James Arthur Lovell Jr.
March 25, 1928
Cleveland, Ohio, United States
|Rank||Captain, United States Navy|
Time in space
|29d 19h 03m|
|Selection||1962 NASA Group|
|Missions||Gemini 7, Gemini 12, Apollo 8, Apollo 13|
|Retirement||March 1, 1973|
|Service/||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1946–1973|
James Arthur Lovell Jr. (//; born March 25, 1928) is a retired American astronaut, naval aviator, and mechanical engineer. In 1968, as command module pilot of Apollo 8, he became, with Frank Borman and William Anders, one of the first three astronauts to fly to and orbit the Moon. He then commanded the 1970 Apollo 13 lunar mission which, after a critical failure en route, circled around the Moon and returned safely to Earth through the efforts of the crew and mission control.
A graduate of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in the class of 1952, Lovell flew F2H Banshee night fighters. This included a Western Pacific deployment aboard the aircraft carrier USS Shangri-La. In January 1958, he entered a six-month test pilot training course at the Naval Air Test Center at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, with Class 20. Two of his classmates were Pete Conrad and Wally Schirra, but Lovell graduated first in the class. He became McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II program manager. In 1961 he completed Aviation Safety School at the University of Southern California.
Lovell was not selected by NASA as one of the Mercury Seven astronauts due to a temporarily high bilirubin count but was accepted in September 1962 as one of second group of astronauts for the Gemini and Apollo programs. Before Apollo, Lovell had previously flown in space on two Gemini missions, Gemini 7 (with Borman) in 1965 and Gemini 12 in 1966. He was the first person to fly into space four times. One of 24 people to have flown to the Moon, Lovell was the first person to fly to it twice. He is a recipient of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (in 1970, as one of 17 recipients in the Space Exploration group), and co-author of the 1994 book Lost Moon, on which the 1995 film Apollo 13, in which he appeared, was based.
James Arthur Lovell Jr. was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on March 25, 1928, the only child James Lovell Sr., an Ontario, Canada-born coal furnace salesman who died in a car accident in 1933 and Blanche née Masek, who was of Czech descent. For the first two years after the death of his father, Lovell and his mother lived with a relative in Terre Haute, Indiana. They then relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he went to Juneau High School. He was member of the Boy Scouts during his childhood and eventually achieved Eagle Scout, the organization's highest level. He became interested in rocketry and built flying models as a teenager.
After graduating from high school, Lovell attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison for two years, where he studied engineering under the United States Navy's "Flying Midshipman" program from 1946 to 1948. At Madison, he played college football and pledged to the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity. While Lovell was attending pre-flight training in the summer of 1948, the Navy was beginning to make cutbacks in the program, and cadets were under a great deal of pressure to transfer out. There were concerns that some or most of the students who graduated as Naval aviators would not have pilot billets to fill. This threat persisted until the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. To avoid this prospect, Lovell decided to apply to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He secured a nomination from his local U.S. Representative, John C. Brophy, and entered Annapolis in July 1948.
During his first year, Lovell wrote a treatise on the liquid-propellant rocket engine. He graduated in the spring of 1952 with a Bachelor of Science degree and commissioned as an ensign in Navy. On June 6, he married Marilyn Lillie Gerlach in a ceremony at St. Anne's Church in Annapolis. The two had begun dating while they were in high school. While she was a college student, Gerlach transferred from Wisconsin State Teachers College to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., so she could be near him while he was at Annapolis. They had four children: Barbara, James, Susan, and Jeffrey.
Lovell was one of 50 members of his 783-strong graduating class initially selected for naval aviation training. He went to flight training at NAS Pensacola from October 1952 to February 1954. He was designated a Naval aviator on February 1, 1954, upon completion of pilot training, and was assigned to VC-3 at Moffett Field near San Francisco, California. From 1954 to 1956 he flew McDonnell F2H Banshee night fighters. This included a Western Pacific deployment aboard the aircraft carrier USS Shangri-La. Lovell eventually completed 107 carrier deck landings. Upon his return to shore duty, he was reassigned to provide pilot transition training for the North American FJ-4 Fury, McDonnell F3H Demon and Vought F8U Crusader.
