James Arthur Lovell, Jr. was a NASA astronaut, and first person to fly in space four times. He is best known for his flights on two Gemini missions and two Apollo missions. Lovell is also a retired captain for the United States Navy. He is one of only 24 humans to have ever gone to the Moon, and one of three that has flown to the moon more than once. In 1994, Lovell told his account of the Apollo 13 mission in his book, “Lost Moon.”
Early Life & Education
Jim Lovell was born on March 25, 1928, in Cleveland, Ohio. With his Czech mother, Lovell moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In Milwaukee, he became an Eagle Scout and graduated from Juneau High School. As a child, Lovell enjoyed rocketry, and often built flying models. His father had died when he was young, and he went to in Indiana with a family member for about two years.
Lovell went on to attend the University of Wisconsin. While in university, he joined fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. After graduating from university in 1952, Lovell went into the United States Navy. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy. In the same year, Lovell married a woman named Marilyn Gerlach. They had four children together, Barbara, James, Susan, and Jeffrey.
United States Navy
Lovell became a pilot for the United States Navy, and was stationed at a number of air bases. In 1958, he went to Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Maryland at the Naval Air Test Center. He graduated first in his class. Lovell was a test pilot for four years, and also served as the F4H “Phantom” Fighter Program Manager.
In late 1958, Lovell was chosen to become one of 110 test pilots picked as potential astronauts for the Project Mercury mission. He made it to the Mercury Seven, but failed to make the final cuts due to medical reasons. His higher than average bilirubin count in his blood was the reason for his dismissal. While at Pax River, Lovell was given the nickname, Shaky.
Lovell became an astronaut for NASA in September of 1962. He had previously served as a backup pilot for the Gemini 4 flight and backup Commander for the Gemini 9 flight. He also served as the backup Commander on the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, alongside Neil Armstrong. In December of 1965, Lovell, alongside Frank Borman, left for the Gemini 7 mission. The history-making flight took a total of 330 hours and 35 minutes.
On November 11, 1966, the Gemini 12 mission occurred, piloted by Edwin Aldrin and commanded by Lovell. This flight lasted 4 days and brought the Gemini program to a successful close. During the Apollo 8 journey, Lovell served as the Command Module Navigator and Pilot. Apollo 8 was the first spacecraft to have ever been lifted to near-earth orbit, and Lovell and his crewman became the first people to leave Earth’s gravitational orbit.
From April 11th to the 17th of 1970, Lovell, Fred W. Haise, and John L. Swigert Jr. flew the Apollo 13 mission. This 4 day, 22 hour trip was used to attempt a third lunar landing. The mission was aborted after an oxygen tank ruptured. Due to explosions and other damage, the mission led to very low amounts of breathable air, water, fuel, and electrical power. Since the spacecraft was no longer operational, the astronauts completed the mission in the small Lunar Module. They circled the moon once and had barely made it back to Earth.
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