Birthday: August 30, 1931
Died At Age: 51
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: John Leonard Jack Swigert Jr.
Born in: Denver, Colorado
Famous as: Astronaut
father: John Leonard Swigert Sr.
mother: Virginia Swigert
siblings: Elizabeth Berube, Virginia Spinelli
Died on: December 27, 1982
Cause of Death: Cancer
U.S. State: Colorado
City: Denver, Colorado
Notable Alumni: University Of Colorado--Boulder
education: University of Colorado B.S. 1953, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute M.S. 1965, University of Hartford MBA 1967, Regis Jesuit High School, East High School, Denver
John Leonard "Jack" Swigert Jr. was an American astronaut who was one of the 24 people who had traversed to the Moon. A test-pilot, US Air Force pilot, and mechanical and aerospace engineer, he served in the military from 1953 to 1965. Swigert grew up in the 1930s and early 1940s, deeply fascinated by aviation. Earning money as a newspaper boy, he started taking flying lessons and by the time he turned 16, he was already a licensed private pilot. After graduating from college, he joined the Air Force in 1953 and served as a fighter pilot in Japan and Korea. He experienced his first aeroplane crash in the latter country. Following the completion of his active service, he became a jet fighter pilot with the Massachusetts and Connecticut Air National Guard. Prior to joining the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1966, he also worked as a test pilot for North American Aviation. A specialist on the Apollo Command Module, he was one of the three crew members of the ill-fated Apollo 13, which came across several technical problems before it could reach its destination, leading to the abortion of the mission. In his later years, he held the position of the executive director of the Committee on Science and Astronautics, U.S. House of Representatives. Swigert was elected as a congressman before his untimely death at the age of 51.
Childhood & Early Life
Jack Swigert was born on August 30, 1931, in Denver, Colorado, US, to parents Dr John L. Swigert, an ophthalmologist, and Virginia Swigert. He had two sisters, Virginia Spinelli and Elizabeth Berube.
Having spent the majority of his youth in the areas surrounding the Combs Field, a small airfield in Denver, Swigert watched the planes take off all day long. At 14, he developed a deep interest in aviation and wasn’t satisfied by just watching them anymore. He wanted to be inside one and fly it. Realising that flying lessons cost considerable amounts of money, he began delivering newspapers to fund his flying lessons. By the time he turned 16, he had already gotten a license to be a private pilot.
He studied successively at Blessed Sacrament School; Regis High School, and East High School, graduating in 1949. Swigert was an exemplary student. Not only he thrived in his studies, but was a talented athlete as well. He first enrolled at the University of Colorado where he played football for the Buffaloes. He graduated in 1953 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering.
He went on to get 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. He was also awarded Honorary Doctorate of Science degrees by American International College and Western Michigan University in 1970 and an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree by Western State University.
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Jack Swigert immediately joined the US Air Force in 1953. He completed his Pilot Training Program and attended the Gunnery School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Subsequently, he was sent to Japan and Korea to serve as a jet fighter pilot. While in Korea, he experienced the first crash of his career. Fortunately, he was able to walk away from the accident with only minor injuries.
He later served in the same capacity with the Massachusetts (1957–1960) and Connecticut Air National Guard (1960–1965). Between 1957 and 1964, he had been an engineering test pilot for Pratt & Whitney, an American aerospace manufacturer with global service operations. He was also one of the engineering test pilots at North American Aviation before NASA came calling.
In April 1973, he applied for a leave of absence from NASA to serve as the executive director of the Committee on Science and Astronautics, U.S. House of Representatives. Four years later, he resigned from both NASA and the committee.
Swigert had harboured political ambitions for a while. He joined the Republican Party in 1977 and was picked as the Vice President of B.D.M. Corporation, Golden, Colorado in 1979. He eventually left B.D.M. to take over the position of vice president for financial and corporate affairs at Gold and Minerals Limited. In February 1982, he submitted his resignation to contest for a seat in the US Congress.
He became the inaugural Member-elect of the U.S. House of Representatives from Colorado's 6th district, soundly defeating his Democratic opponent with 64% of popular vote. However, he died before taking office.
Over the years, Swigert has been involved with several organizations. He had served as a fellow of the American Astronautical Society and as an associate fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He had been also part of the Quiet Birdmen, Phi Gamma Delta, Pi Tau Sigma, and Sigma Tau.
Accomplishments at NASA
Jack Swigert had previously applied for NASA’s second and third astronaut selections but did not get picked. In April 1966, he was finally accepted into the NASA Astronaut Corps as a member of NASA Astronaut Group 5. As per his request, he was given the opportunity to serve as a specialist on the Apollo Command Module.
The events involving Apollo 13 came about at a time when the US had already won the “Space Race” over its Cold War rival Soviet Russia. The seventh manned mission in the Apollo space program and the third intended to land on the Moon, Apollo 13 faced multitude of problems from the very start. All members of the prime crew were exposed to German Measles (the rubella virus) and astronaut Ken Mattingly, it turned out, had no natural immunity to the disease.
Swigert replaced Mattingly and joined the crew consisting of James A. Lovell, Jr. and Fred W. Haise, Jr. The launch took place on April 11, 1970, but the mission had to be aborted after a leakage in the oxygen tank in the spacecraft's service module was detected. They returned safely to the Earth after spending five days and 22 hours in space.
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He was meant to be part of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project as the command module pilot but having been implicated in the Apollo 15 postage stamp incident, he was cut out from the crew rotation.
Awards & Achievements
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) presented Jack Swigert with the Octave Chanute Award in 1966 and the Haley Astronautics Award in 1971.
In 1970, Swigert was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his distinguished career. He also received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.
He was posthumously inducted into both the International Space Hall of Fame in 1983 and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997.
Space Foundation, in partnership with Colorado Springs District 11, founded the Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy on August 18, 2009.
Personal Life & Legacy
Those who knew Jack Swigert called him the “epitome of good manners.” A lifelong bachelor, he was optimistic, intense, and had a distinctive sense of humour. It was during his political campaign for the US House of Representatives in 1982 that he was diagnosed with having a malignant tumour in his right nasal passage.
Despite a surgery, the cancer spread to his bone marrow and lungs. He was admitted to Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. and passed away due to respiratory failure on December 27, 1982.
In the 1995 space docudrama ‘Apollo 13’, Swigert was portrayed by Kevin Bacon.
In his youth, Swigert was involved with the Boy Scouts of America and rose to the rank of Second Class Scout.