See one of the Apollo 13 astronauts for free this week in Columbus

He was one of the three astronauts on the ill-fated 1970 space mission immortalized in the 1995 film “Apollo 13” — and he will speak this week in Columbus.

Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center will host Fred Haise as part of its commemorative events for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

In conjunction with CSU’s Hunter Lecture series, Haise will speak to the public in University Hall on the main campus Friday, June 21, at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

Saturday, June 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the space science center, 701 Front Ave., guests can see moon rocks and learn about lunar exploration, investigate science concepts with interactive science demonstrations, then build and launch air rockets with commemorative Saturn V designs. They also can watch shows in the Omnisphere Theater, take NASA artifact tours, observatory tours and the Space Shuttle Odyssey. Discount tickets may be purchased in advance at www.ccssc.org/apollo50.

Haise’s presentation Friday night, entitled “Failure Is Not an Option,” will recount the dramatic, six-day journey that resulted in an aborted mission but heroic, life-saving decisions and actions — as well as the “Apollo 13” film that was nominated for nine Academy Awards in 1996, including Best Picture, and won for Best Film Editing and Best Sound.

In the movie, Tom Hanks was spacecraft commander Jim Lovell, Kevin Bacon was command module pilot Jack Swigert, and Bill Paxton was Haise, the lunar module pilot.

The mission launched on April 11, 1970, and was supposed to last 10 days, including a landing on the Moon. But 55 hours later, the service module’s oxygen system failed. An explosion followed, causing other systems to fail. The astronauts used the lunar module as a lifeboat to return to Earth. Despite the lunar module lacking a heat shield and having been designed to fit only two astronauts, they safely returned on April 17 via a successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Haise, 85, a native of Biloxi, Miss., was the backup lunar module pilot for the Apollo 8 and Apollo 11 missions, and he was the backup spacecraft commander for the Apollo 16 mission.

From 1973-76, Haise was the technical assistant to the manager of the Space Shuttle Orbiter Project. He also was commander of one of the two crews that piloted space shuttle approach and landing test flights.

Haise was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1983.

Shawn Cruzen, the space science center’s executive director, emphasized that Haise’s visit to Columbus is noteworthy for three reasons: He was on the Apollo 11 team as a backup astronaut; he was part of the Apollo 13 crew that performed “an absolutely mind-blowing technical achievement” to safely return to Earth; and he and his copilot made the first landing of a space shuttle before one was flown in space.

The auditorium in University Hall has approximately 800 seats, Cruzen said, and more than 500 folks already have reserved their free seats online at https://shop.ccssc.org/product/al-fri-hls/.

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.