Ever met a hero? I had an encounter recently at a National Eagle Scout Association event to bestow a Distinguished Service Award on Captain Jim Lovell, mission commander of Apollo 13. Intrepid readers of this blog know that I am an Eagle Scout, and there have been forty-one career astronauts at NASA who are Eagle Scouts, including Capt. Jim Lovell. Lovell was the first to fly into space four times, one of only twenty-four people to have flown to the Moon, and the first to fly it twice.
A quick rundown of some missions prior to Apollo 13- for those who want a full detail of Apollo, read more from NASA.
Apollo 8- first mission to reach lunar orbit, around the ‘far side’ of the Moon
Apollo 11- first landing on the Moon- ‘One small step…’
Apollo 13- designed to be the third lunar landing (Apollo 12 also landed astronauts on the Moon)
A lunar landing didn’t happen for Apollo 13. What did happen is this- one of only two oxygen tanks exploded early in the mission.
It was April, 1970, and the failure of a critical component like an oxygen tank on a spacecraft would most surely mean disaster- such a critical system failure would most surely mean disaster on a space mission today. “Houston, We’ve Had A Problem” brought the world to a standstill as NASA worked feverishly to save the lives of their astronauts. The three-man crew led by Capt. Lovell remained steady, kept their calm- and became heroes.
The Apollo 13 astronauts still have the record of traveling the furthest away from Earth- a whopping 248,655 miles. Capt. Lovell and his crew were the second group of astronauts to see the ‘far side’ of the Moon, though Lovell was also on the Apollo 8 mission, the first crew to earn this distinction. Apollo 8 astronauts also returned the iconic “Earthrise” picture shown above.
The flight record for a spacecraft designed to carry humans was just broken last year as part of an unmanned mission to test human-capable capsules. That spacecraft was the Artemis 1 mission- keen Leadership Matrix observers will point to an Artemis post here.
NASA coins the Apollo 13 story as The Successful Failure. Just imagine if the mission had turned out differently.
A quick note on the far side- or as Pink Floyd fans may describe the ‘Dark Side’- of the Moon, contrary to popular belief, the Moon does rotate. In what’s known as synchronous rotation, the Moon rotates at the same rate as its orbital motion, thus keeping the same face to Earth.
Opportunities arise every once in a great while to meet a legend. Captain Jim Lovell is an American hero; along with his crew, a ‘successful failure’ became a lunar mission enshrined into the storied history of NASA space exploration! Enjoy the write-up below about the details of the mission! Click here to send me an email to share your thoughts.
~ Brian Kasal- The Leadership Matrix
Click here- Jim Lovell: The Eagle Scout That Saved Apollo 13
P.S.- Here is the official trailer to the 1995 movie directed by Ron Howard: Apollo 13
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Did you see my last Leadership Matrix post? The Spending Calculations in Your Head