Failure is Not an Option

James A. Lovell

Captain, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Bachelor of Science, U.S. Naval Academy
Advanced Management Program, Harvard Business School

About the Man

As a teenager, Lovell spent time building and fixing model rockets. It was as if he somehow knew that he was destined to fly a rocket into space.

After graduating from high school in 1946, Lovell spent two years in the Navy Midshipman Program at the University of Wisconsin. He attended the Naval Air Training Station at Pensacola, Florida, for flight training. After training at the station for two months, he entered the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

In 1952, he received his bachelor's degree. Lovell attended the Aviation Safety School at the University of Southern California. He then served as a test pilot for the Navy Air Test Center at Patuxent River, Maryland. Lovell became a United States Naval Aviator using all the knowledge and training he had behind him. He was a test pilot, a flight instructor, and a safety instructor, with Fighter Squadron 101 at the Naval Air Station in Oceana, Virginia.

In September of 1962, James Lovell became an astronaut for the US Space Program.

About the Spaceflights

Gemini 7

Dec. 4 ,1965

Astronauts Lovell and Borman lifted off aboard the Gemini 7 spacecraft. The flight lasted a record-breaking fourteen days in orbit around the Earth. Walter M. Schirra and L. Gordon Cooper joined Lovell and Borman in space, on the twelfth day of the flight, aboard the Gemini 6 spacecraft. The two space vehicles flew three feet apart, 185 miles above the Earth, for five hours. It was the first American space rendezvous.

Flight Duration: Thirteen days, Eighteen hours, Thirty-five minutes, and One second

Gemini 12

Nov. 11-15,1966

On November 11, 1966, Gemini 12 lifted off with astronauts James Lovell and Buzz Aldrin aboard. Gemini 12's mission objectives were a rendezvous and docking, with prolonged extravehicular activities for Aldrin. During the flight of Gemini 12, Buzz Aldrin was partially or completely outside the orbiting vehicle for a total of five and one-half hours.

Gemini 12's flight lasted ninety-four hours and thirty-three minutes. The capsule splashed down at 2:21 p.m. on November 15, 1966. It was the last flight in the Gemini series, and NASA announced that Project Gemini had been a success. On November 23, 1966, at President Lyndon B. Johnson's ranch in Texas, James A. Lovell and Buzz Aldrin received NASA's Exceptional Service Award.

Robert R. Gilruth, the Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center, now the Johnson Space Center, conveyed his thoughts to the astronauts. At the conclusion of the Gemini 12 space flight, he said:

* "We have done all of the things we had to do as a prelude to Apollo. I believe the Gemini program has been successful."
*{From World Topics-Yearbook 1967, a book published by The United Educators}

Flight Duration: Three days, Twenty-two hours, Thirty-four minutes, and Thirty-one seconds

Apollo 8

December 21-27, 1968

Assigned to the Apollo 8 mission were James Lovell, Frank Borman, and William A. Anders. It was the first manned lunar orbit flight. It was also the first of three flights in preparation for the Apollo 11 manned lunar landing mission.

On December 21, 1968, Apollo 8 lifted off into the atmosphere. The second stage of the rocket fired, and boosted the spacecraft into Earth's orbit. The third stage fired, sending Apollo 8 on its precisely calculated 240,000-mile flight to the Moon.

The astronauts televised their expedition for viewers back home on Earth. As the spacecraft left the gravitational pull of Earth, it entered the Moon's gravitational influence. It was the first time man had ventured into the gravity field of another body in the solar system.

Commander Lovell and his crew entered lunar orbit on December 24, 1968. They orbited the Moon ten times in twenty-one hours. The astronauts radioed and televised views of the lunar surface to Earth, while conducting their assigned duties.

Commander Lovell's primary assignment was to corroborate lunar navigational charts. In addition, NASA assigned him to check the lighting conditions at choice prospective landing sites for future lunar landings. At 4:49 a.m., on December 24, 1968, Apollo 8 curved behind the Moon.

Ten minutes later, another rocket fired, putting the spacecraft into lunar orbit. On the far side of the Moon, the crew and its spacecraft were out of tracking and communications range with Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas. It was not until twenty minutes later that Mission Control knew Apollo 8 was, in fact, in lunar orbit. During subsequent orbits, Lovell and his crew could eat and take short rest periods.

