tv [untitled] May 20, 2012 3:30pm-4:00pm EDT
i understand that with your navy background. using water to stimulate zero-g. when you came up with that suggestion, how did nasa receive that idea at first? >> well, i don't think there was any objection. the idea bore fruit in many, many different ways. it required the expenditure of a lot of money to build the neutral buoyancy simulator but it has paid off in training people for eva. it's irreplaceable. >> and thoroughly one of the tools of nasa today. have you had a chance to operate within that neutral tank at all in recent years? >> no. i was at the tank in houston, but i didn't get in the water
but have i experienced doing that in the open ocean. with sea lab. >> that kind of brings us right back to where we started. sometime back you had described, if you will, your acquaintance, the working relationship with cousteau. so right now, you moved out of the realm of astronaut, let's move to transition. first of all, what you did after your flight became fairly common knowledge, and i think you were privy to the fact that you probably would not fly again. is that right? >> well, you know, not at the time of my choice. i got really fascinated with this idea that i discussed with cousteau and then george bond of transferring technology to the ocean. and i did that, or i tried to do that, with sea-lev one then i broke my arm and couldn't make that dive.
but went back to polish that idea off in sea-lab two, and that was another transcending experience for me. >> you had several considerations before you left nasa. didn't you? you had other jobs in the interim there before you left nasa? >> oh, yeah, sure, and part of it was in the development of that neutral buoyancy simulator. i really by that time became enamored of -- of the people and the idea involved in living under water. and that was my new love. >> and do you see a relationship between the things you discovered under water and the things you discovered in the ocean of space? >> there are many, many similarities. in the training and in the environment, "isolation and confinement." and the people, the people are
similar. although navy and civilian deep-sea divers are not as highly educated by and large as -- as the heroic spacemen are. they are the greatest bunch of unsung heroes i've ever known. and the other thing that gives me an affection for the whole idea and the people and the science is the fact that these navy and civilian divers put their lives on the line for the benefit of new science and for at that time national security just as surely as the heroic spacemen do, but nobody cares a whit about these men. nobody even notices what they do. >> well, perhaps the navy should do oral histories as nasa's
doing with space flight. since we are dealing with space flight, though, let's deal with other astronauts of the "mercury 7" group. if so -- once the telephone stops ringing, we'll pick up again. >> i was asking, let's get back on a space track. this is primarily obviously for nasa at johnson space center. oral histories there. and i was asking if you had met, had working acquaintance with any other astronaut after the "mercury 7." >> sure. and they're a highly respectable group, all of them. i really feel privileged to know these fellows as well as i did. i had a particular affection for ed white, and i hated to see what happened. he was the prince of the new guys. dave scott was a favorite of
mine. but they're all highly accomplished, dedicated fellows that i was honored to know. >> let's take a look at some of the other people of that era and ask for your recollections. gunner vent. what do you remember? >> yeah. gunner vent. he's a great, great fellow. he was probably more closely associated with every flight than any other fellow on the ground except for joe -- i've forgotten -- we can't use this because i've forgotten -- joe schmidt. >> i'll help you. joe schmidt. >> except for joe schmidt, who was the suit man. two dedicated, fine fellows that i remember with great fondness. >> when you got buttoned in those were the fellows that used to see you as they buttoned you
in, weren't they? the last human beings. how about others, like the center director? >> yeah, he was, in his own words, he was the maestro. i don't know if he used maestro, but he did say his job at nasa was like conducting an orchestra. that's what he did. he was a bright, dedicated man for whom i also had great respect. >> speaking of conducting an orchestra, there was jim webb. >> yeah, instrumental in the early days. he was very effective at his position in washington. >> as the administrator. there's somebody at the door. >> we were asking for your recollections of people. we had just gotten to jim webb,
the administrator of nasa during that key period in time. what do you remember? >> i remember a very effective representative for nasa in washington. he did everything required and then some. >> how about chris craft? >> chris was effective as mission director, and he was control center boss for a long time. and he -- he was dedicated and served nasa for a long time in the control center, and he even became director of the manned spacecraft center for a while i think later. >> of the guiding lights of that time was chuck matthews. do you remember chuck? >> not as well as chris and some of these other fellows you mentioned. >> he was aboard at the time of "mercury" but basically became mr. gemini.
all right. let's move on. what are some of your favorite anecdotes, things you might remember during the years you spent in the space program? strangest, funniest, that thing? >> they're all unmentionable. >> every one? there must be one you can dredge out of your memory that can be retold. >> well, there was one episode when john and i were racing in his convertible for friendship airport. we were late for the airplane going to i think st. louis, and we were going just barely to have time to race through the airport and catch an airplane. and i was getting the tickets out, ready to turn them in, and it occurred to me that i could surprise john a little bit by making him think that the tickets flew out of the car in the slip stream.
