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Jim Lovell - 50 years after Apollo 13

Season four of the Lindberghs Podcast is made possible by:

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Listen to this episode here, or find The Lindberghs on any podcast player such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

About this Episode

Hi there friends, it's Erik.

I first met James Lovell at an XPRIZE event, or two, but didn't really get to know him until we spent some time sitting around in a board room at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in New York about 15 years ago. Astronaut Fred Haise was also in the room but I thought he didn't look anything like Bill Paxton. Anyway, Jim proceeded to tell me that he met my Grandfather early in the Apollo Astronaut program and that later while he was on the Apollo 13 mission, grandfather wrote to him a letter (photograph below) from the Jungle in the Philippines where he was studying a primitive “stone age” tribe. The letter is below. It turns out that while Grandfather was investigating the essential traits of humans without technology the Astronauts were using the pinnacle of technology to try to reach the moon, and after having an accident, were scrambling to find their way back to earth. Whew! On the 90th anniversary of the New York to Paris Flight, we hosted Jim, along with Gene Cernan (the last man to walk on the moon) and Neil Armstrong at the Explorers Club in New York City. I asked him if he could bring and read the letter and Jim graciously read the letter to the group. To me this exploration of the polar extremes of technology and preservation of the environment is the essence of what BOTH of my grandparents were so interested in and that we continue to explore today. Jim is now 93 years old and still going strong! BTW: What the heck is bilirubin? Sounds like Jimmy Carter’s favorite sandwich…



Our Favorite Quotes from this Episode

It was not a loss of oxygen, it was the fact that our carbon dioxide absorbers in our system were saturated, so therefore we were breathing more and more carbon dioxide.


I'd like all the young people to look at our history and how we evolved and the type of government we have normally enjoyed. It was a part of evolution. If you look at the history of governments and how they come about. But we are having real race problems right now. As a result of the early days of plantations and easy labor it causes now the problems we are having.


The priorities are quite simple right now. Enjoy life as it is right now knowing that time is essential here. You don't stay alive forever. I'm 93 and my wife is 91 and we've had a very enjoyable life, and I look back at my life today. I didn't have a father, my mother raised me after my father essentially left us. We left from the east to Wisconsin and her brother-in-law, my uncle finally gave her a job and so I spent my school days in an apartment with my mother. A one room apartment. Essentially you opened a closet and a bed swung out and came down. I slept on a couch on the side of the bed. After the night we'd put the bed away by raising it up and sliding it back into the closet. The kitchen, you'd open the door and there was a little refrigerator, a skink, and oven and that was it. This is how I went through grade school and high school. From there I joined the boy scouts, and then the eagle scouts and went through all of that in the tiny one room.


My mother raised me and did an excellent job. Then as high school was finishing we didn't' have any money to send me to college. At that time the Navy was short on Naval aviators. They put out a program for High Schoolers' and I applied.


I went to get my physical [for NASA] and my doctor said "did you know you have a high bilirubin?" Because of this I was dropped from the program.


I guess NASA never told the Air Force that I flunked the physical and apparently the Air Force didn't know what a bilirubin was, so I passed and before I knew it NASA asked if I would like to the program. That's how I got in the Gemini program which lead to two Gemini flights and two Apollo flights.


Letter from Charles A. Lindbergh to Captain Jim Lovell. April 22, 1970.

85th Anniversary Celebration of Charles A. Lindbergh's historic flight. Jim Lovell top row third from left. Neil Armstrong seated in front.

About Jim Lovell

Jim is an American retired astronaut, naval aviator, test pilot and mechanical engineer. In 1968, as command module pilot of Apollo 8, he became, with Frank Borman and William Anders, one of the first three astronauts to fly to and orbit the Moon. He then commanded the Apollo 13 lunar mission in 1970 which, after a critical failure en route, circled around the Moon and returned safely to Earth.

About Erik and Lyn Lindbergh

Erik and Lyn are the co-hosts of The Lindberghs Podcast. Learn more about Erik at: and Lyn at:


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The 100th Anniversary - 1927 - 2027 - Icon of the Spirit of Saint Louis


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