The movie Apollo 13 famously depicts a tense scene from relatively early on in the accident where the astronauts were having diffucilty controlling the space craft due to the centre of gravity being off.

The dialogue in the scene in question is as follows:

CAPCOM: Aquarius, Huston, watch your middle gimbal, we don't want you tumbling off into space

Lovell: Freddo, inform Houston that I'm well aware of the god-damned gimbals

Haise: (politely) Roger that, Huston

Lovell: I don't need to hear the obvious, I've got the frappin' 8-ball right in front of me

CAPCOM: Uh, Aquarius, we have you both on VOX

Lovell: What, you want us to go to VOX?

CAPCOM: You have a hot mic, we are reading everything you say

I seem to recall Lovell confirming that an incident to this effect did occur in his book, Lost Moon, but I don't have a copy to hand.

EDIT: I have since had the opportunity to check my copy of Lost Moon/Apollo 13. The incident described in the film would appear to be loosely based on a passage on page 154:

Whether Lousma heard Lunney or whether he was too distracted by the troubling talk of the crew was unclear, but at first the Capcom didn't respond to his flight director and continued listening in on the line.

"Why the hell are we manoeuvring like this?", Lovell was asking. "Are we still venting something?"

"We're not venting.", Haise was saying.

"Then why can't we null this out? What if we --"

"Every time I try to I --"

"-- Can't get this roll out"

"Try to get the roll out"

"Well what's the frappin' attitude?", Lovell asked

"The attitude's OK", Haise answered back

"Damn!," Swigart exclaimed, "I wish you guys would get to something I know"

Lunney clicked back onto the loop. "Capcom," he warned again, this time more sternly, "You might let them know that we're copying their vox"

The above was taken from a book that lists Jim Lovell as the author, although it was ghost-written by Jeffrey Kluger.

However, I can find no trace of the word "frap" (or of the actual word that "frap" is probably substituting for) anywhere in the transcript on NASA's website. I did find several uses of the word "damn", and plenty of references to gimbals in general and the middle gimbal in particular

Neither the dialogue as described in the film or as described in the book apparently exist in the comms transcript. The closest I can find is the following excerpt, which seems to roughly correspond with the dialogue described in the book:

059:05:22 LMP Neither am I, okay. Why the hell are we maneuvering at all now? Are we still venting?

059:05:34 CDR Well, we're at ATT HOLD for one thing - I mean, we're at MINIMUM IMPULSE.

059:05:38 LMP No, I mean why can't you null them out, somewhere?

059:05:41 CDR Every time I try to - I can't take that doggone roll out. I got to wait until they get around to the bellyband.

059:05:50 LMP Wait a minute. Do you - you fight roll by using the TTCA left right. That's what you need to play with.

059:06:04 CDR Okay. We'll try that. Let me get around though. Let's roll. Let it roll all the way.

059:06:12 LMP Yes, you can't let it roll all the way.

059:06:13 CDR I know. I know. But I mean -

059:06:16 LMP Okay. Then until it's upside down at least, huh?

059:06:18 CDR Yes.

It's possible NASA edited it out in order to save the embarrassment of its crew, but the other possibility is that this exchange never occurred in either form.
Did this incident or something similar really happen?

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    Is this really the place to discuss dialogue in a fictional movie? I mean, did someone actually claim that this event happened exactly as in the movie?
    – pipe
    Mar 12, 2019 at 16:24
  • 2
    @pipe Apollo 13 was an actual event, the movie is a dramatisation of that event. And if I remember right, Jim Lovell did mention that the incident described above did occur, but it doesn't appear in the transcript of the actual mission. Maybe NASA edited it out for decency, or maybe it didn't actually happen.
    – GordonM
    Mar 12, 2019 at 17:04
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    A "dramatization" is by definition a work of fiction, and I think we've generally held that works of fiction aren't notable claims for the purposes of this site. I think this question should be closed in its current form. If you (or someone else) can find the claim in Lovell's book (or some other work of nonfiction), then it can be reopened. Mar 12, 2019 at 19:12
  • I wonder if the movie doesn't conflate things with an earlier mission where control was briefly lost and some crude words were used. Mar 12, 2019 at 22:27
  • @DanielRHicks Definitely a possibility. I know there was an incident on Apollo 10 that triggered an exclamation of "Son of a bitch".
    – GordonM
    Mar 12, 2019 at 22:54

1 Answer 1


It looks like the basics of the exchange mentioned in the book and movie actually did happen, however it was Fred Haise, not Lovell, who said vulgarity in question, and it's not clear whether or not they knew they Mission Control could still hear them. The book passage is compressing several minutes of separate communication into a single short exchange, which the movie further compressed and changed.

Your quote of the transcript seems to cover the first half of the exchange mentioned in the book, and about five minutes later the following lines up pretty well with the book and movie:

059:11:47 CC Aquarius, Houston. I think we've got a better way of getting your mission time up.

059:11:56 CDR Go ahead with it.

059:11:59 CC Okay. We can do a VERB 55, ENTER, and then put an Rl, minus 00088. In R2, minus >00059; R3 minus 03274.

059:12:28 LMP Watch the crapping attitude.

059:12:31 CDR We're okay.

059:12:36 CMP God damn. I wish you'd get to something I know.

059:12:41 CDR Well, as soon as we get over here, we'll stop it with the TTCA.

059:12:43 CMP Okay.

059:12:46 CC And, Aquarius; Houston. We've got you both on VOX.

059:12:54 LMP Like to go what?

059:12:56 CDR You want us on VOX, Jack?

059:12:58 CC We have you on VOX. We're reading you loud and clear and the clock took good.

(For reference: CDR is Lovell, LMP is Fred Haise, CMP is John Swigert, CC is someone in Mission Control, and "on VOX" basically means "we can hear you whenever you talk")

So, it appears that Lovell compressed different exchanges between the pilots and Mission Control into more succinct groups, which is understandable since a word-for-word copy of the transcript wouldn't be a good novel.

Further, it seems that Hollywood took the essence of the book passage and also changed some things around for the sake of brevity, which is understandable since a word-for-word copy of the novel wouldn't be a good movie.

As for the swear itself, "crapping" and "frapping" seem close enough that one or the other was probably said, and the actual word was lost to time and poor audio. However, according to the NASA transcript at least, it was Fred Haise who said it, and although Mission Control informs them that they are on mic during the exchange it isn't clear

  • 2
    "On VOX" means they are using a voice activation circuit to turn on the transmitter, as opposed to keying it manually. Basically, you talk, you transmit. That's not the usual way of using two-way radio communications, so people forget about it. Normally, you would manually trigger the transmitter when you want to talk through the radio.
    – JRE
    Mar 13, 2019 at 20:18

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