Fred Haise (left), Jack Swigert (middle), and Jim Lovell (right), the crew of Apollo 13. Swigert was originally the back-up CMP of Apollo 13, but replaced Ken Mattingly in that position 72 hours before launch due to Mattingly’s exposure to rubella. The photo is dated April 10, 1970, the day before launch. (NASA photo AS13-70-HC-541).
Today, April 17, is the 50th anniversary of the splashdown of Apollo 13— a space mission that became one of the greatest combined human achievements in history. The recovery of the Apollo 13 astronauts, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert ranks as a triumph of human endurance and flight control ingenuity and organization beyond any seen previously in the era of space exploration.
This recognition of the Apollo 13 mission is also a memorial for Jack Swigert, its Command Module Pilot. My close friend and colleague did not live to see this anniversary, having passed away soon after being elected to the United States Congress in 1982 and before this website was created. His presence on the Apollo 13 mission came at nearly the last minute; however, as both a member of the Backup Crew and the earlier Astronaut Office lead on the development of malfunction procedures for the Apollo Command and Service Module, he was as prepared as humanly possible for the role he had to play in shutting down and then reactivating his crippled spacecraft for a perfect entry and splashdown.
As the first crew fully trained for lunar exploration, Lovell and Haise, supported by Swigert, left Earth for the Moon on April 11; but 56 hours after launch, an oxygen tank in the Service Module of their spacecraft exploded. Instead of exploring the Fra Mauro landing site, the three astronauts worked along with Apollo Mission Control, the spacecraft contractors, and the men and women running the spacecraft simulators at the Manned Spacecraft Center and the Kennedy Space Center to save their lives and probably to save future Apollo exploration! Well done to all!
A summary of the events in the spacecraft as well as improved photographs of the crew can be seen at:
Copyright © by Harrison H. Schmitt, 2020. All rights reserved.