James Arthur "Jim" Lovell, Jr. (born March 25, 1928) is a former NASA astronaut and a retired captain in the United States Navy, most famous as the commander of the Apollo 13 mission, which suffered a critical failure en route to the Moon but was brought back safely to Earth by the efforts of the crew and mission control. Lovell was also the command module pilot of Apollo 8, the first Apollo mission to enter lunar orbit. He is a recipient of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is one of only 24 people to have flown to the Moon, the first of only three people to fly to the Moon twice, and the only one to have flown there twice without making a landing. Lovell was also the first person to fly in space four times.

Early lifeEdit

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1928, Lovell was the only child of his mother Blanche, who was of Czech descent, and his father, who died in a car accident in 1933.[1] For about two years, he and his mother resided with a relative in Terre Haute, Indiana. His mother then moved them to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he graduated from Juneau High School and became an Eagle Scout.[2][3][4][5]

As a child, Lovell was interested in rocketry, and built flying models.[6] From the fall of 1946 to the spring of 1948, he attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison for two years under the "Flying Midshipman" program, where he joined the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity.

While Lovell was attending pre-flight training in the summer of 1948, the Navy was beginning to make cutbacks in the program and cadets were under a great deal of pressure to transfer out. There were even worries that some or most of the pilots that graduated wouldn't have pilot billets to fill. (This threat persisted until the later outbreak of the Korean War in 1950.) He applied and was accepted to attend the United States Naval Academy in the fall of 1948. He attended Annapolis for the full four years, graduating as an Ensign in the spring of 1952 with a B.S. degree. He then went to flight training at NAS Pensacola from October 1952 to February 1954.

Marriage and familyEdit

He married Marilyn Lillie Gerlach (b. July 11, 1930), the daughter of Lillie (née Nordrum 1891–1974) and Carl Gerlach. The two were high-school sweethearts at Juneau High School in Milwaukee.[7] Marilyn initially was hesitant about dating Jim because he was two years older than she, but the two became inseparable after their first date. She transferred from Wisconsin State Teachers College to George Washington University in Washington D.C. so she could be near him while he was training in Annapolis. They married after his graduation from the Naval Academy on June 6, 1952.[8][9]

They have four children: Barbara (born in 1953), James (1955), Susan (1958), and Jeffrey (1966). Due to her husband often being absent from the home because of training and missions, Marilyn was in charge of taking care of their household and four children. Their home life during the Apollo 13 mission of 1970 was portrayed in the 1995 film Apollo 13. Actress Kathleen Quinlan was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Marilyn Lovell.[10]

In 1999 the Lovell 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. His son James "Jay" Lovell III was the executive chef.[11] He sold the restaurant to Jay and his wife Darice in 2006. The Lovell family announced that the restaurant building and surrounding property was on the market in February 2014.[12] The restaurant closed on April 12, 2015, and the property (but not the memorabilia) was auctioned on April 22, 2015.[13]

United States NavyEdit

Upon completion of pilot training Lovell served at sea flying F2H Banshee night fighters from 1954 to 1957. In January 1958, he entered a six-month test pilot training course at what was then the Naval Air Test Center (now the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, (also known as Pax River), along with Charles (Peter) Conrad and Wally Schirra. Lovell graduated first in his class.[6]

Later that year, Lovell, Conrad, and Schirra became three of 110 military test pilots selected as potential astronaut candidates for Project Mercury. Schirra went on to become one of the Mercury Seven, but Lovell and Conrad failed to make the cut for medical reasons: Lovell because of a temporarily high bilirubin count in his blood[6] and Conrad for refusing to take the second round of invasive medical tests. Lovell continued for four years at Pax River as a test pilot and instructor, using the call sign "Shaky", a nickname given him by Conrad.[14][15]

NASA careerEdit

Template:BLP sources section In 1962 NASA needed a second group of astronauts for the Gemini and Apollo programs. Lovell applied again and, this time, was accepted into NASA Astronaut Group 2, as was Conrad.

