Celebrating Distinguished Eagle Scout Jim Lovell on Apollo 13 Anniversary

lovellTomorrow marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission and a brave Eagle’s ascension into space. Not only does the BSA celebrate this momentous event in history, we also applaud the incredible achievements of Distinguished Eagle Scout and Commander of the Apollo 13, Jim Lovell.

Scouting has been building leaders in space exploration for decades. Since 1959, more than half of the pilots and scientists selected by NASA have been Scouts. Moreover, 11 of the 12 men to walk the moon were Scouts. Fellow Distinguished Eagle and Astronaut Neil Armstrong is among that select few.

At the BSA’s 2011 Justice Banquet Jim Lovell shared how influential Scouting has been for space exploration. “There were mostly Scouts there in NASA,” explained Lovell. “Not just the astronauts but also the mission control people, these were the people that, through Scouting, started to learn about leadership, perseverance, teamwork, and initiative.” 

Apollo_13_liftoff-KSC-70PC-160HR-1Today, Scouts are still mesmerized by the deep abyss of space. The Space Exploration merit badge was even a fan favorite in the STEM category for “most epic merit badge” in BSA’s Instagram competition Merit Badge Madness. Scouts just can’t get enough. But Distinguished Eagle Scout and Arrowman Jim Lovell’s fascination with space made history.

On April 11, 1970, Commander Jim Lovell shot into space aboard Apollo 13 with the intent of landing on the moon, but when disaster struck two days later, the mission took a turn for the worst. When a fire ignited from within the rocket’s oxygen tank causing a subsequent explosion and another tank to leak, the crew’s mission became impossible. Within a few short hours, all oxygen was depleted. Lovell and his crew had to work fast to travel back to Earth.

Luckily for the crew, Commander Jim Lovell was an Eagle Scout.  Thanks to his leadership and quick-thinking, Lovell shot the spacecraft around the moon and back to safety on April 17, 1970. His ability to stay calm and take initiative in crisis saved his and the crew’s lives. Scouting lessons like, “leadership, initiative, and teamwork all came into play,” revealed Lovell.

After receiving the Distinguished Eagle Award in 1990 and serving as NESA president, the National Council presented Lovell with the Silver Buffalo award in 1992. Three years later, Lovell’s account of the Apollo 13 mission spurred the release of Ron Howard’s film, Apollo 13, featuring an iconic performance by Tom Hanks as Lovell.

As commander of Apollo 13 and one of only three men to travel to the moon twice, Jim Lovell will forever be remembered for his contributions to space exploration and Scouting. As this BSA clip shows below, before Lovell donned his space suit, he sported a different uniform…Check it out:



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Hayley Cordaro is a communications specialist at the Boy Scouts of America. She loves sharing inspiring success stories and uncovering new ways volunteers and employees can make the most of their Scouting experience. If you have story ideas or questions, reach out to us at