♪ Fly Me to the Moon ♫…or…Houston We Have a Problem
March 25, 1928: Jim Lovell, American Astronaut is Born
James “Jim” Arthur Lovell, Jr., a former NASA astronaut and a retired captain in the United States Navy, most famous as the commander of the Apollo 13 mission which suffered a critical failure en route to the Moon but was brought back safely to Earth by the efforts of the crew and mission control.
Lovell was also the command module pilot of Apollo 8, the first Apollo mission to enter lunar orbit. Lovell is a recipient of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. One of only 24 people to have flown to the Moon, the first of only three people to fly to the Moon twice, and the only one to have flown there twice without making a landing. Lovell was also the first person to fly in space four times.
Lovell was backup commander of Apollo 11 and was scheduled to command Apollo 14, but he and his crew swapped missions with the crew of Apollo 13. Lovell lifted off aboard Apollo 13 on April 11, 1970 with CM Pilot Jack Swigert and LM Pilot Fred Haise. He and Haise were to land on the Moon.
But on April 13, while in Earth-Moon transit, a damaged heater coil in a cryogenic oxygen tank sparked during a routine tank stir. This quickly turned liquid oxygen into gas with a huge increase in pressure, which burst the tank and damaged a second tank, resulting in the loss of all stored oxygen in just over two hours. This disabled the fuel cell-driven electrical power system, crippling the Command/Service Module “Odyssey” and requiring immediate abort of the landing mission; the goal of the mission became safely returning to Earth.
Using the LM as a “life boat” providing power, oxygen and propulsion, Lovell and his crew immediately re-established the free return trajectory that they had left, and swung around the Moon to return home. Based on calculations made on Earth, Lovell had to adjust the course two times by manually controlling the Lunar Module’s thrusters and engine, using his watch for timing. Apollo 13 returned safely to Earth on April 17. Lovell is one of only three men to travel to the Moon twice, but unlike John Young and Eugene Cernan, he never walked on it.
Lovell accrued over 715 hours, and had seen a total of 269 sunrises from space on his Gemini and Apollo flights. This was a personal record that stood until the Skylab 3 mission in July through September of 1973. It is also probable that Apollo 13’s flight trajectory gives Lovell, Haise, and Swigert the record for the farthest distance that humans have ever travelled from Earth.
Along with Jeffrey Kluger, Lovell wrote a book about the Apollo 13 mission, Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13. This book was the basis for the later Ron Howard movie Apollo 13. Lovell’s first impression on being approached about the film was that Kevin Costner would be a good choice to portray him, given the physical resemblance, but Tom Hanks was cast in the role. In order to prepare, Hanks visited Lovell and his wife at their house in Texas and even went for a ride with Lovell in his private airplane.
Milwaukee / Wisconsin Connection
Born in Cleveland, Ohio to a Czech mother, Lovell’s family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he graduated from Juneau High School and became an Eagle Scout.
Later he attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison for two years, joining the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity.
North James Lovell Street is the stretch of 7th Street between W. State Street and W. Clybourn Street in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Lovel on Apollo 13 and Failure is Not an Option
Sinatra on YouTube