In January 1958, Lovell entered a six-month test pilot training course at what was then the Naval Air Test Center (now the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, with Class 20. Two of his classmates were Pete Conrad and Wally Schirra. Conrad gave Lovell the nickname "Shaky". Lovell graduated at the top of the class.
Usually the top graduate was assigned to Flight Test on graduation, but Lovell was assigned to Electronics Test, working with radar sets. Later that year, Lovell, Conrad, and Schirra were among 110 military test pilots selected as potential astronaut candidates for Project Mercury. Schirra went on to become one of the Mercury Seven. Lovell and Conrad were not selected for medical reasons: Lovell because of a temporarily high bilirubin count in his blood, and Conrad for refusing to take the second round of invasive medical tests. Electronics Test was merged with Armaments Test in 1960, to become Weapons Test, and Lovell became the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II program manager, during which time John Young served under him. In 1961 he received orders for VF-101 "Detachment Alpha" at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia, as a flight instructor and safety engineering officer, and he completed Aviation Safety School at the University of Southern California (USC).
In 1962 NASA began recruiting its second group of astronauts, for the Gemini and Apollo programs. This time the process was a public one. Lovell found out about it from an advertisement that had been placed in Aviation Week & Space Technology, and decided to apply a second time. This time he passed the physical examinations, which were conducted at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, and was accepted. He became part of the group known as the "Next Nine". The new astronauts moved to the Houston area in October 1962. Conrad and Lovell built houses in Timber Cove, south of the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). Developers in Timber Cove offered astronauts mortgages with small down payments and low interest rates. The MSC complex was not yet complete, so NASA temporarily leased office space in Houston.
The task of supervising the Next Nine's training fell to Mercury Seven astronaut Gus Grissom. Initially, each of the astronauts was given four months of classroom instruction on subjects such as spacecraft propulsion, orbital mechanics, astronomy, computing, and space medicine. Classes were for six hours a day, two days a week, and all sixteen astronauts had to attend. There was also familiarization with the Gemini spacecraft, Titan II and Atlas boosters, and the Agena target vehicle. Jungle survival training was conducted at the USAF Tropic Survival School at Albrook Air Force Station in Panama, desert survival training at Stead Air Force Base in Nevada, and water survival training on the Dilbert Dunker at the USN school at the Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida and on Galveston Bay. Following the precedent set by the Mercury Seven, each of the Next Nine was assigned a special area in which to develop expertise that could be shared with the others, and to provide astronaut input to designers and engineers. Lovell became responsible for recovery systems.
Lovell was selected as backup pilot for Gemini 4. This was officially announced on July 29, 1964. It put him in position for his first space flight three missions later, as pilot of Gemini 7 with Command Pilot Frank Borman under a rotation system devised by chief astronaut Deke Slayton. Borman was a United States Air Force (USAF) officer, and Lovell had first met him during the evaluation process for astronaut selection. Their selection for the Gemini 7 mission was officially announced on July 1, 1965, along with that of Edward White and Michael Collins as their backup crew.
Like all Gemini missions, it was part of the preparations for Apollo. The flight's objective was to evaluate the effects on the crew and spacecraft from fourteen days in orbit, this being sufficiently long for any possible Moon mission, and would therefore enable doctors to evaluate the medical aspects of such a flight. Whereas the Gemini 6 mission preceding it was to demonstrate techniques for space rendezvous, likewise critical requirement of Apollo. These techniques had been worked out by Dean F. Grimm and Buzz Aldrin, who had written his doctoral thesis on the subject.
