NASA Astronaut Passes Away at 87

NASA Astronaut Passes Away at 87

( – NASA made six crewed landings on the moon between July 1969 and December 1972. The Apollo 16 mission touched down and remained on the lunar surface for 11 days in April 1972. Three men were aboard the spaceship. Sadly, a second crew member has now passed away.

On November 2, NASA issued a press release announcing the death of Thomas K. Mattingly II, who passed away at the age of 87 on October 31. The administration paid homage to Mattingly, acknowledging him as the “key to the success of [its] Apollo Program” and as someone with a “shining personality.” His friend, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, said Mattingly had nerves of steel and could “handle an immense degree of responsibility under pressure without getting rattled,” per NBC News.

Mattingly became a US Navy pilot after enlisting in 1958 and receiving his wings just two years later in 1960. He later joined the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School, and NASA selected him in 1966 to join its astronaut class. From there, Mattingly became an integral part of the Apollo Space Program. He worked in many roles, from crew support for the Apollo 8 and Apollo 11 missions to leading the team in designing the backpack and spacesuit used by Apollo crews.

Not only did Mattingly himself land on the moon’s surface in April 1972, but he became a pivotal part of ensuring Apollo 13 made it home when its service module oxygen tank ruptured. NBC News reported that according to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, he helped provide “key real-time decisions.” He was initially supposed to be on the ship, but exposure to German measles grounded him just a few days before liftoff. John Swigert, Jr. replaced him. Fortunately, all three of the crew onboard survived.

After the penultimate Apollo 16 mission, it would be nearly 10 years before he commanded a spaceship again in 1982 and 1985. He flew 504 hours in space, and NASA colleagues will forever remember him for his contributions to the field.

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