Rusty Schweickart

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Russell L. Schweickart
NASA Astronaut
Nationality American
Status Retired
Born (1935-10-25) October 25, 1935 (age 80)
Neptune Township, New Jersey, U.S.
Other names
Russell Louis Schweickart
Other occupation
Research scientist, fighter pilot, business executive, government executive
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, B.S. 1956, M.S. 1963
Time in space
10d 01h 00m
Selection 1963 NASA Group 3
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
1 hour 7 minutes
Missions Apollo 9
Mission insignia
Retirement 1977

Russell Louis "Rusty" Schweickart (also Schweikart; born October 25, 1935) is an American aeronautical engineer, and a former NASA astronaut, research scientist, U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, as well as a former business executive and government executive.

Selected in 1963 for NASA's third astronaut group, he is best known as the Lunar Module Pilot on the 1969 Apollo 9 mission, the first manned flight test of the Lunar Module, on which he performed the first in-space test of the Portable Life Support System used by the Apollo astronauts who walked on the Moon. As backup Commander of the first manned Skylab mission in 1973, he was responsible for developing the hardware and procedures used by the first crew to perform critical in-flight repairs of the Skylab station. After Skylab, he served for a time as Director of User Affairs in NASA's Office of Applications.

Schweickart left NASA in 1977 to serve for two years as California governor Jerry Brown's assistant for science and technology, then was appointed by Brown to California's Energy Commission for five and a half years, serving as chairman for three.[1]

In 1984–85 he co-founded the Association of Space Explorers and later in 2002 co-founded the B612 Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to defending Earth from asteroid impacts, along with fellow former-astronaut Dr. Ed Lu and two planetary scientists. He served for a period as its chair before becoming its chair emeritus.

Early life and education[edit]

Rusty Schweickart was born October 25, 1935, in Neptune Township, New Jersey, and grew up on a "handscrabble" farm of 45 acres (18 ha) producing hay and vegetables plus raising poultry and cows. As a youth his ambition was to be a pilot and a cowboy.[2] After graduating from Manasquan High School in 1952, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering on scholarship and a Master of Science degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1956 and 1963 respectively.[1][3]

He was active in the Boy Scouts of America. He earned the rank of First Class.[4] His hobbies include golf, bicycling, and hiking. He was married twice and has seven children.

His family's stated annual income when he received his Massachusetts Institute of Technology scholarship after graduating high school was listed as $1,800.[2]

Military and NASA service[edit]

Schweickart standing in front of his North American F-86 Sabre in 1963

Schweickart served in the U.S. Air Force and Massachusetts Air National Guard (101st Tactical Fighter Squadron) from 1956 to 1963, with over 4,000 hours of flight time, including 3,500 hours in high performance jet aircraft.[1]

Prior to joining NASA, Schweickart was a research scientist at the Experimental Astronomy Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his work there involved research upper atmospheric physics, star tracking and stabilization of stellar images. His thesis for a master's degree at MIT concerned stratospheric radiance.

Schweickart was chosen as part of NASA Astronaut Group 3 in October 1963. On March 21, 1966, he was named as the backup Pilot for Roger B. Chaffee on Apollo 1 — which was to have been the first manned Apollo flight but was destroyed during a ground test accident. His fellow crewmen were backup Command Pilot James McDivitt and Senior Pilot David Scott, both veterans of Project Gemini. In December 1966, this crew was promoted to fly the first manned Earth orbital test of the Apollo Lunar Module (LM), with Schweickart as Lunar Module Pilot.

Spaceflight experience[edit]

Main article: Apollo 9

The frontier in space, embodied in the space colony, is one in which the interactions between humans and their environment is so much more sensitive and interactive and less tolerant of irresponsibility than it is on the whole surface of the Earth. We are going to learn how to relate to the Earth and our own natural environment here by looking seriously at space colony ecologies.

Rusty Schweickart[5]

This mission was finally flown as Apollo 9 in March 1969. Schweickart spent just over 241 hours in space, and performed the first extravehicular activity (EVA) of the Apollo program, testing the Portable Life Support System that was later used by the 12 astronauts who walked on the Moon. The flight plan called for him to demonstrate an emergency transfer from the Lunar Module to the Command Module (CM) using handrails on the LM, but he began to suffer from space sickness on the first day in orbit, forcing the postponement of the EVA.

Schweickart performs an EVA standing on the Lunar Module porch, photographed by fellow astronaut James McDivitt inside the LM.

Eventually he improved enough to perform a relatively brief EVA with his feet restrained on the LM "porch" (a platform used in transferring to the descent ladder), while Command Module Pilot Scott performed a stand-up EVA through the open hatch of the CM. During a five-minute pause tethered outside his spacecraft, Schweickart felt he underwent a metaphysical experience as he stared at the Earth, contemplating its place in the universe.[2] He subsequently practiced Transcendental Meditation based on his experience.[6][7]

The time Schweickart spent after this space mission studying space sickness contributed to his missing assignments on the Apollo lunar missions.[citation needed] Schweickart instead served as backup Commander for the first Skylab space station mission, which flew during the spring of 1973. Following the loss of the space station's thermal shield during launch, he assumed responsibility for the development of hardware and procedures for erecting an emergency solar shade and deploying a jammed solar array wing, operations which saved the space station.

Schweickart was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 1969, and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 1973.