The Gemini 6 mission had a serious setback on October 15, 1965, when the Agena target vehicle that Gemini 6 was supposed to rendezvous with exploded soon after takeoff. Lovell was present at the Launch Control Center at Cape Kennedy when this occurred. Officials from McDonnell, the manufacturer of the Gemini spacecraft, then raised the possibility of a rendezvous between Gemini 6 and Gemini 7 during the two weeks while Gemini 7 was in orbit. The only change to Gemini 7's flight plan this required was to circularize its orbit to match that intended for the Agena target vehicle. Borman rejected suggestions that Lovell and Tom Stafford, the pilot of Gemini 6, exchange places on the grounds that it was hazardous and likely to jeopardize the fourteen-day mission objective through loss of oxygen.
In planning the mission, it was decided that both astronauts would sleep at the same time and observe the same work periods, with one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Experiments were not scheduled, but fitted in when time allowed. Of the twenty experiments, eight were medical, aimed at gathering data about the effects of long-duration space flight. To save space, the G5C space suit was designed that weighed a third less than the standard Gemini space suit and incorporated a soft hood instead of a helmet, which could be more easily stowed.
Gemini 7 lifted off on December 4, 1965, and reached its intended 300-kilometer (160 nmi) near-circular orbit. Lovell was taller than Borman and had more difficulty donning and removing his space suit. Initially one astronaut had to be suited, but this made him uncomfortably warm, and eventually mission control relented and allowed both to leave their space suits off. Gemini 6A lifted off on December 15, and rendezvoused with Gemini 7 on Gemini 6A's fourth orbit. The two spacecraft then flew in tandem for three orbits, with the distance between them varying between 0.30 and 90 meters (1 and 300 ft). Gemini 6A returned to Earth on December 16, and Gemini 7 followed two days later. This fourteen-day flight set an endurance record, making 206 orbits.
On January 24, 1966, Lovell was named as the backup command pilot of Gemini 10, with Buzz Aldrin as the pilot, but on March 21, following the deaths of the Gemini 9 prime crew, Elliot See and Charles Bassett, in an air crash, the Gemini 9 backup crew of Thomas P. Stafford and Gene Cernan became the prime crew of Gemini 9A, and Lovell and Aldrin became their backups. This positioned Lovell for his second flight and first command, of Gemini 12. Lovell and Aldrin's selection for this mission was officially announced on June 17, along with that of Gordon Cooper and Gene Cernan as their backups.
The goals of Gemini 12, the final Gemini mission, were ill-defined at first. "Essentially Gemini 12 didn't have a mission", Lovell later recalled. "It was, I guess, by default ... supposed to wind up the Gemini program and catch all those items that were not caught on previous flights." By July, its mission had become to master extravehicular activity (EVA). EVAs had proven problematic on earlier Gemini missions, as they had been more strenuous than expected and performing simple tasks had been more complicated. A series of innovations had been developed in response to the problems that had been encountered. It had been found that moving in space was similar to being underwater, and Aldrin made use of this new training technique. A waist restraint was provided on the space suit, and the Gemini spacecraft and the Agena target vehicle had additional handrails, handholds, and rings for tethering the waist restraint. Procedures were modified to minimize fatigue.
Gemini 12 lifted off on November 11, and quickly achieved orbit. Its first task was to rendezvous with its Agena target vehicle. This was complicated when the rendezvous radar set failed. Instead Aldrin, who had written his PhD on the rendezvous, used a sextant to measure the angle between the spacecraft and the Agena, and then calculated the required actions using the onboard computer. Lovell then flew the spacecraft accordingly. Rendezvous was achieved, and Gemini successfully docked with the Agena, achieving the fifth space rendezvous and fourth space docking with an Agena target vehicle. Lovell then successfully undocked and docked again.
