Payload Blog

Remembering Apollo Astronaut Ken Mattingly

Astronaut Thomas Kenneth Mattingly passed away on October 31, 2023 at the age of 87. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will honor him with a remembrance wreath located inside the rotunda in Heroes & Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®. He served as the command module pilot on Apollo 16 and also played a key role in getting the Apollo 13 crew home safely.

Mattingly spent 504 hours in space over the span of three space flights. He was scheduled to be the Apollo 13 command module pilot, but after being exposed to German measles, Jack Swigert replaced him. He still played an important role in bringing the crew home by assisting with solving a power conservation issue during re-entry. As command module pilot on Apollo 16, Mattingly orbited the Moon and photographed and observed spectral bands near the lunar equator that cannot be seen from Earth. Mattingly also flew as spacecraft commander on the final orbital flight test of Columbia, STS-4, and STS 51-C Discovery, the first department of defense mission for the space shuttle. He retired from NASA in 1985, following the STS-51C.

Although born in Chicago on March 17, 1936, he grew up and attended school in Hialeah, Florida. In 1958, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from Auburn University, then joined the U.S. Navy where he received his aviator wings. He logged a total of 7,200 hours of flight time. Following his time at NASA, Mattingly went on to serve in other roles including director of the X-33 Program with Lockheed-Martin, and overseeing General Dynamic’s Atlas booster program. He continued public speaking and sharing his stories about space into his later years.

Mattingly leaves behind his wife, Elizabeth Mattingly and two sons. His bravery and critical thinking were an essential part of NASA’s space program, and he will be greatly missed.