Jack Swigert

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John L. Swigert, Jr.
Jack Swigert- Apollo 13.jpg
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.
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Alma mater CU, B.S. 1953
RPI, M.S. 1965
UHart, MBA 1967
Occupation Test pilot

John Leonard "Jack" Swigert, Jr. (August 30, 1931 – December 27, 1982) was a NASA astronaut, one of the 24 persons who have flown to the Moon.

Before joining NASA, Swigert was a test pilot. After leaving NASA, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives for Colorado's 6th congressional district, but died before being sworn in.


Swigert was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. He attended Blessed Sacrament School, Regis Jesuit High School, and East High School, from which he graduated. Swigert received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical engineering from the University of Colorado in 1953, a Master of Science degree in Aerospace engineering from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 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.[1]


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.

Swigert held a position as engineering test pilot for North American Aviation, Inc., before joining NASA. He was also an engineering test pilot for Pratt and Whitney from 1957 to 1964. He served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force from 1953 to 1956 and, upon graduation from the Pilot Training Program and Gunnery School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, was assigned as a fighter pilot in Japan and Korea. After completing his tour of active duty in the Air Force, he served as a jet fighter pilot with the Massachusetts Air National Guard from September 1957 to March 1960 and as a member of the Connecticut Air National Guard from April 1960 to October 1965.[2]

He eventually logged 7,200 hours flight, which includes more than 5,725 in jet aircraft.[3]

After unsuccessfully applying for NASA's second and third astronaut selections,[4] Swigert was accepted into the 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.[4]

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 he had no immunity to the disease, NASA did not want to risk his falling ill during critical phases of the flight. Incidentally, this made Swigert the first American bachelor astronaut to fly in space.

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".[5] Swigert, along with fellow astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise, returned safely to Earth on April 17th after about 5 days and 23 hours in space, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom later that year.

Swigert received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.


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. He was hospitalized at Yale University Hospital on 19 December, and died of respiratory failure on December 27, eight days before the beginning of his Congressional term.[4] He is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.[6]


Swigert statue at Denver International Airport

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

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, Colo., the Space Foundation was founded in 1983 in part to honor the memory and accomplishments of Swigert. Recipients include:


  1. ^ Jack's education .jsc.nasa.gov
  2. ^ http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/swigert-jl.html
  3. ^ http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/swigert-jl.html
  4. ^ a b c Chaikin, Andrew. A Man on the Moon. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 978-0-14-024146-4. 
  5. ^ "Jim Lovell's written account of the mission attributes the quote to Swigert". History.nasa.gov. 1970-04-11. Retrieved 2012-09-14. 
  6. ^ "Find-a-grave". Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  7. ^ Holmes, Charles W., Editor, Honoree Album of the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, The Colorado Aviation Historical Society, 1999, Audubon Media Corp., Audubon, IA.
  8. ^ "Fact Sheets". Visitthecapitol.gov. Retrieved 2012-09-14. 
  9. ^ "RPI Alumni Hall of Fame: John L. Swigert Jr". Rpi.edu. Retrieved 2012-09-14. 

External links[edit]