Monday, March 21, 2011

Meeting Fred Haise

Please tell me you have seen the movie "Apollo 13". Please? .....You have? Ok, great...I can start putting away my Saturn V models and swoopy sound effects to demonstrate to you.

You may remember a certain "Fred Haise" (played by Bill Paxton, which I had to look up, because lets be honest, the real astronauts are way cooler than the fake ones who pretend to be them....just sayin'). Mr. Haise was supposed to travel with Jim Lovell in the lunar module to the lunar surface; however, an oxygen tank explosion canceled all chances of a lunar landing on '13.

On Friday I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Haise and listen to him recount the journey from the Earth to the Moon aboard the crippled Odyssey and the lifeboat Aquarius.


The success of the mission is truly an engineering marvel, and everytime I hear someone talk about it I gain a new understanding of just how tough it was to troubleshoot and just how fragile the scenario really was. Infact, I have now heard the story from EECOM Sy Liebergot, Astronaut Fred Haise, and seen the actual capsule on display at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, KS.

Fred gave us a little insight into how he got into the astronaut business, ironically, his path also stemmed from 9 years in flight test, similar to Gene Kranz's flight test engineering background (this always makes me happy, since I am in flight test right now)! He told us of his time on Apollo 13 with real footage playing in the background, recounted his near death airplane crash following Apollo 13, and his time drop testing the space shuttle Enterprise.

The BF and I talked later and both expressed how hard it was to believe that the man we had just seen was resident aboard a crippled spacecraft all the way on the far side of the moon. It is truly incredible....and like a true flight test pilot, he didn't sugarcoat anything....he told the facts of the mission without even a hint of emotion.

That night as we were driving home, with the top down, it was hard not to look at the moon without a profound sense of respect and anticipation and frustration. Respect for the men and women who made Apollo possible, anticipation to go back, and frustration at the current lack of support.