Aldrin performed three EVAs. The first was a standup EVA on November 12, in which the spacecraft door was opened and he stood up, but did not leave the spacecraft. The standup EVA mimicked some of the actions he would do during his free-flight EVA, so he could compare the effort expended between the two. It set an EVA record of two hours and twenty minutes. The next day Aldrin performed his free-flight EVA. He climbed across the newly installed hand-holds to the Agena and installed the cable needed for the gravity-gradient stabilization experiment. He performed numerous tasks, including installing electrical connectors and testing tools that would be needed for Apollo. The EVA concluded after two hours and six minutes. Before returning to the spacecraft, Aldrin cleaned the pilot's window with a cloth, and Lovell asked him if he could change the oil too. A third, 55-minute standup EVA was conducted on November 14, during which Aldrin took photographs, conducted experiments, and discarded some unneeded items.
Gemini 12 returned to Earth on November 15, after 59 orbits. During re-entry a pouch containing books and small pieces of equipment broke free and landed in Lovell's lap. He did not want to grab it, as he feared he might pull on the D-ring that activated the ejector seat. It did not move any further, and the landing went well. The spacecraft landed just 5.5 kilometers (3.0 nmi) from the recovery ship, the aircraft carrier USS Wasp. Twelve experiments had been carried out. This mission proved that people could work effectively outside the spacecraft, which was required for the Apollo missions with the goal of getting man on the Moon by the end of the decade.
Lovell was originally chosen as command module pilot (CMP) on the backup crew for Apollo 9 along with Neil Armstrong as commander (CDR) and Aldrin as lunar module pilot (LMP). Apollo 9 was planned as a high-apogee Earth orbital test of the Lunar Module (LM). Lovell later replaced Michael Collins as CMP on the Apollo 9 prime crew in July 1968 when Collins needed to have surgery for a bone spur on his spine. This reunited Lovell with his Gemini 7 commander Frank Borman, along with LMP William Anders. Aldrin became Lovell's backup CMP, and Fred Haise joined Armstrong's crew as LMP.
Construction delays of the first crewed LM prevented it from being ready in time to fly on Apollo 8, planned as a low Earth orbit test. It was decided to swap the Apollo 8 and Apollo 9 prime and backup crews in the flight schedule so that the crew trained for the low-orbit test could fly it as Apollo 9, when the LM would be ready. A lunar orbital flight, now Apollo 8, replaced the original Apollo 9 medium Earth orbit test mission. The crew was informed of this decision on August 10, 1968, and the training schedule was adjusted accordingly. Starting in September, the crew spent ten hours a day in the simulator rehearsing the mission.
Apollo 8 was launched on December 21, 1968, with Borman, Lovell and Anders becoming the first crew to ride the Saturn V rocket, and the first to travel to the Moon. Their Apollo craft entered lunar orbit on December 24 (Christmas Eve) and reduced speed to go into a 11-by-312-kilometer (5.9 by 168.5 nmi) orbit. The engine was then fired again to enter a 112-kilometer (60 nmi) circular orbit around the Moon.
On Christmas Eve the crew broadcast black-and-white television pictures of the lunar surface back to Earth. Lovell took his turn with Borman and Anders in reading a passage from the Biblical creation story in the Book of Genesis. They made a total of ten orbits of the Moon in 20 hours and ten minutes, and began their return to Earth on December 25 (Christmas Day) with a rocket burn made on the Moon's far side, out of radio contact with Earth. When contact was re-established, Lovell broadcast, "Please be informed, there is a Santa Claus."
As CMP, Lovell served as the navigator, using the spacecraft's built-in sextant to determine its position by measuring star positions. This information was then used to calculate required mid-course corrections. Lovell used some otherwise idle time to do navigational sightings, maneuvering the module to view various stars by using the computer keyboard. However, he accidentally erased some of the computer's memory by entering the wrong codes, which caused the inertial measurement unit (IMU) to contain data indicating that the module was in the same relative orientation it had been in before lift-off; the IMU then fired the thrusters to "correct" the module's attitude.
