Marine Colonel (ret) Jack Lousma, legendary pioneering NASA astronaut from the 1970s and early 1980s is coming back to Grand Rapids for a very special occasion. He will be here, May 3 and 4, to honor the memory of Roger B. Chaffee 50 years after the tragic Apollo 1 fire.

Lousma gave the rededication address for the re-opening of the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium during the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s Van Andel Museum Center dedication in November 1994. On Wednesday, May 3, Lousma will present a free public presentation in Museum’s Meijer Theater at 7:30 p.m. entitled Flying in Space, A Ride on the Good Ship Columbia. He'll also show video taken during the actual launch and throughout the week long orbital mission of STS-3 in 1982.

NASA Spacewalks
NASA via Getty Images

Lousma will narrate the video and talk about his experiences aboard Skylab and as the voice of CAPCOM during the tense moments following the Apollo 13 systems failure.

Lousma will also be speaking at the Roger B. Chaffee Scholarship to honor the 50th year recipient of the prestigious award on Thursday, May 4. This year the scholarship will honor Northville High School senior Eric Pearson.

In 1973, Lousma became one of the nation’s first space residents aboard the Skylab orbiting laboratory, where he spent 59 days. In 1982, he commanded the third flight of a Space Shuttle, a program still in its experimental infancy.

Lousma is best remembered in space lore as the voice responding “This is Houston, say again please” to Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert’s statement: “Houston, we’ve had a problem here” in April of 1970. Lousma’s calm and controlled instructions during the dark hours that followed was one of the factors that brought the Apollo 13 crew safely home.


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