Ripley graduate assisted Apollo 13 splashdown

Jackson Newspapers
Jackson Newspapers

It should come as no surprise that Charles D. Anderson was a member of Science Club at Ripley High School.

A graduate with the class of 1952, Anderson’s amazing career would include flying special assignment aircraft for the Navy, serving as a NASA team leader on the splashdown recovery of Apollo 13, and co-founding a firm specializing in developing human tissue in space.

Anderson, who was 86, died of cancer in September of 2020 near Houston.

The Anderson family occupied a well-known Ripley spot at the corner of Charleston Drive and Second Avenue. His father, J.D. Anderson, maintained a large assortment of bicycles and lawnmowers.

While at Ripley High, Charles Anderson’s interests varied from FFA to glee club. He was a 2-year member of the Viking football team. 

“He was a good student and he liked to read books,” recalled classmate Ron Reynolds. “That got him trouble sometimes because he would read something that would make him laugh.”

Anderson went on to attend Marshall and then served in the Navy.

The pilot flew the EC-121, an early warning and control radar surveillance aircraft, the P-2V, an anti-submarine plane used during the Cold War, and the WB-57F, a high-altitude research aircraft.

Anderson was assigned to NASA’s Space Vehicle Recovery Team during five Apollo missions, including the near-tragedy of 1970 depicted in a 1995 movie. Apollo 13 was the seventh crewed mission and the third meant for a moon landing. 

The lunar landing was aborted after the failure of an oxygen tank two days into the mission. The flight’s safe return to Earth was very much in jeopardy.

His final NASA project was the zero-gravity aircraft effort. The father of four and grandfather of five retired from the Navy Reserves with the rank of Commander and entered private business. Synthecon, Inc. specializes in 3D cell culture technology.