Our spaceflight heritage: A conversation with Fred Haise
STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. — On Dec. 7, 2021, Spaceflight Insider was on site at NASA’s Stennis Space Center (SSC) in south Mississippi for a visit by the agency’s administrator, Bill Nelson, and deputy administrator, Pam Melroy.
Nelson and Melroy met with SSC’s Director, Rick Gilbrech and toured various center facilities.
At the end of the day, Nelson and Melroy presided over a ceremony commemorating the 2020 designation of SSC’s A-1 Test Stand as the “Fred Haise Test Stand.”
Haise, Apollo 13 Lunar Module Pilot (LMP), is a native of Mississippi and is a long-time supporter of SSC and the nearby INFINITY Science Center, which serves as SSC’s visitor center.
The A-1 Test Stand was completed in 1967 and was first used to test the Saturn V second stage and its five J-2 engines. Since then, the stand has been used to test single J-2, J-2X, SSME / RS-25, and XRS-2200 Linear Aerospike engines.
After the ceremony, Spaceflight Insider had an opportunity for a brief conversation with Haise.
The story of Apollo 13 is well documented, so we attempted to hit on a variety of other subjects.
A transcript of the conversation is below:
Spaceflight Insider: Good to meet you Mr. Haise.
Haise: Ok. Hey. Where are you located?
Spaceflight Insider: I live in Alabama, so my primary territory is Marshall, but I get down here [Stennis] . . .
Spaceflight Insider: and Michoud too, but . . . .
Haise: I can tell by that accent.
Spaceflight Insider: Coming from a Mississippi boy . . . . Mine may be worse. Fred, like I mentioned, my primary area is Marshall. And I guess Stennis used to be a part of Marshall?
Haise: It was. You’re right.
Spaceflight Insider: Mississippi Test Facility?
Haise: That’s correct.
Spaceflight Insider: Back in the day?
Haise: Yep. In fact, [Wernher] von Braun had an office in this building [SSC Building 1200].
Spaceflight Insider: And I asked [C.] Lacy [Thompson, News Chief, NASA Office of Communication, SSC] about that. I’ve heard about it before. It’s up on the tower, up there.
Haise: It was up and down.
Spaceflight Insider: Have you been up there?
Haise: No, I’ve not. Now, we had his desk, and phone, and things like that. We had it at INFINITY Science Center.
Spaceflight Insider: Is it there now?
Haise: I don’t know if it’s still there.
Thompson: I can’t remember if it’s still there, or not. But it was an exhibit at one time.
Haise: Yea, for one time.
Thompson: Here, and yes.
Spaceflight Insider: Well, I remember, was it Apollo 4 that was out here, that’s over there now?
Haise: Apollo 4 is right.
Spaceflight Insider: Ended up over there?
Haise: Over at INFINITY now. Yes, and it was here.
Spaceflight Insider: Yea, I remember seeing it here several . . . , because it hasn’t been moved long, has it? A few years?
Haise: No, we moved it, probably . . . We opened in 2005. I think we did.
Thompson: Infinity was 2012.
Thompson: Yes sir.
Haise: And we moved it shortly after that.
Spaceflight Insider: OK, alright. I guess it’s been longer than I thought. [Note: The Apollo 4 Command Module was moved to INFINITY on Oct. 29, 2017.] I just wanted to ask you, do you have, since I do cover Marshall, mostly, do you have any recollections about spending any time up there back in the ’60s, or early ’70s?
Haise: Well, I spent time there with the [lunar] rover, when I trained for Apollo 16. Marshall was the prime overseer, program management wise, on the rover vehicle. So, I spent time there. I spent more time then after I left NASA, and was with the Grumman Corporation. And I had contracts with Marshall, as a contractor.
Spaceflight Insider: Sure.
Haise: And so, you know, I spent time there nurturing those contracts, and hoping for something bigger. And that was probably in the early ‘80s, in that time frame.
