Astronaut Ken Mattingly, who played a crucial role in bringing the Apollo 13 crew back to Earth, passes away at the age of 87.

Ken Mattingly, a renowned astronaut known for his crucial role in the successful return of the damaged Apollo 13 spacecraft to Earth, has passed away at the age of 87, according to a statement from NASA.

On Thursday, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced that one of our nation’s heroes passed away on October 31.

Nelson stated that Thomas Kenneth Mattingly II played a crucial role in the triumph of our Apollo Program and his remarkable character will ensure that he is recognized in the annals of history.

NASA did not disclose the location or circumstances of Mattingly’s death. However, according to The New York Times, Mattingly passed away in Arlington, Virginia.

Mattingly, a former Navy aviator, became a member of NASA in 1966. According to the organization, he played a role in designing the spacesuit and backpack used during the Apollo moon expeditions.

But, he didn’t get to go on his first space mission until 1972. He was on the Apollo 16 mission as the pilot of the command module, while two other crew members actually landed on the moon.

During the return journey to Earth, Mattingly performed a spacewalk to retrieve film canisters containing photographs he had taken of the moon’s surface.

In later years, Mattingly led two space shuttle missions and retired from both the agency and the Navy as a rear admiral.

His most significant objective, however, was the one he never carried out.

In 1970, Mattingly was originally planned to be part of the Apollo 13 crew as the command module pilot. However, he was taken off the mission shortly before launch due to his potential exposure to German measles.

He did not catch the sickness, but was substituted on the mission by John Swigert Jr.

After a few days on the mission, a tank containing oxygen in the service module of the spacecraft suddenly exploded, causing a loss of power and oxygen in the command module. As a result, the planned lunar landing had to be cancelled and NASA immediately began urgent attempts to rescue Swigert, James Lovell, and Fred Haise.

Mattingly, who had a deep understanding of the spacecraft, collaborated with engineers and other team members to examine the situation and quickly come up with solutions and communicate instructions to the crew.

The group of three astronauts managed to squeeze into the lander, originally intended for two people, and utilized it as a makeshift shelter for four days while Apollo 13 orbited the moon before safely landing back on Earth.

Nelson from NASA praised Mattingly for making crucial decisions in real-time that ultimately led to the safe return of the damaged spacecraft and its crew.

During an interview with NASA in 2001, Mattingly shared a valuable lesson he learned from his experience: from the beginning, believe in your success and avoid any actions that may hinder it.

The tale of Apollo 13 was recounted in the book “Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13” published in 1994, written by Lovell. It was also portrayed in the 1995 film “Apollo 13,” with Gary Sinise portraying Mattingly.