In the world of science and education, Apollo 13 astronaut and Biloxi native Fred Haise is half rock star, half cheerleader. When he’s not signing autographs for teachers and school children, he is actively involved on the board of the Infinity Science Center, a $42 million, 72,000 square foot digital showcase coming soon to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Infinity will give residents and visitors to the region an interactive and intimate behind-the-scenes look at the hundreds of scientific research projects going on at the John C. Stennis Space Center including projects by NASA, the U.S. Geological Survev, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and teams that train there. Local classrooms can learn about everything from sonar mapping and wind tunnels to watersheds and rocket engines.
Organized ten years ago by Hancock Bank president Leo Seal and former Stennis director Roy Estes, Infinity’s non-profit foundation has raised money through public and private donations, and through funds appropriated by both the Mississippi and Louisiana state legislatures. A construction agreement has been reached with local building contractor Roy Anderson Corp. and the facility is on track to open in 2011.
Gulfport mayor George Schloegel calls Infinity, “a scientific Disney World”.
“From an education standpoint, it opens the doors of the 22 agencies that exist today at Stennis,” he said. “It exposes all that’s down there to the schoolchildren of two states- the practical side of what’s going on behind the gates, what it takes to put a man on Mars or to explore the bottom of the ocean.”
“Fred Haise is truly passionate about inspiring youth and helping create something in his home state,” said Myron Webb, Infinity’s NASA liason. “Whenever we have any issue concerning this project he reads all the data and puts his whole effort behind it. He wants to get the word out to the 12 million cars that pass by Stennis every year.”
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