Once the crew realized why the computer had changed the module's attitude, they knew that they would have to reenter the correct data to tell the computer the module's actual orientation. It took Lovell ten minutes to figure out the right numbers, using the thrusters to get the stars Rigel and Sirius aligned, and another 15 minutes to enter the corrected data into the computer. Sixteen months later, during the Apollo 13 mission, Lovell would have to perform a similar manual realignment under even more critical conditions after the module's IMU had been turned off to conserve energy.
The spacecraft splashed down safely before dawn on December 27 after 147 hours of flight, 4.8 kilometers (2.6 nmi) from the recovery ship, the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. It was estimated that the crew had traveled 933,419 kilometers (504,006 nmi).
Lovell was backup CDR of Apollo 11, with Anders as CMP, and Haise as LMP. In early 1969, Anders accepted a job with the National Aeronautics and Space Council effective August 1969, and announced he would retire as an astronaut at that time. Ken Mattingly was moved from the support crew into parallel training with Anders as backup CMP in case Apollo 11 was delayed past its intended July launch date, at which point Anders would be unavailable.
Under the normal crew rotation in place during Apollo, Lovell, Mattingly, and Haise were scheduled to fly as the prime crew of Apollo 14, but George Mueller, the director of NASA's Office of Manned Space Flight, rejected Slayton's choice of fellow Mercury Seven astronaut Alan Shepard to command Apollo 13. Shepard had only recently returned to flight status after being grounded for several years, and Mueller thought that he needed more training time to prepare for a mission to the Moon. Slayton then asked Lovell if he was willing to switch places with Shepard's crew to give them more training time. "Sure, why not?" Lovell replied, "What could possibly be the difference between Apollo 13 and Apollo 14?"
There was one more change. Seven days before launch, a member of the Apollo 13 backup crew, Charles Duke, contracted rubella from a friend of his son. This exposed both the prime and backup crews, who trained together. Of the five, only Mattingly was not immune through prior exposure. Normally, if any member of the prime crew had to be grounded, the remaining crew would be replaced as well, and the backup crew substituted, but Duke's illness ruled this out, so two days before launch, Mattingly was replaced by Jack Swigert from the backup crew. Mattingly never developed rubella and later flew on Apollo 16.
Lovell lifted off aboard Apollo 13 on April 11, 1970. He and Haise were to land near the Fra Mauro crater. The Fra Mauro formation was believed to contain much material spattered by the impact that had filled the Imbrium basin early in the Moon's history, and dating it would provide information about the early history of the Earth and the Moon.
During a routine cryogenic oxygen tank stir in transit to the Moon, a fire started inside an oxygen tank. The most probable cause determined by NASA was damaged electrical insulation on wiring that created a spark that started the fire. Liquid oxygen rapidly turned into a high-pressure gas, which burst the tank and caused the leak of a second oxygen tank. In just over two hours, all onboard oxygen was lost, disabling the hydrogen fuel cells that provided electrical power to the Command/Service Module Odyssey.
Apollo 13 was the second mission not to use a free-return trajectory, so that they could explore the western lunar regions. Using the Apollo Lunar Module as a "life boat" providing battery power, oxygen, and propulsion, Lovell and his crew re-established the free return trajectory that they had left, and swung around the Moon to return home. Based on the flight controllers' calculations made on Earth, Lovell had to adjust the course twice by manually controlling the Lunar Module's thrusters and engine. Apollo 13 returned safely to Earth on April 17. Apollo 13's flight trajectory gives Lovell, Haise, and Swigert the record for the farthest distance that humans have ever traveled from Earth.
Lovell is one of only three men to travel to the Moon twice, but unlike the other two, John Young and Gene Cernan, he never walked on it. He accrued over 715 hours in space flights on his Gemini and Apollo flights. This was a personal record that stood until the Skylab 3 mission in 1973.
Lovell retired from the Navy and the space program on March 1, 1973, and went to work at the Bay-Houston Towing Company in Houston, Texas, becoming CEO in 1975. He became president of Fisk Telephone Systems in 1977, and later worked for Centel, retiring as an executive vice president on January 1, 1991. Lovell was a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. He was also recognized by the Boy Scouts of America with their prestigious Silver Buffalo Award.
