(DeFuniak Springs, FL) – Apollo 13 Astronaut Fred Haise will be the featured keynote speaker at the 2015 Florida Chautauqua Assembly themed “From the River to the Rocket: A Journey into the World of Transportation.” The former astronaut will address an anticipated crowd of over 800 at Walton High School in DeFuniak Springs on Friday, January 23, at 8:30 a.m.
“We can’t be more proud to have Apollo 13 Astronaut Fred Haise in our community,” says Christopher Mitchell, president and program chair of the Florida Chautauqua Association, the non-profit organization which hosts the annual event. “Mr. Haise’s contributions to space exploration are astounding, and thanks to his brilliant achievements and unbelievable experiences, our world is witnessing the technological advances in space we all never would have dreamed possible in our own lifetime. How exciting to be able to welcome such an American hero to DeFuniak Springs and the 2015 Florida Chautauqua Assembly.”
Fred Haise, portrayed by actor Bill Paxton in the blockbuster Ron Howard film, Apollo 13, served as the lunar module pilot during the ill-fated 1970 space mission. He retired as president of Northrop Grumman Technical Services (GTS), a wholly owned subsidiary company of The Northrop Grumman Corporation.
Born in Biloxi, Mississippi, Haise graduated with honors in aeronautical engineering from the University of Oklahoma in 1959. After completing his U.S. Navy flight training in 1954, he served as a U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot in VMF-533 and VMF-114. He had further assignments as a tactics and all-weather flight instructor at NAS Kingsville in advanced training units 100 and 102. In 1961, he was recalled into the U.S. Air Force with the Ohio ANG 164th TAC Fighter Squadron. He completed postgraduate courses in the USAF Aerospace Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in 1964 and the Harvard Business School PMD Program in 1972. He has logged 9,100 hours of flying time in over 80 types of aircraft.
In 1973, Haise was involved in an aircraft crash of a BT 13 aircraft that had been modified for the Tora! Tora! Tora! movie by 20th Century Fox to look like a Japanese VAL dive-bomber. In the ensuing fire he was burned on over 65 percent of his body, and spent three months in the hospital recovering. It took him 14 months to regain flight status in 1974, and he went on to fly the Space Shuttle Enterprise in 1977. Other than scars, he has no physical disabilities as a result of that accident.
Haise began his 20-year NASA career as an aeronautical research pilot at Lewis Research Center in 1959. He performed further assignments as a research pilot at the NASA Flight Research Center in 1963 and as an astronaut at Johnson Space Center in 1966. He served as backup crew for the Apollo 8, 11, and 16 missions and flew as the lunar module pilot on the aborted Apollo 13 lunar mission in 1970. He also flew five flights as the commander of the Space Shuttle Enterprise in 1977 for the Approach and Landing Program at Edwards Air Force Base.
Fred Haise was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1970 by President Richard Nixon. His honors include the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Haley Astronautics Award, the General Thomas D. White Space Trophy, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the NASA Exceptional Service Award, the NASA Special Achievement Award, and induction into the Astronaut Hall of Fame.
He is an associate fellow of the AIAA and a fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and The American Astronautical Society. In addition, he is a member of the Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Gamma Tau, and Phi Theta Kappa honor societies.
The Florida Chautauqua Assembly is an historic 4-day educational program for families featuring famous keynote speakers, educational breakout sessions, performance teas, evening dinner performances and exhibits relating to an annual theme. The event is held throughout DeFuniak Springs, Florida, mostly on the grounds of the Florida Chautauqua which originally lasted from 1885 to 1927. The Assembly was revived in 1996 and has continued to grow ever since. The featured keynote presentations are now held at Walton High School to accommodate the large crowds now attending the Assemblies and to enable juniors and seniors to join Assembly guests in the Chautauqua learning experience at no charge to the students or Walton County School District.
A limited number of tickets to the Apollo 13 astronaut’s featured keynote presentation are available for $15 each and can be purchased by calling the Florida Chautauqua Association at (850) 892-7613. Those who purchase passports (money-saving book of tickets) are invited back stage to meet Mr. Haise and have a photograph taken with him. Register in person at the Florida Chautauqua Association, 1290 Circle Drive, DeFuniak Springs, Florida 32435 (the old Lakeside Building across from the DeFuniak Springs Library) during normal business hours between now and January 21. If any tickets are left, they can be purchased the morning of the event at Lakeside Building beginning at 7:30 a.m.
All exhibits, sponsored in part by the City of DeFuniak Springs, are free and open to the public and held mostly in the DeFuniak Springs Lake Yard from Friday, January 23 through Sunday, January 25.