tv [untitled] February 11, 2012 9:00am-9:30am EST
captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2008 would we really do this if this happens kind of thing. but it's a time to continue to build this chemistry that must exist between flight director and team and crew when you have to make a very short term rapid time critical irrevocable type decisions. because once we got to the surface of the moon, i mean once we got to point where we're getting ready to land on the moon, there are only three
options that day. you're either going to land, you're going to abort, or you're going to crash. and although those options are pretty awesome when you think about it, that hey, we're not only in this particular mode of operation now, we're going to be doing it in front of the entire world and it's now to the point where you look to each other for this confidence you need to work through any times when you might have just a slightest tinge of doubt. and generally, the slightest tinge of doubt comes when you're tired. so you have to continue and help each other up. that is the magic of the flight control team that we have here. it is so self-supporting. you know in mission control when a person needs a little bit of help, a little bit more time to make a decision, and this team is so totally focused, it's marvelous. marvelous experience to live with. >> well, all of this paid off eventually, because that landing was not a piece of cake.
>> now the landing, i don't think there was anything that really prepared us for the intensity of the landing. if i would back up a little bit, one of the mission rules, i'm talking about game plan, that was given to me exclusively where i had to make a decision is in the preparation for the mission. headquarters people, the program managers, as well as chris kraft was concerned that if we would crash and not have enough data to figure out why we crashed, we'd be in jeopardy of not only losing the lunar goal, maybe the entire program. so everybody wanted to make sure that there was some formula that would be used by the team to
say, okay, we've got enough data to continue. i thought this particular rule because they wanted some quantified, some numbers with this thing. i fought this all the way through the process building the rules, going through the reviews, the mission reviews, et cetera. i want a very simple one the flight director will determine whether sufficient data exists to continue the mission. i wanted it that simple that it was a subjective call by the flight director. this was batted back and forth until very close to the mission, and it was not resolved. so i wrote into the mission rules that exact statement. the flight director will determine if sufficient data exists to continue. going back to the landing day now, this adequate information means voice information and telemetry. as soon as the spacecraft cracked the hill, and we were now silently coasting down to
the 50,000-foot mark above the moon, the telemetry was broken, the voice was broken. we couldn't communicate. it seems nothing was going right. and immediately that rule came to mind. do i have sufficient information to continue. but then we would get a bit. and i'd say ah-ha, we can look at the spacecraft there would be a couple of times i would make calls for the go/no-go point. go go go time, use the last valid data points that you saw. this might be 30 seconds old. so they're making decisions based on stale data. we kept working, trying to figure out what was the problem with the communications. and this turned out to be a bad information on the attitudes used in the spacecraft, because we were getting some reflections off the skin of the lunar module. but again, this is too late. we had to try to solve the problem in realtime. and again, go back to the team work. charlie duke, who was my
spacecraft communicator was looking at the signal strengths. and he saw the signal strengths varying. and he had seen, he had also worked the apollo 10 mission. he suggested to don putty, who was the telemu, he had the responsibility for the life support on the lunar module, he said, don, do you think we could make an attitude change? would that help any? so then we tried an altitude change. fortunately in training, we has also worked in relaying voice information from the ground to mike collins back down to the lunar module. so we were using every conceivable ways to communicate. in the meantime, time is marching down to my go/no-go points. we then have an anomaly on board the spacecraft where buzz aldrin calls down, and he is not seeing what he expects to see on the ac electrical from the standpoint
of voltage indications. and again, this is very critical from the standpoint of gyros, landing radar and a very critical measurement. controllers looked at it and said okay, it's looking good. at this time my guidance officer steve bales has got tracking information. and the spacecraft isn't where it should be. i mean it's that straight forward. now he didn't know whether the data he was getting was bad, whether it was just bad navigation, or we had some kind of problem with targeting in the spacecraft. but the problem was is that he really got my attention. he says flight were out on the radio velocity, which is the vertical velocity, and were halfway to our abort limit. boy, when you haven't even started down to the moon and some guy comes we're halfway to our abort limit, it gets your attention. but he continued and said i'll keep watching it. so all of the sudden now you've got communication problem. you've got minor electrical problem. you've got navigation problem. and you're still trying to struggle into meet all of these windows for making your
