Hancock County

Apollo rocket making final journey to Infinity

COURTESY NASAApollo 13 with Biloxi astronaut Fred Haise aboard lifts off on April 11, 1970. A Saturn V first-stage rocket booster like the one that blasted Apollo 13 into space will be making its final journey in May from New Orleans to Infinity Science Center.
COURTESY NASAApollo 13 with Biloxi astronaut Fred Haise aboard lifts off on April 11, 1970. A Saturn V first-stage rocket booster like the one that blasted Apollo 13 into space will be making its final journey in May from New Orleans to Infinity Science Center. SUN HERALD

The rocket that was to propel Biloxi astronaut Fred Haise back into space will be moved next month to Infinity Science Center, which Haise helped build to inspire children to study and revel in science.

The rocket was slated for the cancelled Apollo 19 mission, which Haise would have commanded. The Biloxi native was the lunar module pilot aboard Apollo 13 when an explosion occurred in space and NASA, against heavy odds, got the three astronauts and their damaged spacecraft home.

The booster is the last remaining piece of Apollo spaceflight hardware and the move is the first of a multi-phase project that will relocate, restore and display the booster. It will help tell the Apollo story -- and Mississippi's role in the space program -- from start to finish.

In May, the Saturn V first-stage rocket booster will be moved from NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to Infinity Science Center at Exit 2 of Interstate 10 in South Mississippi. Black Diamond Construction, based in nearby Kiln, will transport the booster on its six- to eight-day move starting in mid-May.

It will be loaded onto a barge at Michoud's docks and travel through a canal system into the Pearl River. From there it will travel 40 miles by water to NASA's Stennis Space Center -- the same route much of the Apollo hardware took more than 45 years ago. Once at Stennis, the booster will be unloaded and travel by road and along I-10 to Infinity.

Funding for the move was provided in part by the state of Mississippi, which will cover the minimum costs to move the booster. Additional money is being raised to build a permanent exhibit space at Infinity.

Haise serves on Infinity's board of directors and is the center's biggest champion for encouraging and inspiring young minds.

"There's a saying that if you wanted to get to the moon, you had to go through South Mississippi first," said John Wilson, executive director Infinity Science Center. "Our goal with this Saturn V first-stage exhibit is to educate our guests on our region's critical role in space exploration and bring to life the ingenuity of the men and women who built, transported, tested and flew the machines that took us to worlds beyond our own."

Infinity showcases more than 50 years of NASA and South Mississippi history and to 65,000 visitors each year.

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