Photo from http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/
A personal hero of mine is Jim Lovell. Born on March 25, 1928, Lovell, best known for his missions in the Apollo program, was the commander on the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. Despite the danger that he and his crew faced throughout the mission, Lovell kept his head, and safely managed to guide the ship back to safety. His ability to face crises without losing his cool makes him one of my personal heroes.
Lovellís first mission in the Apollo program was on Apollo 8, the shipís mission being to circle the moon and use the thrusters to return to Earth. Originally the backup Command Module Pilot, he took over when the original CMP required back surgery. During the mission, Lovell accidentally erased some of the computerís memory, which caused the computer to ďthinkĒ that the ship had not taken off yet. It then started the thrusters to return the ship to what the computer thought was the correct position. Lovell, after the crew figured out what had happened, used the thrusters to realign the stars Sirius and Rigel to determine their position, and entered the correct data into the computer. This experience would turn out to be a blessing in disguise later in his career.
After watching Neil Armstrongís famous moonwalk, Lovell decided to return to the moon; this time, though, he wanted to land. After signing up for the Apollo 14 mission, he was informed that NASA wanted him on the Apollo 13 mission, because NASA felt that the original crew needed more training. Three days before the launch, the CMP of Apollo 13, Ken Mattingly, exposed himself to German measles, and had to be replaced by Jack Swigert. Finishing the training, the crew prepared to launch.
Lovellís crew was well prepared for the flight; no major malfunctions occurred during the first leg of the trip. On the flightís third day, however, Houston contacted Jack Swigert, the Command Module Pilot, and told him to make a routine stir of the hydrogen and oxygen tanks. Swigert complied, and the result was catastrophic; a short circuit ignited an explosion in the Service Module, causing a fire and leakage in the plumbing. Houston ordered the three-man crew to pile into the Lunar Module, which was meant to support only two men. This resulted in saving the menís lives, but rendered a moon landing impossible, for the LMís life support systems were worn down by the menís stay.
After the crew piled into the LM, Lovell still had several huge problems; Fred Haise, the LM pilot, had a fever, and low electricity levels in the Lunar Module made the temperature drop, causing water condensation which wrecked the LM, and made communication with Houston extremely difficult due to the lack of electricity. After the crew had sling-shot around the moon by using its gravity, Lovell had to operate the controls manually, because if they hit the earth at a certain angle, they would bounce off the atmosphere and head back into space. Lovellís experience on Apollo 8 came in handy, for then he had to operate the controls manually as well. Despite all the difficulties Lovell and his crew faced, the ship re-entered the atmosphere without any problems, and they splashed down six days after the launch.
After Apollo 13, Lovell decided to settle down on Earth. Several years after Apollo 13, Lovell became the head of Bay-Houston Towing Company, and he currently resides in Houston, Texas. Jim Lovellís experience as an astronaut is unlike anyone else. He is the only person who has flown twice to the moon, but has never set foot on it. Despite the fact that he never made a lunar landing, his ability to think quickly and calmly under pressure proved to be a gift on his Apollo missions. His unique gift makes him a personal hero of mine.