Lovell has served on the board of directors for several organizations, including Federal Signal Corporation in Chicago (1984–2003), Astronautics Corporation of America in his hometown of Milwaukee (1990–1999), and Centel Corporation in Chicago (1987–1991).
In 1999 the Lovell family opened a restaurant in Lake Forest, Illinois, "Lovell's of Lake Forest". The restaurant displayed memorabilia from Lovell's time with NASA and the filming of Apollo 13. The restaurant was sold to son and executive chef James ("Jay") in 2006. The restaurant was put on the market for sale in February 2014, and it closed in April 2015, with the property auctioned the same month.
Lovell's awards and decorations include:
The Gemini 6 and 7 crews were awarded the Harmon International Trophy for 1966. It was presented to them at the White House. Lovell received his second Harmon International Trophy in 1967 when he and Aldrin were selected for their Gemini 12 flight. The Apollo 8 crew won the Robert J. Collier Trophy for 1968. President Nixon awarded the crew the Dr. Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy in 1969. Lovell accepted it on behalf of the crew. The General Thomas D. White USAF Space Trophy is normally awarded to Air Force personnel, but an exception was made to include Lovell. The Apollo 8 crew were awarded the 1968 trophy. Lovell was awarded his third Harmon International Trophy in 1969 for his role in the Apollo 8 mission. The crew was also awarded the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Haley Astronautics Award for 1970. The Apollo 7, 8, 9, and 10 crews were awarded the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Special Trustees Award for 1969. The Apollo 8 astronauts were named Time Magazine Men of the Year in 1968.
In 1982, Lovell was one of ten Gemini astronauts inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame. Lovell, along with the other 12 Gemini astronauts, was inducted into the second U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame class in 1993.
At a parade attended by 500,000 people, Lovell was conferred Chicago's medal of merit. The Apollo 13 crew was awarded the City of New York Gold Medal, but Lovell had already received it for the Apollo 8 mission. In lieu of a second medal, the mayor gifted him a crystal paperweight that he "invented for the occasion". He was also awarded the 1970 City of Houston Medal for Valor for the mission. He was awarded his second Haley Astronautics Award for his role on Apollo 13.
Lovell was a recipient of the University of Wisconsin's Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 1970. In his acceptance speech he emphasized the use of words over "rock throwing" to help attain political goals. He was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree at Western Michigan University's summer commencement exercises in 1970. He was also awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree at William Paterson College's commencement exercises in 1974.
A small crater on the far side of the Moon was named Lovell in his honor in 1970. Discovery World in Milwaukee was named The James Lovell Museum of Science, Economics and Technology. It was also once located on James Lovell St., also named for Lovell. The Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center was completed in October 2010, merging the Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes and the North Chicago Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
About a month after the return to Earth of Apollo 13, Lovell and his crewmates, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert, appeared on The Tonight Show with host Johnny Carson. In 1976, Lovell made a cameo appearance in the Nicolas Roeg movie The Man Who Fell to Earth.
Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger wrote a 1994 book about the Apollo 13 mission, Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, on which the 1995 Ron Howard film Apollo 13 was based. 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 Marilyn at their home in Texas and flew with Lovell in his private airplane. Kathleen Quinlan was nominated for a supporting actress Oscar for her performance as Marilyn.
In the film, Lovell has a cameo as the captain of the USS Iwo Jima. He can be seen as the naval officer shaking Hanks' hand, as Hanks speaks in voice-over, in the scene where the astronauts come aboard the Iwo Jima. The filmmakers offered to make Lovell's character an admiral aboard the ship, but Lovell said: "I retired as a captain and a captain I will be." He was cast as the ship's skipper, Captain Leland Kirkemo. Along with his wife Marilyn, who also has a cameo in the film, Lovell provided a commentary track on both the single disc and the two-disc special edition DVD.
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