Career after NASA[edit]

Rusty Schweickart in 2014

Schweickart left NASA in 1977 to serve for two years as California governor Jerry Brown's assistant for science and technology, and was then appointed by Brown to California's Energy Commission for five and a half years.[1][2]

Schweickart, along with cosmonauts Alexey Leonov, Vitaly Sevastyanov, and Georgi Grechko, established the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) in 1984–85, open to all people who have flown in orbit around the Earth. He also chaired the ASE's near-Earth object committee, which produced a benchmark report and submitted it to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS) on Asteroid Threats: A Call for Global Response.

Schweickart retired from ALOHA Networks, Inc. in 1998 where he served as President and Chief Executive Officer from 1996 through 1998. ALOHA was a data communications company specializing in high performance, wireless internet access equipment.

Schweickart was formerly the Executive Vice President of CTA Commercial Systems, Inc. and Director of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Systems. Schweickart led CTA’s efforts in developing the GEMnet system, a second generation LEO communication satellite constellation designed to provide regular commercial electronic messaging services on a global basis. Prior to his CTA work, Schweickart founded and was President of Courier Satellite Services, Inc., a global satellite communications company which developed LEO satellites to provide worldwide affordable data services.

Schweickart's satellite and telecommunications work involved him in the development of international communications regulations and policies, including participation in the 1992 and 1995 World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC) of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). He served at the 1995 WRC as a U.S. delegate. He also worked extensively in Russia and the former Soviet Union on scientific and telecommunications matters.[8]

In 2002 he co-founded the B612 Foundation along with fellow former-astronaut Ed Lu and two planetary scientists, also serving as its Chair.[9][10] The B612 Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to defending Earth from asteroid impacts.[11]

In May 2005 Schweickart testified before the U.S. Congress on the dangers of an asteroid impact related to 99942 Apophis. and in 2010 served as the co-chairman, along with astronaut Tom Jones, NASA's Advisory Council’s ad hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense.[12] He has been an advocate of increasing NASA's annual budget by $250M–$300M over a 10 year period to more fully catalog the NEOs that can pose a threat to Earth and also provide a deflection capability.[13]

Schweickart has also spoken and taught at the Esalen Institute,[citation needed] and currently serves as the B612 Foundation's Chair Emeritus.[10]


Schweickart is a fellow of the American Astronautical Society and the International Academy of Astronautics, and an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He is also an honorary trustee and a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences.[14]

Awards and honors[edit]

He was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal (1969) and the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale De la Vaulx Medal (1970) for his Apollo 9 flight. He also received the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Special Trustees Award (Emmy Award) in 1969 for transmitting the first live TV pictures from space. In 1973 Schweickart was awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal for his leadership role in the Skylab rescue efforts. He was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1983 and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997.[15]

Biographies and portrayals[edit]

In the 1998 HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, Schweickart is portrayed by Kieran Mulroney. He also appeared in the television series The Universe in the episodes "The End of the Earth: Deep Space Threats to Our Planet" and "Stopping Armageddon". Schweickart approved the story of his life and career that appeared in the book In the Shadow of the Moon, published in 2007.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Biographical Data for Russell L. (Rusty) Schweickart, NASA. Accessed July 7, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d Kramer, Jill. Scanning The Skies, San Rafael, Marin County, California: Pacific Sun, July 7, 2004 (via, subscription required); also published online as Rusty Schweickart: Space Man.
  3. ^ MIT-alum Alumni list, MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology webpage.
  4. ^ "Scouting and Space Exploration". 
  5. ^ "International Space Hall of Fame :: New Mexico Museum of Space History  :: Inductee Profile". 
  6. ^ Klapp, Orrin Edgar (29 September 1978). Opening and Closing. Cambridge University Press. p. 185. Retrieved 16 September 2015. An Apollo 14 veteran, Rusty Schweickart, took up transcendental meditation, saying, 'I'm not the same man. None of us are.' 
  7. ^ Tribbe, Matthew D. (2014). No Requiem for the Space Age: The Apollo Moon Landings and American Culture. Oxford University Press. p. 195. Retrieved 16 September 2015. Consider Rusty Schweickart. … By 1972 he had … taken up Transcendental Meditation, and was pictured in Time escorting Maharishi Mahesh Yogi … on a tour through NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center. 
  8. ^ "Astronaut Bio: Russell L. Schweickart (9/2006)". 
  9. ^ McBarton, Bob (2010), "Former Apollo Astronaut Rusty Schweickart on the Dangers of Near Earth Asteroids and Objects", The Luncheon Society, retrieved August 16, 2011 
  10. ^ a b Our Team | Rusty Schweickart, Chair Emeritus, B612 Foundation, website. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  11. ^ McBarton, Bob (2010), "Former Apollo Astronaut Rusty Schweickart on the Dangers of Near Earth Asteroids and Objects", The Luncheon Society, retrieved August 16, 2011 
  12. ^ "NASA - NASA Advisory Council Ad-Hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense". 
  13. ^ Schweickart, Russell; Johnson, Erik T. (illustrator) Humans to Asteroids: Watch Out!, The New York Times website, October 25, 2010, and in print on October 26, 2010, p. A29 of the New York edition. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
  14. ^ "Schweickart Biography". 
  15. ^ "Schweickart Biography". 

External links[edit]