Gemini programEdit

Lovell and Aldrin on Deck - GPN-2000-001356

Buzz Aldrin and Lovell on the deck of their recovery ship after Gemini 12.

Lovell was selected as backup Pilot for Gemini 4, which put him in position for his first space flight three missions later, as Pilot of Gemini 7 with Command Pilot Frank Borman in December 1965. This flight set an endurance record of fourteen days in space and also was the target vehicle for the first space rendezvous with Gemini 6A.

Lovell was later scheduled to be the backup Command Pilot of Gemini 10 but, after the deaths of the Gemini 9 prime crew Elliot See and Charles Bassett, he replaced Thomas P. Stafford as backup commander of Gemini 9A. This again positioned Lovell for his second flight and first command, of Gemini 12 in November 1966 with Pilot Buzz Aldrin.

Apollo programEdit

Apollo 8Edit

Apollo 8 Lovell at Guidance and Navigation station

Lovell at the Command Module Guidance and Navigation station during the Apollo 8 mission.

Main article: Apollo 8

Lovell was originally chosen as Command Module Pilot on the backup crew for Apollo 9, planned as a high-apogee Earth orbital test of the Lunar Module, along with Neil Armstrong as Commander and Buzz Aldrin as Lunar Module Pilot. Lovell later replaced Michael Collins as CMP on the Apollo 9 prime crew, reuniting him with his Gemini 7 commander Frank Borman, and LM pilot William Anders, when Collins needed to have surgery for a bone spur on his spine.[16]

Delays in construction of the first manned LM prevented it from being ready in time to fly on Apollo 8, planned as a low Earth orbit test. It was decided to swap the Apollo 8 and Apollo 9 prime and backup crews in the flight schedule so that the crew trained for the low-orbit test could fly it as Apollo 9, when the LM would be ready. The original Apollo 9 medium Earth orbit test was replaced with a lunar orbital flight, now Apollo 8. Borman, Lovell and Anders were launched on December 21, 1968, becoming the first men to travel to the Moon.

As CM Pilot, Lovell served as the navigator, using the spacecraft's built-in sextant to determine its position by measuring star positions. This information was then used to calculate required mid-course corrections. The craft entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve and made a total of ten orbits, most of them circular at an altitude of approximately 70 miles (Template:Convert/round km) for a total of twenty hours. They broadcast black-and-white television pictures of the lunar surface back to Earth, and Lovell took his turn with Borman and Anders in reading a passage from the Biblical creation story in the Book of Genesis.

They began their return to Earth on Christmas Day with a rocket burn made on the Moon's far side, out of radio contact with Earth. (For this reason, the lunar orbit insertion and trans-Earth injection burns were the two most tense moments of this first lunar mission.) When contact was re-established, Lovell was the first to announce the good news, "Please be informed, there is a Santa Claus." The crew splashed down safely on Earth December 27.

Apollo 13Edit

Jim Lovell at LC-39

Lovell in front of the launch pad before the Apollo 13 mission.

Jim Lovell newspaper

Lovell reads newspaper account of Apollo 13's safe return aboard recovery vessel USS Iwo Jima.

Main article: Apollo 13

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 having been grounded for a long period. Lovell lifted off aboard Apollo 13 on April 11, 1970 with CM Pilot Jack Swigert and LM Pilot Fred Haise. He and Haise were to land on the Moon.

During a routine cryogenic oxygen tank stir in transit to the Moon, damaged electrical insulation on wiring created a spark and started a fire inside the tank. Liquid oxygen rapidly turned into a high-pressure gas, which burst the tank and caused the leak of a second oxygen tank. In just over two hours, all on-board oxygen was lost, disabling the hydrogen fuel cells that provided electrical power to the Command/Service Module Odyssey. This required an immediate abort of the Moon landing mission; the sole objective now was to safely return the crew to Earth.

Using the LM as a "life boat" providing battery power, oxygen, and propulsion, Lovell and his crew re-established the free return trajectory that they had left, and swung around the Moon to return home. Based on the flight controllers' calculations made on Earth, Lovell had to adjust the course two times by manually controlling the Lunar Module's thrusters and engine, using his watch for timing. Apollo 13 returned safely to Earth on April 17. Lovell is one of only three men to travel to the Moon twice, but unlike John Young and Eugene Cernan, he never walked on it.

