Skip to main content

tv   Oral Histories NASA - Frank Borman Interview  CSPAN  December 24, 2018 9:01pm-10:31pm EST

9:01 pm
>> the lesson learned is that if people in this country and america have the will and believe in something strongly enough they can do something, even something that is impossible to start with. with enough heart and commitment , and especially with our backs against the wall, the united states is capable of anything and not just anything, but things that benefit the whole world. >> rocket man, the daring odyssey of apollo 8 and the astronauts who made a man's first journey to the moon. joining us from chicago, thank you very much for your time. >> i'm grateful. thanks for having me. 50 years ago apollo 8 launched from cape kennedy, the first manned mission to orbit the moon. frank borman was on board as commander. we hear about his life, career, gemini and apollo space missions
9:02 pm
in this interview from nasa's oral history program at the johnson space center. >> april 13, 1999 and we are interviewing colonel. frank borman . we want to start with a question relating to west point. you were lucky enough to have vince lombardi as your coach when you were there.>> friday football team and blake was the head coach. i was the lowly manager but vince lombardi. all kinds of people went on to greater fame and sports that were working for colonel. blake . vince lombardi and your dealings with him, did it have any impact? his management style as a coach
9:03 pm
and the other people have adopted in business, did it have any effect on you as it went on in your career? >> he was very emotional and intense and a perfect complement to colonel. blake . i was a lonely manager. you were teaching at west point when sputnik was launched. i was at west point teaching over my great regret. the military said that's your job so i went to do it and when they launched sputnik it was a real shock. there was a real cold war going back and the russians had a big leg up. follow-on following that we
9:04 pm
tried to launch vanguard and it failed. what were your concerns about that capability? >> the concerns then were when are we going to catch up? i believe it was typical of a lot of people. we were very concerned and the political climate was exploiting the so-called missile gap which turned out never existed but it made an impact. do you remember what your thoughts were? >> really interested as a citizen or military? we had no desire to participate
9:05 pm
in that part of the business. >> you played a role in developing the f104 starfighter . how did that come about? i stayed on there to teach in what they call the graduate program and an advanced test pilot program that would need to hopefully prepare people to fly in space. to give some sort of feeling of reentry and a fraction of the cost, a friend of mine came up with the idea of putting rockets on a 104 and we were in the process of running that through the air force and got it approved. >> when you got the word that
9:06 pm
you were going to become an astronaut, having to resign from the pilot school, i read that your commanding officer was actually chuck yeager. go through the story of what you went to tell him. >> the air force was keen on getting people in the program and as a matter of fact, those of us were successful were interviewed and told by the chief of staff at the airport in no uncertain terms that we were warriors in a cold war and our job was to go to nasa and make the air force look good. i saw chuck yeager and i will never forget that he was sitting in his desk. i said i have some good news. he said what's that? and i said i just heard from nasa that i've been accepted. i'm going to be joining the
9:07 pm
astronaut program. he said will you can kiss your air force career goodbye. so that was my sendoff from the air force. actually i never left the air force. >> people have this view of him. you worked with him. what was your feeling? >> he's a great patriot and a great guy to work for. he has mellowed a lot but he would give you a job and let you do it. it was very good to have him as- - at test pilot school because he had a lot of clout in the air force. we were trying to get the resources to really start this program and he was instrumental in helping us a. >> the bitterness that we are led to believe that he felt about not getting the chance to
9:08 pm
be an astronaut, do you think that was overplayed? >> i don't think you wanted to be an astronaut. by then he was a colonel and a happy camper. >> let's move on to the nasa experience. what did you expect-- you had that original mercury seven but what were your expectations and your family's expectations? >> that we were growing and-- going into the great unknown. i had been to the cape once before in conjunction with this program. nasa would not let us in. it was a big unknown. i did not know what to expect. we kind of went there. >> when you say you went down there, that was when you were on starfighter?>> when we went to test pilot school. we went to lunch-- watch a
9:09 pm
launch and did not have the right credentials to get in. >> were there any goals when you think i have these goals-- when you left in 1970 had you met them? >> i've never been-- my reason for joining us it was to participate in the lunar program . i never wanted to be the first person on the moon and frankly as far as i was concerned when apollo 11 was over the mission was over. >> they gave the astronauts these technical assignments and i guess you had boosters. why did they give you that specialty? >> i had no idea. i was told i
9:10 pm
was going to be specializing in boosters. the program down in huntsville. >> i have been teaching thermodynamics and had a masters degree so maybe they thought that was somewhat helpful. >> did they think maybe your experience might?>> i never got to fly the one with the rockets on it. we did an awful lot of work and i said i hope it is helpful to what the shuttle is doing now but of course that had no application in the apollo program. >> there was a committee that you were ron from 63 to 64.
