Ken Mattingly, a renowned astronaut who played crucial roles in NASA’s space missions, passed away at the age of 87 in Arlington, Va. He was remembered not only for his significant contributions to space exploration but also for the near-disastrous Apollo 13 mission in 1970, where he was pulled from the crew just days before the launch due to his exposure to German measles. Despite this setback, Mattingly’s career was marked by remarkable achievements, including his pivotal role in the Apollo 16 mission and commanding several space shuttle missions.

Who was Ken Mattingly?

Thomas Kenneth Mattingly II, known as Ken, was born on March 17, 1936, in Chicago and grew up in the Miami area, where his fascination with aviation and space began. With a bachelor’s degree from Auburn University, he joined the Navy as an ensign and became a Navy jet pilot after receiving his wings in 1960. Mattingly’s path led him to the astronaut corps following his attendance at test-pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Mattingly’s first spaceflight came in April 1972 with the Apollo 16 mission, during which he piloted the spacecraft’s command module and captured extensive photographs of the moon’s surface. Despite being pulled from the Apollo 13 mission due to concerns over his exposure to German measles, he played a significant role in guiding the astronauts safely back to Earth from the ground.

Following the Apollo program, Mattingly took on leadership roles within NASA, notably heading the astronaut support office for the space shuttle program. He later commanded the fourth and final Earth-orbiting test flight of the shuttle Columbia in 1982 and the first space shuttle flight for the Department of Defense in 1985 aboard Discovery.

Also Read: Who is Mehak Quereshi? London Designer goes viral for anti-semitic poster

Mattingly’s contributions to space exploration continued well beyond his time at NASA and the Navy. Even after his retirement, he remained involved with the aerospace industry, leaving behind a legacy of dedication and commitment to advancing the boundaries of human space exploration.

The Apollo 13 Mission and Beyond

Despite being famously pulled from the Apollo 13 mission, Mattingly played a vital role in the subsequent rescue efforts after an oxygen tank explosion crippled the command module. His critical instructions and guidance from the ground, along with the heroic efforts of the astronauts on the mission, led to their safe return to Earth.

Mattingly’s story of resilience and dedication was immortalized in the 1995 film “Apollo 13,” where he was portrayed by Gary Sinise. Reflecting on his experience, Mattingly expressed the profound impact of missing out on the mission, emphasizing his enduring connection to the mission’s objectives and the camaraderie shared among astronauts.

Also Read: Who is Natasha Dach? Apple employee faces backlash over anti-semitic post

Mattingly is survived by his wife, Kathleen (Ruemmele) Mattingly, and his son, Thomas III. His legacy continues to inspire future generations of astronauts and space enthusiasts, leaving a profound impact on the history of human space exploration.