Jack Swigert was a NASA astronaut and one of only 24 people to have flown to the Moon. He was born as John Leonard ‘Jack’ Swigert, Jr. on August 30, 1931 in Denver, Colorado. He attended the Blessed Sacrament School, Regis Jesuit High School, and East High School to complete his primary education. He then went to the University of Colorado at Boulder and played varsity football. He received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering, and then went on to earn a master of science degree in aerospace science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a Master of Business Administration degree from University of Hartford in West Hartford, Connecticut.
In 1953 Swigert enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and completed his flight training at Nellis Air Force Base. He was assigned as a fighter pilot in Japan and Korea, and after leaving active duty he was a test pilot for Pratt & Whitney until 1964. During his last two years in the military, Swigert served in the Massachusetts and Connecticut Air National Guard.
Swigert was chosen to be a part of the NASA Apollo program in April 1966. He was one of three astronauts aboard Apollo 13, which was launched on April 11, 1970. The mission was the supposed to be the third lunar landing, but it was aborted after the oxygen tank ruptured on the spacecraft’s service module. Swigert was the astronaut who made the famous statement, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here”. The crew returned safely to Earth six days later and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom later that same year. Although he was not aboard Apollo 15, he played a role in the Apollo 15 postage stamp scandal, so he was banned from ever flying again.
After his time with NASA, Swigert became staff director of the Committee on Science and Technology of the U.S. House of Representatives. Then, in 1982, he was elected as a Republican to the 6th congressional district in Colorado. However, on December 27, 1982 Swigert died of cancer before he was sworn into office.
Following his death, Swigert was recognized as a hero, and had many education centers named after him. He was also nominated and inducted into the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame. In 2004, the Space Foundation launched the John “Jack” Swigert Award for Space Exploration.