(CNN) — Apollo Astronaut Thomas K. Mattingly II has died at the age of 87.
“On October 31, we lost one of our nation’s heroes,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “NASA astronaut DK Mattingly was key to the success of our Apollo program, and his brilliant personality will ensure he is remembered throughout history.”
Mattingly, who began his career in the US Marine Corps, entered the Air Force Space Research Pilot School as a student before being selected by NASA as part of its astronaut class in 1966.
Mattingly’s career is notable for his contributions to the Apollo program.
“Perhaps his most dramatic role at NASA was after he was exposed to rubella just before the launch of Apollo 13,” Nelson said. “He provided key real-time decisions to successfully bring home the injured spacecraft and crew of Apollo 13: NASA astronauts James Lovell, Jack Zwickert and Fred Heise.”
Actor Gary Sinise played Mattingly in Apollo 13.
Earlier this year, Sinise called it an “honor” to have Mattingly play at the X post marking the anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission.
In addition to his role in that mission, Mattingly participated in Apollo 16, where he “helped us with his unparalleled skill as a pilot when he assumed the role of command module pilot for Apollo 16 and shuttle commander on the STS-4 missions.” Space Shuttle STS 51-C,” Nelson said. “His dedication to innovation and resilience in the face of adversity made T.K. an outstanding figure who embodies our mission and our nation’s admiration.”
Mattingly’s contributions “enabled advances in our learning beyond space,” Nelson said.
“He described his experience in orbit, saying, ‘I had a very vivid fear that if I looked at it too much, I wouldn’t be able to remember it. It was so impressive.’ “He saw the vastness of the universe as endless. A forum of possibilities,” Nelson said. “As a leader in research, DK will be remembered for challenging the unknown for the future of our country.”