Rusty Schweickart

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Russell L. Schweickart
NASA Astronaut
Nationality American
Born (1935-10-25) October 25, 1935 (age 79)
Neptune Township, New Jersey, U.S.
Other names
Russell Louis Schweickart
Other occupation
Research scientist, fighter pilot, business executive, government executive
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, B.S. 1956, M.S. 1963
Time in space
10d 01h 00m
Selection 1963 NASA Group 3
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
1 hour 8 minutes
Missions Apollo 9
Mission insignia
Retirement 1977

Russell Louis "Rusty" Schweickart (also Schweikart, born October 25, 1935, Neptune Township, New Jersey) is a former U.S. astronaut, research scientist, Air Force fighter pilot as well as a former business and government executive. Selected in 1963 for NASA's third astronaut group, he is best known as the Lunar Module pilot on the 1969 Apollo 9 mission, the first manned flight test of the Lunar Module, on which he performed the first in-space test of the Portable Life Support System used by the Apollo astronauts who walked on the Moon. As backup commander of the first manned Skylab mission in 1973, he was responsible for developing the hardware and procedures used by the first crew to perform critical in-flight repairs of the Skylab station. After Skylab, he served for a time as Director of User Affairs in NASA's Office of Applications.

Schweickart left NASA in 1977 to serve for two years as California governor Jerry Brown's assistant for science and technology, then was appointed by Brown to California's Energy Commission for five and a half years, serving as chairman for three.[1]

In 1984–85 he co-founded the Association of Space Explorers and later in 2002 co-founded the B612 Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to defending Earth from asteroid impacts, along with fellow former-astronaut Dr. Ed Lu and two planetary scientists. He served for a period as its Chair before becoming its Chair Emeritus.

Early life[edit]

Rusty Schweickart was born October 25, 1935, in Neptune Township, New Jersey, and grew up on a "handscrabble" farm of 45 acres (18 ha) producing hay and vegetables plus raising poultry and cows. As a youth his ambition was to be a pilot and a cowboy.[2] After graduating from Manasquan High School in 1952, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering on scholarship and an Master of Science degree in Aeronautics–Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1956 and 1963 respectively.[1][3] His family's stated annual income when he received his Massachusetts Institute of Technology scholarship after graduating high school was listed as $1,800.[2]

Military and NASA service[edit]

Schweickart standing in front of his North American F-86 Sabre in 1963

Schweickart served in the US Air Force and Massachusetts Air National Guard (101st Tactical Fighter Squadron) from 1956 to 1963, with over 4,000 hours of flight time, including 3,500 hours in high performance jet aircraft.[1]

Schweickart was chosen as part of NASA Astronaut Group 3 in October 1963. On March 21, 1966, he was named as the back-up pilot for Roger B. Chaffee on Apollo 1 —which was to have been the first manned Apollo flight but was destroyed during a ground test accident. His fellow crewmen were backup Command Pilot James McDivitt and Senior Pilot David Scott, both veterans of Project Gemini. In December 1966, this crew was promoted to fly the first manned Earth orbital test of the Apollo Lunar Module (LM), with Schweickart as Lunar Module Pilot.

This mission was finally flown as Apollo 9 in March 1969. Schweickart spent just over 241 hours in space, and performed the first extravehicular activity (EVA) of the Apollo program, testing the Portable Life Support System that was later used by the 12 astronauts who walked on the Moon. The flight plan called for him to demonstrate an emergency transfer from the Lunar Module to the Command Module (CM) using handrails on the LM, but he began to suffer from space sickness on the first day in orbit, forcing the postponement of the EVA.

Schweickart performs an EVA standing on the Lunar Module porch, photographed by fellow astronaut James McDivitt inside the LM

Eventually he improved enough to perform a relatively brief EVA with his feet restrained on the LM "porch" (a platform used in transferring to the descent ladder), while Command Module Pilot Scott performed a stand-up EVA through the open hatch of the CM. During a 5 minute pause tethered outside his spacecraft, Schweickart felt he underwent a metaphysical experience as he stared down (or up) at the Earth, and its place in the universe.[2]

The time Schweickart spent after this space mission studying space sickness contributed to his missing assignments on the Apollo lunar missions.[citation needed] Schweickart instead served as backup commander for the first Skylab space station mission, which flew during the spring of 1973. Following the loss of the space station's thermal shield during launch, he assumed responsibility for the development of hardware and procedures for erecting an emergency solar shade and deploying a jammed solar array wing, operations which saved the space station.

Schweickart was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 1969, and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 1973.

Career after NASA[edit]

Rusty Schweickart in 2014

Schweickart left NASA in 1977 to serve for two years as California governor Jerry Brown's assistant for science and technology, and was then appointed by Brown to California's Energy Commission for five and a half years.[1][2]

Schweickart, along with cosmonauts Alexey Leonov, Vitaly Sevastyanov, and Georgi Grechko, established the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) in 1984–85, open to all people who have flown in orbit around the Earth. He also chaired the ASE's near-Earth object committee, which produced a benchmark report and submitted it to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS) on Asteroid Threats: A Call for Global Response.

In 2002 he co-founded the B612 Foundation along with fellow former-astronaut Ed Lu and two planetary scientists, also serving as its Chair.[4][5] The B612 Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to defending Earth from asteroid impacts.[6]

In May 2005 Schweickart testified before the U.S. Congress on the dangers of an asteroid impact related to 99942 Apophis. and in 2010 served as the co-chairman, along with astronaut Tom Jones, NASA's Advisory Council’s ad hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense.[7] He has been an advocate of increasing NASA's annual budget by $250M–$300M over a 10 year period to more fully catalog the NEOs that can poise a threat to Earth and also provide a deflection capability.[8]

Schweickart has also spoken and taught at the Esalen Institute,[citation needed] and currently serves as the B612 Foundation's Chair Emeritus.[5]

Biographies and portrayals[edit]

In the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, Schweickart is portrayed by Kieran Mulroney. He also appeared in the television series The Universe in the episodes "The End of the Earth: Deep Space Threats to Our Planet" and "Stopping Armageddon". Schweickart approved the story of his life and career that appeared in the book In the Shadow of the Moon, published in 2007.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Biographical Data for Russell L. (Rusty) Schweickart, NASA. Accessed July 7, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d Kramer, Jill. Scanning The Skies, San Rafael, Marin County, California: Pacific Sun, July 7, 2004 (via, subscription required); also published online as Rusty Schweickart: Space Man.
  3. ^ MIT-alum Alumni list, MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology webpage.
  4. ^ McBarton, Bob (2010), "Former Apollo Astronaut Rusty Schweickart on the Dangers of Near Earth Asteroids and Objects", The Luncheon Society, retrieved August 16, 2011 
  5. ^ a b Our Team | Rusty Schweickart, Chair Emeritus, B612 Foundation, website. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  6. ^ McBarton, Bob (2010), "Former Apollo Astronaut Rusty Schweickart on the Dangers of Near Earth Asteroids and Objects", The Luncheon Society, retrieved August 16, 2011 
  7. ^ NASA Planetary Defense Taskforce
  8. ^ Schweickart, Russell; Johnson, Erik T. (illustrator) Humans to Asteroids: Watch Out!, The New York Times website, October 25, 2010, and in print on October 26, 2010, p. A29 of the New York edition. Retrieved July 4, 2014.

External links[edit]