The last piece of Apollo hardware not on display has ties to South Mississippi. A campaign has begun to move the Saturn V S-1C rocket booster to Infinity Science Center in Hancock County.
The rocket was intended to propel Apollo 19 -- and Biloxi native and Apollo astronaut Fred Haise -- to the moon.
His first moon walk was scrubbed when an explosion aboard Apollo 13 turned the focus of that mission into getting safely home. Haise was flight commander for Apollo 19, but NASA cancelled missions 18 and 19, ending the Apollo program and Haise's chance to walk on the moon.
He then became the first to land the space shuttle, piloting the Enterprise in free flight from the back of an airplane to three successful landings. His dedication and financial support have in large part made Infinity Science Center possible.
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The Saturn V's S-1C is the last unpreserved Saturn first-stage rocket known to exist. For 45 years, it's been at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans -- out of public sight and exposed to hurricanes, salt air and the sun's ultraviolet rays.
Those in South Mississippi and around the country who admire Haise's accomplishments, the Apollo space program and Infinity's mission to engage young visitors in science can be a part of the mission to bring the rocket booster to the Hancock County museum.
Last week, a 30-day "Back the Booster" Kickstarter campaign launched to help finance the rocket's move and build a permanent display at Infinity. The science center is just down the road from the Stennis Space Center test stands, where every Apollo rocket and every rocket that ever carried Americans into space have been tested.
NASA has agreed to permanently loan the booster to Infinity and the science center received some funding from Mississippi to move the booster and put it on display. Additional money is needed to build a foundation in front of the museum along Interstate 10, where drivers will see five towering F-1 engines that serve as a testament to Mississippi's contributions to space exploration.
"Long-term plans include an extensive multi-phase building and conservation plan that will protect the rocket and tell the region's role in the Apollo story from start to finish," the Kickstarter campaign says.
It will take 10 days to move the rocket that will be loaded onto a barge at Michoud and float the 40 miles to Stennis on the same route much of the Apollo hardware took more than 40 years ago. From Stennis the booster will travel by road to Infinity.
Those who contribute to the Kickstarter campaign will receive a reward, depending on the amount of the contribution, such as bumper stickers, rocket kits, authentic memorabilia signed by Haise and personal experiences with the retired astronaut -- a true American hero.