NASA Administrator Charles Bolden presented Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise, Jr., with the agency's Ambassador of Exploration Award on Dec. 2, honoring a career that included one of space exploration's most-dramatic chapters.
In turn, Haise paid homage to Gorenflo Elementary School in Biloxi, where he began his education, with the presentation of the encased moon rock award for display.
In presenting the award, Bolden praised Haise for his overall space career and his performance during the Apollo 13 mission that was crippled just two days after launch. Haise and his fellow crewmembers nursed the spacecraft on a perilous trip back to Earth.
"The historic Apollo 13 mission was as dramatic as any Hollywood production," Bolden acknowledged. "When an explosion crippled his command module, Fred and his crewmates, Jim Lovell and Jack Swigert, guided their spacecraft around the moon and back to a successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean – all while the world held its breath. While Fred didn't have the chance to walk on the moon, the cool courage and concentration in the face of crisis is among NASA's most enduring legacies."
The Ambassador of Exploration Award honors the sacrifices of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts and involves the presentation of an encased moon rock to the astronaut or his family. The moon rock is part of the 842 pounds of lunar samples collected during six Apollo expeditions from 1969 to 1972. The recipients typically donate the moon rock for display at a museum or other site.
"When you see this rock, see it as a symbol of the effort made by a lot of people – about 400,000 at the time who were part of the space program – to allow us to enjoy the successes we had," Haise said in presenting the moon rock to Biloxi Public School District Superintendent Paul Tisdale.
"Today, we have proof that dreams come true," Tisdale subsequently told students gathered for the ceremony. "When you see the moon rock here at Gorenflo Elementary, think of your dream – and work hard on your dream to make it come true."
NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center Director Gene Goldman echoed the remarks in praising Haise as a space pioneer and real American hero. "He's not just a former astronaut," Goldman told students. "He's also a former Gorenflo Elementary student just like you. He's a living example of what you can do in life if you dream big and dare to try amazing things. As I look out across all of your young faces, I wonder if there might be a future astronaut, a future leader of NASA or maybe even a future president of the United States among you. Whatever your dream may be, dare to follow it with all your heart and be willing to work for it. You, too, can accomplish great things."
Haise was a Marine, Air Force and NASA pilot before his selection into the astronaut corps in 1966. He served as backup lunar module pilot for the Apollo 8 and Apollo 11 missions and backup spacecraft commander for the Apollo 16 mission. He was scheduled to serve as commander of Apollo 19, but the lunar program was canceled following the Apollo 17 flight. Haise later served as commander of the space shuttle Enterprise on a series of approach and landing test flights. He was scheduled to serve as commander of the STS-2 space shuttle as well, but that mission was canceled. Haise logged 142 hours and 54 minutes in space during his career.
Many recall Haise as a crew member of the dramatic Apollo 13 mission in April 1970. Scheduled as the third lunar mission, the Apollo 13 spacecraft was crippled by a cryogenic oxygen explosion just 55 hours after launch. Haise and fellow crewmembers worked with ground controllers to turn the lunar module into a virtual lifeboat in space. Conserving power and supplies, they were able to navigate a free return trajectory around the moon and back to Earth, completing a mission that was termed a "successful failure." The drama captured world attention and has been recounted in books and a major motion picture.
A graduate of Biloxi High School and the University of Oklahoma, Haise left NASA in 1979 to begin a 17-year career with the Northrop Grumman Corp. He retired in 1996 as president of Northrop Grumman Technical Services. Haise has received numerous awards during his career, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the American Astronautical Society Flight Achievement Award, the Gen. Thomas D. White Trophy Award and the Mississippi Distinguished Civilian Service Medal.
For information about Stennis Space Center, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/stennis/
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