9:11 pm
do you remember what that was or can you clarify? >> it will wasn't very important. the rocket specialist was to make certain that the crew had the chance to escape. we went to aerojet to look at a titan to-- titan 2 firing and we were concerned about what would be the turning moment if one of those barrels failed. the people informed us that could never happen. there were all sorts of safety devices. all only one barrel left. they
9:12 pm
fixed it. >> i guess you made a difference a. i wanted to ask you an interesting story. what happened? >> i was told on the first flight. i went over to his house to talk about it and we had a long talk. after that i was scrubbed for the flight and didn't pass the test. >> don't know why. no one said anything to me about it. >> nobody asked. >> how come you couldn't care less? >> if they didn't want me i didn't want to be there. >> not everybody has that personality.>> i stuck with it. >> that serves you well.>> let's move on to where you are
9:13 pm
the back crew. did you take part in training for that? >> i was against putting the eva in the mission. i was concerned about the ability to pull it off but add and jim were anxious to do it and it worked out very well. >> there are numerous examples of when you speak out about things and you say that this is too much. how was this taken? >> i thought nasa was as good as you can get. to express their concerns and reasonably and effectively say
9:14 pm
what they felt, once the decision was made they expect you to pitch in. when they made the decision, high-pitched in. it seems that it's the ideal way for management to work. >> once the decision was made to go ahead i guess the crew really did push for a space suit with a cover layer. were you involved in that and trying to transition to a newer suit?>> i was not. >> the mission when you flew, 7, do you remember what your thoughts were when they said 14 days? >> gemini 7 was looked upon as not much of a pilot mission but a medical experiment, which it was. we got the mission as you know. one of the greats had the
9:15 pm
integrity that was required and i never talked to him once about career assignments. i've heard that other people tried to lobby for him. i figured when they gave me gemini 7 i would do the best with it perk it turns out that was wonderful. jim lovell was a wonderful guy to spend 14 days with in a small place. some of the doctors say in order to do that you are going to have to simulate that on earth and stay in one ge for 13 days. nasa listened to the crewmembers and got kicked out in a hurry. then we went about our business doing the best that we could. >> they wanted you to what, simulate? >> that didn't last long.
9:16 pm
>> i don't think you can do that. >> when things went wrong with that part of your mission, that mission was juggled around and you played a role deciding what was finally going to happen. what happened with that? >> everybody thought that they had a good target vehicle but turns out it blew up. before we walked out of that block house, they were already starting, how can we use gemini 7 as a target vehicle. there was a tremendous imperative to reach the moon before the russians. >> what was your initial
9:17 pm
reaction? they were really driving that thing of let's let you hook up. >> check matthews who was running the program, i was all for it. that was another example of what made nasa so successful. >> there's a story about when they had hung up the signed and you purposely misread it, what were your memories of that moment? >> we had been up there for 11 or 12 days. we were running out of fuel and it was a high point to see this high point that we
9:18 pm
could see was a gemini vehicle. we found that the controls were perfect and you can fly formation with no problem. he always wanted to inject some levity and he did a good job and everything he did. he has that quirk of being able to include things. >> why do you think you didn't like to take part in the jokes? >> i guess it's just the way that i'm built. on apollo, we are skipping ahead, but when we opened up the dinner on christmas and i found out someone included brandy i didn't think it was funny because if we had one drop of that, the thing would
9:19 pm
have blown up on the way home, they would have blamed it on brandy. i wanted to do the mission and i didn't care about the food or anything else. i just wanted to get it done. >> were there other things that maybe were not in your book countdown? any stories? >> the interesting thing was the flying formation to the stage that put us into orbit and using an infrared sensor to track that. we referred to it as a bogey and then the magazine wrote a story about how we had been tracking a ufo. i had been plagued ever since with that. >> look where you moved.
9:20 pm
>> over here, that's right. >> the last few days, i was very concerned about fuel cells. the concern about being put to rest, he said we have enough fuel to go the whole 14 days so i had so much confidence in him that i quit worrying about it.>> it was a tough flight. talk about readjusting. >> as they did all the time, they made more out of it. it contracted and tried to impede the blood to trick them into one ge. i was a control mechanism.
9:21 pm
some people said that when the gemini snapped up right that we would pass pass out or perhaps die and of course we didn't. the only thing i really felt was that our leg muscles were shot. it took three or four days and you could feel it afterward but it was not a big deal. >> i admire those people. it would take self-discipline and toughness. i'm sure they have means to exercise them while they are up there and i have great admiration for those people. >> it was just putting up with what we had to put up with. the food did not bother them, it was boring.
9:22 pm
when you are out of control field-- fuel drifting through space time goes slow. >> some of the descriptions of what you had to put up with. the bathroom facility. >> they were primitive.>> that is being kind. >> lovell was a great partner. i don't know how in the world we could but in that area, that small volume, we lost a tooth brush and ended up sharing toothbrushes. >> the boy scout camping trip, you were there when the apollo spacecraft was being developed. there was mcdonald's and the first piece of switching contractors. what do you remember? any differences?>> mcdonald was
9:23 pm
much more formal and everybody really had a great deal of respect for mr. mcdonald and john yardley and walter burke. it was sort of a-- you had the feeling of people who did their work and was not very fancy about it. they had layers of this that and the other thing, and it was also a feeling. we did this and that and we knew everything about it. >> they felt that they knew more? do you think that played a role or a feeling and what would happen? >> one of the first times i flew a simulator, i pulled it
9:24 pm
back and the nose went down. it reversed on this hand controller and that's where we are going to fly it. it makes docking easier because your nose goes down but the target goes up. this is another example. that may be the way you are going to do it sitting here as an engineer but that's not the way we are going to do it. i got it changed right there. these are things you can do and i've also thought that part of the reason is they don't have an urgent mission. i was very fortunate. >> they are going to make it go against all of those?
9:25 pm
>> we've got a better way of doing it. we are human factor engineers. >> let's talk about north american a little bit. you said you are a straight shooter. if there was criticism in 66 and a written unpublished report, were you aware of any of that at the time? >> we were assigned a crew early on but gusts that he and rogers were having trouble with the spacecraft. we sort of focused on that and the feedback would come through meetings but nobody felt it as
9:26 pm
intensely as the people that were involved. >> did you know things have been written? >> i did not know that. >> the other complaints, what creedence did you give them? >> it's a complicated vehicle and that's the way that the crew felt. they were disgusted and trying to make it happen. >> did you have your individual concerns?>> i did not. >> when the fire happened i read that you are in a cabin in texas. >> we were having dinner with some friends on a lake and a highway patrolman knocked on the door. it was my family and i who were
9:27 pm
up there. >> you said it was a texas ranger. >> i think it was a highway patrolman who knocked on the door and said i was supposed to call houston right away so i did and that's how i found out about it. >> did you immediately fly to the cape? >> susan and i drove back to houston and went over to ed white's house and stayed there the next morning. >> what was your initial reaction? the human reaction? >> our families were close and it's one of grief to begin with. when you see the devastation that that creates it's difficult. >> i know you went the next day and i don't want to say you were the first person in the spacecraft, but some people say
9:28 pm
it that way. were you the first other astronaut? or the investigating team? >> i was assigned to the group that was to dismantle the spacecraft. >> i was the first one in and what the switch positions were. on the investigating committee that went in there had been other people. >> do you remember what it was like when you first went in there? you could have easily been writing. it could have been your assignment. what were your thoughts? >> the thoughts were that i can't believe it could happen.
