It was a mission that captured the world’s attention -- a moon landing mission turned heart-stopping rescue.
On April 11, 1970, the Apollo 13 crew left Earth on a Saturn V rocket. Fifty-two years later at 88-years-old, Apollo 13 astronaut, and Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise, remembers those harrowing moments, describing them vividly in his newly released book, memoir, Never Panic Early: An Apollo 13 Astronaut’s Journey.
“I guess one of the things I wanted to capture in the book are particularly the parts that covered the space program parts, Apollo 13 and even in the Space Shuttle days with the enterprise flights I flew and the work I did in the program office,” Haise said. “To capture how many skills, how many people it took to get the job done and the intensity, schedule pressure.”
Intensity is, no doubt, part of space exploration and development.
Haise was just 36 when Apollo 13 took off in 1970.
An oxygen tank exploded three days in.
Haise, Commander Jim Lovell and Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert had to work with the crews.
In his riveting memoir Never Panic Early, Haise gives readers a front-row seat to the harrowing event and the remarkable experience of being an astronaut.
“I knew it was something pretty bad. None of us knew what it was,” Haise said, laughing.
However, Haise started his NASA career as a research pilot before serving as a backup lunar module pilot for the Apollo 8 and 11 missions, the lunar module pilot for the notorious Apollo 13 mission, the backup spacecraft commander for the Apollo 16 mission, and was meant to command the Apollo 19 mission until its cancellation.
Haise co-wrote the book with co-author Bill Moore who has also co-authored several books and periodical stories about aviation and space.
“It was very helpful in that way to, if you will, relive parts of my life that way,” Haise said. “It was great because writing the book, I had to dig into archival data. I had to call a lot of people to be sure I was correct in my remembrances.”
Haise said he hopes that readers will take away the essence behind every harrowing moment and memory at NASA.
Readers will also learn about some untold stories. Fred Haise was once a little entrepreneur in his hometown of Biloxi, Mississippi where hundreds of soldiers settled.
“Couple of canisters of shoe polish and a brush and cloth because I knew these soldiers wanted to shine their shoes. So I charged a nickel, and I got a nickel to shine, and I was in heaven because the little tootsie rolls you could get for a penny -- I was a businessman and I was doing well!” Haise laughed.
Haise said he wants to inspire the next generation to dream big.
“My message to them is not necessarily to be an astronaut. I try to tell them to understand the talent that they’ve been born with,” Haise said.
For more about the book, visit SmithsonianBooks.com.