Lovell accrued over 715 hours, and had seen a total of 269 sunrises from space on his Gemini and Apollo flights. This was a personal record that stood until the Skylab 3 mission in July through September 1973.[17] It is also probable that Apollo 13's flight trajectory gives Lovell, Haise, and Swigert the record for the farthest distance that humans have ever travelled from Earth.[18][19]

Later careerEdit

Lovell 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. Lovell, a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award,[20] later served as the President of the National Eagle Scout Association in the mid-1990s. He was also recognized by the Boy Scouts of America with their prestigious Silver Buffalo Award.

Along with Jeffrey Kluger, Lovell wrote a book about the Apollo 13 mission, Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13.[6] This book was the basis for the later Ron Howard movie Apollo 13. Lovell's first impression on being approached about the film was that Kevin Costner would be a good choice to portray him, given the physical resemblance,[21] but Tom Hanks was cast in the role. In order to prepare, Hanks visited Lovell and his wife at their house in Texas and even went for a ride with Lovell in his private airplane.

In the film, Lovell has a cameo as the captain of the USS Iwo Jima, the naval vessel that led the operation to recover the Apollo 13 astronauts after their successful splashdown. Lovell can be seen as the naval officer shaking Hanks' hand, as Hanks speaks in voice-over, in the scene in which the astronauts come aboard the Iwo Jima. Filmmakers initially offered to make Lovell's character an admiral aboard the ship (presumably Rear Admiral Donald C. Davis, Commander Task Force 130 (CTF 130), who was the senior officer aboard and welcomed them home). However, Lovell stated "I retired as a Captain and a Captain I will be", and thus he was cast as the ship's skipper, Captain Leland E. Kirkemo.[22] Along with his wife, Marilyn, who also has a cameo in the film, he also provided a commentary track on both the single disc and the two-disc special edition DVD.


Jim Lovell (fourth from right in the middle row) visits with U.S. Air Force members during a March 2010 USO stop in Southwest Asia. Seated next to him on the right are Gene Cernan and Neil Armstrong, respectively.

Lovell also visits colleges and universities where he gives speeches on his experiences as an astronaut and businessman. He strongly urges students to get involved in science and the space program and he credits NASA in the 1960s with bringing much of the country together for a common goal.


A small crater on the far side of the Moon is named Lovell in his honor.[23]

North James Lovell Street is the stretch of 7th Street between W. State Street and W. Clybourn Street in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[24][25]

Discovery World in Milwaukee was also named The James Lovell Museum of Science, Economics and Technology. It was located on James Lovell St., also named for Lovell.[26]

The Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center was completed in October 2010, merging the Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes and the North Chicago Veterans Affairs Medical Center.[27]

Lovell Place is a street in the North Harbour Industrial estate on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand. The streets are named after Apollo and some early Shuttle Astronauts.

Formal educationEdit

Awards and decorationsEdit

Lovell's awards and decorations include:[28][29]

Military, federal service, and foreign awardsEdit

En-NavAstro Naval Aviator Badge
Gold star
Navy Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg
Gold star
Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg
Air Medal ribbon.svg Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal ribbon.svg
Presidential Medal of Freedom (ribbon).png CongSpaceRib.png NasaDisRib.gif
Gold star
USA - NASA Excep Rib.png
China Service Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
Navy Expeditionary Medal ribbon.svg Legion Honneur Commandeur ribbon.svg
Naval Astronaut Badge Naval Aviator Badge
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
with star
Distinguished Flying Cross
with star
Air Medal Navy Commendation Medal
Presidential Medal
of Freedom
Congressional Space
Medal of Honor
NASA Distinguished
Service Medal
NASA Exceptional
Service Medal

with star
China Service Medal World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal
with star
Navy Expeditionary Medal Légion d'honneur

Other awards and accomplishmentsEdit

In popular cultureEdit

About a month after the return to Earth of Apollo 13, Lovell and his crewmates, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert, appeared on The Tonight Show with host Johnny Carson. The introduction of this segment of the show is featured on Lost Moon: The Triumph of Apollo 13 on the single disc DVD version of the movie.

