Astronaut Thomas K. “TK” Mattingly, best known for helping to guide the Apollo 13 mission home from near-catastrophe in 1970, has died, officials said Thursday.
He was 87.
“We lost one of our country’s heroes on Oct. 31. NASA astronaut TK Mattingly was key to the success of our Apollo Program, and his shining personality will ensure he is remembered throughout history,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
Mattingly was the command module pilot aboard Apollo 16 when astronauts explored the moon’s Descartes Highlands in 1972.
He had been slated to be aboard Apollo 13 but was removed 72 hours before lift due a possible exposure to Rubella.
An on-board explosion aboard Apollo 13 prompted the famous call for help from John “Jack” Swigert, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here,” which has been popularly quoted as, “Houston, we have a problem.”
That harrowing mission was brought to life for another generation by Ron Howard’s 1995 blockbuster movie, “Apollo 13,” which cast Gary Sinise as Mattingly.
Mattingly’s insight and guidance on the ground was considered a crucial in the efforts that brought Swigert, Fred Haise and James Lovell home safely.
“Perhaps his most dramatic role at NASA was after exposure to rubella just before the launch of Apollo 13,” Nelson said.
“He stayed behind and provided key real-time decisions to successfully bring home the wounded spacecraft and the crew of Apollo 13 — NASA astronauts James Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise.”