OK. Some setup. You may not have heard of the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, but you've heard of its star attraction, the Hercules HK-1 (or H-4) Flying Boat, better known as the Spruce Goose. The company I work at built the custom building that has housed the plane since 2000, and that company has since built other buildings at the museum's campus. (Soon to open on the campus is -- no lie -- a water park with a 747 installed on the roof. COOL. See?) So some of my co-workers have learned a lot about building science museums.
And yesterday I got contacted by a member of the board of directors for Mississippi's INFINITY Science Center, a new museum, wanting to talk to someone at my company about where to buy certain outdoor museum equipment.
That board member? Mississippi native Fred Haise. Of the Apollo 13 mission. (In other words, most of us know him as Bill Paxton, but I digress.) Also one of the test pilots who in the Seventies glided the space shuttle Enterprise on test landings. I did my best to stay professional, but I so wanted to mention a personal connection: Haise was connected to a program called Grumman Space Station, a company meant to oversee the bunch of companies and government agencies which were preparing to build Space Station Freedom. My mom worked there in the late Eighties and early Nineties. I'm sure people ask him if he was on Apollo 13, I'm sure far fewer people ask him about his Grumman work ("Hey! My mom and you both worked for the same company!"). But that would've been a distraction from the job at hand, which was getting Haise in touch with a sometimes-hard-to-get-in-touch-with co-worker of mine so they could share info. So I didn't geek out.
Still: I've spoken to an Apollo astronaut. COOL.
This increases the number of astronauts I've spoken to to two. I met shuttle astronaut Bonnie Dunbar in the late 1990s, when I was a reporter in Hermiston. She was visiting science classes in Northeast Oregon and Southeast Washington. There
+ Sing that to the tune of Jimmy Buffett.