From Eagle Scout to cosmic explorer, Jim Lovell pursued a life of adventure, dedication, and distinction. Much as Lewis and Clark risked their lives to map an unknown frontier, Lovell risked his with every space mission he undertook to explore a galactic frontier. He was on board the first manned space flight that rocketed beyond the earth’s orbit, allowing the astronauts to observe the earth as a planet; to see, firsthand, the far side of the moon; and to experience an earthrise.
Born a year after Lindbergh’s historic trans-Atlantic flight, Lovell developed an early fascination with airplanes. Lovell’s vocation as an astronaut transpired organically, building flying models to satisfy his boyhood interest in rocketry, and continued in the Naval Air Academy engineering program where he wrote a treatise on the liquid-fueled rocket engine. His flying career began after completing his flight training at NAS Pensacola, followed by a stint as a naval test pilot. In 1962, Lovell’s love of rockets finally prevailed with his acceptance into the NASA Astronaut Group 2 for the Gemini and Apollo program.
Lovell participated in four space voyages, distinguishing himself as the first person to travel to the moon twice. Both lunar flights proved to be landmark missions. The world watched in amazement on Christmas Eve, 1968, as Lovell, Anders, and Borman entered the lunar orbit on board Apollo 8, becoming the first men to travel to the moon. During their ten orbits, the astronauts broadcast black and white television images of the lunar surface and read the first ten lines from the book of Genesis to emphasize the enormity of the achievement.
On his final flight, Lovell, commander of Apollo 13, aborted the 1970 lunar mission because an oxygen tank exploded. The near-disaster birthed the understated, iconic phrase: “Houston, we have a problem.” The flight was supposed to culminate in a moonwalk; but, instead, astronauts, Lovell, Swigert, and Haise orbited the moon in freezing temperatures, finally returning home after four harrowing days of uncertainty.
After retiring from the navy and space program in 1973, Lovell joined the business world and held various corporate positions until his retirement in 1991. He co-wrote the book Lost Moon: The perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 with Jeffry Kluger. The book was the basis of the Oscar-winning movie Apollo 13, starring Tom Hanks as Lovell and directed by Ron Howard.