decisions as you're now saying hey, we're ready to ignite the engine. we got down to the go/no go for startup powered descent. this is done about four minutes prior to the landing point. and again, there is no reason i had to wave off. the team was working well. so we made the go to continue. and as soon as we gave them the go to continue, we lost communications. so we couldn't even call the crew. so again we relay down to the lunar that we go to continue. here we're getting ready to go to the moon, and we can't even talk to the crew directly. anyway, we keep working through this problem until it's time for engine start. we've had data intermittently. engine start, and again at the time of engine start, we need to capture the telemetry of that point so we know the exact quantities of propellants in the tanks, because now the propellants are being settled by the acceleration of the
spacecraft as the engines start up. as soon as the engine starts, we lose telemetry again. so we miss this very valuable point. and we continue on down. and now from the time we start until the time we land on the moon, it should take about between eight and nine minutes. and this becomes a very intense period where, again, steve bales, the guidance officer, has been trying to figure out what is with this navigation problem that we're halfway to our abort limit. well, he comes back and gives me a call that really is now a bit more confidence. he says we're still halfway to the abort limit, but it's not growing. and he tends to believe that something happened upstream. it might have been a maneuver execution where the engine didn't shut down perfectly where it was. on retrospect, we found out, and that is after the mission, that the crew had not fully
depressurized the tunnel between the two spacecrafts. and when they separated the spacecrafts, it was like a champagne cork popping out of a bottle. it gave the spacecraft a little bit more speed than it should have, like performing an extremely small maneuver. well, over the period of time of a lunar orbit, this maneuver now has placed the spacecraft in a different position than it should have been to start the descent. but we didn't know that at the time. we had to figure this out. so now we're in the process of going down. and we're making the calls, everything seems to be going right for a change. you never quite relax during this process. we've learned to work around the broken communications. but it seems to be getting better. and we're now at the point where we're starting to evaluate the landing radar data. now this is an extremely important junction because the lunar module is now using the altitude we gave it based on the
tracking data and our knowledge of the position of the moon. we now have to update that altitude by the real altitude measured by the landing radar. if there is a very large difference between the altitude we've given it and what the radar is seeing, they have to find some way to smooth it out, because you can't make that correction instantaneously. so we're now in the process of determining whether the landing radar is acceptable to enter the computer when we get a call from the crew that they've had a computer program alarm. and for a few seconds, it's just total silence. nobody has commented on this thing. we have all heard it. and then the crew comes down, gives a reading on the alarm. well, it's sort of like coming to a fork in the road. half of my team, in fact most of my team trying to decide whether to accept this radar. and steve bales, my guidance officer, is an important part of that decision.
but now he's got to answer to this program alarm kind of thing. and it's for a period of time half the team was moving in this direction. the other half starting to move in this direction here. so i've got to pull these guys back. and charlie duke makes a call. can we give them a reading on the alarm. and again, steve bales now has studied these alarms as a result of this training exercise. so now he goes back to his back room controller, tommy gibson, says tommy, these are the ones that we reviewed and i don't seed any problems. do you see any problems? very rapidly we got a go to continue. so now we've worked through this. now we're starting to accept the landing radar data. and these program alarms are continuing intermittently through the descent. and one of the things that steve comes up with, that he says hey, it might be related to some of the displays the crew is using. so we tell the crew to back off
the very high utilization on board displays on altitude and altitude rate. and we tell them we'll provide the read-ups for them during this period. so this team now is faced with -- i mean we're going to the moon. this is not a simulation anymore. and it's faced with incredible problems that nobody had ever really anticipated. we thought it's whatever happens, it's going to be clear-cut. but it's far from clear-cut. and yet this team seems to be getting tighter the more problems they got. the more effectively they're working. and this almost makes me happy because a flight control team is always best when they're working problems. all of the sudden they are now focused on something. and from a back room loop, and we were never able to identify who said it, a voice comes across and hey, this is almost like a simulation. and i started to snicker.
