Chester M. Lee
Captain, United States Navy
Navy Captain Chester Lee, who was mission director on the NASA teams that
launched six Apollo moon missions including Apollo 13, has died at Washington
hospital from complications following open heart surgery. He was 80.
Lee died February 23, 2000, at the Washington Hospital Center.
At his death, Lee was a special adviser to
Spacehab, a Washington-based company that provides services to NASA. He
also helped develop the pressurized modules used by astronauts to conduct
experiments in space.
He was mission director for the last six Apollo launchings, including the tense Apollo 13 mission, which returned to Earth after an oxygen tank exploded in mid-flight.
Lee, the son of Italian immigrants, was graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1942.
After radar training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he entered the World War 2 fleet as gunnery officer on the destroyer USS Drexler. Japanese kamikaze pilots attacked and sank the Drexler with a loss of 158 officers and men. Lee was among 52 survivors.
After the war Lee trained in missile systems and participated in the Navy's development of the Polaris missile. He was also the commander of the destroyer Gyatt.
Lee oversaw the Apollo-Soyuz mission, in which Soviet and American astronauts docked in space in 1975. Soon after, he began working in NASA's shuttle operations when they were expanded to include foreign governments and corporations and finally left the space agency in 1987.
Lee is survived by his wife, a son and two