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Ken Mattingly, a NASA astronaut who was scrubbed from the Apollo 13 mission a number of days earlier than launch after being uncovered to measles, then wound up serving to devise a plan to return the crew safely to Earth following an onboard explosion, died Oct. 31 in Arlington, Va. He was 87.

A NASA spokeswoman confirmed the loss of life. No different data was supplied.

In early April of 1970, Mr. Mattingly was in his automobile when breaking information came to visit the radio: Jack Swigert was changing him as command module pilot on the moon-bound flight.

“I simply type of pulled over to the facet of the street and sat there for some time,” Mr. Mattingly recalled in a NASA oral historical past. “If this can be a sensible joke, it’s rather well carried out, however I don’t suppose this can be a joke.”

The astronaut had been uncovered to German measles by Charles Duke, a backup pilot on the flight. Preflight blood assessments confirmed Mr. Mattingly lacked immunity to the illness. NASA medical doctors feared he may turn into sick whereas in area.

Left on the bottom whereas Swigert, James Lovell and Fred Haise blasted off to stroll on the moon, Mr. Mattingly was relegated, in his phrases, to “fifth wheel” standing on the mission operations middle.

“I actually was feeling very down, very sorry for myself,” he mentioned within the NASA oral historical past.

His colleagues comforted him by protecting their distance from him.

“The good factor was nobody ever mentioned something,” Mr. Mattingly mentioned. “They knew higher. They simply didn’t.”

On the third day of the mission, an onboard explosion knocked out energy and oxygen within the command module. In the course of the subsequent 4 days – the window during which he may have however by no means got here down with the measles – Mr. Mattingly strategized with NASA employees on plans to convey the crew safely dwelling.

In Ron Howard’s 1995 film “Apollo 13,” actor Gary Sinise portrayed Mr. Mattingly tinkering alone for hours in a simulator testing a plan for the astronauts to retreat to Apollo’s lunar module earlier than shifting again to the command module to land.

Mr. Mattingly mentioned the film “over-embellished” his function, acknowledging that others helped him. His comrades praised his contributions, as did NASA.

“He stayed behind and supplied key real-time choices to efficiently convey dwelling the wounded spacecraft and the crew of Apollo 13,” NASA Administrator Invoice Nelson mentioned in an announcement after Mr. Mattingly’s loss of life.

Two years after he helped convey Apollo 13 dwelling, Mr. Mattingly served as command module pilot of Apollo 16, NASA’s penultimate moon mission. As astronauts Duke and John Younger explored the moon, Mr. Mattingly stayed behind in lunar orbit conducting experiments and taking images.

On the way in which again to Earth, Mr. Mattingly performed a spacewalk to gather canisters of movie and different supplies.

He additionally discovered his marriage ceremony ring, which had vanished earlier within the mission.

“Usually I discovered I may discover issues after a protracted time period — they’d acquire on the air filters,” he recalled. “But it surely by no means confirmed up.”

With the hatch open, Duke mentioned, “Take a look at that.”

“And there was my marriage ceremony ring floating out the door,” Mr. Mattingly recalled. “I grabbed it, and we put it within the pocket. We had the possibilities of a gazillion to 1.”

Thomas Kenneth Mattingly II was born in Chicago on March 17, 1936, and grew up in Hialeah, Fla., close to Miami. His father labored for Japanese Airways as a mechanic and supervisor for 41 years, and his mom was a homemaker.

Father and son have been grasp builders of paper airplanes, testing them at a park now named after the astronaut.

“They used to spend hours engaged on these planes and speaking about what it will be prefer to fly,” Mr. Mattingly’s mom informed the Miami Herald. “In these days, we by no means even dreamed of flying to area.”

Mr. Mattingly studied aeronautical engineering at Auburn College, graduating in 1958. He was commissioned within the Navy the identical yr and shortly turned a naval aviator.

In 1966, Mr. Mattingly — referred to as quiet and protecting of his personal life — was one among 19 astronauts chosen in NASA’s fifth class of area explorers. His first spaceflight was aboard Apollo 16. He additionally served as commander on area shuttle missions in 1982 and 1985.

After logging 504 hours in area, Mr. Mattingly retired as a rear admiral and labored within the personal sector for a few years, primarily for aerospace firms.

Survivors embody his spouse, Kathleen Ruemmele Mattingly, and a son, Thomas Ok. Mattingly III.

The information that Mr. Mattingly was being scrubbed from the Apollo 13 flight didn’t sit properly with the mission’s different astronauts, particularly Lovell.

“How lengthy is the incubation interval for this factor?” he requested the flight surgeon, in line with his 1994 e-book “Misplaced Moon,” co-written with Jeffrey Kluger.

The reply: 10 days to 2 weeks. Lovell did the mathematics. Mr. Mattingly can be wholesome at liftoff and on arrival to the moon.

“Then what’s the issue?” Lovell requested the flight surgeon. “If he begins operating a fever when Fred and I are down on the floor, he can have that complete time to recover from it. If he’s not higher by then, he can simply sweat it out on the flight dwelling.”

In any case, Lovell concluded, “I can’t consider a greater place to have the measles than in a pleasant cozy spaceship.”

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