it's sort of a mental point where you mentally back off now. the intensity is still there, but all of the sudden you say hey, we licked these problems before. we're going to lick them again. and we continue down the process. now communications. we're about to the point where we're in power pitchover. we're about five minutes off the surface. the communications have improved dramatically. so this worry that was in my background festering that i might have to make a call, because we didn't have adequate data is now out of the back of my mind, and all we're doing is working these very focused activities. and again, the communications gets very tight. you can now feel the crew has got their landing point identified. they can see it. they can see that if we continue this automatic guidance, we're going to land in a boulder field. so we see neil take over, manual control. and we uses an input with his
hand controller that redesignates the landing point. he's got a grid in the lunar module window that is sort of like a gun sight. and throughout the mission, it's basically oriented that if i don't do anything different right now, this is where i'm going to land. so basically he has redesignated. we see now as a result of this air in the separation of air and spacecraft where further down the range we're going to land about two and a half miles from our designated landing site. and this is a rocky boulder, crater-filled area. now neil is working into this area. and all of the sudden you start becoming intensely aware of the clock that says in most of the training runs, we would have landed by now, and we haven't landed. and you say uh-oh, it's going to get tight. and this is reinforced moments later when my propulsion guy,
bob carlton, says a low level. well, we don't have a fuel gauge on board the spacecraft. once you get to the point where you're in the round part of the tank down at the bottom, there is a sensor that says okay, if the crew is at a hover throttle setting, he is going to have two minutes to go. but now in the back room, this is where some of the magic in mission control comes in. the crew, when they're actually flying or hovering is above this hover throttle setting and below. say it's 30%. maybe they might be down to 40, might be down to 20. so the crew is throttling up and down here as they're scooting forward across the surface of the moon, much faster than we had ever expected this low. and i have a controller in the back room now who is looking at the squiggles on an analog recorder. three seconds above 30%, four above, he is mentally trying to integrate how many seconds we have remaining of fuel. and he got pretty good at this during training. he got to the point where he
could nail it within about ten seconds. so we put a number of a ten-second uncertainty. and botched it high. so whatever number he gave us, we were always on the safe side. well then charlton calls 60 seconds. and the crew is not still on the surface of the moon. we have 60 seconds before we're either going to land or abort. and charlie duke at this time says we better be pretty quiet in here right now. and this has been a mutually agreed on point, that our job is to get the crew close enough to attempt a landing. and from then on, the only calls we're going to make is fuel remaining. well, we've just told them it's 60 seconds, and they're still not down there. between 60 and 30 seconds we get a call that the crew says kicking up some dust. and about the time they say that, we get the call 30 seconds. so now we're down to 30 seconds remaining, and we're all watching the clock, counting down. about the time the clock hit 17
seconds. it took a few seconds for me to recognize this. we heard lunar contact. and this is -- there is a probe underneath each one of the feet on the limb. and when it touches the surface, the crew will hit engine stop and it will fall in the last few feet. you hear that lunar contact. and then i hear the crew going through aca out of detente. but it takes seconds to recognize that they're going through the engine shutdown. we must be on the surface. and then the only thing that was out of normal throughout this entire process that we had never seen in training was the people behind me in the viewing room start cheering and clapping and they're stomping their feet. and the instructors are over in the room to the right of the room, again, behind a glass wall, and they're all cheering. and you get this weird feeling.
it's chilling, that it soaks in through the room. and i get it and say my god, we're actually on the moon. and i can't even relish that thought because i've got to get back to work. because we have to make sure almost instantaneously whether the spacecraft is safe to leave on the surface of the moon, or should we immediately lift off. we go through what we call our t-1 stay/no stay decisions. so within 60 seconds of getting on the moon, i have to tell the crew it's safe to stay on the moon for about the next eight minutes. and i don't have any voice. i'm clanked up. and about this time charlie duke is saying -- we hear tranquility base here, the eagle has landed from armstrong. and duke says you got a bunch of us down here about ready to turn blue. now i'm trying to get startup and my t-1 stay/no stay.
this all happens in seconds. and finally i wrack my arm on the console and break my pen. and finally get going, get back on track again. and a very cracked voice say okay, all flight controllers, stand by for t-1 stay/no stay. and we go through this, make the stay/no stay decision. then we go through a t-2 stay/no stay. and everybody else is celebrating and we're intensely focussed to make sure that it's safe to stay here. and then we have to go into a t-3 stay/no stay, which is the final one after almost two hours that we're safe to be on the moon for an extended period of time. in the meantime, the pressure and gas we use, the super critical helium, has had some again, this is something we didn't anticipate from the design. we got some heat-soak back from the engine. so this tank of very cold gas is warming up very rapidly. we don't know whether it's going to explode. we don't know whether the relief valves are going to fire.
but we know we got to stay on our toes through this whole process. and we're in a crisis mode down here while everybody else is still celebrating. until finally, we see the pressure start to decrease very rapidly. we believe the thing is vented, relief valves by design had done what they should have done. and for the first time, we can power down. it is only after our 2-3 stay/no stay that we really pat each other on the back, but say jeez, we did it. today we just landed on the moon. and walking over, i walked over to the press conference with doug ward. and all i really wanted to do was get back to mission control because we had made sort of a silly mission design decision, and nobody believed it, that once we get down in the surface, we're going to put the crew to sleep. well, we knew and the crew knew, and i think the world knew that the crew wasn't going to go to sleep. they wanted to get out on the surface and start the exploration.
so at the time i was doing my t-3 st whole flight control teams, charleworth's milling in the room and wendler's mingling around in the room trying to figure out who is in charge at that point. the adrenaline in the control room is building up. you can feel it. it was palpable. it was almost like a heavy fog that it was so real. and the controllers got a break. while we -- during the lost signal period, and when they came back into the room, now these guys were going to be here, and there was only three options. we were either going to land, we were going to crash, or we were going to abort. and the room goes through almost a ritual. we go through what we call battle short condition. where actually we physically block the circuit breakers in this building, because now we would prefer to burn up the building rather than let a circuit breaker open inadvertently at a critical time.
