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Apollo 16 Astronaut Ken Mattingly Passes Away At The Age Of 87

Mars Sample Return
NASA is addressing concerns from a review board about its Mars Sample Return mission. (PHOTO: European Space Agency)

NASA said on Thursday that Thomas K. Mattingly, a crucial commander on the moon landing mission Apollo 16, has passed away at the age of 87.

What Happened?

NASA announced in a statement that Mattingly, often known as Ken or T.K., passed away on October 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,” Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator, said.

Hailed for his achievements as the command module pilot of the Apollo 16 mission that made a moon landing in 1972, Mattingly was a very proficient pilot. The astronaut team accomplished all of its primary goals and was able to gather samples from the lunar highlands during that trip.

However, he was also well-known for being cut from the tragic Apollo 13 crew just 72 hours before the mission was supposed to launch.

On Apollo 13, oxygen tank No. 2 exploded nearly 56 hours after takeoff, leading to the failure of tank No. 1. The famous line that Lovell phoned down to mission control was, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

About Ken Mattingly

Mattingly was crucial in assisting in the crew’s return to Earth. “He stayed behind and provided key real-time decisions to successfully bring home the wounded spacecraft and the crew of Apollo 13,” Nelson said in a statement.

Ken Mattingly


Chicago-born Mattingly joined the US Navy in 1958 and qualified as a pilot two years later. He piloted planes for two years while stationed on the battleship USS Franklin D. Roosevelt.

He was selected by NASA in 1966 to be one of the class of 19 astronauts. He participated in the creation and testing of the Apollo spacesuit and backpack while serving as a member of the astronaut support crew for missions 8 and 11.

He waited nearly ten years after serving as an Apollo Program command module pilot before taking the helm once more. Mattingly led the spacecraft on two space shuttle missions in 1982 and 1985.

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