Tag Archives: John Leonard Swigert Jr.

17 April 1970, 12:52:51 UTC, T plus 137:39:51.5

Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronograph worn by Jack Swigert during the Apollo 13 mission.

17 April 1970: Because of the unusual configuration of the Apollo 13 Command Module, Service Module and Lunar Module “stack” during the coast from the Moon back to Earth, an additional, unplanned, Mid-Course Correction burn, MCC-7, had to be carried out. The damage to the Service Module prevented the use of its 21,900 pounds thrust (97.42 kilonewtons) Aerojet General Service Propulsion System engine. It was necessary to use the LM’s Space Technology Laboratories (TRW) VTR-10 Descent Propulsion System engine. The DPS engine produced 10,500 pounds of thrust (46.71 kilonewtons). The maneuver had to be carried out manually by the astronauts from the LM’s cockpit.

Mission Commander Lovell visually aligned the spacecraft with the LM’s Reaction Control System thrusters, by sighting the Earth in his window of the LM. Once aligned, LM pilot Fred Haise conducted the burn, which was timed by CM pilot Jack Swigert.

Swigert timed the burn using his NASA-issued Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronograph, a very accurate manual wristwatch.

The Mid Course Correction ignition commenced at T+137:39:51.5 and the engine was cutoff at T+137:40:13.0 (12:52:51–12:53.13 UTC), for a duration of 21.5 seconds.

MCC-7 was performed at EI-5 hours (137:39 GET). The same manual piloting technique used for MCC-5 was used for control during MCC-7. This was manual crew pitch and roll control with the TTCA and automatic yaw control by the AGS. MCC-7 was performed with LM RCS using the +X translation push button. It steepened the flight path angle at EI to -6.49 degrees. After MCC-7, the crew maneuvered the spacecraft to the SM separation attitude. The CM re-entry RCS system was activated and a firing test of the thrusters was successful.

“Apollo 13 Guidance, Navigation, and Control Challenges” by John L. Goodman, United Space Alliance. American Institute of Astronautics AIAA 2009-6455 at Page 23.

Omega Speedmaster Professional “Moon Watch.” (Omega)

The Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronograph is a manual-winding analog wrist watch produced by Omega, a luxury brand of Société Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogère, (SSIH) and now a part of the SWATCH Group. The case is made of stainless steel and has a diameter of 48 millimeters (1.89 inches). The Speedmaster Professional, which is also known as the “Moon Watch,” or “Speedy” to watch collectors, features a stop watch function and three sub dials for recording hours, minutes and seconds. The chronograph has a black dial with tritium-painted hands and hour marks. The bezel has a tachymeter for calculating speed based on time. When fully wound, the Speedmaster can run for up to 48 hours. The chronograph is water resistant to a depth of 50 meters (164 feet).

The Speedmaster’s crystal is not glass, but “hesalite,” a clear, scratch-resistant plastic. There had been concern that if a crystal broke during a space flight, glass fragments could be scattered throughout the weightless environment of the spacecraft, presenting a danger to the astronauts.

Description of the Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronograph in a NASA Manual. (NASA)

NASA provided Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronographs to Gemini and Apollo Program astronauts. Each watch was engraved with NASA’s two-digit serial number, and could be equipped with an adjustable length Velcro strap which allowed the watch to be worn on the outside of the space suit. NASA also assigned an equipment part number.

Jack Swigert’s watch, p/n SEB12100039-002, was NASA’s number 69. It is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, as Catalog Number 1977-1181.000. In 2016, the watch was on display at the University of Colorado.

Astronaut Jack Swigert prepares to board the Apollo 13 Command Module. He is wearing his Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronograph on his left arm. NASA space suit technician Clyde Teague is at left. (NASA)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

John Leonard Swigert, Jr. (30 August 1931–27 December 1982)

John L. Swigert, Jr., Astronaut
John L. Swigert, Jr., Astronaut, Command Module Pilot, Apollo XIII. (NASA)

John L. “Jack” Swigert, Jr., was born at Denver, Colorado, 30 August 1931, the first of three children of John Leonard Swigert, a physician, and Virginia Seep Swigert. Interested in aviation from an early age, he was a licensed Private Pilot at age 16. He graduated from Denver’s East High School in 1949.

Jack Swigert, 1952.

Jack Swigert attended the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. He was a member of the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFROTC), played on the varsity football team, and was a member of the C Club. He graduated in 1953 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Following his graduation, Swigert was commissioned as a second lieutenant, United States Air Force Reserve.

Lieutenant Swigert flew fighters from bases in Japan and Korea, then after completing his active duty requirement, 2 October 1956, he  transferred to the Air National Guard. He served with the Massachusetts ANG and Connecticut ANG.

Swigert earned a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York, in 1965, as well as a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Hartford at Hartford, Connecticut.

Captain John L. Swigert, Jr., United States Air Force, F-100 Super Sabre pilot, 118th Fighter Squadron, Connecticut Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)
Captain John L. Swigert, Jr., United States Air Force, F-100A Super Sabre pilot, 118th Fighter Squadron, Connecticut Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)

While flying with the Air Guard, Swigert also worked for North American Aviation, Inc., as an engineering test pilot, and then for Pratt & Whitney.

He became one of 19 men selected as crewmembers of NASA’s Apollo Program 1965. He requested an assignment as pilot of the Apollo Command and Service Module.

Swigert was a member of the support team for the Apollo 7 mission, and was then selected as Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 13 backup crew, along with John Watts Young and Charles M. Duke, Jr.  When the primary crew CMP, Ken Mattingly, was thought to have been exposed to measles, he was withdrawn from Apollo 13 and Jack Swigert took his place in the primary crew.

Apollo 13 was planned as the third lunar landing mission. The circumstances of its flight are well known. When disaster struck, all three astronauts performed an amazing feat as they had to improvise their safe return to Earth.

Swigert left NASA in 1977 and entered politics. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982, representing the the 6th District of Colorado.

On the night of 27 December 1982, before he could be sworn into office, John Leonard Swigert, Jr., aerospace engineer, fighter pilot, test pilot, astronaut and congressman, died from complications of cancer.

John L. Swigert, Jr. Memorial, bronze sculpture by Mark and George Lundeen, in the National Statuary Hall Collection, United States Capitol. Gift of the State of Colorado, 1997. (Architect of the Capitol)
John L. Swigert, Jr. Memorial, bronze sculpture by Mark and George Lundeen, in the National Statuary Hall Collection, United States Capitol. Gift of the State of Colorado, 1997. (Architect of the Capitol)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes