Swigert is ‘swinger’ on Apollo 13 crew (1970)

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Jack Swigert in space suit NASA

Jack Swigert is ‘swinger’ on Apollo 13 crew (1970)

By Darrell Mack, Space Center, Houston

John Leonard Swigert, Jr., the emergency substitute member of the Apollo 13 crew, is a swinging bachelor with a playboy-type pad — but he would rather fly than play.

He has a bar complete with a beer spigot in the kitchen and an elaborate stereo in the living room, next to a pair of chairs that Hugh Hefner must have recommended.

One chair is an off-white, fur-covered recliner wide enough for two cuddlers. The other is a bright orange, bucket-seat type called a “coffin chair.” That reflects Jack Swigert, the most swinging of all the bachelor astronauts.

Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, Fred Haise, 12 days after Apollo 13's return
Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, Fred Haise, 12 days after Apollo 13’s return

Jack Swigert, 38, a native of Denver, has been working with the command and service modules of the moon ship ever since his test pilot days at North American Aviation Inc. (now North American Rockwell Corp.), the company which built the craft.

Since becoming an astronaut in April, 1966, Swigert, a civilian, has worked mostly with the command and service modules. He was on the support team of the first Apollo crew before those astronauts were killed in the tragic Apollo I launch pad fire in 1967.

Swigert then became a member of the support crew for Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo flight, and was backup command module pilot on Apollo 13 until Thomas K Mattingly was exposed to the German measles.

“I’d say he (Swigert) knows that command service module better than anybody,” a friend at North American said of Swigert.

MORE: To the moon! 20 newspaper headlines from the Apollo 11 launch on July 16, 1969

Swigert is ‘swinger’ on Apollo 13 crew (1970)

Jack Swigert first flew at 14

Swigert started flying at age 14 in Denver, when he went to watch an older friend take a flying lesson.

“I worked after school and Saturdays to save money to take an hour of flying, even though I couldn’t solo,” Swigert said.

At 16, he had his pilot’s license. At 17, he was an all-city football player in Denver. He attended the University of Colorado to play football and get a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering.

Next to flying, engineering became his first love. After graduating in 1953, he became an Air Force fighter pilot and served a stint in Korea.

MORE: How do astronauts go to the bathroom in space?

“I don’t think I’m a confirmed bachelor,” Swigert said. “I think ifs just circumstances — going overseas to Korea and later the education I was pursuing. I was going to school nights and it was so demanding of your time that social activities suffered.

“I haven’t ruled it (marriage) out,” he said. “There are a number of very attractive and very intelligent young ladies that I’m dating, and I would consider them good prospects, but it’s nothing serious.”

The one thing he has been serious about so far is flying, and his goal has been a lunar flight. He’s on the verge of success.

The late John L. Swigert Jr. in his flight suit adorned with a 118th Fighter Squadron patch, circa 1965. (U.S. Air National Guard file photo)
The late John L. Swigert Jr. in his flight suit adorned with a 118th Fighter Squadron patch, circa 1965. (U.S. Air National Guard file photo)


Postscript: John Leonard Swigert, Jr. died from bone marrow cancer on December 27, 1982. He never married.

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