Despite threatening weather, the sky was the limit for the Frontiers of Flight Museum‘s “Exploration Space 2017 Gala” on Thursday, May 18, at the museum. For the occasion, Apollo 13 astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise were on hand to receive the George E. Haddaway Award, along with NASA vet Mary Ellen Weber and past Haddaway awardees Walt Cunningham and Dr. Ken Cooper. But the event wasn’t just limited to yesteryear heroes. Tomorrow’s hopefuls included adorable Sofia Lee. Here’s a report from the field:
The 2017 Gala was all about Exploration Space – from the remarkable Apollo 13 astronauts, Jim Lovell and Fred Haise, who were honored with the Museum’s George E. Haddaway Award, to nine-year-old Sofia Lee, representing the 18,000 students who participate in the Museum’s STEM education programs.
During the conversation with Jim Lovell and Fred Haise about the Apollo 13 mission that was classified as a “successful failure” when the astronauts were brought home safely against many odds, Fred Haise said, “I thought it would just be an abort. My emotion initially was just sick to my stomach with disappointment. We’d lost the landing.”
The Apollo 13 story and the continued interest in space exploration was evidenced by the many age groups in attendance. Mary Ellen Weber, a NASA veteran of the Space Shuttle missions Discovery and Atlantis and a strong supporter of the Museum’s STEM education program, was in attendance.
Even the children today consider the astronauts American heroes. Sofia Lee was so eager to meet her heroes that she raised money for her ticket to the Gala through a lemonade stand. Sofia, who aspires to be an astronaut for her generation, met her heroes and had the honor of presenting them with the Haddaway Award. Sofia says, “I want to be an astronaut one day. I want to see things from a new perspective, to see them differently than I do from Earth.”
Capt. Lovell, who piloted or commanded four NASA missions – Gemini 7, Gemini 12, Apollo 8, and Apollo 13 – and Fred Haise, Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 13, became the 43rd and 44th recipients of the Museum’s George E. Haddaway Award, joining the ranks of John Glenn, Walt Cunningham and Chuck Yeager.
The award is presented by the Museum annually “to those who have distinguished themselves by their accomplishments in the real of flight as pilots, aircrew members, corporate or political leadership, engineering, education or literature.”
Funds raised from the event “support the Museum’s new Exploration Space Initiative, a multi-faceted expansion of the Museum’s acclaimed STEM educational programming.”
Event sponsors included:
- Exploration Space ($50,000) — Mary Ann Cree (Presenting Sponsor)
- Apollo 13 ($25,000) — Gena and Dan Hamilton
- Gemini 12 ($10,000) — Boeing / Aviall, Gulfstream, Martha and David Norton/Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley and Norton LLP and The Alinda Hill Wikert Foundation
- Gemini 7 ($5,000) — Air-O-Specialists of Texas, Inc./dgseals.com Inc., American Airlines and Millie and Kenneth H. Cooper, Corgan, DFW International Airport, D Magazine, Dallas Love Field, Dickie+Associates, Events by Bill, Suzy Fulton/Scott Davis, Herbert Minerals Ltd./PlaneSmart! Aviation, Nancy and Pete Huff/Dr. and Mrs. David Webb Jr.,Cheryl Sutterfield-Jones and Ron Jones, Chris Jones – Purewater Baths, Elsa Manzanares/Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, Noelle and Stewart Mercer, Tom Rhodes/The Rhodes Group, Signature Flight Support, Southwest Airlines, University of Texas at Dallas Special Collections, UPS, Virgin America, Cindy and Tony Weber and James A. White
* Photos provided by Frontiers of Flight Museum