Russell L. (Rusty) Schweickart, Astronaut and Scientist
Apollo 9 astronaut Russell L. (Rusty) Schweickart is a retired business and government executive. He co-founded the B612 Foundation, a non-profit private foundation that champions the development of spaceflight capability to protect Earth from future asteroid impacts.
Schweickart is founder and past president of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), the international professional society of astronauts and cosmonauts. The Association's first book, The Home Planet, with a preface by Schweickart, was published simultaneously in 10 nations in 1988 and was an immediate international best seller. Schweickart also founded the Association of Space Explorers Committee on Near-Earth Objects from 2005 through 2011. The ASE's NEO committee works with the UN on resolving the international geopolitical issues inherent in the NEO impact threat.
The ASE NEO Committee and its international Panel on Asteroid Threat Mitigation completed its report Asteroid Threats: A Call for Global Response in September 2008. In February 2009 this report was formally introduced in the United Nations and is today the basis for ongoing deliberations, leading to a General Assembly approved decision-making system to address the challenge of impact threatening NEOs.
In 2014 Schweickart co-founded Asteroid Day, a day celebrated on June 30 each year dedicated to public education on the impact threat and other features of asteroids. Based on the request of the ASE, B612 Foundation and others, the UN officially recognized June 30 each year, the anniversary of the 1908 Tunguska asteroid impact in Siberia, as a day of worldwide public education. Thousands of educational events in hundreds of countries are organized each year dedicated to informing the public on the importance of both the threats and potential benefits of asteroids.
Schweickart joined NASA as one of 14 astronauts named in October 1963, the third group of astronauts selected. He served as lunar module pilot for Apollo 9, March 3-13, 1969, logging 241 hours in space. This was the third manned flight of the Apollo series and the first manned flight of the lunar module. During a 46 minute EVA Schweickart tested the portable life support backpack which was subsequently used on the lunar surface explorations. On the mission with Schweickart were commander James A. McDivitt and command module pilot David R. Scott.
Schweickart later served as backup commander for the first Skylab mission where his work in overcoming initial solar shield problems earned him NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal. In 1974 Schweickart moved to NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC to assume an executive position in NASA's Space Applications Directorate.
In 1977, following his NASA career, Schweickart joined the staff of Governor Jerry Brown of California, and served in the Governor's office for two years as his assistant for science and technology. In 1979 Schweickart was appointed to the post of Commissioner of Energy for the State of California and served on the Commission for five and a half years. The Commission, which was chaired by Schweickart for three and a half years, was responsible for all aspects of energy regulation in the state other than rate setting, including energy demand forecasting, alternative energy development, powerplant siting and energy performance regulation for appliances and buildings.
In 1987-88, Schweickart chaired the United States Antarctic Program Safety Review Panel for the Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Washington, DC. The resulting report, Safety in Antarctica, a comprehensive on-site review of all U.S. activities in Antarctica, led to a restructuring of the program, increasing the safety of operations in that hazardous environment. At the request of the National Science Foundation, Schweickart also served on the 1997-1998 United States Antarctic Program Outside Review Panel, which reported to the White House (OSTP) and Congress on the future of US facilities in Antarctica. The US Amundson-Scott South Pole station has been fully rebuilt as a result of this work.
Schweickart received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He and his wife Nancy Ramsey live in Sonoma, CA. He has seven children, eleven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.