Julia Gafa

American Civilization

Film Review

Apollo 13

Apollo 13 is the movie I chose for this review. Three astronauts: James A. Lovell played by Tom Hanks, John L Swigert played by Kevin Bacon and Fred W. Haise played by Bill Paxton were selected to make the third trip to the moon for the United States of America. After six months of rigorous training, the crew was launched into space on April 11, 1970.

After the first two days the crew began to face many difficulties and decided to abort the mission to the moon. Equipment failure resulted in the loss of two oxygen tanks for the shuttle, three of the fuel cells which provided electricity and heat, and an increase in carbon dioxide. The problems began when they were half way to the moon and they realized that without any power the only way they would get back is if they went around the moon to head back in the other direction. This made the trip longer than what they were prepared for.

Once they were headed directly for the earth, the pilot needed to use the last of the fuel to project them toward Earth, otherwise it would have taken them months to get back. This used up all of the shuttles energy and the crew had to float back to Earth with no lights and no heat. Once they were in Earth’s orbit, the crew realized that the heat shields could have been cracked from the icy cold of space and they anticipated the possibility that they might not make it through the atmosphere. The story concluded when the pilot skillfully navigates them through the atmosphere and they land safely in the Atlantic Ocean.

I think that the movie Apollo 13 brought more sympathy and understanding to the public about the real events and situation of the Apollo 13 mission. I have found that for the most part the movie follows true historical events pretty closely except there were a few things that were not mentioned in the movie that I think are important.

The crew experienced a water shortage and was forced to cut down to only six ounces of water a day. During the mission, altogether they lost a total of 31.5 pounds. This event was not mentioned in the film. Also on the way back to Earth, the crew could not use their navigation system because the debris from the explosion of the service module “made it impossible for them to find a navigational star.”(Dumoulin, Jim. “NASA Apollo Mission Apollo-13, mission highlights, paragraph 18). So instead they had to use the sun as a navigational point. The film only acknowledges the failure of the navigation system as not being useful because of a loss of power.

In the film, one of the backup pilots exposed the crew to the German measles. Because the originally appointed pilot was not immune to the German measles he was ordered to stay behind and was replaced by backup pilot Jack Swigert. Also, the film used direct quotes from the actual interchange of transmissions between NASA and the shuttle. For example: “This is the crew of Apollo 13 wishing everybody there a nice evening, and we’re just about ready to close out our inspection of Aquarius (the LM) and get back for a pleasant evening in Odyssey (the CM). Good night.” And of course the famous “Houston we have a problem.”(Dumoulin, Jim. “NASA Apollo Mission Apollo-13, mission highlights, paragraph 3).

During Kennedy’s early administration, he was motivated to put a man on the moon. He was able to get congress to “increase funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).”( Henretta, James A., David Brody, and Lynn Dumenil. “The Age of the Cold War Liberalism.” America a Concise History. Pg.826, paragraph 6). This motivation stemmed from the tension between Russia and the United States during the cold war and the race to see which country could get to the moon first.

After America beat the Russians to the moon, the interest was lost by the time of the third mission and there were debates on whether the government should keep funding NASA for these expeditions. Apollo 13 did however get the attention of the nation because of the dramatic events that took place during the mission and the safe return of all three astronauts despite all the odds.   This movie gave an accurate portrayal of the specifics of the situation with a few deviations. This is an important historical event and the film added a human face to the Apollo 13 mission.


Henretta, James A., David Brody, and Lynn Dumenil. “The Age of the Cold War Liberalism.” America a Concise History. 4th ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006. 826. Print.

Dumoulin, Jim. “NASA Apollo Mission Apollo-13.” Kennedy Space Center Science and Technology Home Page. 29 June 2001. Web. 26 Jan. 2011. <http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/history/apollo/apollo-13/apollo-13.html&gt;.

“Apollo 13 (1995) – IMDb.” The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Ed. IMDB. IMDB, 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2011. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112384/&gt;.

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