|July 21, 1995
is a write-up of the
Jim Lovell lecture which I attend on July 21, 1995. At that time, the movie 'Apollo 13' which was
based on his book called 'Lost Moon’ had not quite been out for a
month. The lecture was being put on
by a company in Dallas, Texas called Fun Ed. Fun Ed was a
sponsored adult education seminars on various topics. Without a doubt,
lecture was prompted by the success of the movie Apollo 13. The
lecture was scheduled between 7:00pm and
9:00pm at a hotel in Addison, Texas.
Fun Ed also offered the
option of a private reception with Mr. Lovell between 5:15pm and 6:15pm
their headquarters. This reception was
limited to no more than one hundred people. Over four hundred
people were expected to attend the
lecture. The cost for the lecture was $35
reception cost was an additional $19.
I decided to attend both the
lecture and the reception. A friend of
mine and fellow space enthusiast, Chris Seaman, also decided to attend
events. At the reception, wine, soft drinks, cheese, crackers, and
available. It was not a bad way to pass
time waiting for the arrival of Mr. Lovell.
The room was set up with
chairs along the walls and a few tables, for the refreshments, located
center of the room. After Mr. Lovell
he went to the center of the room and spoke for a few minutes about the
13 mission as well as the movie. Following
his brief talk, he fielded questions from
the audience. I would guess that there
were about 60 people
who attended the reception.
Jim's impression of the
movie was very good. He thought Ron
Howard and the folks at Imagine Entertainment did a great job in
presenting his Apollo 13 mission. He
that many of the fine details of the movie were indeed accurate. Even the scene from the movie where his wife
Marilyn dropped her wedding ring in the shower drain really happened. He did add that the ring was recovered from
the drain trap.
There were several questions
that I was hoping to have Jim answer. One thing in particular that
from the movie was when they showed the Command Module separate from
This scene had the docking
probe still installed in the Command Module docking collar. It was my
that after LM jettison that there would be no point in having the
there, especially with re-entry coming up. Well
before I could ask this question, someone else
in the audience
did. Jim's response was, "Well,
here is someone who really knows his stuff!"
Rats, I missed the accolades
of Jim Lovell by that much. :^( Seriously, I was glad that the question did
get asked. Lovell responded that indeed
that was a technical error. He said that
the docking probe would not have been installed for re-entry. Lovell said that the problem was that they
just did not have enough time to sit in on all of the special effects
the movie. This allowed a few technical
inaccuracies to sneak into the movie.
Jim was a technical
consultant on the movie. There were
times during the filming when Jim was not available.
During those times, Imagine Entertainment brought
in Apollo 15 Astronaut Dave Scott to act as technical consultant.
The first question that I
asked Jim was about the movie's portrayal of the crew attitude towards
replacement astronaut Jack Swigert. Swigert
was brought in to replace Ken Mattingly who
had been exposed to
the measles. I wanted to know if the
apparent resentment of Swigert really happened.
Jim responded by saying,
"What Ron Howard was really trying to portray in the movie was that
was concern with breaking the crew up. It was not so much concern about
Swigert's abilities, but concern about a crew who knew each other so
they could read each other's voice inflections."
Jim said, "Swigert did
a great job on the mission." He went on to say, "If the crew with
Swigert as a replacement was not ready, that the mission would not have
flown. They would have delayed until,
everyone was comfortable with Swigert."
The intent of Fun Ed was to
have Jim mingle around with the people at the reception.
In theory this was a nice idea.
In practice though, it was doomed from the
start. Of course everyone who was at the
reception was there for one reason, and that was Jim Lovell.
When the mingling period
began, everybody in the room zeroed in on Jim. So
instead of having a nice organized group of
people sitting down,
where everyone could hear and see him, you had a packed crowd where
people could see and even less could hear.
The Fun Ed management
quickly saw the error of their ways and tried to get everyone to sit
down. I say tried because even after
they asked people to sit back down, about 15 to 20 people stayed
They repeated the
request. These 15 to 20 people ignored
anything the poor lady had to say. I
felt really sorry for her and ashamed of the manners of the people
involved. The Fun Ed person resorted
standing up on a chair and shouting. This
and only this dispersed the crowd. People
finally went back to their seats and Jim went
back to the middle
of the room.