so i let the envelopes go by. he was driving furiously down the road trying to make the airplane, and i told him the tickets had just blown away. on that freeway, there's no way to turn around. so we had lost the airplane. and he took it very well. he laughed about it. we'd take another airplane. but then i told him it was just the envelopes that i lost and that we could proceed to the airport. and he continued to laugh, but i remember that his laugh had a different note. when he knew we were still able to make the airplane. we were always playing jokes on each other. they would go -- i could go on forever with that. >> well, we don't have forever, but if you'd like to try one more, we'd be delighted to hear it. >> wally and i were driving from
oceana back to langley in his little mg i think it was. the top was down. i think the top wouldn't work, and we encountered a thunderstorm. and we got so much water inside that car that if he opened the doors the water would run out. and al shepard passed us going home and saw us in -- water soaked in his car. somehow or other a cartoon was drawn of that episode. i think wally has it, two bedraggled driver and passenger in a car filled with water. it's a good cartoon. i should ask wally about that.
>> a lot of these anecdotes showed up in tom wolf's book called "the right stuff." there's been a lot of discussion about it, pro and con. i wondered, what are your impressions of "the right stuff," the book and the movie? >> well, i think the book is good, and i think the movie is good. my affection for both is colored some by my great affection for tom. he is a bright, bright, fine man. and i think the film is a great film. i'm asked about it frequently, and people say, does it tell the truth? and i say what i believe, that the book and the movie for that matter, are truthful. they take -- both of them take
some literary license with facts but only nonessential facts. the important details portrayed by both the book and the film are presented accurately. >> finally came that day after your "mercury" flight when you were involved with moving, astronaut training and your residence in florida, to houston. what were your feelings about the decision to locate msc near houston, first of all? >> i really didn't feel strongly about that decision. it was an exciting move. houston seemed like a good place to be, better than newport news. and since the decision was made without any input from me, i went along with it happily just like i think everybody else did.
>> what was it like once you'd made the move? what was it like living in the clear lake community, that's from both a personal and professional point of view. >> it turned out to be a very good decision. the houston community was -- they welcomed us with open arms. we developed a great affection for the country. and for the people. i didn't care for the flat land too much. i didn't care for the temperature and the humidity. i remember making fun of the -- of that territory when i would take my family, bring them here to vail, as a matter of fact, to ski in those days. it was a two-day car trip. one and three quarters of those days was all in texas. it's all flat land and it gets -- gets boring. but that's okay.
houston is a long, long way away from every place else, but it's got -- it's a fascinating place that i still like. >> and, of course, the story of the manned spacecraft center goes without saying. it's had a tremendous history and probably has a tremendous future. wouldn't you think? >> that is up to the people of this country. we need -- we need, i think, a goal other than the international space station. we need to get cracking on a manned flight to mars because that is going to capture the interest and the support and the imagination of the people of this country who pay for space flight. without that, houston can dissolve. we need to go to mars.
>> you don't think the international space station is a good interim step? >> i think it is but i think it is only interim. we need something bigger and better. >> let's qualify that. how do you really see the international space station right now? >> as a valuable, current pursuit, but it needs to be followed by things that demonstrate more vision. >> is the technology ready to tackle mars as a goal? >> yes, sir. >> why do you say that? >> because it's a fact. we know how to do that. we don't know how to get the money -- we don't know how to get the support that will provide the money. the technical problems we -- if
we haven't solved them already, they're easily solved in the near future. >> well, i think that answers my last question which is where you think you'd like to see the nation go in space, unless there's something i'm not seeing going beyond space. >> mars is interim. but for now, that's a goal that nasa and the country and the planet can live with enthusiastically. >> scott, we covered just about all the basic questions i had but it occurred to me i ought to give you the chance to say anything that you really want to say. is there anything you'd like to bring into this discussion realizing that you're writing oral history for the historians and for public affairs both? realizing that, is there anything that you'd like to bring into this discussion that i haven't given you the chance to talk about? >> only that i feel i have been a very, very fortunate man to have lived at a time when so many unknowns can be made
many unknowns can be made known. and that's happened in this -- in this century. and that -- that pleases me probably more than anything else because i think it is fair to say that i have been and remain a very curious person. and i've had a lot of satisfied curiosity in my time. >> you've had the chance, really, to live the -- to live out your curiosity, haven't you? to find out at least a few of the answers you were looking for? >> yeah. and satisfying curiosity ranks number two in my book behind conquering a fear. >> would you recommend the profession of astronauts for young people?
