Apollo 13 Astronaut Jim Lovell To Deliver 2009 Ithaca College Commencement Address

ITHACA, NY — Astronaut Jim Lovell, whose message to Mission Control — “Houston, we’ve had a problem” — initiated one of the most dramatic episodes of the space age, has accepted an invitation to deliver the main address at Ithaca College’s Commencement ceremony on May 17, 2009.

In April of 1970, Lovell was serving as commander of the Apollo 13 spacecraft when it suffered an explosion en route to its planned Moon landing. The command module was crippled, the vessel quickly lost most of its air and power supply, and simple survival became the new mission. Lovell and his crew were able to modify the systems in their lunar module into an effective lifeboat, and he steered it in a trajectory around the Moon and back to a safe landing on Earth. The book he later wrote about the incident became the basis of the 1995 Tom Hanks film “Apollo 13.”

“Jim Lovell’s remarkable courage, creativity and determination serve as an inspiration to us all,” said Ithaca College president Tom Rochon. “This is an outstanding opportunity to hear from a man who has given so much to the advancement of science and learning on behalf not only of his country but also of all humankind. His message is one that I am certain will be well received by our graduating seniors and their guests.”

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Lovell served in the Korean War and then as a test pilot at the Naval Air Test Center. In 1962 he was selected by NASA to join the Gemini program after barely missing out on becoming one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts. His missions included the history-making Gemini 7 flight that saw the first rendezvous of two manned spacecraft. He served as the command module pilot and navigator for the journey of Apollo 8, humanity’s maiden voyage to the moon, during which he and his fellow crew were the first humans to leave the earth’s gravitational influence. His fourth and final flight was on the perilous Apollo 13 mission.

“We are thrilled to be able to bring such an historic figure to serve as our commencement speaker,” said A.J. Mizes, president of the senior class. “Mr. Lovell exudes qualities which we should all aspire to display in our daily lives. Through his experience as one of the first humans to leave Earth’s atmosphere, an impressive educational and professional background, and the ingenious, history-making moment on his mission with Apollo 13, he will provide students and the community at large with a lasting and significant message.”

Lovell left the space program in 1973, and today he serves as president of Lovell Communications, a business devoted to disseminating information about the U.S. space program. In addition to having a small part in the “Apollo 13” film, he appeared in several segments of “From the Earth to the Moon,” the acclaimed HBO documentary miniseries that Tom Hanks produced in 1998.

Lovell has garnered an impressive array of honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom; Congressional Space Medal of Honor; French Legion of Honor; NASA Distinguished and Exceptional Service Medals; and two Navy Distinguished Flying Crosses. He is also a fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

Originally published in News Releases: Apollo 13 Astronaut Jim Lovell To Deliver 2009 Ithaca College Commencement Address.