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50 Years Ago: Apollo 13 Aquarius European Goodwill Tour

Six months after their return from the harrowing Apollo 13 mission, astronauts James A. Lovell, John L. Swigert, and Fred W. Haise, accompanied by Lovell’s wife Marilyn and Haise’s wife Mary (Swigert was a bachelor), embarked on a European goodwill tour.  Their postflight tour was less grandiose than those of the Apollo 11 and 12 crews, partly because the Haises couldn’t spend much time away from their three-month old son at home. Like their predecessors, their journey dubbed the Aquarius European Presidential Goodwill Tour to honor the Lunar Module that served as their lifeboat, came at the request of President Richard M. Nixon, who lent them one of his presidential jets. They visited six countries in 15 days, meeting with presidents and other dignitaries, scientists, and students, and attended an international conference where they met with Soviet cosmonauts.

Map of Europe showing the itinerary of the Apollo 13 Aquarius European
Presidential Goodwill World Tour.

President Nixon announced the Apollo 13 crew’s goodwill tour on Sept. 23, 1970, and on the morning of Oct. 1, the presidential blue-and-white Boeing VC-137B aircraft carrying the Lovells, the Haises, Swigert, and NASA and State Department support staff departed Andrews Air Force Base (AFB) outside Washington, D.C., bound for their first stop, Iceland. After arriving at Keflavik Airport, the entourage traveled by motorcade to Reykjavik, the nation’s capital. Over the next three days, the astronauts met with Iceland’s president and prime minister, attended a concert, met with local scientists, gave a press conference, narrated a film of their mission to local university students, and visited Thingvellir, the site of Iceland’s first parliament. For Swigert and Haise, this was a return visit to Iceland as they both attended a geology field trip there in July 1967, the vegetation-free volcanic terrain ideal for simulating the lunar surface.

apollo_13_european_tour_reykjavik_press_conference apollo_13_european_tour_konstanz_iac_oct_5_1970_w_cosmos
Left: Apollo 13 astronauts Fred W. Haise, left, James A. Lovell, and John L. Swigert during a press
conference in Reykjavik. Right: At the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) meeting in Konstanz,
astronauts meet cosmonauts: Lovell, left, Andrian G. Nikolayev, Swigert, Vitali I. Sevastyanov,
Haise, Boris B. Yegorov, and James A. McDivitt.

From Reykjavik, the entourage flew to Zurich, Switzerland, on Oct. 4. The next day, a motorcade took the astronauts to Konstanz, Germany, where the 21st International Astronautical Congress was taking place. They presented their Apollo 13 film to about 700 assembled delegates and members of the media. Accompanied by Apollo 9 astronaut and Apollo Program Manager James A. McDivitt, who was attending the conference, they met with Soviet cosmonauts Boris B. Yegorov, a physician who flew aboard Voskhod 1 in 1965, and Andriyan G. Nikolayev and Vitali I. Sevastyanov who in June 1970 set a world endurance record of 18 days aboard Soyuz 9. On Oct. 6, the astronauts and their wives traveled to the Swiss capital Bern where they exchanged official gifts with Hans-Peter Tshudi, president of the Swiss Confederation, at the federal palace. Lovell, Swigert, and Haise met with scientists at the University of Bern, including Professor Johannes Geiss, the principal investigator for the Solar Wind Collection experiment that Apollo 11 and 12 astronauts deployed on the lunar surface and returned to Earth for analysis. The next day, they traveled by motorcade to Lucerne, to visit the Swiss Transport Museum and the Longines Planetarium. They returned to Zurich to give a talk to 600 students and faculty at the University of Zurich.

apollo_13_european_tour_bern_w_president_tschudi uniaktuell_interviewmordasini_danielgermannfritzbuehler_unibe apollo_13_european_tour_lucern_train
Left: Apollo 13 astronauts Fred W. Haise, left, James A. Lovell, and John L. Swigert exchange gifts with Swiss
President Hans-Peter Tshudi. Middle: Scientists at the University of Bern describe the Solar Wind Collection
experiment to Haise, left, Swigert, and Lovell. Right: Swigert, left, Lovell, and Haise pose on a train at
the Lucerne Transport Museum.

