December 5, 2023

He Helped Save Apollo 13: Astronaut Mattingly – Science

“We lost one of our country’s heroes on October 31,” NASA said in a statement. Thomas Kenneth Mattingly has died at the age of 87.

Washington (dpa) – American astronaut Thomas Kenneth Mattingly, who played an important role in the rescue of the Apollo 13 crew in 1970, has died at the age of 87. This was announced by the US space agency NASA.

“We lost one of our country’s heroes on October 31,” she said in a statement. The Navy-trained pilot played a major role in the success of the Apollo program.

Mattingly, known as “TK,” was originally scheduled to be the command module pilot at the time. Since he was exposed to tarantula shortly before takeoff and was not immune to it, he had to remain on the ground for safety reasons. NASA did not want to risk him getting sick during the moon mission. “Of course I was very disappointed,” he said years later.

Mattingly at headquarters

An explosion in the space capsule’s oxygen tank put the crew — Commander Jim Lovell, Fred Hayes, and Jack Swigert, who replaced Mattingly — in severe danger to their lives. “Houston, we have a problem,” the crew reported to the Houston control center.

From headquarters, Mattingly helped a team of experts find solutions for the safe return of his comrades, such as emergency power supplies. “He made important decisions to successfully return the damaged spacecraft and its crew home,” NASA wrote. And on April 17, 1970 – after four anxious days – the team finally landed safely near American Samoa in the Pacific Ocean.

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Ron Howard portrayed the dramatic 1995 rescue in the hit Hollywood film “Apollo 13” with Tom Hanks as Lovell, Bill Paxton as Hayes, Kevin Bacon as Swigert, and Gary Sinise as Mattingly. With “Apollo 16” in 1972, he went on his first space flight as a pilot in the command module.

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