Tag Archives: NASA

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  When the primary crew CMP, Ken Mattingly, was thought to have been exposed to measles, he was withdrawn from Apollo 13 and Jack Swigert took his place in the primary crew.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

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27 December 1968 15:51:42 UTC, T plus 147:00:42.0

A Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King of HS-4 hovers nearby during recovery operations after Apollo 8 lands in the Pacific Ocean, 27 December 1968. (Otis Imboden/National Geographic)
A Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King of HS-4 hovers nearby during recovery operations after Apollo 8 lands in the Pacific Ocean, 27 December 1968. (Otis Imboden/National Geographic)

27 December 1968 15:51:42 UTC, T plus 147:00:42.0: Apollo 8 splashes down in the Pacific Ocean south of the Hawaiian Islands, within 5,000 yards (4,572 meters) of the recovery ship USS Yorktown (CVS-10). The spacecraft arrived before sunrise, landing in 10-foot (3-meter) swells. The parachutes dragged the capsule and left it floating upside down. The inflatable pontoons righted it after about six minutes.

The three astronauts, Frank F. Borman II, James A. Lovell, Jr., and William A. Anders, were hoisted aboard a Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King helicopter, Bu. No. 152711, and flown to the aircraft carrier.

Apollo 8 was the first manned space mission to leave Earth orbit and to travel to another planetary body. It proved all of the space flight techniques that would be required for the upcoming Apollo 11 landing on the Moon.

Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King 66, Bureau of Aeronautics serial number 152711, assigned to HS-4 (“Black Knights”) was the primary recovery helicopter for Apollo 8, Apollo 10, Apollo 11, Apollo 12 and Apollo 13. It was lost at sea off NALF Imperial Beach, California, 4 June 1975. One crewman was killed.

U.S. Navy swimmers prepare the Apollo 8 command capsule to be hoisted aboard USS Yorktown (CVS-10) in the Pacific Ocean, 27 December 1968. (U.S. Navy)
U.S. Navy swimmers prepare the Apollo 8 command capsule to be hoisted aboard USS Yorktown (CVS-10) in the Pacific Ocean, 27 December 1968. (U.S. Navy)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 December 1968 06:10:16 UTC, T plus 89:19:16.6

An Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM) in lunar orbit. (NASA)
An Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM) in lunar orbit. (NASA)

25 December 1968: During the 10th orbit of the Moon, the crew of Apollo 8 fired the Service Propulsion System (SPS) of the Command Service Module for the Trans Earth Injection (TEI) maneuver that would send them home.

TEI was a critical maneuver which had to be timed perfectly. It occurred while the spacecraft was on the side of the Moon away from Earth, and so the crew was out of radio communication with Mission Control in Houston, Texas. If initiated too soon,  the Apollo capsule would miss Earth, or ricochet off the atmosphere. Too late and the capsule would re-enter too steeply and burn up.

The engine had to burn for precisely the correct amount of time to accelerate the space craft out of lunar orbit and to arrive at Earth at exactly the correct point in space where where our home planet would be 57 hours, 26 minutes, 56.2 seconds later, as it traveled in its orbit around the Sun.

Trans-Earth Injection maneuver (NASA S66-10988)

The SPS engine was an AJ10-137, built by Aerojet General Corporation of Azusa, California. It burned a hypergolic fuel combination of Aerozine 50 and nitrogen tetraoxide, producing 20,500 pounds of thrust (91.19 kilonewtons). It was designed for a 750 second burn, or 50 restarts during a flight. The SPS engine had already been used for the Trans Lunar Injection maneuver, sending Apollo 8 from Earth orbit to the moon, and now served the same function in reverse.

The SPS started at mission time T+089:19:16.6 and cut off at T+089:22:40.3, a burn duration of 3 minutes, 23.97 seconds, increasing the velocity (Δv, or “delta–v”) 3,531 feet per second (1,076 meters per second).

Apollo 8 Coming Home by Robert T. McCall, 1969. (Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum)
Apollo 8 Coming Home by Robert T. McCall, 1969. (Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 December 1972 22:54:36 UTC, T plus 188:01:36

Apollo 17 lunar lander and lunar rover on the surface of the moon. (NASA)

14 December 1972: At 4:54:36 p.m., CST (Houston time), the Ascent Stage of the Apollo 17 Lunar Module Challenger lifted off from the landing site in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, The Moon. On board were Mission Commander Eugene A. Cernan and the LM Pilot, Harrison H. Schmitt.

The two Astronauts had been on the surface of the Moon for 3 days, 2 hours, 59 minutes, 40 seconds. During that time they made three excursions outside the lunar lander, totaling 22 hours, 3 minutes 57 seconds.

Apollo 17 was the last manned mission to the Moon in the Twentieth Century. Gene Cernan was the last man to stand on the surface of the Moon.

The Apollo 17 ascent stage lifts off from the Taurus-Littrow Valley at 2254 UTC, 14 December 1972. The takeoff was captured by a television camera which had been left on the surface of the Moon. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 December 1972 19:54:58 UTC, T plus 110:21:58

Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt stands in front of the lunar lander Challenger (LM-12) and the lunar rover, 01:13:58 UTC, 12 December 1972. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)
Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt stands in front of the lunar lander Challenger (LM-12) and the lunar rover, 01:13:58 UTC, 12 December 1972. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)

11 December 1972, 19:54:58 UTC: Apollo 17 lunar module Challenger with astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt landed at the Taurus-Littrow Valley, The Moon.

Apollo 17 was the last manned moon mission.

Gene Cernan was the last human to stand on the lunar surface.

Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt and the lunar rover at the edge of Shorty Crater in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, The Moon. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)
Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt and the lunar rover at the edge of Shorty Crater in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, The Moon. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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