James Lovell, Jr.
Lovell wanted badly to land on the moon, and he was glad for the chance to make a contribution to science. Lovell thought of the Apollo 13 mission patch, which read: “Ex Luna, Scientia” – From the moon, knowledge — when he christened the lunar module Aquarius, after the ancient god. But not until Lovell returned to Earth did he discover the irony in the name of the command module: Odyssey. The dictionary definition of this word was: “a long voyage with many changes of fortune.”
- The first astronaut to make four space flights: pilot of Gemini 7; commander of Gemini 12; Command Module Pilot of Apollo 8; and commander of Apollo 13.
- As a Naval test pilot he logged over 5,000 hours flying time.
- Named deputy director for science and applications at the Johnson Space Center in May 1971.
James Arthur Lovell, Jr. was born on March 25th, 1928 in Cleveland, Ohio. In high school Lovell decided that his main interest was rocket science. From March of 1946 to March of 1948 Lovell studied engineering at the University of Wisconsin. While there he continued to apply for admission to the United States Naval Academy. He was finally accepted and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1952.
James Lovell was one of a fortunate 50 out of 783 graduates initially selected for naval aviation. After fourteen months of flight school, he received orders to Moffett Field, located near San Francisco. He was commissioned to Composite Squadron Three, a group specializing in all-weather aircraft carrier night flying. In 1957 Captain Lovell entered the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and graduated with Class 20 in 1958. Later, he served as program manager for the F4H Phantom Fighter. In 1962, NASA selected Captain Lovell to serve in the second group of astronauts for the Gemini program.
On December 4th, 1965, James Lovell was launched on his first space mission with Frank Borman on Gemini 7. One of the achievements of this ground-breaking mission was the first rendezvous in space when Gemini met up with Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra in Gemini 6. Gemini 7 was also a record-breaking endurance flight in which Lovell and Borman orbited for over 330 hours. This mission dismissed doubts of man’s ability to survive a trip to the moon, and was also the first to experience the benefits of flying suitless in the cramped quarters of the Gemini capsule.
Captain Lovell’s second mission was Gemini 12, which lifted off in November of 1966. This time he was teamed up with Buzz Aldrin for a four day, 59-revolution mission, the last of the Gemini missions. While in orbit Lovell and Aldrin executed docking maneuvers with the Agena target and Aldrin performed an extra-vehicular activity or EVA. They also witnessed and photographed a solar eclipse from space.
As the Apollo project developed, Lovell was chosen, along with Frank Borman and Bill Anders, for Apollo 8, man’s maiden voyage to the moon. On this six-day mission, Captain Lovell served as Command Module Pilot and Navigator. The flight, launched December 21st, 1968 was the first manned flight using the Saturn 5 rocket. It was also the first mission to pass outside of the gravitational pull of the Earth and the first to orbit under the moon’s gravity. The three astronauts aboard the command module completed ten lunar orbits and proved the success of the Saturn 5 rocket.
Captain Lovell’s next mission was in April 1970, aboard Apollo 13, making him the first man to journey twice to the moon. He was selected as Spacecraft Commander and his crew would be Fred Haise and Jack Swigert. This mission was going to perform the third moon landing, but was aborted when an explosion in a liquid oxygen tank crippled the Service Module. The crew lost the main power and had to convert their lunar module, Aquarius, into an effective lifeboat for the perilous three and half day journey back to Earth. An anxious world waited while NASA officials scrambled to ensure a safe return for the courageous astronauts. In order to survive for such a long period of time, the astronauts had to construct an improvised filter system to remove the dangerously high levels of carbon dioxide. Without the skill and courage of the three astronauts and the ingenuity and dedication of those below on Earth, the three men would have died in space. Much to the relief of the nation, the three splashed down and were recovered safely on April 17th, 1970.
Though Captain Lovell never returned to space, he remained at NASA until 1973, at which point he retired from the Navy and the space program. Following his retirement, Lovell joined the Bay-Houston Towing Company in Houston, Texas where he became President & CEO in 1975. A few years later he went on to serve in executive positions and on the Board of Directors of other Houston companies before retiring in 1991. Later, he co-authored a book about the Apollo 13 flight entitled Lost Moon, which served as a basis for the subsequent 1995 blockbuster movie, Apollo 13.
James Lovell has received many awards including the Collier, Harmon (three times) and Goddard trophies, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, NASA Distinguished Service Medal and most recently, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
Captain Lovell was a Fellow in the Lovell Communications, a consulting company based in Illinois. He also serves as Chairman of the National Eagle Scout Association and Mission HOME, an ambitious campaign to rekindle enthusiasm and support for space.
For his outstanding service to his country and the space program against sometimes seemingly impossible odds, Captain James Lovell, Junior is enshrined with pride and honor in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
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