9:29 pm
if you are asking that i reflect some personal-- again, i had a job to do and mine was recording the switches. the next thing we tried to understand was bad insulation but that was a long, drawn out process. >> did you have a thought that we cannot recover from this is an agency? >> no i didn't. >> why not? >> the inherent optimism that people have. we stubbed their toes and quite a few people made holes in the ground. that's it. you press on. >> there's a lot of criticism during the investigation. how much do you think was justified? >> very little. it was for people who wanted to get their names are-- in the paper. if today you gave ness of the mission of going back to the
9:30 pm
moon i bet they could not do it as fast as they did back then. this was unchartered territory and a complicated machine with a very difficult mission. to expected that you will not have problems is unrealistic like the transport-- secretary. of transportation . we will do everything to make certain to do our best but you know well there will be another accident. nasa had one. i got sick of the second guessers. >> how long do you think nasa kept in mind the lessons learned from apollo 1? >> i know that they kept in mind. i have no way of knowing whether that stayed with them or not. i can't comment and can never look back. >> you are on the review board and sent out to lead the
9:31 pm
spacecraft redefinition team and trying to train for your apollo 8 mission. >> my soul job-- my only job is that i met him in the-- we are going to put him in charge of the apollo spacecraft or project office and we would like you to go out to north american and help to oversee the implementation that changes that the program office in houston was mandating for the spacecraft. i said yes sir and i went. >> you described the initial perception and now you are sent out there to be-- >> i had a good team. we had about four or five people that knew the job in the
9:32 pm
business and we just worked our families off. >> any changes you are able to make? >> a lot of the changes we were proposing were not changes at all and would not be effective like the change in the oxygen system. george lola is one of the giants of the program who ran the change toward and there's nothing you could buy that was too frivolous. they wanted to fly out and put their own changes in so we controlled it pretty well. george miller, we added a lot of weight. he did not want to test the parachute. nasa at
9:33 pm
that time would listen to people that were on the spot and that they had confidence in. i was very fortunate to be a part of that team. >> have you ever found out why looking back that you are expected to be on the review board? >> i don't know. >> any speculation? >> i have been working on the spacecraft. maybe they felt i had some familiarity a. i had no idea. they said to do it and i went and did it. >> you are the ones that didn't play that game. >> in some ways your first taste of managing, how would you describe your management? >> the management that nasa had , you gave people responsibility and you checked
9:34 pm
on them but you did not try to micromanage them. nasa at that time, demanded the best and if you did not cut it you were gone. we had the best. at north american, nasa flexed their muscles and the whole hierarchy was gone. north american really became a sub to nasa. >> did that play a role in being able to quickly recover?>> absolutely. taking a look at the difference between the recovery time in the shuttle-- >> it's remarkable. >> did you have a moment where you are thinking we are not going to fulfill kennedy's goal of doing it before the decade? >> i'm an optimist. i never doubted that we will do it. i wanted to meet his goal
9:35 pm
but the most important thing was beating the russians. >> in terms of your training, did you train for that contingency? he refused to acknowledge that it existed? >> we refused. >> i really think, what we trained for. >> the first flight on the saturn five? >> i worked with the huntsville people a lot and i was confident
9:36 pm
that they had some poker problems before but i was involved, in the safety committee there when they put in the automatic abort system, i thought it was a reasonable design. we started off with. there were certain parts of the launch where if you had a failure that was not enough time to abort. so we said we would put in a gyroscope. but when you get a gyroscope failure, we will put in two gyroscopes. which one are you going to believe? we ended up with three. two out of three said go, you went. that was a development over
9:37 pm
many weeks and i was confident. i understood, i have been with these people and i had confidence that they would do their job. >> you are going to do something , no one has written on one of those before. how do you prepare your family for that?>> part of the reason that i did not do a good job is because my wife is a wonderful person who is a complete support system. when we got married, she had her job and i had my job and one of hers was was to not in any way show any kind of fear or trepidation over what i was doing. i never really understood her concern because she and pat
9:38 pm
white were close. it wasn't as if she had not considered it before because she had. not long before we came to nasa, in any event i misread that and assumed that she was stronger than she really was. >> how were you lucky enough to pick july 20 as not only your wedding anniversary but the birth of one of your children? >> you are the first person that has ever pointed that out to me. >> you had to have thought about it. we landed on the moon on july 20, the coincidence. >> i'd forgotten it was july 20. >> you had a premonition. >> the day before your launch i read that charles lindbergh came to visit you in crew quarters. >> the day before the launch,
9:39 pm
we talked and they stayed and we eventually got to a conversation around his flight and it was a delightful afternoon. >> was he a hero of yours? >> not really. my family was pro-british and pro let's help the british and lindbergh was america first. so he was not a popular name when i was a child but i liked him a lot. he was intellectually very curious and very intent even when asking about the apollo 8 flight. >> now it's the day of launch and they don't delay. when did you have a sense that this is really going to happen and you are really going to go?>> the greatest concern was
9:40 pm
that it would not happen. i think the worst fear that i had was that somehow the crew would follow and that was the one thing i did not want to happen. the great team would go in and i wanted to make certain that we could handle whatever was going our way. the second was that i did not want the mission to get-- because we were not certain that they were not breathing down our backs. >> what was it like? there has never been another rocket like the saturn five. >> it was a unique vehicle and it was powerful and noisy and it was really kind of violent. when you got on the third stage it was smooth and quiet. it was less demanding from ig
9:41 pm
standpoint because it did not get to the high geez high g's. i had my hand on the abort handle and we would have been gone. i was worried that the vibration , i didn't want to take my hand off of this so that kind of concern was-- >> the human element. i'm not saying it was not exciting and there was not a lot of anticipation of what was going on, but lovell and i had been there before. it wasn't that bad. >> there are little things that the closeout crew does before launch. i know that this was in the book , they gave you a tiny stocking
9:42 pm
hanging from a paper christmas tree because-- do you remember why that was the gift they gave you? they had given him lovell a clean white handkerchief. >> launch morning, they would give you a little gift. >> obviously it was right before christmas. >> what were your feelings when you do that you are going to have to go to the dark side of the moon? it's hard to fathom that that is such a big deal. can you come back around? >> the thing that is interesting about that mission was that half a dozen of us sat in the office and went over the flight plan to understand what would we do on the flight?
