Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Retired NASA Astronaut & Pilot Fred Haise Honored

Retired NASA astronaut and research pilot Fred Haise returned to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center Aug. 11 to share recollections of his time as a research pilot at the center in the 1960s and to participate in ceremonies honoring him at the Lancaster Jethawks baseball team's annual Aerospace Appreciation Night in nearby Lancaster, Calif., on Aug. 13.

Haise, best known for his harrowing experience with fellow astronauts James Lovell and Jack Swigert after an oxygen tank exploded on the service module during the abortive Apollo 13 lunar mission in 1970, is slated to be joined by retired fellow astronaut Gordon Fullerton and research pilots Fitzhugh Fulton and Tom McMurtry during pre-game ceremonies Saturday evening at the Lancaster Municipal Stadium, also known as the Hangar.

Haise and Fullerton flew three of the five approach and landing flight tests of the prototype space shuttle orbiter Enterprise at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base in 1977, and Fulton and McMurtry were the pilots of the modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft that carried Enterprise aloft for the tests.

The pre-game ceremonies at the stadium will include a video tribute to Haise and a flyover by a NASA F/A-18 aircraft, as well as distribution of bobblehead figures of Haise standing in an Apollo capsule to the first several hundred fans who attend the game. Haise is also scheduled to throw the first pitch prior to the Jethawks game with the San Jose Giants of the Class A California League.

Haise, who was employed by NASA from 1959 through 1979 after a stint as an Air Force fighter pilot, spent three of those years as a research pilot at the Flight Research Center. He recalled those years during an historical colloquium Thursday afternoon, Aug. 11, before an appreciative audience of Dryden employees. His "Remembrances of my best flying days at FRC" focused on Haise' three years as a research pilot at NASA Dryden from 1963 through 1966, prior to being accepted for NASA astronaut training.

"It was the most fun day-to-day time I've had in my life," he said.

Prior to his presentation, Haise toured many of today's flight research projects and aircraft at NASA Dryden, along with getting re-acquainted with the restored prototype lightweight M2-F1 lifting body that he flew in tethered flight in the mid-1960s. On Friday, he toured NASA Dryden's Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, where the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy and most of NASA Dryden's fleet of science aircraft are based.
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