Capt. James Lovell lecture, Pontefract. October 2015.
Mr Norfolkbookworm and I made the cross country trip back to Pontefract recently as the chance to listen to astronaut Jim Lovell was far too good to miss.
Now 87 Captain Lovell spoke for an hour about his four space missions (two Gemini, two Apollo), then took part in a question and answer session and then signed an autograph for everyone in the audience. Amazing stamina and proving he really is made of the Right Stuff.
Although famous for being the commander of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission it was great to hear Lovell speak about all three of his missions with equal weight. I often find that the Gemini missions are overlooked and they were in fact some of the most exciting and important missions carried out as it was during these that the techniques needed for getting to the moon, and back, were trialed and perfected.
I always intend to take notes at these talks so I can write them up more fully afterwards but each time I just become totally star struck in the theatre and fail to do so. Lovell's anecdotes about one little bit of his Apollo 13 story stuck however:
Lovell had been to the moon before, in Apollo 8 when he was one of the first three humans to ever see the dark side of the moon - the beautiful Earthrise image comes from this mission, his colleagues on Apollo 13 had not. This meant that despite all of the peril they were in at the time Haise and Sweigart did forget everything to gaze at the moon and Earth and had to be reminded that if they didn't pay attention to the mission requirements they wouldn't get home to show off their photos.
After the talk and a live narration of some film footage of the Apollo 13 mission came the q&a. This was hosted by Professor Brian Cox and I confess to being a little sceptical about this, I did wonder if it would become either all about Cox, or dominated by Cox's own questions. Neither happened and Cox skilfully managed to work equally start struck audience questions into simple forms for Lovell to answer and also insisted that the young people in the audience got to talk to Lovell too. Afterwards when it came to the signing session he disappeared from sight and the event was totally about Lovell. I am cursing myself as it was only after the session that I thought of a question!
I am now really excited to hear that Cox will be back at the next event (April 2016 - Gene Cernan) to do the same - our tickets are already booked!
Also if anyone was wondering about the accuracy of the Tom Hanks movie Apollo 13 apparently there are only minor liberties taken with true story and Lovell thinks it is a good film.