9:43 pm
and i thought it was an example of nasa's leadership and management style. we were able to hammer out the basic tenets of the mission. the tracking people wanted us to stay up there one month. it was give and take and craft called the shots. and i never thought about going behind. the fireside was lit. in order to go 10 revolutions around the moon we had to launch at a certain time but the recovery would be before sunrise and the recovery people were concerned about that. all of this was thoroughly discussed and they made the decision. it was not a committee.
9:44 pm
it was one man who had the knowledge. >> let's do the mission and not one thing more. why? >> some idiot had the idea that on the way to the moon we would do an eva. i shouldn't call him an idiot, he was just stupid. what do you want to do? what is the main objective? >> the main objective was to do enough orbit, be the pathfinders, and get your but home. why complicated with a bunch of other stuff? you had to decide what is the primary objective and forget it. i couldn't believe it when people proposed that we open the hatch. you subject the main mission to the possibility of
9:45 pm
failure with some of these trivial things. maybe it's a military background saying what's the main objective? let's make sure the main objective gets done and don't forget about the rest. >> do you know what your feelings were when you first dropped out of radio contact? did you have any sense of the tension on the ground? >> the time of greatest attention was when we fired the rocket and when we fired the rocket to get us out of there. >> how did you know? didn't you actually turn it off even though the computer would have shut it off? you shut it off yourself to be safe?>> we backed up the computer and on starting, we
9:46 pm
did as well. we didn't know where we were from the standpoint of how high we were in the lunar orbit. one of the time lanes that would give you a pretty good idea, we left at the time we were supposed to. >> when someone sent you a telegram saying thank you for saving 1968, was it sent to you ? >> the crew of apollo 8. >> did you know what they meant? >> 68 was a rotten year. you're darn right i knew what they meant. >> how did it make you feel to get that telegram?>> in a way,
9:47 pm
it endorsed what they had done. >> you did not want to bring the television camera along. >> i did not. >> you wound up bringing it along. >> i was dumb in that. >> if you broadcast that to say i still remember watching, it gives me chills thinking about it. how did you come up with reading genesis?>> the head of public information called me one day and said if you are going to have the largest audience that has ever seen a television depiction of a human on christmas eve, and you've got five or six minutes, he said that's great. what do we do? do whatever is appropriate. whatever you feel is
9:48 pm
appropriate. to be honest we were so involved in the mission and this is a peripheral one. i found that out from washington, he came back and consulted with some of his friends and came back with the idea of reading from genesis. i discussed that with bill and jim and have it given more thought than that.>> and the line at the end? the good earth?>> i think i had printed that as well. >> did you know when you were reading it? did it have that effect on you up there?>> on christmas eve it had a great effect on all three of us. the fact that the earth looks so lonely in the universe, it's
9:49 pm
the only thing with color. that was the most emotional part of life for me. >> the billy and his recollection he would like to look out the window a lot more and you were his taskmaster. we went there as observers. he had a lot of jobs and did them very well. he felt i did not want to go to sleep here but by the same token i wanted everybody alert and no one followed up their part of the procedures to get us home. >> you made him take a nap at one point right? >> they were making mistakes and getting tired.
9:50 pm
>> stories you may have left out ? >> i think i may have put it in a book but one of the things that may have struck me is when we over to testify before congress on the investigation, i road over with mr. web, jim web, who was an administrator of nasa. he said i don't want you to do anything to try to protect me or try to protect nasa, the american people have a right to know exactly, the unvarnished truth. and you tell them. that impressed me. >> i was going to do it any way. but here was the man, you know, i just don't think that happens today. i can't imagine the president today telling me to varnish anything when he's such a liar himself.
9:51 pm
he was a good friend of yours obviously, did it make you reflect on your mission? >> you know, i had a job then. because the russian -- no that was apollo 11. on apollo 13 i was just a bystander. i did have a job in apollo 13. excuse me. after apollo 8 i was assigned to the white house as liaison to prepare for apollo 11. i got to know mr. nixon pretty well and the people up there. and on apollo 13, bob called me and he said look, we've just got the word that the vice president is coming down here, he said that's the last thing we need. we got a problem. we don't want all the press. he had been up in the white house, can't you do anything?
