Episode 28: Apollo 13

On this day 40 years ago the crew of Apollo 11 fulfilled one of mankind’s longest held dreams and walked on the surface of the Moon. One of them Buzz Aldrin in episode 12 of ATUK, recalled a little of that experience.

Today’s episode is a short recording with Fred Haise when he visited Pontefract as arranged by Ken Willoughby. Incidentally, Jim Lovell is also visiting Pontefract in Yorkshire on October the 2nd 2009. If you are close to northern England on that date consider stopping by. Of the twelve men who walked on the Moon only nine remain.

Apollo 13 astronauts Fred Haise along with Jim Lovell and Jack Swigert were arguably the subject of the 20th century’s most dramatic events and the subject of the film Apollo 13.

Fred Haise never made it to the surface of the Moon.

He served on the back-up crew for the Apollo 8, Apollo 11, Apollo 16 moon missions and was also scheduled as commander for the cancelled Apollo 19 mission. As a backup he could have been on the first mission to the moon (Apollo 8), first moon landing (Apollo 11) and of course commanded his own mission on Apollo 19 but the Apollo program was cancelled after Apollo 17.

Remember the first Shuttle – Enterprise, on the back of a modified 747? Between February and October of 1977 it flew 16 times to perform the approach and landing test of what would become the Shuttle Transport System which is due to conclude next year 2010. Fred Haise was involved in 5 of those. Three of which involved the Enterprise in free flight.

When I spoke to Fred during the dinner on the day before this recording, he came across as an ordinary guy who did not consider himself to be “special” but just around in the right place at the right time. During the course of the evening he spoke to many who were present but most of the evening had gone by and I had not had a chance to say hello. Then suddenly he approached from a corner of the room and said “Hello, I’m Fred Haise, I don’t think we’ve met”. In the short conversation that followed he indicated that fishing was his primary hobby and although his trip aboard Apollo 13 was dramatic he had an eventful life before and after it too.

Sure, it is impossible to have a deep insight from a couple of short meetings. Perhaps, it was the ease with which he used my first name (which some people find heavy going) and conversed as if I had always known him. There was something special about the ordinary way he conducted himself. He had accepted the extreme high and low experiences in his life as nothing more than an occupational hazard. Apollo 13 as the only space flight he ever made.

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This week’s quote is from Carl Sagan

There are many worlds we have never seen before. Only one generation in the history of the human species is privileged to live during the time those great discoveries are first made; that generation is ours.

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