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Jim Lovell

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Portrait of Apollo 13 Commander James A. Lovell, Jr. (NASA)
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Portrait of Apollo 13 Commander James A. Lovell, Jr. (NASA)

James A. Lovell, Jr., Captain, USN, Ret. (born March 25, 1928) is a former NASA astronaut, most famous as the commander who brought the crippled Apollo 13 back safely.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, he went to the University of Wisconsin, where he became a brother of Alpha Phi Omega, and then the United States Naval Academy, graduating in 1952 and entering the United States Navy. He spent four years as a test pilot at the Naval Air Test Center in Patuxent River, Maryland. He was considered for the Mercury Seven but turned down, then was selected in 1962 for the second group of NASA astronauts.

Lovell was the backup pilot for Gemini 4, and his first spaceflight was as pilot of Gemini 7 in December 1965, which was the first flight to spend a fortnight in space, and also conducted the first space rendezvous with Gemini 6A. Lovell was originally scheduled to be the backup commander of Gemini 12, but after the deaths of Elliott See and Charles Bassett, he became backup commander of Gemini 9A, and in November 1966 made his second flight into space as commander of Gemini 12. After these two flights, Lovell had spent more time in space than any other astronaut.

He was then made command module pilot on what would become the crew of Apollo 8 after Michael Collins, the original pilot, suffered a bone spur on his spine. Along with Frank Borman and William Anders, Lovell flew on Apollo 8 in December 1968, the first manned mission to travel to the Moon.

Lovell was backup commander of Apollo 11 and was scheduled to command Apollo 14, but he and his crew swapped missions with the crew of Apollo 13, as it was felt the commander of the other crew, Alan Shepard, needed more time to train after being grounded for a long period. On April 11 1970, Lovell took off on Apollo 13 with Fred Haise and Jack Swigert, planning to land on the Moon along with Haise. But on April 13, an oxygen tank on the spacecraft exploded, causing it to lose oxygen and power. The mission was aborted, and using the lunar module's engine, oxygen and power, Lovell and his crew travelled once around the Moon and returned to Earth safely on April 17. Lovell was one of only three men to travel to the Moon twice, but unlike John Young and Eugene Cernan, he never walked on it.

His four flights made him the recordholder for time in space (over 715 hours) until the Skylab missions. It is also possible that he holds the record (with his Apollo 13 crewmates) for farthest distance a human has travelled from Earth.

He retired from the Navy and the space program in 1973 and went to work at the Bay-Houston Towing Company in Houston, Texas, becoming CEO in 1975. He became president of Fisk Telephone Systems in 1977, and later worked for Centel, retiring as an executive vice president on January 1, 1991.

He has four children with his wife Marilyn.

Along with Jeffrey Kluger, Lovell wrote a book on the Apollo 13 mission, Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13. The book was used as a basis for the movie Apollo 13, in which Lovell was portrayed by Tom Hanks, although the physical resemblance is slight. (Lovell had personally wanted Kevin Costner, who resembled him more, to portray him.) Lovell had a cameo appearance at the end of the movie as the captain of the recovery ship USS Iwo Jima. In the HBO series From The Earth To The Moon, Lovell was portrayed by Tim Daly.

In 1999, Lovell, along with his family, opened Lovell's of Lake Forest, a fine dining restaurant in Lake Forest, Illinois. The restaurant displays many artifacts from Lovell's time with NASA, as well as from the filming of Apollo 13. Lovell's son Jay is the executive chef.

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