9:52 pm
please, see if you can get him to put that off. so i called bob -- oh i forgot his name. bob -- what was nixon's right hand man? the hatchetman? >> haldiman. >> yes, thank you. they stopped agnew from taking off and sent him somewhere else. so i performed in apollo 13. >> you were still with the agency. >> i was. >> did you reflect on what it would be like to be the astronaut in that experience? >> no. i figured that -- again, lovel knew that thing. i had confidence in him. if they could get them back, they would get back. if they couldn't, they'd be dead, it was as simple as that. >> apollo 8 was a real gamble
9:53 pm
and it took a lot of guts on the part of the team that said we're going to do this. and many feel we wouldn't have made it to the moon without doing that. in some ways it was the defining mission that made apollo 11 possible. did you have that sense at the time? >> i was delighted when they changed the mission to go to the moon. because i didn't want to go around the earth for another 14 days or whatever it was. but i think apollo 8 was a very important mission. but you know, you also have to say, it one just apollo 8 that was an important mission. 8 couldn't have happened without 7. if wally and his crew hadn't done a perfect job we couldn't have gone on 8. and 11 wouldn't have happened unless 9 and 10 were perfect. and apollo wouldn't have happened unless gemini had done the job. so i think every one of these flights was very, very important. and for me, the interest in it was apollo 11. 12, 13, 14, they were all extremely important from the
9:54 pm
standpoint of lunar exploration. and so on and so forth. i wouldn't have volunteered to go pick up rocks. for me, it ended when we beat the russians on 11. 11 was the defining flight for me. >> why after apollo 8, again, you could have been the one to go to the moon. from the historical record shows deke slayton would have let you command the first flight to land on the moon. >> it wasn't that i didn't want to. but when you look at who is going to do the mission, i had never been in the lunar simulator. when all this was going on, i had been on the committee, and then i had been at north american. and i think i knew the apollo spacecraft as well as any other astronaut. i didn't know anything about the lim. and i don't recall slayton ever discussing it with me. but i would have been flattered if he had. but i would have thought that there had been better people better prepared to do that.
9:55 pm
well, you said you didn't have a direct discussion about putting you in that role, but was it the crew rotation that would have put you in that role? >> the crew rotation, which he established and which he followed, put the back up crew in that role. armstrong was on that. and nobody knew for certain apollo 11 would be the lunar lander. what if 9 fouled up or 10 fouled up. deke established a rotation system. i was a back up on gemini and i flew on 7. and neil was the back up on 8 and he flew on 11. >> there's always speculation about how did neil armstrong get picked. and you can say it was a quirk of fate. and some people say well he happened to be the only civilian astronaut at the time. >> i think that's nonsense. i think slayton looked at us all. i think he didn't know if we were military or civilians. i think neil was picked because
9:56 pm
he was a competent guy and he had a good team. >> he's a quiet -- >> he's an introvert. an introvert. he's much more intellectually curious than i am. >> were you surprised in terms of, you know when we landed on the moon, where were you when we landed on the moon? >> i was with mr. nixon in the white house. >> do you remember what your recollections were? and what the president thought? >> well, it was a great euphoria. he didn't have -- he was still getting battered over vietnam. and this was before watergate but never the less, this was a very bright and shinning plus for the american people. that was a happy time. >> were you surprised. the reaction when they came home. they were heroes. and for many people. that's probably the last astronauts they could name. that after that -- >> well glen, and shepherd i
9:57 pm
guess maybe. >> because he hit a golf ball on the moon? you think that's why? >> i hope because he was the first american in space. >> i would hope so too. but -- the point is you brought up earlier after we went to the moon, it was all over for you. in many ways, it was for the american public. i remember chris craft telling me it was all over. we were driving on the moon for the first time. they were off showing soap operas. as it wound down so quickly after that, and no one's been back since, what were your thoughts. that remains very important. a very important thing in our country's future. i think it's extremely important that we have this
9:58 pm
continually important. when we talk about colonizing the moon. we're going to mine oxygen. i just don't have that belief. maybe i'm too practical. i don't think that's ever going to happen. i was with nasa with the objective of being part of the team that beat the russians to the moon. we did that. and i thought the other flights were just as dangerous, just as -- and probably much more adventurous and brought back much more knowledge of the moon. i just don't happen to be interested in that. i'm not going to lie to you. >> do you think we'll go back to the moon? >> i'm certain we will someday. and i suspect someday there will be a permanent scientific base on the moon like there is in the south pole, antarctica. but i have a hard time understanding how we're going to have apartments on the moon. >> let's talk about the apollo
9:59 pm
program closing out. and making a decision, did you really make the decision to leave before you even did apollo 8? >> i did. >> i thought that i had carried my end of the bargain. i had contributed as much as i possibly could. i wasn't pro on the whim. it was taking me longer to learn it. -- i wasn't a pro on the limb. like i said, i wouldn't have gone to the moon after the first one. to me, it wasn't worth it. it wasn't worth assuming the risks because i wasn't inclined to go pick up rocks. >> a few little things from your missions, i don't know if this is safe to say, but i know that you had space adaptation sickness. >> i did. >> on apollo 8. not on gemini. >> we never had anything on gemini. >> on apollo 8. it's safe to say. i guess, were you the first person to get sick in space?
