Jim Lovell flew on Gemini 7, Gemini 12, Apollo 8, and Apollo 13. As Commander of the latter flight, Lovell played the leadership role in safely returning himself and his crew to Earth after an oxygen tank exploded on the way to the moon.
On Gemini 12:
"My grandkids always say that I spent two weeks in my underwear around the
Gemini 7 had some different suits than all the rest of the Gemini
flights, mainly because we were not going to go outside the spacecraft, and for
a two-week mission, we had to figure out a suit that might be a little bit more
comfortable. It was what we call a "get-me-down suit," and it was really cut
into a sitting position, so that when it was inflated, you'd be sort of in a
sitting position. We took off, of course, for a two week mission and the first
thing we thought about was that these suits are nice but let's get out of them.
At that time, you know, management down below were overly, overly cautious
about getting out of spacesuits, and they didn't want us to get out. Well, they
zippered down the back and so soon after I was airborne, I unzippered the thing
and pretty soon I had my butt sticking out the backend and then a little while
later my back was sticking out. Frank kept calling down and saying, "Can we get
out of the suits," and they wouldn't let poor Frank out of the suit; they
finally let me out for a test. I guess I was expendable. So for three days
Frank stayed in the suit, and finally they let him out. And, of course, we flew
the rest of the flight in our long john underwear, and my grandkids always say
that I spent two weeks in my underwear around the Earth.
On Apollo 8: "Our noses were pressed against the glass, we forgot the flight plan, we were
just watching those ancient old craters whistle on by."
When we burned into Earth or into lunar orbit, we didn't see anything
at first. Then we rolled the spacecraft around and all of a sudden down below
us, there was the lunar surface of the back side, only about 60 miles down. You
know, I've often said we were like three schoolkids looking into a candy store
window. Our noses were pressed against the glass, we forgot the flight plan, we
were just watching those ancient old craters whistle on by, because we were the
first three people to see the back side of the moon. Now, we had some pictures
of it from unmanned spacecraft. It was probably the highpoint of my space
career was to see the far side of the moon.
On Apollo 13: "It was not until we really saw the oxygen escape from the rear end of our
spacecraft that we realized that we were in very, very deep trouble."
It was not until we really saw the oxygen escape from the rear end of
our spacecraft that we realized that we were in very, very deep trouble. Then
we got that sinking feeling, you know, that searing sensation in your stomach
when you're in deep trouble and don't know how to get out of it. We knew that
we had to act very rapidly and that meant that we had to force ourselves into
the lunar module. It was very fortunate, though, that I was on Apollo 8,
because some of the problems we had that we had to deal on 8—I
inadvertently, you know, got the computer all fouled up and lost our guidance
system, and I had to do it manually—but it was a good test for me because on
13 we had to do it deliberately to restart the computer and re-get our gyros
aligned. So some of that experience I had on 8 really came through on 13. The
moving into the LAM was not a huge decision, because we had no choice. The
lunar module was only designed to last 45 hours and only designed to support
two people. We had three people and we were at least 90 hours from home. So the
question was how do we stretch a vehicle that was never designed to come back
home in the first place to support three people for 90 hours and with enough
propulsion to get us back home again. That was the challenge.
On Apollo 13: "This particular crisis was somewhat like playing a game of solitaire."
I never got to that point where by I didn't have enough hope to keep on
going. This particular crisis was somewhat like playing a game of solitaire.
You pick up a card and if you can put it someplace, the game keeps on going. So
if you pick up a card which is a crisis, and you can solve the crisis somehow,
the game keeps going. We never got to the point where we picked up a crisis and
there was no solution and the game was over. So we felt, not completely
comfortable, but I managed to get little snippets of sleep by just closing my
eyes and putting my hands together, just floating in front of the console. And
then I'd wake up, it'd be a minute or two minutes later, but it was just enough
to keep me refreshed enough to keep on going. I felt sorry for Fred Haise,
because Haise got sick on the last day or so of the flight, and he was in
pretty miserable shape.