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NASA Administrator Remembers Apollo Astronaut Thomas K. Mattingly II

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson on the passing of former NASA astronaut Rear Adm. (ret.) Thomas K. (TK) Mattingly II.

“We lost one of our country’s heroes on Oct. 31. NASA astronaut TK Mattingly was key to the success of our Apollo Program, and his shining personality will ensure he is remembered throughout history.

“Beginning his career with the U.S. Navy, TK received his wings in 1960 and flew various aircraft across multiple assignments. Once he joined the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School as a student, NASA chose him to be part of the astronaut class in 1966. Before flying in space, he aided the Apollo Program working as the astronaut support crew and took leadership in the development of the Apollo spacesuit and backpack.

“His unparalleled skill as a pilot aided us when he took on the role of command module pilot for Apollo 16 and spacecraft commander for space shuttle missions STS-4 and STS 51-C. The commitment to innovation and resilience toward opposition made TK an excellent figure to embody our mission and our nation’s admiration.

“Perhaps his most dramatic role at NASA was after exposure to rubella just before the launch of Apollo 13. He stayed behind and provided key real-time decisions to successfully bring home the wounded spacecraft and the crew of Apollo 13 – NASA astronauts James Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise.

“TK’s contributions have allowed for advancements in our learning beyond that of space. He described his experience in orbit by saying, ‘I had this very palpable fear that if I saw too much, I couldn’t remember. It was just so impressive.’ He viewed the universe’s vastness as an unending forum of possibilities. As a leader in exploratory missions, TK will be remembered for braving the unknown for the sake of our country’s future.” 

For more information about Mattingly’s NASA career, and his agency biography, visit:


Jackie McGuinness / Cheryl Warner
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1600 /

Courtney Beasley
Johnson Space Center, Houston



Last Updated
Nov 02, 2023