Send your letters to Lovell through the Adler Planetarium

Posted by Alison Klesman
on Friday, March 23, 2018

Jim Lovell in 1970 at the Kennedy Space Center Launch complex. // Photo Credit: NASA

When Apollo 13 came out on video — yep, I own it on actual VHS — I parked myself in front of the TV and watched it several (like... in the vicinity of 10) times over the course of the next few weeks. I had just started high school, and was in a phase that included learning everything I possibly could about our space program. I wanted to be an engineer or an astronaut; I went on to attend NASA’s Space Academy in Huntsville, Alabama, twice over the next four years, and took as many Earth science-based classes as I could in preparation for the time when I would apply to college.

Today, I am obviously not an astronaut or an engineer, but I do hold a Ph.D. in astronomy and I love sharing knowledge about both the night sky and humanity’s efforts to understand and reach it with others. I love my career and the places it has taken me, and every step I’ve taken since high school can, in part, be traced back to that VHS, which I admit still holds a place of pride in my home media collection. (Don’t worry, I still own a working VCR.)

This weekend, on March 25, Captain Jim Lovell turns 90. While many know him as the commander of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, he flew on three additional missions, including the first manned flight to circle the Moon, Apollo 8. In honor of Captain Lovell’s birthday — and the amazing contributions he has made to humanity’s efforts to reach the stars — Chicago’s Adler Planetarium is asking you to share how his story and his relentless passion and bravery have encouraged you to reach for your dreams.

Jim Lovell aboard Apollo 8, manning the Spacecraft Command Module's Guidance and Navigation station. // Photo Credit: NASA

There are two ways you can contribute to this amazing campaign. If you’re in or near Chicago, visitors to the Adler can write their message on a notecard provided by the planetarium and drop it in the Letters to Lovell mailbox in the Mission Moon gallery. Alternatively, you can send your note to Captain Lovell electronically by emailing it to

These messages will be shared with Captain Lovell and his family. And at this year’s annual fundraising Celestial Ball in September, the Women’s Board of the Adler Planetarium plans to honor Captain Lovell and share your stories as part of the tribute. Lovell is not only a lifetime trustee of the Adler Planetarium, he has also donated many of his personal belongings to the Moon Mission gallery, which highlights the story of America’s early endeavors into spaceflight, culminating in the ultimate achievement: sending men to the Moon.

Why is all this happening now? Not only is reaching age 90 an incredible milestone, but this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission, which launched December 21, 1968. The Adler Planetarium — and additionally, Astronomy magazine — is gearing up to announce special programming and material in celebration of the anniversary. Stay tuned for more; and for now, the Adler invites you to share your accomplishments and your thanks with Captain Jim Lovell. I know I will!

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