10:00 pm
>> i don't know whether i was or not. and at the time, i didn't know it was motion sickness. >> you thought it might be the flu. they actually considered your worst fear, which is shortening the mission. >> yeah, well, that's another example, you know, the doctor's 100,000 miles away, he doesn't know what's going on. and i got over it very rapidly. and jim and bill told me they felt queasy too when they started moving around. i threw up a couple times and it was over with. it wasn't a big deal. >> now it's so common. >> when you move around in the shuttle. some people just don't get over it. but i didn't have trouble with it. >> he admitted that he did. >> i don't know why he would do it on reentry. you would think maybe in space you might. i don't know. but it wasn't a factor. >> it was certainly
10:01 pm
uncomfortable. >> nobody likes to throw up. >> but it was short-term. >> i don't take pulls if i don't have to. and i took something. and i thought it was a reaction to that. i didn't think it was motion sickness. because we had been for 14 days in space and there wasn't trouble. we couldn't move around in gemini. >> you might not have effected your inner ear as much. when you -- when jim lovel. and you talk about your crew. how you said you didn't want us to mess anything up. and a couple stories. i want to check the facts and have you reflect and tell the story. jim inflates his life vest. and he says never forget the disgusted look you gave him. >> well, that's true. >> what did he do? what did you think when that happened? >> well, it wasn't a big deal. but again, it was an anomaly.
10:02 pm
and as i recall, he squirted it out too much co2 in the cabin. but the worst thing he did was he fouled up the computer. >> when did he do that? >> he did that we were around the moon. and he hit the wrong number on the computer. the wrong button and had the spacecraft think it was back on the launch pad. and we had to reinitialize everything again for the reentry. they read up stuff and we had to refill all the memory. he was getting tired. >> it's a good thing he made the mistakes on your flight and he was ready for apollo 13 maybe. >> i think the only person that hasn't made a mistake was christophe 2.5 years ago. everybody is going to make a mistake. so you have to plan not to make it bad. and lovel didn't have any bad mistakes. he did a great job.
10:03 pm
he could whip that computer like you couldn't believe it. >> we talked about how, you know, some astronauts are famous for their jokes and pranks. were you ever a recipient? did they play jokes on you? do you remember any of them? >> i don't remember much about it. to be honest with you. i'm sure i was a participant in some of them. but i don't remember them. >> you didn't really take part in playing jokes like on guenther went. >> no. >> why not? >> that's not my nature i enjoy wally. wally and his wife. and he and his wife went on a tour in far east. and wally i think is great. i think he contributed enormously to the program. more than any of the other first seven, wally shirah and deke slayton. but he's a different person
10:04 pm
than i am from that standpoint. >> what were some of the technicians, the engineers, and the managers behind the scene who you felt really made note worthy contributions. their names are worth being mentioned. and tell us stories about them and your interaction with them and why you single them out. >> if i have to go back, and the people that made nasa work. you start with jim web, okay. he's not an engineer. but then you go down the line to people like gill ruth and craft, slayton, deebus. i'm sure i left -- george lowell. these were all the giants that made it work. on the other hand, there were just hundreds of -- well -- thousands of people that cared that knew what -- that their one goal in life was to do their job and do it perfectly.
10:05 pm
and the george pages, aaron cohen, doug broom. you can go on and on with people in lower management who were motivated. and their contributions, they made it work. they're the ones that made it work. and they weren't just all in nasa. they were just as motivated as all the contractors too. >> any stories that stand out. you told us your story about jim web and riding in the car with him. any stories about craft? >> craft, i told you one afternoon, in his office, defining the parameters for the apollo 8 mission. and i told you he was the guy that gave me the confidence on gemini 7. they were just wonderful people. that's what made it work.
10:06 pm
and now, if you go back and talk to the people, you see, we were fortunate. we had a goal. we had the money. and we had the support of the country. with those three ingredients, this country can do whatever it wants to do. if one of those ingredients is missing, it's going to mess up. >> well, that kind of leads to the next question. which is what do you see as the future for manned space flight? are those elements there? >> those elements are not there. i think it's going to be very difficult to pursue an aggressive manned space exploration program. i think we should. but i think -- you know, i believe in a the space station is right. i hope it's not so complicated and so big and so expensive that it doesn't fulfill its promise. i would have preferred to see a less ambitious program. but i'm not there. and i -- i don't know the people that are running. i know george abby.
10:07 pm
but he was a minor functionary. and i done have any confidence in a the political constituency is there to spend a lot of money on it. >> you talked a lot about what motivated you to become an astronaut. what motivated you to take the risks you take. and for you it came down to the cold war and the russians. did you ever think in your wildest dreams that we would now be partners with them. >> you know, i was sent over to russia by mr. nixon with a goal to starting the process that led to the apollo sawyers program. and i spent ten days there on july of 69. and we then invited the cosmonauts. so you know, i hoped -- i never had the -- in my wildest dream i ever have any idea that the
10:08 pm
russians would essentially become a third world country. i looked upon them as the big bad bear of the cold war. the long winded answer is no, i never did. >> the role you played in apollo coming together. you helped your friend deke slayton finally get to fly. any stories from remembering he was finally going to get to fly late in his career. >> i didn't. deke, i think it's fortunate the doctors took him off -- status. he had the dedication to run that division with integrity and in a way that makes sense. ask deke, he didn't blow up and leave or anything. he just stayed there and did his job. he was committed. he was one of the great people in the program. >> so you mean it's fortunate
10:09 pm
