Astronomy

Astronaut Profiles James Lovell



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If any astronaut were to be put to the ultimate test, perhaps Jim Lovell could give them some words of advice. For Lovell is the famed commander of the ill fated Apollo 13 mission to the moon. He may be best remembered for turning a disaster in space into a triumph of human ingenuity - but there is much much more to James Lovell.

Born in Cleveland on 25 March 1928 he would eventually attend the University of Wisconsin. His choice of study was a BS in Science, which he received from the United States Naval Academy in 1952. Lovell entered the US Navy with the rank of Ensign and served in various positions.

1953 saw the young Jim Lovell at Moffett Field Naval Air Station in California where as a newly qualified pilot he had been assigned to the Essex class aircraft carrier USS Shangri La. Jim Lovell would in 1958 apply for admission to the Naval Test Pilot School at Pax River.

He was accepted onto the course and duly qualified. He stayed on at the Maryland base until 1961. His time as a test pilot saw him flying and evaluating hundreds of different aircraft destined for service use or back to the drawing boards.

Lovell was for a time appointed as Progam Manaher for the weapon systems integration tests on the McDonnell F4-H Phantom. He also served as an instructor with Squadron 10 at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virgina. 1961 saw Jim Lovell successfully graduate from the University of Southern California and their Aviation Safety School.

It was in the early 1960's that Lovell's love of fast cars began; but vehicles of even greater speed grabbed his attention in September 1962 when space rockets entered his life. Gemini 7 would be his first space flight with Frank Borman.

On 11 November 1966 he blasted off from the Cape onboard Gemini 12 with Buzz Aldrin. During his mission Lovell conducted three spacewalks and took the first photographs from space of a solar eclipse.

Lovell together with Bill Anders and Frank Borman, on 21 December 1968 beat the Russians to the moon on board Apollo 8. The three men ventured further out into space, 223,000 miles, than any other man before.

They entered orbit of the moon on Christmas Eve. At a distance of only 69 miles from the moon's surface James Lovell made a vow to return on a mission to land on the moon's surface.

He would get his chance on Apollo 13. He'd originally been assigned to command Apollo 14 but was brought forward when Alan Shepard fell ill. When he launched with Fred Haise and John Swigert on April 11th 1970 everything seemed fine - but halfway to the moon the spacecraft's oxygen tanks exploded leaving the astronauts without power and life support.

Through a mixture of ingenuity, tenacity and strength of the human spirit the three men splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean on 16 April.

This was to be Jim Lovell's last spaceflight but he'd already achieved the distinction of being the first man to fly in space four times and to have made two trips to the moon.

Jim Lovell stayed on at NASA serving in various positions within the management structure of the Apollo program and the subsequent Skylab space station project. He took a leave of absence from his duties at NASA to pursue an ambition to study at the Harvard Business School in May 1971.

Another two years of service with NASA followed its successful completion. March 1973 Jim Lovell left NASA to join the management of Bay Houston Towing Company in Houston. He stayed with them until 1977 when he joined Fisk Telephone Systems Inc as President. Later he became President of Lovell Communications.

In 1994 he wrote the book 'Lost Moon' about the Apolllo 13 mission. A year later the book was transformed into the blockbuster movie 'Apollo 13' starring Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell. Lovell himself made a guest cameo appearance as the Captain of the recovery aircraft carrier.


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