In 1976, Lovell made a cameo appearance in the Nicolas Roeg movie The Man Who Fell to Earth.

In 1995, actor Tom Hanks portrayed Lovell in the hit movie Apollo 13, based on Lovell's book Lost Moon. Lovell himself makes a cameo in this movie, playing the captain of the USS Iwo Jima at the end of the film.

In 1998, actor Tim Daly portrayed Lovell in portions of the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. The film depicts Lovell during his missions aboard Gemini 12, Apollo 8, and Apollo 13, though he is not seen on screen during the latter mission.

Lovell is one of the astronauts featured in the book and documentaries In the Shadow of the Moon and When We Left Earth.

On November 13, 2008, Lovell and fellow Apollo 8 crew members Frank Borman and Bill Anders appeared on the NASA TV channel to discuss the Apollo 8 mission. The three former astronauts later appeared together for a panel discussion centering on Apollo 8 at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library on April 23, 2009, a discussion that was videotaped by C-SPAN.[36]

On July 20, 2014, the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11's landing on the Moon, CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Lee Cowan and his crew did a piece called "Astronaut wives: The other space pioneers" featuring James Lovell and his wife Marilyn Lovell. They celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary in June.[37]


  1. Jim Lovell biography accessed 7-15-2015
  2. "Collecting the Final Frontier: Ohio Historical Society's Collections Blog". 
  3. "Newsletter Spring 2000: Notable Americans with Czech Roots". Archived from the original on 2008-01-23. Retrieved 2007-11-29. 
  4. Template:Cite book
  5. Ray, Mark (2007). "What It Means to Be an Eagle Scout". Scouting Magazine. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2007-01-05. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Template:Cite book
  7. Lovells Big Reception in Milwaukee accessed 7-15-2015
  8. Marilyn Lovell public record accessed 7-15-2015
  9. Lovell married high school sweetheart accessed 7-15-2015
  10. Selection of Lovell puts Kin Into Orbit accessed 7-15-2015
  11. "Lovells of Lake Forest". Lovells of Lake Forest. Retrieved 2013-06-09. 
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  13. "Events". Lovells of Lake Forest. Retrieved July 30, 2015. 
  14. Template:Cite book
  15. "James Lovell". 
  16. Selecting and Training Crews. NASA History.
  17. The Skylab 3 crew spent 1427 hours in space, in addition to commander Alan Bean's over 244 hours on Apollo 12, giving him the second record.
  18. Salgado, José Francisco (30 June 2006). "Captain James A. Lovell, Jr. Timeline" (PDF). Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum. Archived from the original on 2007-11-27. Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  19. Template:Cite book
  20. "Distinguished Eagle Scouts". Retrieved 2010-11-04. 
  21. Template:Cite video
  22. "NASA photographic archive". Retrieved 2013-06-09. 
  23. "Lovell (crater) : Who, What, Where, When". Retrieved December 3, 2012. 
  24. "Jim Lovell". Retrieved 2013-06-09. 
  25. "north james lovell street - Google Maps". 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2013-06-09. 
  26. Template:Cite book
  27. Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center, North Chicago, Illinois. "Lovell Federal Health Care Center". Retrieved 2013-06-09. 
  28. James A. Lovell - NASA Biographical Data
  29. International Space Hall of Fame – New Mexico Museum of Space History
  30. "Space Foundation Survey Reveals Broad Range of Space Heroes". 
  31. "Laureates Alphabetically". The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. 
  32. Template:Cite news
  33. "Life Magazine cover: Jim Lovell". Retrieved 2013-06-09. 
  34. Lovell USAHoF Archived July 25, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  35. "What is Toastmasters?". 
  36. "C-SPAN Apollo 8 Reunion". 2009-04-23. Retrieved 2013-06-09. 
  37. Template:Cite news

External linksEdit


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