1: Synopsis & Ending, Explained