Wine, cheese and Jim Lovell
talking about Apollo 13, it doesn't get much better than that. One lady at the reception asked Jim,
"What was the one thing that made him scared?" She
said, "Getting on top of a rocket or
flying as a test pilot really would have bothered me, but since those
didn't seem to bother you, what did?"
Jim thought for a few
seconds and then responded calmly but firmly, "It would have to be
women! That is why I wound up going to the
was to get away from women." Needless to
say, these comments brought the house
down and Jim
skillfully evaded a personal question.
The hour for the reception
was now over. It was time to head over
to the hotel for the lecture. On the way
out I stopped to shake hands with Jim and to thank him for coming. I also asked him how many times he had seen
the movie 'Apollo 13' up to that point.
He responded that he had
seen it seven times. I told him that he
was doing much better than I was. I'd
only seen it three times. He admitted
that several of those times were fund raising events.
One of the benefits of
attending the reception was that it guaranteed you seating within the
four rows at the lecture. This was very
nice. Chris and I casually strolled in, unconcerned about the large
was already in place and took our seats in the center of the second row.
Fun Ed was also selling
books that Jim was supposed to autograph once his presentation was over. They had both the hard cover version as well
as the paperback. I had brought a
paperback copy with me so I didn't need one of those.
However since they were only charging $20 for
hard back copies, I went ahead and purchased three more hard back
copies. Christmas shopping came early that
Jim's presentation was very
nice. He showed a highlight film that
was put together when he and the rest of the Apollo 13 astronauts made
presentation to Congress shortly after their flight.
After he finished speaking,
Jim again fielded questions from the audience. Some of the questions
asked were farther out of this world than Jim was on Apollo 13. It is amazing what some people will ask. The every popular question “how do you go to
the bathroom in space”, always seems to come up.
Once again I was fortunate
enough to have Jim field another question from me. This time I asked
the Moonwalk sequence that was shown in the movie, Apollo 13. I had noticed that when they showed Tom
Hanks, as Lovell on the surface, that on his helmet sunshade in the
the red stripe was a blue anchor.
I asked Jim if that was an
accurate portrayal and what was the significance of the anchor. His response was, "That is a very good
It points out the level of detail that Ron Howard and his crew went to,
order to portray the mission accurately. Yes
the anchor was on my helmet. I asked NASA
for special permission to put it there
since I was a Naval
Aviator. In fact you can see the
original helmet with the anchor at the Chicago Museum of Industry and
I was pretty pleased with
being able to get two questions fielded by Jim in one night, especially
the turnout of people at his lecture. I would guess that there must
500 or 600 people that showed up.
Once the question and answer
session was over, it was time to get in line for the book signing. The only problem with being seated in the
first to rows was that the signing was to happen in the hallway at the
the room. That meant that a huge line
had already formed by the time that we made it to the hallway. Several hundred people were in line. Not the best of situations, but hopefully Jim
would stay around to sign all of these books.
I had also brought with me a
nice color photo of the Apollo 13 Service Module that the crew had
they jettisoned it. I brought a nice
silver pen for him to sign it. As we
approached the front of the line, it was announced that Jim would only
signing books and no other memorabilia would be allowed.
This did not thrill be,
because I really wanted to get the photo signed. However
all was not lost. Jim said that he would
sign one piece of
memorabilia per person, if they would get in a new line and wait until
the books were signed. That was a
compromise that I could live with.
About an hour and a half or
two after the lecture ended, Jim finally wrapped up his signing session. You have to admire him for signing that many
copies of the books for fans. Other
that I have dealt with, have not been nearly so generous.
It was a very thrilling
evening to say the least. It was not the
first time I had met Jim
Lovell. However it was the first time
that I been able to listen to him in person discuss the Apollo 13
mission. It also gave me the opportunity
questions of this legendary astronaut.