Ken Mattingly, the astronaut best known for his efforts on Earth that helped return the damaged Apollo 13 spacecraft safely to Earth, has died.
LOS ANGELES – Ken Mattingly, the astronaut best known for his efforts on Earth that helped return the damaged Apollo 13 spacecraft safely to Earth, has died, NASA announced. He was 87 years old.
“We lost one of our country’s heroes on October 31,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement Thursday.
Thomas Kenneth Mattingly II “was key to the success of our Apollo program, and his illustrious personality will ensure that he is remembered throughout history,” Nelson said.
NASA did not say where or how Mattingly died. However, The New York Times reported that Mattingly died in Arlington, Virginia.
Mattingly, a former Navy pilot, joined NASA in 1966. He helped develop the spacesuit and backpack for the Apollo missions to the moon, NASA said.
However, his first spaceflight came only in 1972 when he orbited the Moon as the Apollo 16 command module pilot, while two other crew members landed on the Moon’s surface.
On his return trip to Earth, Mattingly walked through space to collect film packages containing photographs he had taken of the lunar surface.
In later years, Mattingly commanded two space shuttle missions and retired from the agency and the Navy as a rear admiral.
But his most dramatic mission was one he never flew.
He did not fall ill but was replaced on board the mission by John Swigert Jr.
Several days into the mission, an oxygen tank in the spacecraft’s service module exploded, cutting off most of the power and oxygen to the command module. The moon landing was canceled and NASA began a frantic effort to rescue Swigert, James Lovell, and Fred Hayes.
Mattingly, who knew the spacecraft intimately, worked with engineers and others as they analyzed the situation and scrambled to find solutions and pass instructions to the crew.
Eventually, the three astronauts crammed into the lander, which was designed to hold just two people, and used it as a lifeboat for four days while Apollo 13 orbited the moon and then landed safely on Earth.
NASA’s Nelson said Mattingly “stayed behind and made key decisions in real time to successfully bring the affected spacecraft and crew home.”
“One of the many lessons learned from all of this is to start from day one, from the first moment, assume you’re going to succeed and don’t do anything that gets in the way,” Mattingly recalled in an oral history interview. For NASA in 2001.
The story of Apollo 13 is told in the 1994 book “Lost Moon: The Perilous Journey of Apollo 13,” co-authored by Lovell, and in the 1995 film “Apollo 13,” in which Gary Sinise played Mattingly.
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”