Apollo Astronaut Ken Mattingly Dies Aged 877th Nov 2023
Tributes have flooded in for the former NASA astronaut Ken Mattingly, who died at the age of 87 on 31st October. NASA confirmed that Mattingly had died via a statement on 2nd November:
“NASA astronaut TK Mattingly was key to the success of our Apollo Program, and his shining personality will ensure he is remembered throughout history,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. “As a leader in exploratory missions, TK will be remembered for braving the unknown for the sake of our country’s future.”
Ken Mattingly and the Apollo Program
Mattingly was known for a variety of different reasons including being a big part of the Apollo program and being pulled from the Apollo 13 crew due to being in contact with a fellow astronaut carrying the Rubella virus.
He was one of the fifth class of astronauts trained by NASA and would go on to fly to the Moon as well as lead space shuttle missions. He logged 21 days in space and spent over one hour on a near-moon spacewalk. It was the second deep-space extravehicular activity ever.
Long after Apollo 13, Mattingly spoke about not flying on Apollo 13:
“When my body gets below 60 degrees, it doesn’t function,” he explained in an interview in 2001. “If I had been stuck up there, I would have absolutely been a disaster. You can go so far on mental activities, but I know me and I know how my body behaves, and it would have shut down. So it would have been more than just unpleasant for me.”
Among the later achievements of Mattingly were joining the crew of Apollo 16 along with commander John Young. He was the command module pilot, Mattingly remained in lunar orbit in April 1972 while his colleagues stayed on the Moon, circling for over three days while taking photographs and conducting crucial scientific experiments.
Space Shuttle Era
Mattingly’s final trip to space was as commander of the STS-51C crew onboard the shuttle Discovery. They deployed a Department of Defense payload, and a lot of the details of this mission were classified information.
“I still can’t talk about what the mission was,” said Mattingly in his 2001 interview. “When the books are written and somebody finally comes out and tells that chapter, everybody is going to be proud.”
Ken Mattingly was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, as well as the NASA Space Flight Medal, U.S. Navy Astronaut Wings, and the Ivan C. Kincheloe Award. In 1983 he was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1983 and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2009, he accepted NASA’s Ambassador of Exploration award.
Mattingly had one son, Thomas Kenneth Mattingly III, born in 1972.