Jack Swigert

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John L. Swigert, Jr.
Swigert in April 1970
Member-elect of the United States House of Representatives from
Colorado's 6th district
In office
November 2, 1982 – December 27, 1982
Succeeded by Daniel Schaefer
Personal details
Born August 30, 1931
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Died December 27, 1982(1982-12-27) (aged 51)
Washington D.C., U.S.
Resting place Mount Olivet Cemetery,
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) none
Children none
Parents John L. Swigert, M.D.
Virginia Swigert
Alma mater University of Colorado,
B.S. 1953
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, M.S. 1965
University of Hartford,
MBA 1967
Occupation Fighter pilot, test pilot
Religion Catholic [1]
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch U.S. Air Force (1953–1956)
MA ANG (1957–1960)
CT ANG (1960–1965)
Years of service 1953–1965
Rank Captain
Jack Swigert.jpg
NASA Astronaut
Nationality American
Other occupation
Fighter pilot, test pilot
Time in space
5d 22h 54m
Selection 1966 NASA Group 5
Missions Apollo 13
Mission insignia
Apollo 13-insignia.png
Retirement August 1977 [2]
Awards Presidential Medal of Freedom NASA Distinguished Service Medal.jpg

John Leonard "Jack" Swigert, Jr. (August 30, 1931 – December 27, 1982) was an American test pilot, mechanical and aerospace engineer, United States Air Force pilot, and NASA astronaut, one of the 24 people who have flown to the Moon.[3][4]

Before joining NASA in 1966, Swigert was a civilian test pilot and fighter pilot in the Air National Guard. After leaving NASA, he was elected to Congress from Colorado's new 6th district, but died before being sworn in.

Early Life and Education

Born in Denver, Colorado, with parents John Leonard Swigert, Sr. (1903–1973) and Virginia Swigert (1906–1993). Swigert's father was an ophthalmologist.[3][4] At the age of 14, he became fascinated by aviation. While he would have been content just watching planes take off from nearby Combs Field, young Jack became determined to do more than be a spectator. He took on a newspaper route to earn money for flying lessons, and by age 16 he was a licensed private pilot.[5] He attended Blessed Sacrament School, Regis Jesuit High School, and East High School, from which he graduated in 1949.

Jack received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Colorado in 1953, where he also played football for the Buffaloes.[3][4] He later earned a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Hartford campus) in 1965, and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Hartford in 1967; and was presented an Honorary Doctorate of Science degree from American International College in 1970, and an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from Western State University in 1970, and an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Western Michigan University in 1970.[6]

His recreational interests included golf, handball, bowling, skiing, swimming, and basketball. His hobbies included photography.[7]

He was active in the Boy Scouts of America. He earned the rank of Second Class Scout.[8]

Flight experience

Swigert, at right, with the "mailbox" rig improvised to adapt the Apollo 13 Command Module's square carbon dioxide scrubber cartridges to fit the Lunar Module, which took a round cartridge

Following his graduation from Colorado in 1953, Swigert joined the U.S. Air Force. Upon graduation from the Pilot Training Program and Gunnery School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, he was assigned as a fighter pilot in Japan and Korea. In the latter nation, he experienced his first narrow escape from death. According to the New York Times, "His plane crashed into a radar unit on a Korean airstrip and burst into flames." He walked away from the accident with minor injuries.[9]

After completing his tour of active duty in the Air Force, he served as a jet fighter pilot with the Massachusetts and Connecticut Air National Guard.[citation needed] Swigert held a position as engineering test pilot for North American Aviation before joining NASA. He was previously an engineering test pilot for Pratt & Whitney, from 1957 to 1964.[citation needed] He logged over 7,200 hours in flight, with more than 5,725 in jet aircraft.[2]

Swigert gained some notoriety as NASA's first unmarried astronaut, living in a bachelor pad in Houston, a luxury apartment which included beer and wine dispensers and a hi-fi stereo system. In the early days of Project Mercury, the agency's requirements for astronauts were rather strict and included the expectation that all of them be married family men, but as the 1960s ended, social attitudes in America were quickly changing. Therefore, NASA decided to loosen the restrictions.[citation needed]

NASA career

After unsuccessfully applying for NASA's second and third astronaut selections,[10] Swigert was accepted into the NASA Astronaut Corps as part of NASA Astronaut Group 5 in April 1966. Swigert became a specialist on the Apollo Command Module: he was one of the few astronauts who requested to be command module pilots.[10]

Apollo 13

Swigert was one of three astronauts aboard the ill-fated Apollo 13 moon mission launched April 11, 1970. Originally part of the backup crew for the mission, he was assigned to the mission three days before launch, replacing astronaut Ken Mattingly. The prime crew had been exposed to German Measles (the rubella virus) and, because Mattingly had no immunity to the disease, NASA did not want to risk his falling ill during critical phases of the flight.