The men aboard Apollo 8 were the first to see a lunar sunrise. In the book, We Reach the Moon 1969, by John Noble Wilford, Lovell said that he saw the Earth as 'a grand oasis in the big vastness of space'.

On December 25, 1968, shortly after 1:00 a.m., Apollo 8's rocket fired, boosting the spacecraft out of lunar orbit, and onto its return flight to Earth. The return trip of the Apollo 8 spacecraft lasted two and one-half days. It splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 10:51 a.m., on December 27, 1968. NASA debriefed the crew for a total of eight days on the flight of Apollo 8.The flight of Apollo 8 accomplished what it intended to do.

The flight proved, among other things, that the navigational systems of the Apollo spacecraft met the challenge of lunar flight. The Apollo 8 mission also proved that astronauts could rely on the Service Module to fire with accuracy. The crew learned that the Sea of Tranquility was a safe place to land. The Sea of Tranquility was one of the possible landing sites NASA had planned to use for a manned lunar landing mission.

For their accomplishments, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Gold Medals to the astronauts of Apollo 8. New York held a dazzling ticker tape parade in honor of the Apollo 8 astronauts. The efforts of the crew of Apollo 8 paved the way for a safe manned lunar landing

In March of 1969, James Lovell became the staff director of the Presidential Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. During the summer of 1969, he headed a day-camp sports program for youths in underprivileged communities, across forty states in the U.S.

One year later, a crucial space flight would test Lovell's physical and mental capabilities in ways no one could have envisioned.

Flight Duration: 6 days, three hours, zero minutes, and forty-two seconds

Apollo 13

April 11-17, 1970

Astronauts Lovell, Haise and Swigert, lifted off aboard Apollo 13, on April 11, 1970. The target site for the spacecraft was a spot on the Moon called the Fra Mauro Formation. While in Earth's orbit over the Pacific Ocean, a rocket fired, sending the craft on its translunar path.

Less than two days later, on April 13, 205,000 miles from Earth, an oxygen tank exploded in the SM of the Apollo 13 spacecraft. Loss of oxygen and electrical power forced the crew of Apollo 13 to abort the planned lunar landing. The crew had to change its course, swing around the Moon, and head back to Earth. Accomplishing this feat was not as simple as it might sound. The crew had to overcome many obstacles before they would be out of danger.

Detecting key stars was the sole means of determining the spacecraft's position, or attitude. Shortly after the explosion, Lovell saw a mass of particles surrounding the spacecraft that looked like stars. Therefore, navigating the spacecraft was difficult for the astronauts. The crew needed to align the Lunar Excursion Module's guidance system with that of the Command Module's, while it still had enough power.

To conserve power in the CM needed for reentry into the Earth's atmosphere, the crew shut down all unnecessary systems and moved into the LEM. Once inside the LEM, they had discovered that another problem needed their immediate attention.

The system for removing carbon dioxide from the LEM was not functioning properly. The LEM was progressively accumulating dangerous levels of carbon dioxide. Ground crews in Houston came up with a temporary air purifier that the crew could assemble, using materials aboard the Apollo 13 spacecraft.

Houston gave the astronauts detailed instructions for constructing the air purifier. The crew literally had to fit a square peg into a round hole. The air purifier worked, and the amount of carbon dioxide in the LEM, stayed below hazardous levels.

To reenter the Earth's atmosphere, the Apollo 13 spacecraft had to follow a definite course. To follow that course, the astronauts needed to find a focal point to use as a guide. The corridor for reentry into Earth's atmosphere was extremely narrow. Under normal circumstances, it would not have been a problem.

However, with conditions on the Apollo 13 spacecraft being what they were, moments that were more anxious lay ahead for the astronauts. If the craft came in too low, it would burn up in the atmosphere. If it came in too high, it would bounce off the Earth's atmosphere and be thrown back out into space.

As the world watched, prayed, and waited, the crew of Apollo 13 splashed down on April 17, 1970. The astronauts were seriously dehydrated and extremely weak, but they had made it back home.

Flight Duration: Five days, Twenty-two hours, and Fifty-four minutes

Photo and caption courtesy of NASA

Clockwise from left: The launch, damage from the explosion, the lunar module Aquarius, the improvised air scrubber, and (from left) Fred Haise, Jim Lovell and Jack Swigert.

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