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Lovell to Headline 2020 Wright Brothers Memorial Banquet

Veteran astronaut and Apollo 13 commander James Lovell will be the featured guest at the 2020 Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual Wright Brothers Memorial Banquet.  This year’s banquet, slated for Thursday, Dec. 10, will be a virtual one due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event is free to EAA members.  Nonmembers may attend the event by purchasing a one-year EAA membership for $40 and then creating a member web account.

This year’s event honors the 117th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first successful powered flight on Dec. 17, 1903.  Captain Lovell will be interviewed by Charlie Precourt, a former NASA space shuttle commander, in a program that begins at 8 p.m. Eastern Time Dec. 10.

“As much as we would love having Captain Lovell and EAA members all together at the EAA Aviation Museum as we’ve had for past Wright brothers banquets, limits on large gatherings because of the COVID-19 pandemic have just made that impossible this year,” said Jack J. Pelton, EAA’s CEO and chairman of the board. “We are grateful, however, that Captain Lovell has agreed to join us for an online streaming interview session where he’ll talk about his aviation and spaceflight experiences.”

Lovell is a longtime EAA member and supporter of the organization’s programs.  He attended the U.S. Naval Academy and, after graduation, flew McDonnell F2H Banshee fighters off of the USS Shangri-La before attending test pilot school at NAS Patuxent River.  In 1962 he applied for and was accepted into the second group of U.S. astronauts.  While the Mercury astronauts were known as the “Original Seven,” Lovell and his peers became the “New Nine.”

Lovell’s first space mission was Gemini 7 with fellow EAA member Frank Borman, followed by Gemini 12, in which he and Buzz Aldrin worked on extravehicular activities (EVA) and docking. In December 1968, Lovell was command module pilot alongside Borman and Bill Anders on Apollo 8, which was the first manned mission to orbit the moon.

Lovell planned to return to the moon in April 1970, as the commander of Apollo 13 with crewmates Fred Haise and Jack Swigert.  Three days into the mission, an explosion severely damaged the spacecraft. Working hand-in-hand with mission control, Apollo 13 improvised a solution that led to a safe return to Earth.