The mission was the third lunar-landing attempt, but was aborted after the rupture of an oxygen tank in the spacecraft's service module. Swigert was the astronaut who made the famous dramatic announcement, "Houston, we've had a problem here".[11] The statement was then repeated by Commander of the flight Jim Lovell. Swigert, along with fellow astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise, returned safely to Earth on April 17 after about 5 days and 23 hours, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom later that year.

Swigert received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

Swigert was slated to be the command module pilot for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, but was later removed from the crew rotation due to his involvement in the Apollo 15 postage stamp incident.[citation needed]

Post-NASA career

Swigert took a leave of absence from NASA in April 1973 to become executive director of the Committee on Science and Astronautics, U.S. House of Representatives.

Swigert eventually left NASA and the committee in August 1977, to enter politics. In 1979, he became vice president of B.D.M. Corporation, Golden, Colorado.[12] In 1981, Swigert left BDM to join International Gold and Minerals Limited as vice president for financial and corporate affairs.

In February 1982, Swigert left International Gold and Minerals Limited to run for U.S. Congress. On November 2, 1982, Swigert easily won the seat in the state's new 6th congressional district with 64% of the popular vote.[13]


In 1982, during his political campaign, Swigert developed a malignant tumor in his right nasal passage. He underwent surgery, but the cancer spread to his bone marrow and lungs.[15] Seven weeks after the election, he was airlifted on December 19 from his home in Littleton to Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., and died of respiratory failure at its Lombardi Cancer Center on December 27, eight days before the beginning of his congressional term.[10][16] He died at the age of 51. He is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.[1][17]


Swigert was a member of numerous organizations. He was a fellow of the American Astronautical Society; associate fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics; and member of the Quiet Birdmen, Phi Gamma Delta, Pi Tau Sigma, and Sigma Tau.[18]

Awards and honors


John L. "Jack" Swigert, Jr., Award for Space Exploration

In 2004, the Space Foundation launched the John L. "Jack" Swigert, Jr., Award for Space Exploration, which is presented annually to an individual, group or organization that has made a significant contribution to space exploration. Based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the Space Foundation was founded in 1983 in part to honor the memory and accomplishments of Swigert. Recipients include:

Physical description

  • Weight: 180 lb (82 kg)
  • Height: 5 ft 11½ in (1.82 m)
  • Hair: Blond
  • Eyes: Blue[26]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Ex-astronaut gets eulogized". Victoria Advocate. Associated Press. January 5, 1983. p. 10D.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/swigert-jl.html
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Eicher, Diane (December 19, 1982). "Ex-astronaut's challenge". Beaver County Times. (Denver Post). p. B2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Treaster, Joseph B. (December 29, 1982). "Jack Swigert, astronaut elected to Congress, dies". New York Times. Retrieved September 14, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Jack's boyhood
  6. Jack's education jsc.nasa.gov
  7. Swigert's hobbies
  8. John L. Swigert, Jr. at scouting.org
  9. Jack's military career
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Chaikin, Andrew. A Man on the Moon. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 978-0-14-024146-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Jim Lovell's written account of the mission attributes the quote to Swigert". History.nasa.gov. 1970-04-11. Retrieved 2012-09-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Jack's post-NASA experience jsc.nasa.gov
  13. Swigert's business and congressional career
  14. Jack Swigert's quotation
  15. "Ex-astronaut faces battles". Wilmington Morning Star. Associated Press. October 23, 1982. p. 2A.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Jack Swigert loses fight against cancer". Ocala Star-Banner. Associated Press. Dec 28, 1982. p. 4D.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Find-a-grave". Retrieved 22 September 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Jack's memberships .jsc.nasa.gov
  19. Swigert's NASA biography, jsc.nasa.gov
  20. Jack Swigert inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame
  21. Holmes, Charles W., Editor, Honoree Album of the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, The Colorado Aviation Historical Society, 1999, Audubon Media Corp., Audubon, IA.
  22. "U.S. Capitol Visitor Center Statues". Visitthecapitol.gov. Retrieved 2015-04-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Jack Swigert inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame
  24. "RPI Alumni Hall of Fame: John L. Swigert Jr". Rpi.edu. Retrieved 2012-09-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy Opens". Space Foundation. Retrieved 2014-08-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Jack Swigert's physical description

External links