The Frontiers of Flight Museum hosted its 13th annual gala the evening of April 27. The Gala honored veteran Congressman Ralph Hall with the George E. Haddaway Award for Achievement in Aviation. Congressman Hall, Representative from Texas’ 4th Congressional District, was honored for his years of service on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. The evening hosted several notable Texas politicians, including former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Congressman Sam Johnson.
“Congressman Hall has spent 30 years up there on the Science, Space and Technology committee, he’s worked as the chairman of it, every year since the Apollo program NASA has had to fight every year for their budget, and Congressman Hall has been one of those people whose been a true believer in what comes out of the space program and what it does for the economy,” said Walter Cunningham, former Apollo astronaut and honorary chair for this year’s gala.
Hall was one of several former NASA astronauts in attendance at the event, which also included a special address from two astronauts currently residing on the ISS. The museum, located on land adjacent to Love Field, features many programs and exhibits highlighting the history of the space program, including the Apollo space capsule Hall piloted decades ago.
“Everything on it is the same—including the vehicle itself—except they took the couches out of this one to use on one of the other spacecraft,” Hall said.
“Our mission at the museum is to inspire, educate and motivate the next generation, so when the kids come through the museum and see great American heroes and the aircraft and the programs, they’re going to want to go back and do great things with their life,” said Cheryl Sutterfield-Jones, President and CEO of the Frontiers of Flight Museum.
Despite high profile appearances and the granting of the annual George E. Haddaway award, the evening also served as a fundraiser for the museum.
“All the funds raised go to support our educational programs. Tonight we’ll get many new people who have not been here before, and they’ll want to come back and be a part of the museum,” Sutterfield-Jones said.
Those educational opportunities are realized through the museum’s “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs that reach more than 10,000 students each year,” according to a press release issued by the museum.
The fund raising and education initiatives come at a contentious moment for the aerospace community, when federal support for NASA and other human spaceflight initiatives is at a record low and math and science education flags. In response to mounting public debt and various domestic and foreign crises, many in Congress and across the country see NASA as a frivolous expenditure. NASA’s 2014 budget includes a 200 million dollar cut to planetary science projects, a move that would force NASA to cancel a mission to Jupiter according to one NASA spokesperson. Nevertheless, Cunningham and others with the museum see tangible value in space exploration.
“I look at it as really what it’s doing for the future,” said Cunningham.