20th Century Pioneer

Thomas K. Mattingly II

Rear Admiral, US Navy;. US Astronaut
Born March 17, 1936, in Chicago, Illinois.
BS in aeronautical engineering from Auburn University

Thomas Kenneth Mattingly II was born on March 17, 1936, in Chicago, Illinois. After graduating from high school, he attended Auburn University from 1954 to 1958, where he obtained a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering. Mattingly entered the U.S. Navy in 1958 and completed his pilot training in 1960. From 1960 to 1964, Mattingly flew A1H attack aircraft aboard the carrier USS Saratoga. From 1963 to 1965, he flew A3B's from the carrier USS Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In 1965, Thomas Mattingly entered the United States Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California. While at Edwards Air Force Base, NASA selected Mattingly as one of nineteen pilot astronauts in April of 1966. It was the fifth group of astronauts chosen since NASA's beginning, in 1958.

After the historic lunar landing mission on July 20, 1969, NASA sent five more crews to the Moon. Thomas Kenneth Mattingly was to have been the Command Module Pilot for the flight of Apollo 13, scheduled for April of 1970. NASA replaced him, however, one week before the scheduled launch. Another astronaut, Charles M. Duke, the backup Lunar Module Pilot for the flight, came down with the German measles. Mattingly was not immune to the disease, and NASA officials decided that he might become ill while orbiting the Moon. They chose to replace Mattingly with his backup pilot, the late Jack Swigert.

When an explosion occurred in the fuel tank of Apollo 13's service module, everyone at Mission Control in Houston, including Ken Mattingly, worked to find a way to bring the crew home safely. Mattingly spent hours in a simulator to come up with the checklist needed by the Apollo 13 astronauts to follow for reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. Mattingly gave the instructions for reentry to Jack Swigert, his replacement for that unlucky flight. The Apollo 13 crew, Lovell, Swigert, and Haise returned home safely with help from Mission Control, and by their own ingenuity. Ken Mattingly never came down with the German measles.

U. S. Navy Lt. Comdr. Thomas Mattingly's first flight into space was as CM Pilot for Apollo 16. USAF Lt. Colonel Charles M. Duke, Jr., was the LEM Pilot, and U.S. Navy Capt. John W. Young was Commander of the flight.

Apollo 16

April 16 - 27, 1972

On April 16, 1972, at 12:54 P.M., a Saturn V rocket boosted the Apollo 16 spacecraft into orbit. The launch rocket's third stage restarted, propelling the Apollo spacecraft into its lunar course. The Apollo 16 crew headed for the far side of the moon. When nearing the moon's vicinity, the spacecraft maneuvered into position for a lunar orbit. The astronauts fired a rocket in the SM to bring the craft into a circular orbit one hundred miles above the moon. Young and Duke entered the LEM and detached from the CM. Thomas Mattingly remained in the CM, named Casper, in lunar orbit. The astronauts in the LEM, nicknamed Orion, fired a rocket to decrease the speed of their descent. They hovered above the lunar surface by using a stabilizing device. On Thursday, April 20, 1972, Orion landed on the Descartes Plateau on the Moon's surface. The next morning, April 21, 1972, Young and Duke climbed down Orion's ladder and stepped down onto the lunar soil. Orion landed ten feet away from a thirty-foot crater. In the distance, the astronauts could see the rolling slopes of the lunar highlands. They deployed the Lunar Rover, set up a television camera, and put up the American flag. They also set up an ultraviolet camera.

The Apollo 16 crew brought along an ALSEP, or an Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package, the. This equipment measured the strength of solar wind, the solar magnetic field, and the Earth's magnetic effect on the Moon. It also enabled scientists to study the physics of the Moon's surface and interior. After four hours, they climbed aboard the Lunar Rover. They traveled approximately one mile to a small crater named Flag. On the return trip in the Lunar Rover, they passed by Spook crater. They collected rock and soil samples along the way. After seven hours and eleven minutes, the astronauts completed their first day of extravehicular activity, or EVA, and returned to Orion for the night.

The next day, the astronauts began their second EVA. The astronauts conducted geological experiments on a rounded hill south of Orion's landing site, called Stone Mountain. Paved with boulders and jagged terrain, the ride to the mountain was a rough one for the Lunar Rover. Geologists believed that Stone Mountain would produce evidence of lava flow, but the Apollo 16 astronauts disproved that theory. However, geologists were delighted with the spellbinding photos of Stone Mountain taken by the astronauts. Young and Duke collected eight-two pounds of samples from the region. After seven hours and twenty-three minutes, the astronauts completed their second EVA, and returned to Orion.

Their third and final EVA would be their shortest, because the sun was higher in the sky on their third day on the Moon's surface. The astronauts also needed to prepare the LEM for liftoff from the Moon. Young and Duke surveyed the North Ray Crater and the lower slopes of Smoky Mountain. Scattered around the North Ray Crater were boulders larger than any Apollo astronaut had seen before. The third EVA lasted five hours and 40 minutes. The samples extracted from their third EVA weighed about ninety pounds. Young and Duke climbed back into Orion for the last time. They prepared for liftoff while Mattingly, who had orbited the Moon for a total of seventy-eight times, fired a rocket to send Casper into a rendezvous orbit. Viewed by millions back on Earth, Orion blasted off the Moon, carrying an insurmountable cargo of rock and soil samples. Two hours later, Orion docked with Casper. Five hours after docking, Apollo 16 headed for home on its trans-Earth trajectory. The Apollo 16 space flight went down in the books for breaking records in total time on the Moon's surface, and for total EVA duration.

As they traveled back to Earth, Command Module Pilot Mattingly went for a deep space EVA, on April 25, 1972. While linked to a twenty-five foot line that supplied him with oxygen and communications, Mattingly inched his way over to the side of the Apollo 16 spacecraft. Mattingly retrieved film from the mapping cameras used to scan the Moon during his solo lunar orbit. His EVA lasted one hour and 24 minutes, the longest of the Apollo deep space excursions. Young, Duke, and Mattingly splashed down at 2:45 p.m., on Thursday, April 27, 1972. Apollo 16 was a record-breaking flight in almost every area of lunar exploration.


June 27 1982 - July 4, 1972

On June 27 1982, Mattingly and pilot astronaut Henry 'Hank' Hartsfield, another Auburn University alumnus, lifted off into space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, designated STS-4. It was the first mission to carry a payload for the Department of Defense. The astronauts tested infrared and ultraviolet scanners for future military surveillance satellites. The mission's objectives included testing the mechanical and thermal performances of Columbia. The crew also examined the environment surrounding the spacecraft. On Columbia's return flight, the shuttle flew across the Mississippi valley. On July 1, 1982, Mattingly and Hartsfield communicated with the crowds at the Knoxville World's Fair on July 1, 1982. The dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base had been the landing site for the first three Space Shuttle missions. On July 4, 1982, Mattingly made the first landing of a Space Shuttle on a concrete runway. By the end of his astronaut career, Mattingly had logged five hundred and nine hours in space. He resigned from NASA in June of 1985.


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Honoring America's First Astronauts

NASA's 2nd Group of Astronauts
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NASA's 3rd Group of Astronauts
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NASA's 4th Group of Astronauts
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NASA's 5th Group of Astronauts
Pilot Astronauts