that he was kept on the ground. >> fortunate that he was kept on the ground. i really believe that. if you ask me, what i think i contributed most to the apollo program, i think i contributed most in the program down in california as part of the redefinition team. not as the astronaut on apollo 8. i think i contributed more to the program there. it's a strange part of our society. all the attention is on the celebrities who happen to with the astronauts. there's nobody that flew that did as much for the program as george lowell or chris craft. you can go down the line. but they didn't get all the hoopla. >> what did 'do you think was the most challenging milestone of your career then? your time at downey? >> the time at downey was the most challenging i think. we had a lot of balls in the air there. and i think that our team out there did a really important
10:10 pm
job. >> when you left nasa, were there -- what did you draw on from your nasa experience to go on to your experience at eastern? >> well, i try to draw on the management style that i had seen at nasa. which was to me the most effective management team this country's ever produced. in this effective management style. and i still think it is. . >> are there any things that stand out you know from any of your time at nasa. any stories that you think oh, i need to tell these stories. i need to get these stories on the record. >> well, i have -- well, you know, after the fire, when i went out there. i never will forget, he managed to change the management at north american, as you know. and what i said to the north american people, big bergen came in and said look around to your left and your right because a lot of you won't be
10:11 pm
here in a week. there wasn't any touchy feely crap. it was just let's get the job done. and there was another very traumatic time in office after the fire when one of the really respected civilian contractor people had a nervous break down. and they had to haul him away in a straight jacket. >> somebody you can name? >> i don't think i want to name him. because he's since recovered and played a very important role. but he started drawing an organizational chart of heaven. i never will forget. he just lost it. and poor joe lost it. but it was -- i was very at home there. because the over riding goal and the mission drove things. to me it was a very worthwhile
10:12 pm
mission. >> one of the things that some people have said that from that era when they look now at the space program that now, so many people sign off on things that the responsibility is so watered down that no one's responsible. >> can you believe that they could get one flight plan today with one man, chris craft making the decisions. i don't know much about nasa today. but i can't believe that what happened. when i left nasa, and went to eastern, you know, i don't think you can keep one foot on the beach and one foot in the boat. so i got off the beach and went in the boat which was eastern and i never looked back much to see what went on at nasa. the last thing i ever wanted to be was a professional astronaut. as you know, there are some around. and so i'm not competent to really analyze current nasa. but a lot of the old-timers
10:13 pm
that stayed on after words have told me or written me or called me and said you can't believe what it's like now. >> so many people, and i don't want to say so many. but you're right, space flight. there's this sense that it changes you somehow. that you have this experience and you're not the same. >> i don't understand that. to me it was -- look, apollo 8 was a definite success. it was a dangerous mission. but wile i while i was doing that guys were flying to hanoi in f-105s. the risks were about the same. we were focused ongoing to the moon. it was interesting. looking back at the earth was inspiring. but you go to the grand canyon and look around. i find beauty looking out here in what you call the barren desert. i think you have an innate belief in a spiritual being or
10:14 pm
a god or you don't. you don't have to go to the moon. >> some people come back and buzz aldrin has talked a lot about how he had a rough time after the moon. schreck >> he had a very rough time. buzz had a very difficult childhood. and buzz unfortunately i don't think has recovered. >> and knowing that, it's been hard for him to go on. what let you go on and have this life -- i bet there's people who know you as the head of eastern airlines who might not have ever known. people of a younger generation. the fact that you had success outside of as you said being a professional astronaut, what let you do that? >> i don't know. as i said, i've been very fortunate. and i just have been able to compartmentalize my life. after i left eastern, involuntarily, i was the first guy lorenzo fired but never the less, then i started something else. and i just tried to never look
10:15 pm
back. something might be gaining on you if you look back. so i feel very privileged to have been part of nasa in that era. i was with chuck jager this last weekend and he said you should have stayed with the air force. he's mellowed a lot. but i think i contributed more to the country there than i could have if i stayed in the air force. when he told me i could kiss my air force career goodbye, i did. i didn't fill in all the blocks. i hadn't done any of the schools and so on and so forth. when i left nasa. the air force offered me an opportunity to come back and head their military managed space program. so i left. >> you told stories about chris craft. any stories stand out about other folks you mentioned. like george low.
10:16 pm
any anecdotes ? >> george low was a brilliant guy. and the one thing that all these people had in common was this devotion to doing the thing on time. and to getting it done to beating the russians and to doing what seemingly was an impossible task. when president kennedy said we're going to the moon and back in eight years, we hadn't even ordered anybody. think about that. unbelievable. but they all had this dedication. and you know max, a brilliant engineer, scientist, but probably not -- lowell was the consummate manager. he was an excellent manager. >> were there any times you tried to talk him out of doing something. that you spoke your mind to george low. >> george low and i were pretty much on the same page. i can't recall ever disagreeing with anything.
10:17 pm
with joe shay, joe didn't have the experience in managing. so joe -- and joe took it awfully hard after the fire. that was the end of him. >> did you -- you mentioned getting close to nixon and doing the roles for nixon. and he played such a role in where the space program went after apollo in terms of shuttle. were you privy to any of that? >> no. i was not. another man you should mention that was a giant too is sam phillips. he was really the one person the apollo program manager office in washington that i think had a practical head on his shoulders. he was really a wonderful leader. . >> what were your recollections guenther went? >> he was a german guy that i would trust to do everything right. all the fun and games.
