Lovell, Jim

Jim Lovell is a former NASA astronaut and a retired captain in the US Navy. He was born as James “Jim” Arthur Lovell, Jr. on March 25, 1928 in Cleveland, Ohio. During his childhood, Lovell was interested in rocketry, and built flying models. His father died in a car accident when he was young. Lovell graduated from Juneau High School in Wisconsin. Later he attended the University of Wisconsin”“Madison for two years. He then transferred to the United States Naval Academy, and entered in the Navy after his graduation in 1952. Lovell married his sweetheart Marilyn that same year, and began their family with a daughter, Barbara. Two years later, his son James was born, and three years after that Susan was born.

Lovell became a Navy pilot and was stationed at several air bases over the years. In January 1958, he entered a six-month test pilot training course at the Naval Air Test Center in Patuxent River, Maryland. Lovell graduated first in his class. Later that year, Lovell became one of 110 military test pilots selected as potential astronaut candidates for Project Mercury. However, he didn’t make the cut due to medical issues. In 1962, NASA needed a second group of astronauts for the Gemini and Apollo programs. Lovell applied again and was accepted into NASA Astronaut Group 2.

Lovell was chosen as a backup Pilot for Gemini 4 and the primary Pilot of Gemini 7 with Pilot Frank Borman in December of 1965. Their flight set an endurance record of fourteen days in space. After a successful flight, he was scheduled to be the backup Pilot of Gemini 10, but after the Gemini 9 prime crew died, Lovell replaced Thomas Stafford as backup commander of Gemini 9A. This put Lovell in line for his second flight and first command of Gemini 12 in November 1966 with Pilot Buzz Aldrin. Between his two space flights Lovell spent more time in space than any other person as of 1966. That year, his youngest son Jeffrey was born.

Because he played an important role in the Gemini projects, Lovell was chosen as Command Module Pilot on the backup crew for Apollo 9, but he replaced Michael Collins as a pilot on the Apollo 9 prime crew. But then, delays in construction of the first manned lunar module prevented it from being ready in time to fly on Apollo 8, so the crews of Apollo 8 and 9 were swapped. The original Apollo 9 high-Earth orbit test was replaced with Apollo 8. Lovell and fellow pilot Anders were launched on December 21, 1968, becoming the first men to travel to the Moon. Lovell served as the navigator and entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, completing ten full orbits. They began their return to Earth on Christmas, and splashed down safely on Earth December 27.

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. Lovell took off on Apollo 13 on April 11, 1970 alongside Jack Swigert and Fred Haise. He and Haise were supposed to land on the moon; however, a heater coil in a cryogenic oxygen tank sparked and turned liquid oxygen into gas, which in turn burst the tank and damaged a second tank. This caused them to lose all of the stored oxygen in two hours. This disabled the power system and required immediate abort of the landing mission. The goal then became to survive. The astronauts used the LM to establish free return trajectory and return home. His combined Gemini and Apollo flights made him the record holder for time in space.

He retired from the Navy and the space program in 1973 and moved to Houston Texas. He worked at the Bay-Houston Towing Company and became CEO in 1975. Two years later, he became president of Fisk Telephone Systems, and later transferred to Centel, where he worked for over ten years before retiring on January 1, 1991. In 1999, the Lovell family opened a restaurant called “Lovell’s of Lake Forest”, where his son James in the executive chef. Along with the restaurant, Lovell visits colleges and universities where he gives speeches on his experiences as an astronaut and businessman.