On Oct. 8, the astronauts departed Zurich bound for Athens, Greece. The next morning, Lovell, Swigert, and Haise laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Constitution Square, and accompanied by U.S. Ambassador Henry J. Tasca, the astronauts accepted keys to the city of Athens from Mayor Dimitrios Ritsos. They made a brief visit to the Demokritos Nuclear Research Center, making a brief presentation to assembled scientists, and then toured Athens by car, including a visit to the Parthenon, the former temple to the goddess Athena located on the Acropolis, followed by a visit with Greek President Georges Papadopoulos. In the evening, the entourage departed Athens for Iraklion on the Greek Island of Crete, for a day of rest and sightseeing, visiting places such as the Minoan ruins at Knossos. They returned to Athens on Oct. 11 to pick up the presidential jet to fly to their next stop, Valletta, the capital of the Mediterranean island nation of Malta. The next morning, the astronauts laid a wreath at a war memorial and rode in a brief motorcade through Valletta to the Governor General’s Palace to meet with Governor General Sir Maurice Dorman and Lady Dorman. At the Royal University of Malta, they gave a talk to 400 assembled students and faculty.

apollo_13_european_tour_athens_oct_10_1970 apollo_13_european_tour_athens_oct_10_1970_ap_photo
Left: Fred W, Haise, left, James A. Lovell, and John L. Swigert at Athens’
Constitution Square prior to laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Right: U.S. Ambassador to Greece Henry J. Tasca, left, Lovell, Athens Mayor
Dimitrios Ritsos, Swigert, and Haise during ceremony receiving the gold key
of the city of Athens. 

apollo_13_european_tour_athens_parthenon_oct_1970 apollo_13_european_tour_valletta_as13-1006_noid_world_tour
Left: Fred W. Haise, left, John L. Swigert, and James A. Lovell pose in front of the
Parthenon atop the Athens Acropolis. Right: Swigert, left, Haise, and Lovell riding in
a Rolls-Royce convertible in the streets of Valletta.

On the morning of Oct. 13, the presidential plane carrying the entourage left Valletta en route to Dublin, Ireland. Upon their arrival in Dublin, U.S. Ambassador John D. Moore met the astronauts and their wives, along with members of the press and about 300 spectators. They traveled from the airport to their hotel via a motorcade, with hundreds of well-wishers lining the route. The next day, Lovell, Swigert, and Haise visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral and met with Dean Victor G. Griffin, who had held an all-night prayer vigil there during the Apollo 13 mission. The astronauts then proceeded to Áras an Uachtaráin, the official presidential residence, for a reception with President Éamon de Valera and wished him a happy 88th birthday. Taoiseach (prime minister) Jack Lynch also attended the function. They visited the Opera House in Cork before returning to Dublin to catch a flight to Shannon, on Ireland’s west coast, the final leg of their two-week tour. After arriving at Shannon Airport, the entourage travelled a few miles north by motorcade to Dromoland Castle Hotel. The morning of Oct. 15, the astronauts and their wives took another motorcade to the nearby town of Limerick, still decorated with American flags from President Nixon’s visit 12 days earlier. The city’s mayor, Councillor J.P. Liddy, had appealed to all local schools to allow their students to attend the astronauts’ reception at the City Library, and the large number of them overwhelmed local security. In his remarks to the assembled crowd, Lovell read the following limerick he had composed for the occasion:

In Limerick our European tour ended,

And the people a warm welcome extended,

And indeed through Mayor Liddy

In charge of your fair city,

Our hearts to you are surrendered.

From Limerick, they drove to nearby Bunratty Castle for a medieval-themed lunch, and then back to Shannon Airport, where the presidential jet awaited to fly them back to Washington and then home to Houston, arriving at Ellington AFB near the Manned Spacecraft Center, now NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the evening of Oct. 15.

apollo_13_european_tour_dublin_airport_arrival apollo_13_european_tour_dublin_motorcade apollo_13_european_tour_lovells_at_burnatty_castle_ireland
Left: Fred W. Haise, left, John L. Swigert, and James A. Lovell upon arrival in Dublin.
Middle: Swigert, left, Haise, and Lovell in the motorcade through Dublin.
Right: The Lovells, wearing crowns, being served at Bunratty Castle.