10:18 pm
>> john bron? >> john bron was wonderful. i knew him very well. i spent a lot of time at huntsville. he had a rare combination. he was a wonderful engineer. he was a great visionary. i'm sure he would be saying we're having apartments. but he was also a super salesman. he had a rare combination. and his people were really devoted to vaughn bron. and if he said something, i believed it. but all the people i've told you, if they told me something, you could put it in the bank. >> was there anybody who you didn't trust? >> george miller i didn't think was a -- i didn't distrust him. but i didn't -- sam felts provided the guts in that program as far as i'm concerned. george is still alive. he's out trying to launch some new low cost rocket now. i hope he succeeded but i think sam felts was the pan there. >> do you still follow the
10:19 pm
space program? >> sam felts was the man there. >> not really. >> what would you like to see as the direction of the space program? >> i'd like to see the space station lead to a long-term mission to put humans on mars. i think that would define a goal and a mission. and a well thought out -- i think it's more difficult -- bill anders convinced me it's more difficult than people projected because of the requirement for shielding, radiation shielding. but i think that would be a good goal. i hope the space station works out well. and that we do find things on orbit that we can do that will help, you know, people here on earth. you know, we talked about the shuttle. and they're flying worms and all that crap and you wonder what it's all about. you have kids send up
10:20 pm
experiments on a billion dollar launch. come on. where's the mission there? >> did you -- the science portion of your mission, the exploration part, you said the motivation that you sensed at the time was this cold war and beat the russians. but did you see any other benefit coming out of it or was that a side benefit. >> it was a side benefit. >> it really was for you. >> okay. >> i have to be honest with you, it was fine as long as it didn't get in the way of the main mission. >> you know that just the fact of apollo changed our life on earth more than probably almost anything this century. >> i agree with you. that was the important thing. to do it. and to have it accomplished. and to extend human horizons. that was what came out of apollo. not how to make teflon pots and pans and whether that is a
10:21 pm
lasting thing, i think it is. and i think that apollo was extremely important. i think it may have been -- other than world war ii, it may have been the most important project in this century. >> do you look up at the moon a little differently than the rest of us? >> sometimes i do. i try to. i try to feel like everybody thinks i should. >> which is is? >> in awe, i can't believe i was really there. sometimes i do. but most often i just revel in a beautiful moment. . >> all right. anything -- i've gone through all my questions, so anything that you think is -- >> no, i think i'd be repetitive to say i was very proud to be associated with that team. you can fault people for what they did or what they didn't do. but when you think what that team accomplished in a decade, it was a remarkable group of men and women. and i think it was one of the
10:22 pm
rare moments in history when people can look back and say, everything was together and the people did it. and i was proud to be part of it. as i said, i think my part, my more important part was played on the ground. but never the less, i certainly was overwhelmed to be in apollo 8 and gemini 7. >> all right. man's quest for knowledge certainly was a major impetus in the voyage to the moon which american space scientists and engineers planned for december. a few days before the apollo 8 countdown, at the first white house dinner honoring america's entire space team, president johnson praised the leadership of nasa's out going director, james web. on hand was charles lindburg, famed for his solo flight 41
10:23 pm
years ago. and the astronauts of apollo 7 and apollo 8. who in 1968 earned their place in history. in route to the dinner, they autographed a document that will hang in the treaty room alongside momentos of earlier spacemen who visited the mansion. >> the countdown for apollo 8. i want to say this, colonel bowman, and major andrews, we pray for you. we think of you. we wish you god speed. we wish you a safe return. and the only person in the world that's going to be more concerned about you than i am is the girl who waits for your return. .
10:24 pm
>> 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, we have ignition sequence. the engines are on 4, 3, 2, 1, 0. we have commenced -- we have lift off. lift off at 7:51:00 a.m. eastern standard time. how are you doing houston? >> i'm clear. >> 65 years to the month after they propelled the first american airplane over the ocean dunes at kitty hawk, powerful saturn rockets launched apollo 8's crew, on man's first trip to the moon. it was described as an absolutely perfect lift off at 7:51:00 a.m. from cape kennedy. and soon the rocket was traveling 24,000 miles per hour.
10:25 pm
i have a beautiful view. i'll try to get a picture for you. go ahead houston. you're go for tli. 68 hours and 58 minutes into the mission. the astronauts passed around the dark side of the moon. ten minutes later they fired a thrust engine into a successful lunar orbit.
10:26 pm
by now, the spacemen were radioing back their close up sightings of the moon, only 70 miles away. >> the moon is a different thing to each one of us. i know my own impression is that it's a vast, lonely, forbidding type existence or experience if nothing. it looks like clouds and clouds of pumus stone. and it would not appear to be a very inviting place to live or work. >> during their ten orbits of the moon, the astronauts photographed the sea of tranquility and other potential landing sights for use by few explorers. lunar shadows lengthening below them, with the void of the universe luming beyond. america's astronauts read from the book of genesis, the story
10:27 pm
of creation. . >> in the beginning god created the heaven and the earth. and the earth was without form and void. and darkness was upon the face of the deep. and the spirit of god moved upon the face of the waters, and god said, let there be light. and there was light. and god saw the light. that it was good. and god divided the light from the darkness. and god called the light day. and the darkness he called night. and the evening and the morning was the first day. and god said let there be a movement in the mist of the waters and let it divide the waters from the waters. and god made the vermin and divided the waters which were under the vermin. and the waters which were above the vermin. and it was so. and got called the vermin
10:28 pm
heaven. and the evening and the morning was the second day. and god said let the waters under the heaven be gathered together into one place. and let the dry land appear and it was so. and god called the dry land earth. and the gathering together of the waters called he seas. and god saw that it was good. and from the crew of apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a merry christmas, and god bless all of you, all of you on the good earth. . >> and now the most critical moment of the your my had arrived. when the team would attempt to restart their engines and rock back to earth. >> apollo 8. over. hello apollo 8.
10:29 pm
>> roger. >> there's a santa claus. the triumphant shouts from mission control could only mean one thing. the engines were started again. and apollo 8 was on its way home. a flawless, supremely successful flight. which splashed down in the predown hours of friday morning december 27th not far from the u.s.s york down. 1,000 miles southwest of honolulu. a courageous event said the russians. they called it daring, incredible. the astronomers who earlier questioned its scientific value called it one of the historic moments in the development of the human race. from paris, the supreme compliment. magnifique.
10:30 pm
and from washington, president johnson immediately conveyed to the astronauts, the exaltant feelings of americans. >> you've made us very proud to be alive at this particular moment in history. you made us feel akin to those europeans nearly five centuried ago who heard stories of the new world for the first time. there is just no other comparison that we can make that's equal to what you've done. or to what we feel. next, former nasa astronaut james lovel talks about his life and career. he was a veteran of the gemini and apollo missions. in 1968, he s


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on