Spaceflight Insider: OK. Alright. Now, for Apollo 16, you were backup . . . Which role were you in?
Haise: I was backup commander to John Young.
Spaceflight Insider: OK. Alright.
Haise: John was the Commander.
Spaceflight Insider: And then, I guess, sort of a twist of fate, Ken Mattingly, ended up on that flight.
Spaceflight Insider: And, of course, he had a big role in your flight?
Haise: Well, he just went to the next cycle. See, we cycled, normally, three flights. Now, [Apollo] 13 was the one exception. We should have flown [Apollo] 14, because we were the backup on [Apollo] 11, but they wanted to give that crew, the backup crew, the prime crew – Shepard and Stu Roosa – had never trained.
Spaceflight Insider: OK.
Haise: So, they wanted to give them more time, so they moved us ahead a flight. So, we flew [Apollo] 13 early, so to speak. Because, we had cycled through two training cycles. I’d trained for [Apollo] 8 and [Apollo] 11.
Spaceflight Insider: And, for [Apollo] 11, you were back up?
Haise: To Buzz.
Spaceflight Insider: To Buzz. Lunar Module Pilot?
Haise: Right. Yea.
Spaceflight Insider: And then, you were on the rotation, if I understand correctly, for one of the canceled flights? Was it [Apollo] 18?
Haise: [Apollo] 19. [Apollo] 16, plus three, would have been [Apollo] 19, yea.
Spaceflight Insider: OK.
Haise: And I had Stu Roosa, and . . . . Not Stu Roosa, Ed Mitchell.
Spaceflight Insider: From [Apollo] 14?
Haise: From [Apollo] 14. And ended up with me on that [Apollo] 16 backup [crew].
Spaceflight Insider: OK.
Haise: Because they moved Jerry Carr, and Bill Pogue, who was going to be the crew with me on [Apollo] 19.
Spaceflight Insider: To Skylab?
Haise: Deke [Slayton] moved them to Skylab, to give them a flight, because we were running out of seats, about that time. So, Deke [Slayton] moved them to Skylab.
Spaceflight Insider: What do you remember about that [Apollo] 19 getting canceled? How’d you find out about that?
Haise: We’ll, it was just another point of disappointment, because I was geared, and really hoping, and I would have flown it with Jerry Carr, and Bill Pogue, which would have been all three of the “Original 19” Group [Astronaut Group 5 – chosen in 1966]. Yep. Plus Jerry and I were both Marines, so we would have had two Marines on the moon.
Spaceflight Insider: I guess they had an all Navy crew, but this would have been a . . . .
Haise: No, no Marine ever landed.
Spaceflight Insider: Oh really? OK. I didn’t . . . .
Thompson: Oh wow. I didn’t know that.
Spaceflight Insider: I didn’t know that.
Haise: No, no Marine ever landed on the moon.
Spaceflight Insider: Well, almost.
Spaceflight Insider: I don’t want to take up anymore of your time.
Thompson: We don’t want to hold you up . . . .
Spaceflight Insider: Thank you for talking with us. I appreciate it.
Haise: Good luck to you.
Spaceflight Insider: Thank you.
Scott earned both a Bachelor's Degree in public administration, and a law degree, from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He currently practices law in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood. Scott first remembers visiting Marshall Space Flight Center in 1978 to get an up-close look at the first orbiter, Enterprise, which had been transported to Huntsville for dynamic testing. More recently, in 2006, he participated in an effort at the United States Space and Rocket Center (USSRC) to restore the long-neglected Skylab 1-G Trainer. This led to a volunteer position, with the USSRC curator, where he worked for several years maintaining exhibits and archival material, including flown space hardware. Scott attended the STS - 110, 116 and 135 shuttle launches, along with Ares I-X, Atlas V MSL and Delta IV NROL-15 launches. More recently, he covered the Atlas V SBIRS GEO-2 and MAVEN launches, along with the Antares ORB-1, SpaceX CRS-3, and Orion EFT-1 launches.