Astronaut of the Month - Jim Lovell

James (Jim) Lovell was born on March 25, 1928 in Cleveland, Ohio. An Eagle Scout, he graduated from high school in Milwaukie, Wisconsin, and joined the Flying Midshipmen Program at the University of Wisconsin in 1946. In 1948 he was ready to graduate, but the Navy wasn’t looking for new pilots. Lovell wanted to fly. He was accepted to the Naval Academy and graduated in 1952. After completing flight training, he spent several years as a Navy pilot. 

In 1958, Lovell went to the Naval Test Pilot School, where he graduated first in his class. He was selected as one of the candidates for the Mercury program, however a minor failure in the second round of health tests took him out of the running. Instead, Lovell went to Aviation Safety School, and was then assigned to the Electronics Test at NAS Patuxent River. 

In 1962, Lovell was chosen as an astronaut for the Gemini program. His first mission was Gemini 7 in 1965, where he and Frank Borman spent almost 14 days in space (a record) to help NASA study the results of longer flights on both the crew and aircraft. They also participated in the first rendezvous of two manned maneuverable vehicles in space.

Gemini 12 in 1966 was the last of the Gemini missions and Lovell’s first command. He and Buzz Aldrin completed 59 orbits, 3 activities outside of the vehicle, and the fifth successful docking attempt with another vehicle.

On December 21, 1968, Lovell and the rest of the Apollo 8 crew were the first to leave Earth’s atmosphere on the Saturn V rocket. They were the first to reach the Moon and began lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, where they sent back a radio address and television footage of the lunar surface. 

Lovell’s second command, the infamous Apollo 13 mission, was cut short when a fire in an oxygen tank required the crew to evacuate to the Lunar Module and fly it home using instructions from Houston’s Flight Control Center. Lovell manually corrected the vehicle course twice, and they returned safely on April 17. 

On April 15, 1970, the Apollo 13 crew set the record for the furthest humans have ever been from Earth. They still hold it.