>> oh, of course, but so would i recommend learning to be a concert pianist. there are thousands of challenges, and it's got to be to each his own. every -- every child has got to seek his own destiny. all i can say is that i have had a great time seeking my own. >> during sea-lab 2, when we, for the first time, put men in residence on the ocean floor at 200 feet, never been done before, it was great technical triumph. physiologic triumph as well. and in the film that the navy made, the documentary of that episode, it was dated who knows? perhaps in a few years we will
be living and working at 20,000 feet. we thought that would be possible at that time. it turns out now that physiologically and maybe technologically it's no longer possible. we have come to a brick wall at around 2,000 feet for putting men down and allowing them to stay and work and swim there at ambient pressure. there is a physiologic limit and it's called high pressure nervous syndrome, hpns, that makes men at that high pressure unable to do meaningful work. so it is not any longer an open-end project.
so i think for that reason, until we conquer that limit, the nation is not going to have much interesting work to do in the very deep ocean. i don't see it as a place where people will live. maybe work. there may be industrial communities of some sort at that pressure in the deep ocean, but i think not residential communities. we'll have -- we're sort of confined to the surface of the land and the surface for a long time, except the surface of other worlds. >> so you then see actually a double-headed program with basic emphasis, perhaps, on space and secondary emphasis on the sea as
the future? >> yeah. i hope that the ocean hangs in there, because it harbors a lot of wealth and information and riches that we need to pay attention to. and we are not doing that with the -- with the vigor that i would like to see. it will happen but you have to realize it is just not the glorious endeavor that space flight is. it never will be. >> you say mars might just be an interim step. take us from there, scottie. beam us up. >> okay. sure. again, i'm inspired by my curiosity. i want to know what mars feels
like, looks like. what riches are there. what we can do there. and although flight there is an interim measure in the long range there is a lot to be done on mars. and i firmly believe that we will, i hope, within would decades, but i'd like to see it even sooner, have not only a manned flight to mars, but the development of an outpost on mars. and then a colony, and i expect that the people who talk about it, era forming mars, this will take generations, but we -- it is within our technical know-how to make mars habitable to
unspace-suited humans. we can have permanent residence on mars composed of earthlings, and once we learn how to do that, we can go other places in the solar system. that's within the reach of our current technology to get outside the solar system, take some development that is very hazy at this point. first i think is mars. then, and usually. they underwent the same >> you see things within our solar system, few moons on the far-out planets. >> of course. let's talk about that. the goals beyond mars, where would you go? >> first, i think, mars. when we learn how do that, then
50 years ago on february 20, 1962, john glenn became the first american astronaut to orbit the earth. next, a 1962 universal newsreel about glenn's historic flight. john glenn orbited the earth three times in a spacecraft named "friendship 7." the entire flight was just under fire hours. this is six minutes. five hours before he is destined to take a giant stride into history, colonel john glenn fits into his space suit. his smiling face belie it is ten postponements of his plight that kept him grounded. this morning the weather is bet around there's an air of optimism as the colonel walks to the elevator carrying a portable air conditioner. glenn prepare goes to the 11th deck as clocks point to 6:00
a.m. eastern standard time. the skies are beginning to lighten and a cool, north wind russ also across the cape. >> the colonel's date with destiny comes ten moss an a russian flights and less than a year after alan shepard blaze suborbital trail for the u.s. this is the climax of lee years of training. this is the moment when the eyes of the word turn to cape canaveral. the united states stands or falls on the white hot glare of publicity. in the capsule atop the missile, the colonel will be strapped to a contoured couch. once in flight, the mercury will be tilted so the astronaut will ride backwards. seconds take off as hi rendezvous with space comes. the hatch cover cause as slight
delay when a defective bolt is discovered. then millions are moved to silent prayer. >> everything is "go." the takeoff from the "atlas" blast off with 360,000 pounds of thrust carries it skyward. the friendship 7 liming rapidly out of the earth's atmosphere, experts pressure of six times the force of gravity on the astronaut. loud and clear he reports back to mercury control reading off his instruments, commenting on his reactions all as cooley and calmly as if he was commuting on the 827. he is able to age the vehicle himself. now comes the moment when the america i have turned so glenn will be seated facing backwards. he checks with ground control. >> 0-3 and i feel fine.
capsule is turning around. oh, that view is tremendous. i did turn around. capsule turning around and i can see the boosters during turnaround just a couple hundred yards behind me. it was beautiful. >> roger, 7. you have a go to orbit. >> roger, understand go for the orbits. >> actual pictures of glenn in the capsule will give scientists the opportunity to study his reactions as he passes over the canary islands, africa, the pacific, and over the united states. he speeds at 17,500 miles an hour reaching a high point of 160 miles and a low altitude of 99 miles. each of the three orbits takes about 90 minutes. three times the colonel sees the sun rise within a period of 4 hours and 56 minutes. three times around the globe for a trip of 81,000 miles before he re-enters the earth's
atmosphere, a shield protecting the astronaut from the intense heat. the carrier randolph is the command chip in the pickup area, but glenn instructed not to jettison his rockets lands short of the carrier. ground instruments indicated his heat shield was loose and right at hand, however, is the destroyer noah. she speeds to the cap tul to take the vehicle and pilot aboard. a few shaky moments among ground control personnel. glenn is down with support cables attached, a crane will lift the friendship 7 aboard. the end of a saga. the now famous "friendship 7" is safely latched to the destro