and we lock the control room doors. and i really didn't realize until after the mission when a couple of the controllers really talked about how all of the sudden it was really sinking in that they were now not going to get out of this room until we had gotten our job done. steve bales was probably one of the most vocal about it as saying, you know, you don't really know what you're doing when you got a 26-year-old kid in this room, and basically, you're going to write in the history books whatever happened today. and then you lock those doors. and i realize i can't leave anymore. i can't say hey, i don't want to do this job. okay, it's too much for me. and i felt i had to talk to my people. and i called them up on the system flight director loop. and this is a secret loop that we use only for debriefings. people in the viewing room can't hear it. people training, it's just tied into the people in this room. and we use it only when we
debrief and we've got some real heavy-duty talking. somebody didn't do the right thing or somebody's got to be chewed out. so it's very private and very personal. i called the controllers up in the loop, and i told them how proud i was of this team and the job we were chosen to do. i indicated that i believe from the day we were all born, we were destined to meet in this room this day. and at this moment, and that from now on, whatever happened, we would remember this day forever. and we then proceeded to give just a few coaching tips on this. i said whatever happens, i will never second-guess any of your calls. now let's go out, let's go land on the moon. and terminated the loop. and all of the people in the viewing room were probably wondering what the hell we were talking about. and that's a blank on the tapes. but again, steve bales, the guidance officer came up.
and he said how important this settling down process was. not only to him, but actually to his people in the back room. and since he was such an intense part of the job, steve was a very interesting guy. he was what i would say the prototype of nerds or the geeks that work in the computer world today. he was the first guy working with this data, making absolutely irreversible time-critical decisions. and about four years out of college, he had grown up in the business. and steve you could feel his emotion. when we would pull the room and go through his go/no goes, i didn't need an intercom loop because steve you could feel going and ricocheting. in fact, there was one time as we were actually almost to the su go, he was so go that i actually
almost chuckled that he was so intense in doing the job. but this is a group of young people who had signed up to do a job. it was generally the first of generation in their entire family who had ever gone to college. most of these people were midwesterners. their work ethic was absolutely spectacular. and i had no doubt that this team was capable of doing the job. >> they were young? >> they were. they were young. their average age was 26 at this time. i have a picture of them. these kids you saw flying the bombers in world war ii, where they'd have these troops outside. there b-17s, b-24s. you feel so intensely proud of these people. after we had completed the t-3 stay/no stay, i made one final trip to the training area, which is right in the corner of the
room, because i wanted to thank all of our instructors for the job they did in getting us ready. and i was concerned because the one before we started shift, i had gone in and coos wasn't there. when i went down this time, however, he was in there, and i found out that in his haste to get into mission control the day of the lunar landing, my lead trainer had rolled his car. he had fortunately emerged unscathed and without a second thought about the car, he continued to get a ride in here. and reported to his console in mission control. walking over to the press conference with doug, it was doug and i talked about the fact that not only had we landed on the moon, but i almost felt cheated of the emotional content of that landing, where everybody else was out celebrating. to this day i just sit down
there. in mission control, you have to stay so intensely focused that other than just a very brief cheer, sort of a whoop from the team at the time of landing, and the realizing how close this thing was, we immediately had to get back to work. and it was -- i would have liked to have found some way to get some of a feelings of the emotions of the other people. i know chris kraft and dr. gilruth were behind us. and it was just a -- it was a marvelous time. it was a time of pride within the nation. it was a time of turning young people loose, giving them their head, seeing what they can do. and for a very short period of time, i think we united not only our country, but the world. and it's marvelous what could be done by such an event. i just wish we could recreate it, do it again today. >> perhaps some time in the
future, maybe on a mission to mars or something similar, there might be such a moment again. do you think that might happen? >> i sure hope that my children and the youth of america can find this kind of a dream that we're given by president kennedy. because it was a dream we lived. we were so fortunate and proud to be americans and living, and to be challenged by such a magnificent set of goals. i don't think anyone ever considered themselves overworked or underpaid. the pay was the job we were doing. and it was an unbelievable time. and we were privileged and proud to be born and a part of that very violent decade. >> there were other missions still to be flown, gene. they were tremendously important in your life as well. let's not leave apollo 11 until
i'm convinced you'd said what you really wanted to say about it. >> the final thing, i saw neil armstrong. we had celebrations and all of this kind of stuff. but a bit about neil armstrong. all through the preparation, for the mission, i was absolutely amazed at how quiet, how calm he was. we'd go through a debriefing, and generally buzz would do most of the speaking. he would take most of the notes. and the quiet, absolutely superbly confident assurance that neil had also was a -- in retrospect was pretty inspirational itself. here's a guy who knew he was destined to do a job. i be