BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WDAM) - Petal Upper Elementary School visited the Infinity Science Center on the Gulf Coast Thursday morning. The science museum is a non-profit that supports STEM education in schools.
To prepare for the trip, students learned about Apollo 13. On Thursday morning, they were able to ask questions to retired astronaut, Fred Haise, who flew in that mission.
Haise was finishing his engineering degree at the University of Oklahoma when the Russians flew Sputnik and the space program was created. He started working with NASA in 1959 as a test pilot. Haise was involved in the Apollo program, but never got to walk on the moon. He trained in Missions 8 and 11, and he was asked to fly in Mission 13.
"Here was my big chance," Haise said. "We had an oxygen tank which blew up and caused us to abort. It was interesting as a test pilot because we had to do a lot of improvisation to get us back on the ground."
He worked as a backup on Apollo 16 and expected to be cycled into Apollo 18 and 19, but those missions got canceled.
"I feel very lucky, privilege to have that opportunity," Haise said. "Only 24 of us got to go to the moon, so it was pretty unique."
Hearing about the missions first hand from a retired astronaut was the students' favorite experience at the museum.
"It's like meeting a celebrity," said Brooke Wheat, a student. "He let me take a picture of him and shake his hand, and he said I asked a good question."
Student Markayla Perkins said, "We were learning about Apollo 13 and how it wasn't able to land on the moon. It was really cool to see him."
The museum has different interactive exhibits that promote math, science, technology and engineering. In September, the infinity center added an environmental section.
"This museum, aviation museums and jet museums in general, I hope offer a spark," Haise said. "A spark of interest that if the children happen to have the inclination, they may eventually become and professionally an engineer, or maybe even an astronaut someday."
Haise hopes that every child finds their true talent and will turn it into a career, just like he was able to do.