A final course correction with the LM's small reaction-control jets at 7:53 put the spacecraft exactly in the center of the corridor in which it should enter the atmosphere.
CAPCOM--You can jettison the Service Module when you are ready. No big rush, but any time.
As Aquarius, leading the train of linked modules, pushed gently backward, Swigert fired small explosive devices to sever the SM from the CM. Aquarius then pulled forward to complete the separation. The useless Service Module drifted away from the other two, still joined in a configuration never flown before or practiced in the simulators before the flight.
The three crewmen watched from separate windows and took photographs that might help tell what had happened at the moment when near-disaster struck 82 hours and nearly half a million miles ago.
SC--Okay, I've got her.
CAPCOM--Beautiful, beautiful. SC--And there's one whole side of that spacecraft missing... Right by the high-gain antenna the whole panel is blown out, almost from the base to the engine... It's really a mess.
CAPCOM--Take pictures, but don't make any unnecessary maneuvers.
SC--Man, that's unbelievable--looks like a lot of debris is just hanging out of the side near the S-band antenna.
As Haise began shutting down the LM, this exchange took place between Mission Control and Lovell, the world's most experienced man in space and veteran of four flights:
SC--Well, I can't say that this week hasn't been filled with excitement.
CAPCOM--Well, James, if you can't take any better care of the spacecraft than that, we might not give you another one.
Time approached to abandon the Apollo 13 lifeboat. Lovell and Haise joined Swigert in the Command Module, now fully powered by its own batteries.
SC--We're ready to proceed with hatch closeup. CAPCOM---Did Jim get the film out of Aquarius?
SC--You mean the film we took this morning? Yes, we transferred that.
Since the CM's jets can control only its attitude, not push or pull, separation would be accomplished by firing pyrotechnics to cut the LM loose and simply letting pressure in the closed tunnel between the modules push them apart.
SC--Can I proceed on and kind of punch off early?
CAPCOM-Jack, when you are comfortably ready to punch off, you can go ahead and do it.
At 11:23 Swigeft punched the button. SC--LM jettison.
CAPCOM--Farewell, Aquarius, and we thank you.