Apollo 11 and NASA legend Dick Hagar made an appearance at the Cincinnati Museum Center on January 11, 2020. What an honor it was to see the Apollo 11 artifacts and listen to and talk with Dick Hagar.
If you are like me, the name Dick Hagar does not ring a bell. It shouldn’t. Let me share his story as he shared it at the Museum Center.
Dick is an Ohio boy and a proud Ohio State alum. He was fortunate to be picked to be one of an army of engineers working on the Apollo project. Dick was selected for the launch team and helped train Apollo crews.
He spoke at the Museum Center on January 11, to a full house – as it should have been. Dick spent the early part of his talk discussing the Apollo I Tragedy. Dick was about 20 feet from the capsule when it caught fire that fateful January day in 1967. He relayed that the fire built so rapidly and then extinguished (when all the oxygen was depleted) just as quickly. So quickly the hatch could not be removed in time.
He was the first inside the capsule after the fire/rescue squad removed the three astronauts’ bodies. Management directed Dick to go in and see what may be amiss that could have led to the fire. He searched a long while and could find nothing. The official accident investigation would later arrive at the same conclusion. Nothing except where the fire began, but not what started it.
Hagar then moved to a more humorous episode when engineers were in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) trying to mate the mid-section of the Saturn V rocket (made by North American) to the bottom section (made by McDonnell Douglas). Misalignment caused a delay and a battery threatened to die on the middle section. A dead battery would have caused major headaches, so Dick strapped with two cords and held by two big men while he literally leaned out of the scaffolding to reach the rocket battery. A several hundred-foot drop to concrete awaited a misstep. Battery changed: mission complete: young engineer relieved.
One of his last stories is how he assisted in mating a command and lunar module when the crew of Apollo XIII suffered their inflight explosion. Engineers on the ground wanted to simulate everything before sending instructions up to the crippled crew. Dick Hagar was one cog in a machine that helped bring Apollo XIII safely home.
After his talk, Dick Hagar went down to the Apollo XI display area. He took did Q&A for an hour. I learned that the Apollo capsule turned at a constant 5-degree rate so that no one side of the capsule had prolonged sun exposure, helping keep the fluids inside the capsule cool.
On a more personal note, Dick Hagar took time to share an autograph with my son and a picture with the three of us. More impressive, Dick asked my son several questions, took a genuine interest in him, and encouraged him to withstand the peer pressure so prevalent in teenagers’ lives today. Dick Hagar displayed a virtue that I have seen in so many decent and honorable men. He was not full of himself and took a genuine interest in someone who had nothing to give Dick Hagar.
Well, you can’t see Dick Hagar if you go to the Cincinnati Museum Center now. But you can still catch the Apollo display until February 17. I highly encourage you to do so!