Astronaut wows Cayman Captive Forum

The key to keeping calm is training.

That was the message from Apollo 13 crew member and former test pilot Fred Haise at the recent Cayman Captive Forum.

Fred Haise

Astronaut Fred Haise, wearing his mission jacket, signs copies of Apollo 13 at the Cayman Captive Forum.
Photo: Basia Pioro

Cayman’s blockbuster Cayman Captive Forum, hosted by the Insurance Managers’ Association of Cayman kicked off big and better than ever this year with over 800 delegates registered for the four-day event being held at the Ritz-Carlton recently.

Mr. Haise very ably stepped in for the originally scheduled speaker, his crewmate Captain James Lovell.

The change of plan was particularly fitting in that Mr. Haise’s talk outlined the mission training programme’s focus on preparing for the unexpected.

‘The people behind the scenes during our simulations were quite, I might say, devious,’ he said.

‘They made sure that something would almost always go wrong, and we would have to go back and work out how to fix it, so that by the time we went up in space we were basically prepared for anything that might happen.’

Many may recognise the crew’s ordeal as a Hollywood blockbuster starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Lovell and Bill Paxton as Mr. Haise. The film not surprisingly did contain some dramatic license with plot and dialogue, said Mr. Haines, but he found it to be overwhelmingly accurate.

“They had all the instrument panels, and the floating around in zero gravity done really well,” he said.

His engaging presentation detailed the many challenges the crew faced on the aborted 1970 moon mission, none the least being keeping calm, staying warm, and figuring out how to return to earth in one piece.

‘But the key to keeping calm is all about training. If you have the right training, you can keep your cool in those kinds of situations quite easily,’ he said later.

He remarked wryly that despite all the issues that the crew faced, they were still able to execute a near-perfect landing in the south Pacific.

But equally fascinating was hearing what Mr. Haise was able to achieve since then, including surviving a horrific plane crash in which he sustained third-degree burns to much of his body, but recovering to the point where he was able to command the first flights of the first Space Shuttle, the Enterprise, in the late 1970s, and after retiring from NASA, becoming VP of Space Programs with Grumman Aerospace.

During the question and answer session, Mr. Haise reflected on what people can learn from the Apollo missions onward.

‘If there is one thing I could say about the future of space exploration, it’s something that is worth thinking about when considering the survival of our species,’ he said.

‘There is so much money being spent on arms, yet we should be looking at the bigger picture – doing something about making sure we don’t suffer the fate of extinction as has happened to other higher life forms on earth before us.’

Met with a standing ovation, Mr. Haise also proved himself to be a gracious celebrity, taking the time to chat with everyone interested in having him sign their copies of ‘Apollo 13.’

The morning’s unofficial theme of ‘having a plan B’ continued, with Stephen Cross, CEO of Aon Global Risk Consulting volunteering his expertise on risk factors affecting captive insurance companies, to take over keynote speaker duties from Robert Dr. Bob Froehlich of Deutsche Asset Management, who was unable to make it due to illness.