Apollo astronaut Thomas K. Mattingly dies aged 87

A NASA astronaut who was removed from the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission but helped bring its crew back home safely thanks to his problem-solving efforts from ground control has died at the age of 87.

Thomas K. “TK” Mattingly passed away on 31 October, the space agency said in a statement Thursday.

His most dramatic role came when he was assigned as command module pilot for the Apollo 13 flight but was grounded 72 hours prior to launch due to exposure to rubella, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. 

After an explosion crippled the spacecraft on its way to the Moon, Mattingly, who did not, in fact, get sick, went to Mission Control and devised procedures to conserve power so the vehicle could successfully re-enter the atmosphere, ensuring astronauts James Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise survived.

The mission was dramatized in the 1995 film “Apollo 13” in which Mattingly was played by Gary Sinise.

Mattingly began his career as a US Navy pilot before being selected to the astronaut class of 1966.

He later took on the role of command module pilot on the Apollo 16 mission and was the spacecraft commander in two Space Shuttle missions.

“TK’s contributions have allowed for advancements in our learning beyond that of space,” said Nelson.