On Wednesday, October 11, Mrs. Julie Heinz, social sciences faculty member at the Mississippi School for Mathematics & Science (MSMS), took a group of roughly fifty MSMS students to Mississippi State University’s Shackouls Honor College for a celebration of MSU’s recent admission into the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF). The event featured Apollo astronauts Charlie Duke and Fred Haise as well as MSU alum and Apollo engineer, Jerry Bostick. 

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation’s mission is to help the United States retain its status as a world leader in key areas of science and technology by providing scholarships to talented college students pursing degrees STEM related fields. In honor of MSU’s recent admission into the ASF, the school wanted to host an event focused on how STEM innovations have impacted the world.

Tommy Anderson, MSU’s Director of Prestigious External Scholarships and Interim Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs, said the purpose of the event was to, “hear from national heroes how science and technology enable some of the most remarkable discoveries of this and the past century.”

This unique event provided MSMS students with an opportunity to hear first-hard narratives from three esteemed participants in the Apollo missions. Fred Haise, a Biloxi native, was the Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 13 and logged roughly 9,100 hours of flying time. He has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, and has been added to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Charlie Duke was the Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 16 and is best known for exploring the moon’s Descartes region during the 1972 mission. Both Haise and Duke shared their experiences in space and detailed the training they received prior to space travel. NASA Master Controller, Jerry Bostick, provided insight from an engineer’s perspective. 

Keely Brewer, a current senior at MSMS, commented, “It was so interesting to hear from individuals who grew up in a time so different from what we have experienced. I loved hearing them share memories from their time on the moon. It was also interesting to hear how humble they were about their accomplishments and how grateful they were for the opportunity. 

Mr. Kishan Patel, a member of the mathematics faculty at MSMS, was also in attendance and was similarly awed by the astronauts’ experiences. “It was pretty surreal to realize that the men on stage were actually on the moon…they were there! That experience is one that only a handful of humans have had.”