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When the Louis & Clark got damaged they said no rescue is coming, antenna array is shot. They implied they had no way to call for help:

MILLER: Thank you. Starck, what's our status?

STARCK: The antenna array is completely fried. We've got no radio, no laser, no high gain.
No one's coming to help.

SMITH: This air tastes bad.

PETERS: Yeah. Carbon dioxide.

STARCK: And the CO2 filters here are shot.

Then they went through all the horrors of the film until Weir went mad. But after the gravity drive went online Miller decided to blow the ship in two, and told Cooper to go activate the distress beacon:

MILLER: separate us from the ship, use the foredecks as a lifeboat. TDRS should pick up our emergency beacon.
We put ourselves in stasis, and stand by for rescue.

MILLER: (to COOPER) Go activate the emergency beacon and you get back here.

Why didn’t they activate the beacon as soon as they got stranded?

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    This is an example of a good edit. It clarifies the question without invalidating the existing answer
    – Valorum
    Oct 21, 2019 at 16:45

1 Answer 1

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Because they are the "Search and Rescue" specialists. This means they are equipped with dealing with such situations so they they believe they can sort this themselves. It would also look pretty bad for their reputation if they've just called for help at the first obstacle.

Also, the call for help would be pretty pointless: Both ships are far away from the nearest base on a decaying orbit (already grazing the upper atmosphere of Neptune). It is in the script:

WEIR The USAC intercepted a radio transmission from a decaying orbit around Neptune. The source has been identified as the Event Horizon. [...]

STARCK: Smith's right. Neptune? There's nothing out there. If something happens, we'll be on our own.
MILLER: I don't like it either, but you know the rules: we get the call, we go. Is the course locked in?

Edit: When they press the emergency beacon, all hope for repairing either ship is lost - they are in the escape pod and all is left is praying that someone would find them. They didn't press it earlier, because there was no point - if they were just sitting down waiting for help, they would die either from lack of oxygen or from falling to Neptune- but if they are actually moving away from danger, then there is a chance that someone would find them. Eventually.

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  • But the only reason we know the array was broken was because they wanted to call for rescue. Most of them didn’t even want to be there to begin with, they weren’t exactly going macho.
    – Vogon Poet
    Oct 21, 2019 at 3:05
  • @VogonPoet Damn, it was a long time ago since I've seen it... but wasn't the call for help kind of pointless anyway? The Event Horizon was already in the upper atmosphere of Neptune and they would crash and burn before any help would arrive.
    – Yasskier
    Oct 21, 2019 at 3:08
  • In Miller's pep-talk he said "we got a signal from a decaying orbit over Neptune" and that's the only time the orbit was mentioned. It wasn't heading for any immediate crisis. The crisis was air. Their oxygen was running out, reaching toxic CO2 levels. As soon as the L&C got damaged they intended to ditch the mission & call backup, because everyone was dead (Rescue what?). That's why it doesn't make sense that they waited until everything was going nuts to use a beacon
    – Vogon Poet
    Oct 21, 2019 at 13:13
  • @VogonPoet Air was an issue for Louis & Clark, for Event Horizon it was the orbit. But anyway, they activate the beacon when they plan to leave via the escape pod from EH because there is nothing else they can do by themselves. It is a "press and pray" hope because THEY are the group that usually comes to the rescue.
    – Yasskier
    Oct 21, 2019 at 20:15

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