Apollo 13 and me. How one space flight shaped my future.

I was 13 years old when Apollo 13 lifted off for the moon on April 11, 1970. For those into numbers, the flight lifted off at exactly 13:13. Two days later, on April 13, the explosion happened. I remember standing outside in my backyard and gazing up at the moon knowing that three astronauts were headed for an uncertain future. The Apollo 13 space flight had a huge impact on me. Like thousands of kids my age I wanted to be an astronaut. When I realized that that probably wasn't going to happen, I chose the next best thing and became a pilot. My first company was called Apollo Software. My second company was called Odyssey Interactive, named after the Apollo 13 command module.

Iwojima One of my first published articles was on the twentieth anniversary of Apollo 13.  The article was published in the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune.

About two years later I was taking a screen writing class in Chicago. One week we got to pitch a screenplay idea to a studio executive for Touchstone Pictures. I pitched the idea for a movie on Apollo 13. The studio executive wrote back that people don't want to go to movies where they already know the ending. That same studio executive was in the process of greenlighting another movie. The movie he greenlighted was Encino Man starring Pauly Shore. I haven't heard much from this executive since.

When I heard that Ron Howard was going to make a movie on Apollo 13, I decided to start a company to develop an interactive CD-ROM based on the flight. I got to interview several of the ground controllers including Gene Kranz. We released the CD-ROM a week before the movie came out, and while we won several awards and had great reviews, a few reviewers claimed that we stole ideas from the movie. Go figure.

I found the Apollo 13 story so compelling that I didn't think I would ever come across another story that had as much drama and suspense as this one. Then I came across the story of ALM Flight 980 and my first book 35 Miles From Shore was born. And believe it or not, that amazing story happened just two weeks after the Apollo 13 astronauts returned to earth. The day that ALM Flight 980 took off from JFK en route to St. Maarten, there was a parade in Chicago honoring the crewmembers and ground controllers of Apollo 13.

The fortieth anniversary of ALM 980's dramatic flight is coming up on May 2. I'll make sure I post something that day. Oh, and by the way, I started a publishing company to publish my book. It's called Odyssey Publishing.


  1. […] year was the Apollo XIII space flight. You can read about how that flight impacted me in the post Apollo 13 and me: How one space flight shaped my future. Next came an aircraft accident on May 2, 1970 that I didn’t even learn about until 29 years […]

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