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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Players in Apollo 13 Mission to Speak at Centennial Convocation

CANYON, Texas—Apollo 13 Mission Commander James Lovell and Flight Director Gene Kranz will be the keynote speakers at West Texas A&M University’s Centennial Convocation at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12 at the First United Bank Center. The event will close out a year of special WTAMU Centennial events as Lovell and Kranz, who just celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission, share their experiences on that historic spaceflight.

“We are very excited to have Capt. Jim Lovell and Gene Kranz for our Centennial Convocation speakers,” Dr. Amy Andersen, a member of the Centennial Committee, said. “They will speak on the ‘successful failure’ of the Apollo 13 mission with a focus on teamwork and overcoming adversity. It seems an appropriate topic for us as we celebrate 100 years of success here at WTAMU.”

Lovell was flying his fourth mission for NASA in April 1970 when as spacecraft commander of the Apollo 13 flight, he calmly reported to mission control, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” That simple statement changed the course of history for Apollo 13. The mission was quickly aborted, and Lovell and his fellow astronauts John L. Swigert and Fred W. Haise worked with mission control to overcome the failure of the oxygen system for a safe return home.

And on the ground, Kranz said, “Failure is not an option,” as he helped guide the crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft back home. The Apollo 13 mission was a failure in every sense of the word, but the mission also proved to be a success in terms of team work and diligence in getting the crew back to Earth. Apollo 13 landed safely in the Pacific Ocean on April 17, 1970. The mission attracted the attention of millions and is legendary in the history of human spaceflight.

Lovell joined NASA in 1962 and made his first space flight on the Gemini 7 mission. In 1968 he served as command module pilot and navigator on man’s maiden voyage to the moon on Apollo 8. It was during that mission that Lovell and his fellow crewmen became the first humans to leave the Earth’s gravitational influence.

He retired from the Navy and from NASA’s space program in 1973. He’s been a successful businessman and wrote the bestselling book Lost Moon about the Apollo 13 mission. He now serves as president of Lovell Communications, a firm that promotes public interest in spaceflight.

Kranz joined the NASA Space Task Group in 1960 and was assigned as assistant flight director for Project Mercury. He took on flight director duties for all Project Gemini Missions and served as branch chief for flight control operations. In 1968 he was named division chief for flight control and was director for many Apollo missions, including the ill-fated Apollo 13. He retired from NASA in 1994. He is the author of Failure Is Not An Option and now keeps busy as a consultant and motivational speaker. He also performs at air shows as a flight engineer on a B-17 “Flying Fortress.”

Both Lovell and Kranz are recipients of many awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

WTAMU’s Centennial Convocation is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Andersen at 806-651-2609.

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