5 Management Lessons from an Apollo 13 Astronaut, Part 5: Growth and the Unexpected
Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise turns 88 in 2022. The final chapter of his memoir, Never panic early, refers to being in a rocking chair when he reached the conventional retirement age. But as you can see from reading the book, Haise remains an active member of the space community; like many other astronauts, rather than retire, he turned his career towards service.
Haise now serves on the board of the Infinity Science Center, located in Pearlington, Mississippi, just an hour’s drive from his small town of Biloxi. As he recounts in his memoir, Infinity has several advantages for the community. It is visible from Interstate 10 and the eight million cars that travel there each year. It includes a space gallery that talks about NASA and its Stennis Space Center’s contributions to rocket engine certification.
But more than anything else, Haise said, what really interested him in the project was the possibility of educating visitors, and especially children, about the benefits of spaceflight. He told Forbes that growth is one of the things that came to him unexpectedly, but that he enjoyed.
The occasion for Haise’s interview was the recent publication of his memoir, written with Bill Moore and available now from Penguin Random House. This is the last of the five lessons he learned from his career. The fourth lesson, how ideas are not plans, is available at this link.
Haise told Forbes that what he’s most proud of about the museum is the science gallery, which tells the story of Mississippi with a particular focus on space science. “We cover hurricanes, we cover wetlands, we cover pollution [and how] it’s actually a variety of downright screwed up stuff.
A walkway connects the museum to the Pearl River so visitors can go from learning about science to seeing it for real, and wherever possible the museum uses interactive exhibits to engage with children who have grown up with the internet , iPads and other Technology.
“I call it stealth learning because kids can play on it,” he said of the museum, citing a wave machine with vibrations as an example as kids bounce on it while learning how it works. waves.
Forbes also asked Haise about the learning he absorbed from his Apollo 13 crewmates that he carried into other careers, using space as a platform to grow and help others as the astronaut is approaching his tenth decade of life.
Famously, Apollo 13 had a last-minute crew swap (just days before launch) after command module pilot Ken Mattingly was exposed to German measles. Replacement Jack Swigert fitted in quite well with the crew, Haise recalls, as he was “infused with this vehicle” from its conception. Swigert spent a lot of time working closely with manufacturer North American Aviation to get the vehicles off the assembly line for flight, Haise added.
“He was a very outgoing person, personality-wise. The bachelor. We always joked about how many girlfriends he had,” Haise recalled (as Haise and Lovell were both married and had children at the time of Apollo 13.) Haise also recalled that Swigert always wore white socks, even with a tuxedo.
Mattingly, Haise said, “was just the opposite personality. More introverted, extremely studious detail. And Jim Lovell, the mission commander, was quite outgoing with a good sense of humor.
Haise said Lovell’s personality was ideal for the mission, which experienced a major failure near the moon that affected crew safety, requiring several days to return home in harsh conditions. “Obviously there was a lot of worry and a lot of pressure,” Haise said. “Other commanders – I won’t name them – would have been much tougher on mission control.”
The only time Haise remembered Lovell losing his temper was near the end of the mission, simply because it took NASA a while to send a modified power-up procedure to Swigert and Haise for the affected command module, mostly taken offline after a rupture in its service tank. The power-up was necessary to prepare the command module to take the astronauts through the final leg of the mission, through the atmosphere to a splashdown.
To Haise’s credit, he said part of the problem was simply that the Apollo 13 astronauts were unfamiliar with the unusual start-up procedure (part of which had to be modified on the ground during flight) . They were basically learning it on the fly, with Mission Control. But Lovell came quickly, he recalls, and to this day speaks warmly of the commander’s contributions to Apollo 13.
Lovell and Haise were supposed to walk on the moon during Apollo 13, but due to the accident they never made it to the surface. Haise wrote in the book that at that time, learning that his landing would be canceled in a distressed spacecraft, he felt all this time serving as reinforcements for Apollo 8 and Apollo 11, and training for Apollo 13 as a core member, went to waste.
But one can also argue the opposite; all those years as a pilot, serviceman and astronaut helped Haise cope with the unexpected and contribute to the success of the return trip, which saw the crew only have minor health issues despite all the challenges met.
As this story is being written, NASA may be flying the name of another Apollo 13 crew member into space very soon. Arturo Campos was one of the key people who ensured that the command module’s electrical system could get the astronauts home safely, due to damage. His name now adorns a mannequin which has just been loaded onto the Artemis 1 lunar spacecraft as the mission aims for a late August launch.
This dummy is just one of the ways the vast team that brought Apollo 13 home safely will continue to resonate in the annals of space history. To learn more about the mission, see NASA Historical Archives on Apollo 13.