LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ken Mattingly, an astronaut who is best remembered for his efforts on the ground that helped bring the damaged Apollo 13 spacecraft safely back to Earth, has died, NASA announced. He was 87.
“We lost one of our country's heroes on Oct. 31,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a Thursday statement.
Thomas Kenneth Mattingly II “was key to the success of our Apollo Program, and his shining personality will ensure he is remembered throughout history,” Nelson said.
A former Navy pilot, Mattingly joined NASA in 1966. He helped with development of the spacesuit and backpack for the Apollo moon missions, NASA said.
However, his own first spaceflight only came in 1972 when he orbited the moon as pilot of the Apollo 16 command module, while two other crew members landed on the moon's surface.
On the trip back to Earth, Mattingly spacewalked to collect film cannisters with photographs he had snapped of the moon's surface.
In later years, Mattingly commanded two space shuttle missions and retired from the agency and the Navy as a rear admiral.
But his most dramatic mission was one that he never flew.
In 1970, Mattingly was supposed to have joined the crew of Apollo 13, piloting the command module. But he was removed from the mission a few days before launch after being…